Springfield, Mo. – How deep and far does the pollution from decades ago reach? That is a question Fantastic Caverns is digging into, literally.
“I think we could view Fantastic Caverns as sort of the tip of the “TCE iceberg” and nobody knows the extent of the iceberg, said
Tom Aley, Founder of Ozark Underground Laboratory. He was hired by Fantastic Caverns to study, monitor and remove TCE vapors in the cave.
Aley suspects the source of pollution is from damage or spillage decades ago at an old industrial site near the Springfield/Branson Regional Airport. That’s three miles away from Fantastic Caverns where high concentrations of TCE vapors have been found.
“In reality, that means there are over 30-square miles of land that is closer to the TCE site than “Fantastic caverns.”
Aley says crews are working tirelessly to protect the cave and make sure employees and visitors remain safe. Experts are monitoring, clearing out toxic vapors and moving clean air in.
But Aley is worried about how the pollution may be affecting the population in the 30-mile square radius closer to the waste site in the northwest part of Springfield.
“We do some things simply because they are important. It’s important that we have knowledge here. We know how much TCE is in karst features, the public doesn’t,” said Russ Campbell. He’s the owner of Fantastic Caverns.
He’s been communicating with the D-N-R, the current owners of the old waste site where TCE was used to clean circuit boards there. He’s also been talking attorneys and other agencies in an effort to get more testing done in the large area around the waste site.
“Just because you have a big problem doesn’t mean you should ignore it,” said Aley.
They fear the TCE vapor, that’s been polluting the area for decades, could continue to pollute it for decades longer.