30th Street Industrial Corridor
Soil Conditions in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor
The 30th Street Industrial Corridor is a five-mile long stretch of land that runs through Milwaukee, with a section of it just east of Washington Park. This area was an industrial powerhouse in Milwaukee from the late 1800s into the mid-1900s, employing tens of thousands of people in hundreds of factories; however, the factories did not leave the land undisturbed during the deindustrialization period of the 1970s.
The section of the 30th Street Industrial Corridor that is near the intersection of N. 31st Street and W. Galena Street runs next to what used to be the North Line railway. This made it a logical location for factory placement, as access to materials and transportation was easy. At the height of its production period, the corridor was home to many businesses, including a plastics company, a blacksmith, and chemical storage and sales facilities.
Unaware of the effects they had on the land, many of these companies drained harmful chemicals, mostly lead, into the soil over the course of around 100 years. To further exacerbate the issue, in the 1970s most of the companies moved their work overseas, where the work was cheaper. This left most of the land in Milwaukee abandoned and thousands of Milwaukeeans jobless. Due to the lack of interest and care for this area, the contamination went unnoticed and untreated for over 30 years.
A new plan of redevelopment shed light on the corridor's contamination in the early 2000s. While some isolated plots of industrial use showed little contamination, the opposite was found in areas of dense industrial use. These plots of land showed that over the previous 30 years, single contaminants from each industry had spread through groundwater and soil, and they led to larger areas of more polluted land. This was most likely not the case when the factories were initially abandoned, however, there is a lesson to be learned from the land: it must be kept clean, or it will cost millions of dollars to clean up for reuse down the road.
The contamination issue was ignored for such a long time because the effect the factories were having on the land was not known in the 1970s. As time went on, the issue continued to be ignored because the land was thought to be in a bad area; the fact that the area became bad as a result of contamination was not realized. It is important that society understands the effects it has over land, and that these impacts can come back to harm people. For example, soil contamination does not only affect the soil and potential for development. It also leads into the groundwater that people use for drinking and growing food.