Agreement Reached on Cleanup of Hazardous Waste

Article excerpt

The final phase of cleaning up a site in Taylorville, Ill., contaminated by hazardous substances may begin next month, officials say.

Some area residents claim the site has contributed to several cases of neuroblastoma, a rare form of nerve cancer, although studies have found no connection.

After more than two years of negotiating a cleanup proposal, Central Illinois Public Service Co. - the current owner of the site - and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reached a cleanup agreement.

The settlement, presented in U.S. District Court, will become final after a 30-day period for public review and comment.

Early next year, CIPS officials will also review rate increases adopted in March to help pay to clean up the site, where a coal gasification plant operated between 1892 and 1932. During that time, coal tar and other hazardous substances were stored underground at the facility.

On Monday, CIPS spokesman Sam Poe said he's hopeful that recent insurance settlements to help pay for the cleanup will be reflected in about 360,000 electric and 160,000 natural gas customers' bills.

"I'm confident our customers will either see a decrease (in rates) or a credit," he said.

In March, the utility announced increases in residential electric and natural gas rates - about 25 cents for the average monthly gas bill and 42 cents for electricity - to begin paying for the cleanup of more than a dozen hazardous waste sites in central and Southern Illinois. The sites, including the one in Taylorville, were home to coal-gasification plants.

CIPS has already spent more than $4 million on the Taylorville cleanup, which IEPA officials estimated two years ago could cost another $5 million.

Poe said the long-term cost could go on indefinitely.

Under the terms of the agreement, CIPS will pump and treat groundwater from the site for at least five years or until cleanup criteria is approved by the IEPA. …