CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A group of demonstrators is calling for more transparency from Ameren as it investigates contamination in a Champaign neighborhood.
The area is near 5th and Hill. There used to be a manufactured gas plant there.
The plant would take coal and–through different methods– would react it with steam in order to produce gas. That resulted in a lot of contamination or dangerous materials such as coal tar, according to Claudia Lennhoff, 5th and Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign. She said coal tar itself is a toxic soup of different chemicals/carcinogens very specific to this kind of toxic site.
Ameren said it is investigating the site and removing the impacted soil, but Lennhoff said they are not being clear enough about the work they are doing.
She said the lingering toxins are a hazard for the people who live nearby. “It’s extremely dangerous, especially because we worry about, since people live so close to this, we worry about chronic exposure to chemicals. It can even be low level exposure, said Lennhoff. The exposure could cause all kinds of problems like cancer and neurological problems.
“What we’re asking for is more transparency and user friendly information,” said Lennhoff. “For example, the flyer that Ameren put out about the work they’re doing now, doesn’t mention the word ‘toxic’ or ‘contamination’ anywhere on that flyer. That’s not transparent. That’s not clear. That’s not user friendly information. People in this neighborhood won’t understand what they’re talking about.”
Lennhoff said Ameren has not yet established a clean perimeter in this neighborhood. She stated that when doing the site investigation, they should have established the boundaries of all the contamination and then seen a clean perimeter outside of that boundary.
The group is also calling for a more thorough investigation of the site and the fullest remediation possible since it is a residential area. When they contacted Ameren, in early 2020, they were told they would not meet with the group. They said they answer to the City of Champaign and Illinois EPA.
Additionally, the group wants vapor mitigation systems for people’s homes. Lennhoff said that whether or not they know that they are exposed, the safest thing to do would be to install these systems and reduce their possible risk.
They are hoping to meet with the Illinois EPA and will be going to the Champaign City Council to try and get their support.