A row of grain bins in an open field

In the 1940’s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began a program through the Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) that would help stabilize, support and protect farm incomes and prices, while distributing and maintaining adequate supplies of agricultural products in the United States. A main component of this project was establishing large-scale grain storage bins for storing surplus grain. During storage, the grain was fumigated with an 80/20 mixture of carbon tetrachloride and carbon disulfide to control destructive insects that threatened the success of the program. The CCC ended the grain storage program in the early 1970s and sold all existing grain storage bins and equipment. Later, carbon tetrachloride contaminated groundwater was discovered around some of the grain storage areas. Carbon tetrachloride is a known probable human carcinogen. 

Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Role

The department oversees cleanup at the grain storage sites in a regulatory role. The USDA is the lead agency for the site and is responsible for planning and conducting the cleanups.

Contacts

Overview

The Problem

Past uses of carbon tetrachloride as a fumigant in the grain storage bins used in the CCC grain storage program led to groundwater contamination at some of the USDA grain storage areas.

Contaminants of Concern

The contaminant of concern at the USDA grain storage areas is carbon tetrachloride, a known possible human carcinogen. Its use has now been banned and only continues to be used in some industrial applications.

What’s Been Done

USDA identified 83 former grain storage sites for potential carbon tetrachloride contamination in Missouri. USDA began its investigation on Sept. 30, 2010, looking at five of the locations. Sixty-five of the original sites were determined to pose no significant threat to human health or the environment. Follow-up investigation is needed to confirm the determination. A whole house filtration system was installed at a residence near the Albany site to filter out carbon tetrachloride in the private well supplying drinking water to the home.

  • Phase I and Phase II investigations and a pilot study are ongoing at the Albany site 
  • Phase I investigation has been performed at the Montgomery City site
  • Phase I and Phase II investigations have been performed at the Savannah site
  • Phase I investigation is ongoing at the Nevada site
  • Phase I investigation has been paused due to lack of access to the Forest City site

What’s Left

The performance of the whole house treatment system is being evaluated and an alternative water supply is being considered.

USDA is in the process of evaluating the remaining former grain storage sites for potential carbon tetrachloride contamination. 

Details

Description

In the 1940s, the CCC was created within the USDA to stabilize, support and protect farm income and prices, while distributing and maintaining adequate supplies of agricultural products in the United States. As part of this objective, the CCC started large-scale grain bin construction projects throughout the U.S. in the late 1940s for storing surplus grain. By the early 1970s, CCC ended this grain storage program and sold all existing grain storage bins and equipment. 

The Problem 

During storage, the grain was fumigated to control destructive insects. The most commonly used fumigant was an 80/20 mixture of carbon tetrachloride and carbon disulfide. Groundwater contaminated with carbon tetrachloride has been discovered around some of these grain storage areas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that carbon tetrachloride is a probable human carcinogen.

Environmental Restoration

As of 2021, there are 83 former grain bin sites. The USDA is in the process of evaluating the remaining 78 former grain storage sites for potential carbon tetrachloride contamination.

On Sept. 30, 2010, the USDA began its investigation by looking at five sites for carbon tetrachloride contamination. These sites are located in or near the towns of Savannah, Albany, Montgomery City, Forest City and Nevada. The department is providing oversight for these site investigations under an intergovernmental agreement with the CCC, acting through the Farm Service Agency of the USDA. The agreement was signed Jan. 3, 2006.

To date, Phase I and Phase II investigations have been performed at the Savannah site and a Phase I investigation has been performed at the Montgomery City site. Phase I and Phase II investigations and a pilot study are ongoing at the Albany site. A whole house filtration system was installed at a residence near the Albany site to filter out the carbon tetrachloride in the private well supplying drinking water to the home. The performance of this treatment system is being evaluated and an alternative water supply is being considered. A Phase I investigation has been started at the Nevada site. The Phase I investigation for the Forest City site has been paused due to lack of access to the site.

What’s Left

The USDA currently is in the process of evaluating the remaining 78 former grain bin locations. A Phase I investigation includes the following objectives: 

  • Update the previous department inventory and status of private wells in the area of the former grain bin sites and sample the identified wells.
  • Investigate for the presence of carbon tetrachloride contamination in the the soil, as a possible source of contaminated groundwater present beneath the former grain bin sites.
  • Gather initial information on the site-specific geology at the former grain bin sites.
  • Establish initial groundwater monitoring points to investigate the patterns of groundwater movement affecting possible contaminant migration near the former grain bin sites.

The objective of the Phase II Investigation is to fully define the amount and location of carbon tetrachloride contamination beneath the former grain bin sites and the extent of any off-site contamination for cleanup purposes.

Sites Under Investigation

Sites Identified for Investigation by USDA, with MoDNR Oversight
Site Name County Investigation Phase
Albany Gentry Phase II
Forest City Holt Phase I
Montgomery City Montgomery Phase I
Nevada Vernon Phase I
Savannah Andrew Phase II

Other Sites

Sites Pose No Significant Threat, But Need Confirmation
Site Name County Site Name County
Bethany Harrison Malta Bend Saline
Blue Springs Jackson Marshall Saline
Boonville Cooper Maryville-Beal Park Nodaway
Bowling Green Pike Maryville-Sprint Nodaway
Burlington Junction Nodaway Maysville DeKalb
Butler Bates Memphis Scotland
Carrollton Carroll Mendon-North Chariton
Carthage Jasper Mendon-South Chariton
Chillicothe Livingston Mexico Audrain
Clearmont Nodaway Milan Sullivan
Columbia Boone Moberly Randolph
Craig Holt Montgomery City #2 Montgomery
Edina Knox Monticello Lewis
Eureka St. Louis Mound City Holt
Fairfax #1 - Meyer Atchison New London Ralls
Fairfax #2 - Seymour Atchison Palmyra Marion
Faucett Buchanan Paris Monroe
Fayette Howard Platte City Platte
Fulton Callaway Plattsburg Clinton
Gallatin Daviess Princeton Mercer
Grant City Gentry Ravenwood Nodaway
Harrisonville Cass Richmond Ray
Henriette North Ray Rockport Atchison
Henriette South Ray Sedalia Pettis
Higginsville Lafayette Shelbina Shelby
Hillsboro Jefferson Sheridan Worth
Hopkins Nodaway Skidmore Nodaway
Kahoka Clark Slater Saline
Keytesville #1 Chariton St. Charles St. Charles
Kingston Caldwell St. Joseph/ Prime Buchanan
Kirksville #1 Adair St. Peters St. Charles
Kirksville #2 Adair Tarkio Atchison
Lancaster Schuyler Treloar Warren
Langdon Atchison Trenton Grundy
Liberty Clay Troy Lincoln
Linneus Linn Union Franklin
Louisiana Pike Unionville Putnam
Macon Macon Watson Atchison
Maitland Holt Westboro Atchison