AUSTIN, Minn. – Some watchful volunteers sparked a new round of cleanups at the site of the old Austin Gas Manufacturing Company.
The Cedar River Watershed District (CRWD) says people removing litter from the Cedar River this summer noticed spots of what looked like motor oil in the water. It appeared to be coming from the river bottom just downstream from the Oakland Avenue East Bridge, near the former industrial site.
“We’re really grateful for these volunteers and others who report areas of concern with our local waterways whether it’s while cleaning up litter or paddling the river,” said Tim Ruzek, CRWD’s outreach coordinator.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was notified and says the property owner has done additional testing and more cleanup in now planned for the area. Signs have been placed advising people to avoid contact with sediment or water along this short stretch of the Cedar River.
The CRWD says testing has found the contamination is below the level where it is a threat to drinking water, but seasonal and intermittent surfacing of contaminants might occur.
The Austin Gas Manufacturing Company turned coal into lighting and heating gas from 1905 to 1935. The plant was eventually sold and multiple businesses took over the property until the 2004 flood led to the land being purchased and taken out of use. Alliant Energy bought the site in 2005 and began a voluntary cleanup, removing more than 31,000 tons of contaminated soil and the site was later sold to Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation.