Environmental Consultant Says 'Large Areas' Near Airport Are OK To Redevelop | St. Louis Public Radio

Environmental Consultant Says 'Large Areas' Near Airport Are OK To Redevelop

Dec 5, 2019

As companies vie for a potential lease on St. Louis Lambert International Airport, a big focus is on the land around it — and how it could be developed.

But a private operator would also take on the risk involving the current state of the land.

Consultants presented parts of an environmental report Thursday on the condition of that land to the Airport Advisory Working Group considering airport privatization.

Ron Sides, an environmental consultant with Charbonnet & Associates, gave an overview of historical and currently contained problem areas that are designated as a recognized environmental condition. 

The term refers to areas with a presence or likely presence of hazardous substances or petroleum products.

Sides said there are areas “here and there” that present problems, including on an industrial area on the north side of the airport’s property where Boeing previously had operations. Other areas were previously used by the Air National Guard. Sides said those parties are responsible for remediating the areas they used. 

The airport is responsible for others.

“Large areas of the airport are in fact available for redevelopment,” Sides said during his presentation.

One opportunity the city working group sees out of a private deal is the potential for commercial development on 1,200 acres.

The bulk of the environmental report, however, has only been discussed in closed-door meetings.

Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said the report doesn’t contain anything she didn’t already know about the land. 

But, she said, it gives companies a clear idea of what to keep in mind as they’re thinking about redevelopment.

“As someone comes in, if they are looking at this opportunity, they know what they’re getting into,” she said. “I think it’s common knowledge that we’ve had some issues around the airport relative to environmental. Our team deals with them very well.”

Hamm-Niebruegge said there are some areas that should not be developed at all. But she said there are pockets of land without issues farther from the airport.

During his presentation, Sides also aimed to dispel what he described as misinformation about the impact of environmental issues from nearby West Lake Landfill and Coldwater Creek

“None of that — hysteria, we’ll call it — about Coldwater Creek and radioactive sentiment relates in any way to the airport itself,” he said.

Sides said there are no soil or water concerns from the landfill on airport land. 

The city working group has also been narrowing a pool of 18 companies interested in leasing the airport.

During an Airport Commission meeting Wednesday, Alderwoman Marlene Davis, a member of the working group, said 11 companies visited St. Louis to answer initial questions. 

The group will ask a short list of companies to respond to a Request for Proposals, which is expected to be released by mid-December. 

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

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