Metro-East News

Illinois EPA investigating extent of hazardous material spill in Madison County

Dust containing possibly hazardous materials was largely disposed of on the same day of a spill last week in northern Madison County, local officials said.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is still investigating to determine the full extent of the area affected.

A semi-truck transporting waste that may have had heavy metals in it from steelmaking or smelting was involved in a traffic accident June 11 in Hamel. The accident occurred at around 10:55 a.m. at the intersection of West State Street and Hamel Avenue, where some of the dust spilled out into the air and onto the ground, state agencies wrote in a news release.

Exposure to the dust could cause eye, ear, nose or throat irritation, especially for someone with asthma, health officials said.

Health officials were concerned about residents ingesting the dust, so they ordered a nearby fruit stand be shut down before anyone could buy contaminated food. And the rest of the area was cleaned up, according to Madison County’s emergency management agency and health department.

IEPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs said Monday the agency was still waiting for the results of samples taken in the community to determine the spill’s reach.

As a precaution, the IEPA and the Illinois Department of Public Health stated that anyone who was in the area when the spill happened could wash their car, wipe down the interior and replace its air filters to reduce their exposure to metals contained in the dust. The state agencies also said that garden vegetables and outdoor children’s play sets and toys in the area should be washed.

Hamel has an estimated population of about 814.

Some residents were concerned that they didn’t learn about the spill until two days after it happened, when the village posted a statement from the IEPA and IDPH on its Facebook page.

“We wanted to get something out as soon as we could,” Hamel Mayor Larry Bloemker said Monday. “We were told a statement was being drafted. As soon as we got it, we put it out on Facebook.”

Toni Corona, of the Madison County Health Department, would have liked to have seen the notice come out faster but she said it takes time to gather accurate information. Biggs, with the IEPA, said the agency needed to identify the material in the spill and the potential effects on residents and the area.

Corona suggested that anyone with questions about their exposure contact their healthcare provider.