PHOENIX - In 1999, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality declared a 10-acre lot near downtown Phoenix, formerly an automobile salvage yard, a state Superfund site.

Today, after years spent removing soil contaminated by shredded metal, broken glass and torn hoses, the work is done, making this the first of 36 state Superfund sites to be removed from the list.

Soon, a new company will occupy the former East Washington Fluff site.

The original owners, National Metals Co., declared bankruptcy and abandoned the site in 1986, leaving behind thousands of tons of rubble that over time contaminated the soil.

The site, at East Buckeye Road and South Fifth Street, was added to the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund registry after ADEQ determined it was contaminated with levels of lead and other chemicals that exceeded the health standards of the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The fluff sites are really a byproduct of our automobile age," said Andre Chiaradia, manager of ADEQ's Remedial Projects Unit. "In turning the automobiles back into something useful and removing the scrap metal, the process of breaking apart the cars generates this portion of waste that essentially has hazardous components in it."

No groundwater contamination was found at the site, but more than 6,000 tons of hazardous and solid waste material had to be removed from the ground in 2001, costing the agency about $3 million. A protective soil cap was added to prevent the contamination from spreading any further.

At a public auction in 2006, Jim Harrison bought the property, but a soil sampling two years later under a concrete slab he removed showed low levels of lead contamination. Harrison said he is relieved the cleanup efforts have finally paid off.

"Patience is a virtue, but this is one of the gems of Phoenix," he said. "To have this big of a site right in the inner city and the opportunity to redevelop it is something you don't get every day."

After another 235 tons of soil was removed, recycled concrete was crushed and put in place as an additional layer over the original soil cap.

Now that the site is no longer a state Superfund site, Harrison said the property's size and location already have interested a prospective buyer. A confidentiality agreement prevented Harrison from giving the name, but he said it is a large company that already has operations in the area.


The Tucson area's Superfund sites under the state's water quality assurance revolving fund:

• Seventh Street and Arizona Avenue

• Broadway-Pantano

• Los Reales Landfill

• Miracle Mile

• Park-Euclid

• Shannon Road-El Camino del Cerro

• Silverbell Landfill

Source: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Note: This list does not include the federal Superfund sites in the Tucson International Airport and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base areas.