Belleville

Big white tent is being picked up and moved

Workers on Thursday were moving the large tent covering the removal of contaminated dirt from the area near Richland Creek and West Main Street in Belleville. The tent is 300 feet long and 132 feet wide and is being moved for the next phase of the $35 million Ameren Illinois cleanup of coal gas contamination from more than a century ago.
Workers on Thursday were moving the large tent covering the removal of contaminated dirt from the area near Richland Creek and West Main Street in Belleville. The tent is 300 feet long and 132 feet wide and is being moved for the next phase of the $35 million Ameren Illinois cleanup of coal gas contamination from more than a century ago. snagy@bnd.com

The huge, white tent in downtown Belleville is on the move again.

Ameren Illinois’ $35 million project to remove coal tar from the ground around West Main and Sixth streets is on schedule, on budget and moving into its third of eight phases before being complete in December 2018.

The tent covers the work and traps odors and contaminated air, which is then carbon filtered with eight fan-driven units.

“There have been no surprises,” Ameren Illinois spokesman Brian Bretsch said.

This part of the work to remove the soil contaminated by Belleville Gas Light and Coke Co. will be the shortest of the eight phases and will take about two months. The tent is being moved to part of the site that is farther from the main contamination site. Workers will dig to about 25 feet rather than the 45 feet they initially were digging.

The contamination resulted from the production of coal gas in the late 1800s and early 1900s to burn in street lights. The brick and concrete container storing the fuel underground leaked the coal tar byproduct into the soil.

Ameren Illinois assumed responsibility for the cleanup when it purchased Illinois Power Co. in 2004.

“We’ve had a great working relationship with city, the mayor, the Illinois EPA and the city engineer and the project is moving along as expected,” Bretsch said.

The contaminated soil is removed and sent by truck to the Milam Landfill, about 25 minutes away. Clean fill dirt is brought in from the Columbia Quarry.

The work began in fall 2015 and required closing a small stretch of Washington Street connecting West Main Street and Centerville Avenue. The road will remain closed until the project’s finished.

Sometime this spring or summer workers will divert Richland Creek to get at contamination.

Once cleaned, the city-owned property will be available for development or other use. Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert previously said the city will at a minimum have more green space.

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