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Local

No EPA grants for Limestone cleanup this year; officials optimistic about next year

Environmental testing continues at Parrish-Alford site

Gene Learnahan of Chicago clears debris from the Limestone Building on July 19. The city will have to wait until next year to do more cleanup work at the former factory site after learning it wouldn't be getting the grants it applied for in November.
Gene Learnahan of Chicago clears debris from the Limestone Building on July 19. The city will have to wait until next year to do more cleanup work at the former factory site after learning it wouldn't be getting the grants it applied for in November.

ROCK FALLS – The city will wait until next year to do cleanup work at the Limestone Building after learning it wouldn’t be getting the grants it applied for in November.

The city had applied for two U.S. EPA Cleanup grants, each in the amount of $200,000, to do environmental remediation work after the building was taken down in July.

The EPA and Terracon, the city’s environmental consultants, had been testing soil and groundwater throughout the demolition process. Assessment couldn’t occur before the building came down because it was deemed structurally unsafe for workers to enter.

“At least the safety risk with the decaying building is gone,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.

The preliminary results from the tests showed elevated levels of VOCs, SVOCs and metals. VOCs are volatile organic compounds, gases that are emitted from solids or liquids, while SVOCs are a less volatile subgroup. They include a variety of chemicals that can impact health, and some are known to cause cancer.

A paint shop that had been in the lower level of the building is believed to be the source of much of the contamination.

“Terracon has tentative plans to be here to go over our assessment report during the June 5 City Council meeting,” Blackert said.

Not being included on the list of EPA grant winners was a new experience for the city. While it was disappointing, officials are confident the city will get money in the next grant cycle.

“It’s hard being turned down, but it’s the first time for us, so we have a good batting average with EPA grants,” Blackert said. “We’re pretty sure we’ll get these grants next year, so we don’t really feel the need to come up with a Plan B to pay for the cleanup.”

The process was competitive, with 221 grants awarded from a field of 625 applicants nationwide. The applications must be submitted in November for the next Cleanup Grant cycle. If the city does get the grants, it must come up with a 20 percent match.

In the meantime, the city is focused on obtaining an $800,000 revolving loan from the Illinois EPA to complete work at the Parrish-Alford site.

The Parrish-Alford property is about 6.5 acres of land north of West Second Street between Fifth and Eighth avenues. Environmental work has been done there, and in 2012, the EPA issued a no further remediation letter for the area. That designation, however, came with the condition that part of the site remain capped with concrete.

If the land is to be redeveloped, the rest of the cleanup must be done, which covers about one-quarter of the property.

“We need to take care of the riverbank, which is probably about 80 percent of the work, and the northeast corner of the property,” Blackert said.

Terracon and the EPA have had test wells and soil borings at the site for several months. When ground and water tests are completed, a remediation plan will be drawn up.

Until that time, the city has no idea how much the cleanup will cost.

“We’re waiting on the revolving loan agreement from the Illinois EPA and then we should be set to begin,” Blackert said.

The city, since 2005, has received more than $6 million in EPA funding through the brownfields program to clean up the Parrish-Alford, RB&W and Limestone sites.

NEXT MEETING

The Rock Falls City Council meets at 6:30 tonight at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St.

The agendas will be posted at rockfalls61071.net and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The council meeting also airs live on Channel 5 in the Twin Cities.

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