New Agreement Would Quicken Restoration of Polluted Riverfront in Illinois
CHICAGO A new agreement between the former owner of a shuttered oil refinery and government agencies should accelerate by at least a decade the restoration of a polluted stretch of southeastern Illinois riverfront, officials announced Tuesday.
The 990-acre property along the Embarras River near Lawrenceville was used for disposal of oil, acid sludge and other waste from 1907 until the mid-1990s.
Toxins created a "dead zone" in forests and polluted groundwater and the nearby Embarras and Wabash rivers. Tar-like waste was removed from several nearby homes in the mid-1990s.
ChevronTexaco Corp., the refinery's former owner, agreed in 2001 to begin assessment and cleanup as part of a consent decree after the state sued the company.
The new agreement streamlines federal regulations that govern the cleanup of sites under the Superfund program. Under the pact, environmental workers will assess physical contamination at the same time they survey the damage to the site's natural resources -- a combination that will accelerate restoration by 10 to 15 years, officials said.
"We all agreed to move forward on restoration work and cleanup on parallel tracks, which gets the process done much, much faster," said William Child, chief of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Bureau of Land.
Restoration possibilities could include purchasing land for tree planting to replace lost flood plain forest and installing ripple pools in area streams to improve water quality and revitalize fish populations, officials said.
Full restoration won't be complete until at least 2020, according to Clarence Smith, manager of the Federal Site Remediation Section of the Bureau of Land.
ChevronTexaco, formerly Texaco, operated the plant until 1986, when it was closed and later sold. It operated under the name Indian Refining from 1990 to 1995 before being shuttered permanently.
Nearly all the refinery's buildings and equipment have been removed in recent years.
Source: Associated Press