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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

What you need to know about the Dico site

Documents from the EPA and the Iowa DNR catalog a history of pollution and contamination at the Dico site that will soon begin redevelopment.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Dico site has a history the City of Des Moines hopes to rewrite with a new development plan that could bring new attractions like a professional multi-use soccer stadium, more housing options and new business opportunities. 

However, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources catalog a history of pollution and contamination. 

Over the last 40 years, contaminated soil and water have been traced back to the Dico site. 

Local 5 has compiled a brief history of the Dico site for you here:

May 4, 2021

EPA administrator visits Dico site

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan made his first visit to Iowa since being confirmed by the Senate in March.

"The city has been suffering with this blight for decades, and at EPA, we know that it's not just about the clean-up," said Regan. "It's about what to come after."

RELATED: EPA administrator visits Des Moines, commemorating next step in revamping toxic Dico site

Feb. 8, 2021

Des Moines City Council approve preliminary plan for redeveloping Dico site

The Des Moines City Council approves a preliminary plan for the Capital City Reinvestment District, which formerly belonged to Dico, Inc. 

The Council also voted to approve preliminary terms to sell part of the area for an urban renewal development agreement with Krause Group. 

The Capital City Reinvestment District includes three "hubs": Stadium Neighborhood, Gray's Landing and Western Gateway. 

The Stadium District will transform the area into a "welcoming gateway into the downtown" part of Des Moines. A 6,300-seat, multi-use soccer stadium is hoped to be built in the area as well as a 150-room hotel with office buildings and a parking ramp. 

RELATED: Downtown development plans move forward after Des Moines City Council vote

Sept. 14, 2020

Des Moines city council votes to take over Dico site

Des Moines City Council approved the motion to allow the City of Des Moines to seize the deed to the Dico site. 

According to the EPA, Dico used the property for steel wheel manufacturing and chemical and pesticide formulation.  

Now that the City has the ability to do so, the plan is for them to take over the property and oversee environmental response actions to clean up the area, including operating and maintaining the groundwater treatment systems. 

Sept. 10, 2020

Des Moines announces intent to take over Dico site

The City of Des Moines announced it will soon take over ownership of the Dico site. City council was scheduled to vote on it on September 14th.

The agreement is between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dico, Inc., Titan Tire Corporation, Titan International, Inc. and the city. 

Removing buildings, remediation of a pond and installation of a replacement upgraded ground water system are all included in the agreement, according to city council documents.

$200,000 is the estimated cost to demolish the site and $250,000 is the estimated annual cost to maintain and operate the property.

Dec. 2017

Dico site becomes candidate for new Des Moines Police Dept. location

Des Moines City Council votes to have the city manager start working with EPA and Iowa DNR to determine if the Dico site could serve as the new location for the city's police department. 

At the time, the project wasn’t in the city’s capitol improvement plans, so it would not be revisited for another five years, until 2022.


Dico site closed Hazardous Waste Site Registry by the Iowa DNR 

The Iowa DNR reclassifies the site as "d"-level on the state's Hazardous Waste Site Registry, meaning it requires continued management and inspection.


EPA calls on Dico site to address hazardous waste onsite

The EPA issued two Unilateral Administrative Orders (UAO), calling on the Dico site to address the numerous hazardous substances.

The first UAO called on site owners to repair, seal, and protect building insulation; cleaning the buildings and sealing building floors and walls to prevent direct-contact exposures.

The second UAO required either excavation of the contaminated soils or sealing off soils containing toxic chemicals.


Water pump installation leads investigators to pesticide-contaminated soil discovered at Dico site

A water pump is put in the Raccoon River meant to stop the spread of harmful chemicals. According to the Iowa DNR, it controls the contaminants in the water and prevents them from entering the Des Moines Water Works filtration system. 3,000 gallons of trichloroethylene (TCE) have been removed since the pump's installation.

TCE is a synthetic chemical that was widely used to remove oil and grease from manufactured parts according to the Iowa Dept. of Public Health. It could be found in spot cleaners, glues, and aerosol sprays. According to the EPA, the Dico site used degreasers containing TCE during the manufacturing process for wheels and brakes. Drums of it were stored within one of the buildings onsite. 

Since 2002, TCE is no longer manufactured for domestic use in the US because it affects the ozone layer. 

People who consume water containing excess amounts of TCE over many years may experience problems with their livers and may have increased risk of cancer according to the EPA.

Installing the pump led investigators to find pesticides in buildings and in the soil at the site. 

The pesticides included aldrin, dieldrin and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). According to the CDC, all three chemicals can be harmful to humans and the environment. Aldrin and dieldrin in particular are banned in the US.


Dico site added to Hazardous Waste Site Registry by the Iowa DNR

The Hazardous Waste Site Registry is a list of known hazardous waste or contaminated sites that exist in Iowa according to the Iowa DNR. All sites are classified by priority, "a" through "d." As of 2021, the Dico site is classified as a "d" level priority. 31 sites are currently on the registry.


Dico site makes National Priorities List

in September, the EPA placed the Dico site on the National Priorities List according to documents form the Iowa DNR. It's a list of sites containing hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants in the US according to the EPA. It's used by the EPA to determine which sites they need to monitor.

The amount of TCE in the Des Moines water supply greatly decreases according to the Iowa DNR. If you live in the Des Moines area and use tap water, you can relax. According to the 2020 Water Quality Report from Des Moines Water Works, their labs perform 100 to 150 tests each day to ensure the highest quality water is produced.


Chemicals from Dico site leak into Des Moines water supply

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources discover TCE in the Des Moines water supply during a national survey of water supplies according to the Iowa DNR. The agencies determined the chemical came from the Dico property. 

1950s - 1970s

Pesticide and herbicide formulation conducted in six building on the site. Two of them are used for chemical and production storage according to the EPA.


Dico, Inc. starts receiving approximately 120,000 gallons per year of TCE until 1980 according to the EPA.