A concrete foundation in the woods south of Gordon Park in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood is all that remains of the Wisconsin Lakes Ice & Cartage Co. Center Street icehouse. The 350 x 100-foot icehouse, built in the late 1800s alongside the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul RR’s “Beer Line,” was one of several icehouses on the upper Milwaukee River. The icehouse burned to the ground in a spectacular multi-alarm fire in June 1911.
The Environmental Protection Agency has determined hazardous waste inside a vacant industrial building at the northern end of the Beer Line recreational trail qualifies for a “time-critical removal action” under the federal Superfund law.
The century-old three-story building at 3456 N. Buffum St., has seen many industrial uses over the years, everything from a casket maker to a company marketing a hangover remedy, but has been vacant since 2008 and is in an advanced state of disrepair.
The EPA inspected the property in early spring and its tests revealed a number of contaminants including lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated solvents, waste oil, flammable and corrosive materials, and asbestos. Since the hazards are apparent and the property owner is unable to conduct the necessary cleanup, the EPA has decided the building warrants a Superfund designation, clearing the way for immediate action funded by taxpayer money.
Starting June 11th, contractors will begin removing substances deemed an imminent threat to safety. The EPA believes the problems are confined to the interior of the building and said surrounding residents are not at risk. As a precaution, the EPA will monitor air samples throughout the two-month cleanup project to ensure residents are not exposed to harmful dust. Additionally, security guards will be on-site during non-working hours.
The EPA said residents can expect increased truck traffic on Keefe Avenue, Holton, and Buffum streets as well as the alleys that surround the property. Access to the Beer Line Trail next to the property may be restricted at times.
Note: A more recent post on this property, including details of what was found inside, is here.
Six decades ago in the Riverwest neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side, a kindergarten boy stood at the edge of the Fratney Street School playground and watched a steam locomotive struggle past with a seemingly endless train of railroad cars.
Like so many Milwaukee industrial buildings of a certain age, the decrepit three-story building at 3456 North Buffum Street is abandoned, boarded up, and slowly falling apart. Nothing so remarkable about it, other than the fact that the last business left behind enough chemical nastiness that the Environmental Protection Agency is currently evaluating the property for possible cleanup under the Superfund program.