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Editorial: UMore study will answer questions

There is a secret history written in the soil on the University of Minnesota's UMore Park property, and it's likely not a happy story. But those details remain to be seen.

It starts, more or less, with the Gopher Ordnance Works. The gunpowder plant that operated briefly during World War II left the property in Rosemount and Empire Township with a number of large concrete relics that inspire curiosity in nearly everyone who sees them. But the plant also likely left pollution in the ground.

The story doesn't stop with the demolition of the plant, though. According to some residents who live around the property the UMore land has served as something of a dumping ground over the years. Since the University took control of the property UMore has been home to a number of private businesses, including some industrial companies. Those companies, including one that recovered metal from batteries, likely did not follow the kind of environmental guidelines that would be required today. Other longtime residents might tell you about unofficial dumps on the property. Places where trash of all kinds piled up over the years without much thought to the impact on the soil.

There are plenty of unofficial accounts of what's happened on the property, but until now there's been little to officially record any pollution that might linger.

That's why the University's plan to study the soil more closely is good news. It will give residents a clearer idea of what is out there. If the situation is as bad as some fear, the land will get cleaned up in advance of a proposed development.

We believe the planned UMore development will bring good things to the area when it starts to take shape. We see potential benefits that won't be realized for years on the short side and decades on the long. But this study, which will kick off in late June and take much of the rest of the year, is a more immediate benefit. It will put an end to decades of speculation and it will let the public know exactly what is out there.

That's good for everyone.