US EPA Offers Screenings For Champaign’s 5th & Hill Neighborhood

October 18, 2016
 
5th and Hill neighborhood residents M.D. Pelmore, Ebbie Cook, and Jerry Lewis meet with Claudia Lennhoff of Champaign County Health Care Consumers Tuesday at Pelmore's home in Champaign

5th and Hill neighborhood residents M.D. Pelmore, Ebbie Cook, and Jerry Lewis meet with Claudia Lennhoff of Champaign County Health Care Consumers Tuesday at Pelmore's home in Champaign.

Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Residents in one Champaign neighborhood say they’re still experiencing ill effects from the site of a former Ameren gas plant near their home. Those around 5th and Hill Streets want the U.S. EPA to inspect their homes for toxic vapors. Residents say after Ameren finished excavation on its property, the utility made no effort to address those vapors, and the Illinois EPA wouldn’t require Ameren to deal with it.  

Residents say after Ameren finished excavation on its property, the utility made no effort to address those vapors, and the Illinois EPA wouldn’t require Ameren to deal with it.  

Champaign County Health Care Consumers Executive Director Claudia Lennhoff says the health concerns are less chronic than in years past. 

But she says when heavy rains bring on rising groundwater, that’s when headaches and other problems persist. Women in the area have reported fibroids, and other bleeding disorders.

“They have eye problems that their doctors are having a hard diagnosing and treating, asthma and other kinds of breathing problems," she said. "One thing that was very prevalent in this neighborhood was numbness and tingling even in young people in their hands and feet. That’s indicative of exposure to certain kinds of chemicals.”

A press conference was held Tuesday at the home of M.D. Pelmore. He lives down the block from the Ameren site, and still has problems with rising groundwater after heavy rains.

“In the last couple years, if you basically get any water in it, or it gets damp or something, you get this awful smell," Pelmore said. "A while back, the smell was so bad, I invited the Champaign City Council to come out here and spend the night, and smell the stuff. But they turned it down.”

In a statement, Ameren spokesperson Brian Bretsch says Ameren is meeting its responsiblity to remove production waste left over from the site, saying more than 90-percent of the site has been successfully cleaned up, and the project will be completed this fall.

"Ameren steadfastly disagrees with the assertion that there is widespread contamination from the MGP site in the 5th & Hill neighborhood," he said. "In fact, investigations by Ameren and the U.S. EPA identified impacts from a former bulk petroleum storage facility located at the intersection of 5th and Washington Streets. Ameren welcomes the U.S. EPA investigation and expects that it will confirm that widespread contamination, if any, in the 5th and Hill neighborhood is not related to the manufactured gas plant site."

Illinois EPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs says the agency understands the concerns of the residents in Champaign, and because of them, has long been involved with the neighborhood.

"In regards to “off-site” contamination in residential areas of the neighborhood, soil gas samples have been collected to the south, west and north of the site," she said. "None of the soil gas samples have detected concentrations approaching an indoor inhalation remediation objective. Illinois EPA has concluded that the Ameren MGP site does not pose a vapor intrusion risk. There was some soil contamination at a residence located north of the site, but that site is now owned by Ameren and will be enrolled in the Site Remediation Program for proper clean-up. Quarterly groundwater sampling continues at the site and only 2 of the 21 wells have shown any contamination. A city groundwater ordinance is in place to prevent exposure from groundwater contamination."

The U.S. EPA will sign up 5th and Hill residents for free toxic vapor tests at a public meeting Thursday.  It’s from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Presence Covenant Medical Center Auditorium.

Story source: WILL