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City to apply for grant funding to clean up arsenic contamination at Blazing Star Landing

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved applying to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for grant funding to clean up arsenic contamination at the Blazing Star Landing. 

Albert Lea City Engineer Steven Jahnke said the contamination is believed to have been from a coal ash pile that Wilson & Co. previously had on the southern portion of the property that is being considered for a new multi-family housing project. 

The housing project, through development firm Unique Opportunities LLC, initially calls for developing three acres of land into 48 units of multi-family housing with plans for two additional phases in the future with another 48 units per phase — for a total of 144 units on 12 acres.

The council approved setting up a tax increment finance district for the project in June. 

The city has been working with geotechnical and environmental consultant Braun Intertec to develop the property, but the environmental issues with the site must be corrected before development can occur. 

Jahnke said the cleanup process for the five contaminated acres would include hauling the soil to a regulated facility and then placing clean fill at the site. 

While the city is still developing the remediation plan and cost estimates, he said the preliminary estimate is $1.5 million to $2 million. If awarded to the city, the DEED grant would cover 75%, with the city share being 25%. 

The application for funding is due before Nov. 1, and then the city will find out if it is awarded the funding in February. 

Jahnke said there has been some cleanup previously on the large site, including the removal of the old wastewater facility and some petroleum contamination cleanup, but there has not been work done before at this part of the property.