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Health and safety concerns

Published: Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 3:22 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 3:46 p.m. CDT

SPRING VALLEY — Residents of Spring Valley seemed more confident about the safety of the Bassicks property after Wednesday’s public health and safety meeting, but they now are raising questions about the neighboring Hobbs property.

Alderman Walt Marini gave the packed house an overview of what has happened at the Bassicks property through the years. Everything started after the Bassicks property was shut down and the city went to the then-owners, Honeywell-Hobbs, and asked the organization find out if the property could be available for development.

Honeywell-Hobbs responded by saying that if the city pursued it, then they would close the Hobbs facility.

“The pursuit was dropped because the city didn’t want to see people lose their jobs,” Marini said.

The property was eventually purchased by Invensys, and they agreed to join the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary remediation program. Over the next several years, the Invensys worked with the IEPA and a No Further Remediation letter was given in April.

This signified that as long as all conditions of the letter were met, the land was safe for commercial and industrial use, but not residential. The only restrictions were a concrete cap was required over a section of contaminated soil; that no wells be dug on the property; and that if the cap is removed or broken, that construction workers follow proper safety procedures.

The meeting was designed to give the public an opportunity to voice their concerns and hear from former IEPA and current environmental attorney William Ingersoll of Brown, Hay & Stephens of Springfield.

“We, too, had many of the same questions as you do,” Spring Valley Economic Development Director Debb Ladgenski told the audience.

Ingersoll began by letting the people know exactly what the No Further Remediation Letter meant. The Bassicks property had a comprehensive review, which meant the IEPA looked for contamination from all areas of the property and tested for all common contaminants associated with an industrial site.

“They did press them through from property boundary to property boundary,” Ingersoll said.

They found several areas of contamination, but only one area was considered a hot spot that required action. A 40-by-70-foot section was capped with concrete to remove any possible inhalation of vapor from the known carcinogen, trichloroethane.

He read from prepared answers the IEPA project manager Barb Landers submitted from questions posed by the city. The project manager had written that as long as the cap is maintained, all models suggest there is no danger to the public from the Bassicks property; that it could be used for commercial and industrial purposes; and that no further remediation is required.

The contaminant trichloroethane was found to be in concentrations of 27 milligrams per kilogram at the capped site, which is barely over the allowable limit for inhalation, which is 20 milligrams per kilogram. He said the IEPA uses risk factors no less than one in one million.

Audience member were concerned about the cap and what would happen if it was breached or broken. Ingersoll said if a company wanted to remove the seal, they would have to join the volunteer remediation program again, clean up the area and receive another No Further Remediation Letter.

If the cap was ever cracked or broken, the owner of the property would have to fix it. Ingersoll said the IEPA is in a habit of visiting these types of sites every five years to make sure the regulations from the letter are followed. If not, then the letter can be revoked, but that rarely happens.

“The property itself is safe to use under these conditions,” Ingersoll said.

Audience members also had concerns about run-off from the property due to problems in the 1980s of sewage backing into nearby basements. Ingersoll said the owner and the city would have to work out the size of the storm and sewer lines for the property and that it would be unlikely any contamination would be present.

With the audience’s fear of the Bassicks property seemingly alleviated, attention turned to the adjacent Hobbs property, which is currently under the scrutiny of the IEPA and also owned by Invensys. Residents worried that run-off from the Hobbs site may end up contaminating the Bassicks property. Given that the review of the Hobbs site is still underway and he was unsure of the contaminants at the Hobbs property, he couldn’t comment.

The Hobbs property received a No Further Remediation Letter in 2007, but it was considered a focused review and only covered polychlorinated biphenyl, most commonly used as a coolant. The current review is searching for contamination due to solvents.

Sullivan’s Foods owner Scott Sullivan, who has its headquarters in Savanna, is interested in purchasing the property to build a grocery store.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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