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Choosing an option

IEPA and DePue attempting to figure out Superfund clean-up process

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series on the public meeting representatives from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hosted in DePue on Wednesday, June 29.

DEPUE — DePue residents have waited 20 years to have their village cleaned of the contamination left behind by the former New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Site, which operated from 1905 to 1989.

Plans to do this have finally been examined by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). However, DePue representatives are not settling for the preferred option being proposed.

At a public meeting held by IEPA Wednesday, June 29, in DePue, village President Eric Bryant, environmental law attorney Nancy Loeb and a 21-year-old DePue native spoke out about the deficiencies they see in the clean-up plan and their frustrations with how long it’s taken IEPA to come up with a clean solution for the village. Those frustrations were reported on in Saturday’s edition of Bureau County Republican.

IEPA project manager Charlene Falco laid out the preferred clean-up plan at the public meeting. The plan, which is being called Option 2 or Alternative 2, will take soils that have been sampled and determined contaminated and “stockpile” them on the site of the former New Jersey Zinc plant. Plans state the more highly-contaminated soils will be stockpiled at the base of the slag pile. The estimated cost to do this is $13.1 million.

Falco said cost measures could change based on how many access agreements residents turn in to allow IEPA to complete testing on their property. IEPA will not test properties of those who do not sign an access agreement. The cost will also be based on the amount of soils taken from properties.

Falco confirmed contaminated soils taken from properties would be protected to prevent rain water from washing them from the site. She ensured the soils would not migrate, as a liner would be used to cover the region. The contaminated soils would sit at the location until a clean-up plan is developed for the former plant site.

Loeb argued the time frame for a clean-up plan to be set in place for the plant site is likely to be a long one.

The other option IEPA has looked at, called Option 3 or Alternative 3, basically follows the same instruction as Option 2, only instead of dumping soils on the plant site, they will either be: A. Disposed of in an off-site municipal solid waste landfill, or B. Disposed of in an off-site hazardous waste landfill.

The cost to do this ranges between $21.2 to $30.8 million. Falco said the cost range is based on how much soil is determined contaminated and the amount of trips it will take to transport the soils off-site.

DePue representatives prefer Option 3 because they want the contaminated soils out of the village where they won’t further impact residents’ health.

However, IEPA believes Option 2 is the best solution for a few reasons. They say it will put less risk on the community and workers cleaning up the contaminated soils. They also say the clean-up method has the same level of risk reduction as Option 3, but at a lower cost and it gives responsibility to the DePue Group — responsible parties court ordered to clean-up the Superfund Site — to deal with soils on the plant site.

Loeb argued there are no studies that show moving contaminated soils off-site is a riskier option, and Option 2 fails to meet all clean-up criteria provided in Superfund Site law.

Loeb argued many others points on Wednesday relating to how IEPA plans to test properties and the clean-up standards it will use. Loeb called for more studies to be conducted on absorption rates in soils and the run-off of ground water over contaminated soils stored at the plant site. She also criticized the access agreement that residents will sign to allow IEPA onto their properties to test for contamination.

“The agreement does not describe institutional controls. Without this information, residents cannot give knowing consent for what clean-up involves,” she said.

A stenographer was keeping record of Wednesday’s meeting. A complete transcript of all remarks made at the public meeting can be received from the IEPA.

While IEPA has its preferred plan selected, the agency must review any public comments and provide responses to each one received. Comments will be taken by email or by mail until July 14. Once all comments are reviewed and provided a response, a record of decision will be completed. IEPA has given a time line of this decision to be made by the end of this summer. It will then inform the village of its decision with a public notice.

To send a comment, email: Mail to: Jay Timm, Illinois EPA; Office of Community Relations; 1021 N. Grand Ave. East; P.O. Box 19276; Springfield, IL 62794.

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