Metro-East News

Ameren to host open house Tuesday at Belleville contamination cleanup site

Ameren Illinois will host an open house Tuesday at which company leaders will explain clean-up plans at a contaminated site in Belleville.

The open house will be held from 3-7 Tuesday at 111 S. Sixth Street.

Workers began earlier this year cleaning the former site of the Belleville Gas Light & Coke Co. at West Main and Sixth Streets, erecting a temporary building at the site and closing the street out front.

The business, founded in 1856, supplied gas made from coal to light downtown street lights, was folded into several companies over the years, eventually becoming part of Illinois Power in 1922. Although Illinois Power sold the site to the city of Belleville in the 1960s, Ameren assumed responsibility for the site after acquiring Illinois Power in 2004.

“There was a time when a city was considered progressive if it had a manufactured gas plant,” Brian Martin, consulting environmental scientist for Ameren said. “It was a source of great civic pride.

“While Ameren Illinois did not build or operate this plant, we assumed responsibility to clean it up after the acquisition of Illinois Power,” Martin said. “Our ultimate goal is to respire the site to a condition that is acceptable to the state’s environmental standards.”

The process of making gas from coal created tar and ash which Ameren leaders described as “potentially hazardous byproducts underground.”

The cleanup is expected to take about three years to complete and will require Richland Creek to be temporarily diverted.