Contamination clean-up nearing completion

Local News

RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — Village leaders have big plans once an area is cleaned up of groundwater contamination. Crews are nearly finished treating areas of the former Chanute Air Force Base.

Those sites were under investigation for contamination. It’s been a decades-long process.

Officials say it could bring a big boost to the economy. It’s taken the work of the Illinois EPA, the US Air Force and the village to free up areas on the base to be put to use again.

“We’re looking forward to having this come to fruition.”

It’s been a long road for people cleaning up Chanute Field. They’ve been at it awhile.

“The work here at Chanute has been going on since the 80’s.”

But now, the lengthy process is nearing the finish line.

“Getting to the point where we’re ready to transfer the remaining property to the village of Rantoul.”

Pete Carroll is the program manager for the former base. Under his watch, the efforts are running like a well-oiled machine.

“It’s progressing very well.”

Originally, there were 81 sites with groundwater contamination. Now, only five do. And those will be cleaned up soon.

“About 90% of the former base would be available for unrestricted re-use.”

That’s music to Mayor Charles Smith’s ears. He thinks the end of the clean-up will spell good news for the village.

“Basically, it will open up more avenues for economic development in Rantoul.”

He has high hopes for when those paths have opened.

“Developing our foreign trade zone extensively, so we’re waiting for soil samples to come back and a report in that area.”

He says there are about 25 acres they’re focusing on to free up.

“It’s going to make our property look more appealing for industry. It means job creation and it means raising the standard of living in the community. That’s what we’re all working for.”

Air Force officials say they’ll be there for about two more years to get all the contamination cleaned up. If they find more problem areas, they’re required by law to fix them.

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