THE CITY IS cooperating with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on an investigation into the environmental issues at the former Celotex landfill and corporate sites, on the west side of North Kankakee Street, both north and south of Forked Creek.
The Wilmington City Council last week approved a resolution that will help identify pollution and needed remediation on the former Celotex dump site, with a potential goal of creating another riverfront park.
City administrator Tony Graff said the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have been negotiating concerning the status of the Superfund investigation at the site, which is west of North Kankakee Street and north of the city's old wastewater treatment facility on Stewart Street.
"They're [USEPA] willing to allow the IEPA to take it over, the rest of the investigation," Graff said. "So the IEPA has been working with us and talking about what are some of the options over the last year."
The IEPA was allocated funds to do more investigative technical service work in the state, and selected the 40-acre Celotex site. The IEPA would like to bring the property to No Further Remediation (NFR) status, so it could at least be used for passive open space, Graff reported. Passive recreation, he added, might be the only way the property will ever be re-used.
Graff said the investigative services are worth about $100,000, at no cost to the city.
The investigation should take about nine months, and will determine what remediation must be completed before the property is released for future use.
The administrator also recommended that the city continue to contract with True North Consultants; the firm is working with the city on the Marathon station and the Bridge Street houses, and has past history of working on the Celotex site. The consultant's services could cost $15,000 to $25,000.
The council did not act on the recommendation, but Alderman Darla Neises asked that other firms be permitted to submit their qualifications for the job.
The city could see a second benefit from the IEPA's work. Some of the USEPA early investigative work, which it reported to the city in 2004, indicated that waste from the landfill was starting to leach toward the city's old wastewater treatment facility. If it shows up again, the IEPA will extend its investigation onto the city property, Graff said.
The city needs to decommission the water reclamation site. The process has started, since the city no longer has a permit to use the facility, but needs to start demolition.
"Before we start taking the buildings down, we don't know what liability we have under the ground from Celotex, so once you disturb the ground, then someone's going to say it came from us. So the recommendation from the environmental staff was 'don't start taking the buildings down until you know what Celotex is going to do,'" Graff said.
"The IEPA will be doing drilling, will continue their investigations until they can get to that comfort range, confidence, that they know exactly what's under there, and what the next possible solutions are going to be."
All remediation is Celotex's responsibility. The roofing materials manufacturer offered the property to the city, but recent federal laws protect the city from the associated environmental liability, even if it were to take possession before cleanup - which Graff does not recommend.
The USEPA's investigative work has indicated the property may no longer qualify as a federal Superfund site, and can be remediated as a Brownfield site.
In other business before the council:
The council chose to proceed with planning as if it would agree to demolish and rebuild the North Kankakee Street bridge over Forked Creek.
The city received a grant to engineer a solution for the bridge, including adding a bike lane over it, as part of a plan to create a dedicated bike route through Wilmington.
The bridge's last inspection identified some problems that will affect the structure's longevity, such as an undercut of the piers by the waterway.
There is no plan to do any major repairs on the structure, but in the event that additional grant funds are available in the future, city engineer Colby Zemaitis wants to be able to present a plan for rehabilitation or replacement when those opportunities arise.
Studer suggested the council plan for bridge replacement, at an estimated cost of $2 million. In the event that grant funding becomes available, the council can choose to amend its total replacement plan and support one that maintains the original, picturesque substructure.
The council anticipated that a grant for such a project would require a 10 percent match, and the members hope to be able to start setting funds aside for future bridge improvements.