Metro-East News

Ameren to clean up more coal tar in the metro-east

A bird’s eye view of property at 2002 Lynch Ave. in East St. Louis that’s contaminated with coal tar left over from when the site was home to a plant that burned coal to extract gas used in street lamps and stoves. Ameren Illinois will begin a cleanup of the site late this month.
A bird’s eye view of property at 2002 Lynch Ave. in East St. Louis that’s contaminated with coal tar left over from when the site was home to a plant that burned coal to extract gas used in street lamps and stoves. Ameren Illinois will begin a cleanup of the site late this month.

Ameren Illinois will soon begin cleaning up another metro-east property with soil saturated with coal tar.

Work will begin on the former St. Clair Gas & Electric Company site at 2002 Lynch Ave. in East St. Louis late this month.

According to Diane Saftic, Ameren’s project manager for the East St. Louis cleanup, the soil to be removed is located inside a 12-acre rectangular plot of land bounded on the north by Lynch Avenue, on the south by MetroLink tracks, on the west by Southern Illinois Railroad tracks and on the east by Illinois Terminal Railroad tracks.

127,000 Cubic yards of soil contaminated with coal tar to be removed and relocated from the site

$17.4 million Cost of cleanup project that will continue through most of 2017

12Acres of land affected by coal tar contamination

It will cost around $17.4 million to remove and relocate the 127,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. Ameren has committed to employing contractors local to East St. Louis to do a portion of the work worth $5.8 million.

Saftic said the depth of the soil that needs removed varies. Crews will dig down as little as three feet and as deep as approximately 22 feet, she said.

According to Ameren, coal tar is produced when coal is burned in special airless chambers. This process created the gases used most often in old street lamps, but it also produced coal tar, a thick, dark colored sludge that often is left behind when operations at gas plants cease.

Ameren said groundwater in the area also has been impacted by the coal tar, but residents are not at risk because drinking water in East St. Louis is not drawn from the groundwater supply and the city has ordinances in place restricting the use of ground water in other settings.

The cleanup is expected to be completed by late next year.

According to Ameren, St. Clair Gas & Electric bought the property at 2002 Lynch Ave. in 1885. A plant that burned coal to capture gas for street lamps and stoves operated on the site from 1910 until the plant closed in 1922, when the company was purchased by Southern Illinois Power and Light.

Coal tar is produced when coal is burned in special airless chambers. This process created the gases used most often in old street lamps, but it also produced coal tar — a thick, dark-colored sludge that often is left behind when operations at gas plants cease.

Southern Illinois Power and Light then reopened the plant in 1935 and used it until 1941. In 1941 it was converted to a storage facility for natural gas and propane. The site’s use ended in 1961 and it has been largely vacant ever since.

The 12-acre site sits next door to the west of the Jackie Joyner Kersee Community Center.

Ameren has a few similar cleanups ongoing throughout Illinois, most notably at the former Belleville Gas Light & Coke Company site at West Main and Sixth streets in downtown Belleville. That project began in the autumn of 2015. It’s expected to cost Ameren $30 million by the time it’s wrapped up in 2018.

Citizens are invited to attend an open house where Ameren Illinois representatives will answer questions about the East St. Louis cleanup project. The open house is set for Thursday from 3-6 p.m. at the East St. Louis Municipal Building, 301 River Park Drive.

Tobias Wall: 618-239-2501, @Wall_BND

Want to go?

What: Ameren Illinois representatives will be available to answer questions about the East St. Louis cleanup project during an open house.

When: 3-6 p.m. Thursday

Where: East St. Louis Municipal Building, 301 River Park Drive.

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