HARTFORD, Ill. (KMOX) – It rises, black and ominous, above the surrounding corn fields — visible to everyone who drives by on Illinois Route 3 and New Poag Rd. in Hartford Illinois.
The mountain of waste was left behind after the Chemetco copper smelting plant filed for bankruptcy and shut down more than a decade ago.
“Chemetco was a bad actor. There’s no question about it,” Kevin Turner, project manager for District 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tells KMOX News. “What we’re going to be doing now is we’re really going to have a heavy oversight presence to make sure that what the company is doing to extract out that metal is being done under the environmental rules and regulations that we have in this company.”
That process includes a public meeting tonight at 6:30 pm at the Hartford Community Center, 715 N. Delmar Ave.
It will focus on a newly-filed federal decree regarding cleanup of the Chemetco Superfund site.
Turner says there’s not a huge immediate health threat, but the pile of waste certainly isn’t doing anybody any good.
“The metal content is so high that it leeches off into the wetlands or the Mississippi River, Long Lake, or the agricultural fields that immediately surround there,” he points out. “Heavy metals that are in the environment are toxic.”
Turner adds that if everything proceeds according to plan local residents should start noticing the slag pile starting to disappear within a year.