The Louisville Industrial Park, in its prior history, consisted of the Atlantic Tank & Barrel Company, a whiskey barrel manufacturer, and the Tobacco By-Products & Chemical Corporation, a formulator of pesticides and insecticides. Heavily polluted and a listed Superfund site, the abandoned grounds are located in Louisville, Kentucky.


History

Atlantic Tank & Barrel Company

In 1898, the Atlantic Tank & Barrel Company located on 8½ acres in the eastern half of the St. Louis Avenue property and hand built wooden barrels for the whiskey and bourbon industries. 17 The complex consisted of several buildings, dry kilns, and other barrel making units. 12

The Louisville Cooperage Company acquired Atlantic Tank & Barrel on November 17, 1933. 12 The company ramped up production with the installation of new machinery and began producing 1,200 barrels per day by December 10. The Louisville Cooperage was acquired by Schenley Distillers in 1959 and operated as a subsidiary. 14

Lanham Lumber & Dried Kiln closed in 1986 but the plant reopened by Louisville Hardwoods 14 in June 1987. 18 It consolidated operations to its southern Indiana facility by 1999. 17

Tobacco By-Products & Chemical Corporation

In August 1899, the Continental Tobacco Company acquired the Louisville Spirit Cured Tobacco Company and formed the Kentucky Tobacco Product Company to utilise tobacco stems for the manufacture of fertiliser, insecticide for sheep and cattle, among other products. 15 16 It also produced “dip sauce” that was designed to make weak tobacco taste stronger. 10

While organised on paper in New Jersey, 15 16 the Kentucky Tobacco Product Company was headquartered at the corner of Ninth and York streets in Louisville with a branch factory in Richmond, Virginia. 9

Tobacco By-Products and Chemical Corporation

Photographed by Caufield & Shook, 1928.

The Kentucky Tobacco Product Company was succeeded by the Tobacco By-Products & Insecticide Corporation before it changed its name to the Tobacco By-Products & Chemical Corporation in October 1919. 11

The Louisville factory suffered from a major fire on April 26, 1924. 7 It was subsequently rebuilt at a purpose-built site along South 17th Street on the fringes of the city. 1 2 3 The remains of the original factory was demolished in February 1929 as part of the construction of the new $500,000 Sears, Roebuck & Company department store. 9

At the new south Louisville plant, the company formulated Black Leaf 40 spray for flowers, vegetables and fruit, Gold Leaf tobacco powder for poultry worms, 6 DDT, Dieldrin, and Lindane. 4

Four other chemical companies, throughout the 1950’s, also produced chlorinated pesticides on-site. 6

By 1947, the Tobacco By-Products & Chemical Corporation was acquired by the Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corporation (VCC) of Richmond, Virginia and continued to operate the property under the Tobacco By-Products corporate name. 14

In 1963, Tobacco By-Products & Chemical was consolidated under VCC’s Black Leaf Products Division, continuing to manufacture pesticides under the Black Leaf Products label at the south Louisville site until 1955. 14 VCC sold the pesticide formulating plant to the Diamond Black Leaf Company in 1955 which operated until its liquidation in 1957. 13 14

Black Leaf 40 Advertisment

The Diamond Alkali Company, the sole stockholder of the Diamond Black Lead Company, acquired ownership of the bankrupt company and continued operations until 1959. 14

Cleanup

Tony Young purchased the former industrial site for $1.9 million in August 1999 for Derby City Warehousing, 17 renaming the site Louisville Industrial Park. 1 The company spent $100,000 on environmental cleanup. 17 A few small businesses opened on the site, including a lumber warehouse and distribution facility. 1

After the lumber warehouse and distribution site left in 2006, 1 Young proposed demolition of the industrial structures and the construction of low-income housing. 5 As a standard protocol for industrial sites, inspectors with the Kentucky Division of Waste Management visited the site in 2009 and discovered drums containing hazardous waste. Some were found leaking and were immediately removed.

In 2010, soil samples were taken, showing high levels of contamination. 5 The state asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a “time-critical removal action” on the site, and in 2011, the empty industrial park was identified as a federal Superfund cleanup site.

Afterwards, the industrial park became derelict as Young fell behind in mortgage payments and taxes, eventually becoming on the hook for $1 million in back property taxes and $200,000 in drainage fees. The property fell into foreclosure in May 2017. 2

It had been known since the 1980’s that the property was potentially polluted with chemicals, but the extent was not studied until the 2010’s. An environmental study concluded that DDT and other dangerous chemicals and heavy metals, such as arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, were found in the soil. 2 3 Soil removal and replacement occurred at about 70 homes adjacent to Black Leaf in 2013 and 2014. 3 The cleanup was the largest ever by the state in an urban environment.

A site characterisation study in 2015 stated that the site contained dangerous pollutants at hundreds to thousands of times higher than safe limits. The research proposed: 3

  • Excavate at specific locations and clean catch basins and sewer lines to remove contaminated sediment.
  • Removing 4,578 cubic yards of contaminated soil at 16 locations. At four areas, two feet of soil would be eliminated. At eight locations, one foot of soil would be taken.

ExxonMobil, Occidental Chemical Corporation and Grief Inc., all stakeholders in the cleanup through various mergers or acquisitions over the years, proposed the demolition of all 14 remaining buildings, the removal of concrete slabs and soil down to six inches below the surface, and a deed limitation that the property can only be used for industrial or commercial businesses. 1 3

Young sued his bank, a bank holding company, and ExxonMobil, claiming that the businesses entered into a secret deal buy the properties in a process that would wipe away the liabilities for a new owner and allow for the remediation of the property that Young believed was lenient. 2 Young proposed stricter cleanup standards for residential development, but offered no detailed plans other than piling contaminated soils in berms and entombing them in asphalt or concrete at an undisclosed cost.

State officials saw the foreclosure sale as potentially removing a legal jam by getting the property into the hands of a business with financial backing to bring economic development to the site, and to remove the abandonment. 2

Sources