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The Hilton hotel under construction in downtown Carbondale.

CARBONDALE — Two weeks ago, Carbondale resident Sam Beard was walking down the alley beside the construction site of the new Hilton Home2 Suites hotel when he spotted something strange: snow, on an 80-degree day in September.

“So I walked closer and noticed that it wasn't snow, but tiny, sand-size pieces of Styrofoam falling out of the sky,” Beard wrote in an email.

Beard stopped to capture a video of the material, which spilled from the construction site into the alley. 

“I decided to take a video because I was mad that wealthy developers were polluting our home in such a bizarre and blatant way. I wanted the hotel company to be held accountable for polluting our city, and I wanted our community to know about it so we could respond accordingly.”

The video, which Beard posted on Facebook, garnered about 1,600 views.

The polystyrene particles came from the site’s exterior insulation finishing system, said City Manager Gary Williams.

“All the backup of that cladding is Styrofoam, and so as the contractors are installing it on the building they often have to trim the Styrofoam. They do that by shaving it. So they’re making proper planes on the building so everything’s finished properly, and the unfortunate consequence of that is it produces a lot of Styrofoam waste,” Williams said.

Building Inspector Brice Dion said the foam board material tends to make a mess.

“That’s a very commonly occurring problem with that material. We had the same issue when we had some repair work done to the City Hall building, and several other buildings in town that have had lots of that material put on it. It sort of comes with the territory, unfortunately. It’s not a building code violation by any means,” Dion said.

Dion said a citizen reported the pollution to the city via the “SeeClickFix” mobile app, which allows residents to report issues directly to the city.

“Once the issue came to my attention, I called the job-site superintendent, the contractor, and asked them to address this, and they basically took equipment to consolidate the particles of Styrofoam and then they were able to scoop them up and dispose of them,” Dion said.

He said the polystyrene material didn’t pose any more of a health or safety risk than any other trash going into the water system would.

“There’s nothing unique about this product that’s more of a hazard than any other Styrofoam litter or trash that’s on the ground anywhere else,” Dion said.

Williams dismissed concerns raised in social media comments that the material would be washed into the city’s drinking water.

“Our water source is Cedar Lake, and all of our drinking water is treated with a state-of-the-art water treatment facility, so that simply isn’t the case,” Williams said.

Representatives of Hotel Equities, the Atlanta-based hotel firm managing the construction and development phase of the property, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Williams said the hotel is expected to be open for business in January.

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On Twitter: @janis_eschSI



Janis Esch is a reporter covering higher education.

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