By Brenden West
Over two months after more than a pound of toxic mercury spilled and seeped into an Archer Daniels Midland well, a site assessment plant for recovering the remaining hazardous material will be submitted to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The report is due Friday, according to a press release from ADM, and it will specify how remaining mercury will be recovered following the Nov. 6, 2013 incident. On that day, a seal containing 17.25 pounds of mercury broke when a contractor was removing a submersible pump.
The mercury spilled into the well and on the ground. DNR officials immediately removed soil impacted by the incident.
“Since the immediate recovery of one-third of the mercury, focus has shifted to recovering the remaining material,” ADM said through media relations correspondent Jackie Anderson. “Some of that material has already been containerized in preparation for proper disposal.”
The press release also specified that originally the company believed a cleanup would be done before the new year.
“However,” it added, “the process has taken a little longer due to the unusual nature of the spill, as recently acknowledged by the DNR.”
Kevin Baskins, communications bureau chief at the DNR in Des Moines, said the “unusual nature” pertains to the depth of the well. Recovery may be difficult because the terrain thousands of feet below the surface is unknown.
“It’s deep,” he said. “You’re probably dealing with formations at the foot of that well that we’re not very familiar with. Once you get down there, you don’t know if it’s porous, is it pretty well sealed?”
Baskins said once submitted, the recovery plan is a matter of open record. ADM reporteD that the well in question remains out of service.
Plant operations aren’t affected and there are no indications the hazardous liquid has or will spread outside the well casing, according to the press release.