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Soil remediation begins at former Koppers wood treatment site
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Soil remediation begins at former Koppers wood treatment site

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Rodney Morris Koppers

Rodney Morris points out potential problem areas around the old Koppers wood treatment facility in 2019 on Carbondale's northeast side.

CARBONDALE — Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s oversight, Beazer East began cleanup this week of an additional 16 acres of soil at the former Koppers wood treating site at 1555 Marion St.

Cleanup at the site began in 2004. This additional work is required under an Administrative Order on Consent issued under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, according to a Wednesday news release from the EPA.

Construction crews moved equipment to the site and began by clearing trees and brush on the property, now owned by Beazer East, on Oct. 14. Some areas of contaminated soil will be addressed by expanding existing soil covers, according to the release. In other areas, contaminated soil will be excavated and taken to the CWI Southern Illinois Regional Landfill in De Soto. Soil excavation and cover construction will start in late October and continue through January 2021. Exact dates will depend on the weather.

The former Koppers wood treating facility operated from 1902 until 1991 with a mostly African American workforce. The plant treated railroad cross ties, utility poles and other wood products with chemical preservatives, including creosote. The chemicals were released into the environment and contaminated portions of the site and nearby waterways. Some of the chemicals are known or suspected carcinogens.

The EPA determined that dioxin and furan compounds, byproducts of pentachlorophenol manufacturing, on the Koppers site were not fully evaluated in the 1990s. Pentachlorophenol was used as a wood preservative during one period of plant operations.

Sampling and analysis of these chemicals was completed on the Koppers site and in the adjacent residential area through 2016. Based on the ecological risk assessment, the additional 15.8 acres of soil on the former plant property were identified as needing cleanup to protect the environment. Sampling in the residential area near the former Koppers location did not find wood-treating chemicals, according to the EPA.

The draft of an Explanation of Significant Difference (ESD) document requiring an additional 15.8 acres of soil remediation was distributed for public comment on March 28, 2019. Public comments were accepted through June 21, 2019. EPA hosted a public meeting on June 12, 2019, to discuss the cleanup plan. On Sept. 27, 2019, EPA issued a plan for soil remediation.

Contentious meeting rekindles debate over northeast side Koppers cleanup

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Rodney Morris and Marilyn Tipton, who both live near the site in northeast Carbondale, are concerned by the lack of communication between officials and residents of the area.

“I hear equipment going or machinery working all the time,” Morris said. “I don’t know what they are doing.”

Tipton also said things have been happening at the site. She has seen trucks coming and going.

“Neighbors have not been notified (that work began) and I live within 250 feet of the site,” Tipton said.

Residents went to a City Council meeting shortly before the pandemic hit to inquire about the status of the additional soil remediation. They are still waiting on answers.

Morris is so concerned at the lack of information that he is considering running for City Council. “I feel like the city isn’t being straight with us,” Morris said.

Besides interest in the Koppers site, he said residents of northeast Carbondale need representation on the City Council.

The city of Carbondale declined to comment on the situation.

For more information on the soil cleanup and the Koppers site, visit bit.ly/koppersepa.

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