ERIE, Pa. (AP) -- No golfer would have wanted to contend with the hazards that covered the fairways of this course two decades ago: water tainted with heavy metals, rusted hulks of automobiles, abandoned appliances and leaky 55-gallon drums of industrial waste.
It took 17 years and $20.7 million to erase or cover the damage.
From that 80-acre former waste dump just west of Erie, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection have created a green space -- complete with eight acres of restored wetlands and a nine-hole golf course.
The golf course, still unnamed and set to open this spring, is the 100th Superfund site cleaned up in the EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region and the seventh converted to an athletic space, said David Sternberg, an EPA spokesman.
While the construction of a golf course on a landfill might sound strange, it has been going on since the 1960s, said Judy Thompson, a spokeswoman for the National Golf Foundation. She said the foundation does not keep records on how many there are.
In Montana, golfer Jack Nicklaus designed Old Works Golf Course on a former copper smelter which was also a Superfund site.
Golf courses also have been built atop landfills elsewhere across the nation.
The land for the newest course, next to Erie International Airport, was once an 84-acre freshwater wetland. But for 40 years, industries and municipalities used the land as an unsanctioned dump, clogging all but four acres of it with sand, volatile waste, copper and lead.
Brian McGrath, a Millcreek Township supervisor, compared the golf course to "a Mona Lisa painted on a garbage can."
"This is amazing for anyone who has lived or worked in this area for the past 40 years. ... Until two years ago, thousands of tires, old appliances, skeletons of vehicles and rusted drums of industrial waste" filled the area, McGrath said.
The dump was added to the list of federal Superfund sites, the country's worst hazardous waste sites, in 1984.
In all, the EPA removed 100 drums of hazardous waste, crushed 600 other drums, and removed other debris and contaminated soil. Since the land was so contaminated, a cap consisting of a layer of clay with a plastic liner on top was added to separate the golf course from the underground contamination.
The EPA didn't start out planning a golf course. In 1997, the agency was considering capping the site and leaving behind a 20-foot mound of dirt surrounded by an 8-foot fence, said Mark Shaw, the head of the Millcreek Dump Site Group. It was Shaw's group that convinced the EPA a golf course would be a better use.
Surveying the manicured, lush grass covering sloping hills, 92-year-old Joseph Golden, whose house has overlooked the site since 1942, described it: "It is like heaven."
"All the people surrounding this property couldn't hope for this much," Golden said.
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