Riverwest

Harambee gets a Superfund site

Vacant since 2008, this industrial building at 3456 N. Buffum St., at the northern end of the Beerline recreational trail contains a variety of hazardous substances and will be cleaned-up under the EPA's Superfund program. Photo by Carl Swanson

Vacant since 2008, this industrial building at 3456 N. Buffum St., at the northern end of the Beer Line Recreational Trail contains a variety of hazardous substances and will be cleaned-up under the EPA’s Superfund program. Photo by Carl Swanson

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.

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Once upon a Riverwest crime wave

In the 1850s, a collection of shanties occupied the banks of the Milwaukee River at North Avenue, the inhabitants of which were victims of a series of almost magical thefts. Today, trees have replaced houses and a grocery store occupies the railroad yard that employed the community's residents, but the "red shirt mystery" endures. Photo by Carl Swanson

In the 1850s, a collection of shanties occupied the banks of the Milwaukee River at North Avenue, the inhabitants of which were victims of a series of almost magical thefts. Today, trees have replaced houses and a grocery store occupies the railroad yard that employed the community’s residents, but the “red shirt mystery” endures. Photo by Carl Swanson

Before there was a Pick ’n’  Save at the corner of Humboldt and North in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood there was a railroad yard. Older residents of Riverwest will remember mostly weed-overgrown tracks and the occasional idling diesel locomotive but long ago this was once a point of intense local pride. This was the site, in the mid-1850s, of the main repair shop and roundhouse for Byron Kilbourn’s La Crosse & Milwaukee RR, the second-oldest railroad in Wisconsin.

And here a baffling series of crimes took place. In time a solution was found but the perpetrators were never brought to justice. (more…)