Cleanup of downtown Belleville fire site will start soon

News-DemocratJuly 7, 2013 

A pedestrian walks past 'the hole' on East Main Street in this BND file photo.

ZIA NIZAMI — Buy Photo

— Cleanup at the site of a 2010 fire on East Main Street downtown will start on July 17.

A judge ruled in May that the property owner of 205 E. Main St. had until June 20 to remove asbestos and debris left at "the hole" at Jackson and Main streets after two buildings were demolished after the fire.

The city of Belleville, which sued building owner Ronnie Phillips over demolition and cleanup costs, granted Phillips an extension for the cleanup, according to Julie Bruch, the city's attorney in the case.

Phillip's attorney, Penni Livingston, has said that Phillips will comply with St. Clair County Judge Vincent Lopinot's order, though Phillips is appealing the judge's decision.

Phillips hired Envirotech for the cleanup and the work should last five to 10 days, Bruch said.

Phillips also has to fill the site with dirt to grade level after the asbestos and overgrown weeds are removed, Bruch said.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said after Phillips' part of the work is done, then the city will repair the sidewalk on Jackson Street.

In 2011, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency cited the city, the two property owners and Hank's for releasing asbestos into the air and not notifying the agency of the demolition, per state law.

IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson said then that the asbestos is embedded in the dirt where the building used to stand. And, as long as the asbestos is not disturbed, the health risk to the public is low.

After the May 26, 2010, fire, the city cited safety reasons and had Hank's Excavating and Landscaping demolish Phillips' building as well as Chester Nance's building at 201 E. Main St.

Phillips argued that there would be no asbestos problem if the city did not illegally order the demolition without his permission.

After Lopinot's order, Phillips turned over a $47,583 check issued to him by State Farm to pay Hank's.

Nance's insurance company paid for part of Hank's demolition fee, about $88,578.

Livingston said in May the cleanup would cost about $45,000. It's unclear whether Nance will share Phillips' cleanup costs. The city did not sue Nance.

The two buildings housed three businesses: the Classic Curl beauty salon, a mental health center for Chestnut Health Systems and the Hilltop Emporium thrift store.

No one has been charged in the arson case.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at

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