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5th & Hill Study Session Update

First and foremost, thank you to each and every one of you who contacted your Champaign City Council Members to urge them to repeal the City’s groundwater ordinance. And thanks to every one of you who came out to last night’s seemingly-unending Study Session.

The Study Session went from 8 p.m. til 11 p.m. last night, and amazingly, most community members who came out to support the repeal of the groundwater ordinance stayed for the whole meeting. Now that is dedication!

1. CCHCC announced that we had filed a Notice of Intent to Sue the City of Champaign under the Clean Water Act, because of the pipe at the Boneyard Creek;

You can see the Notice of Intent to Sue here.

2. The City Council took a straw poll and voted to repeal the groundwater ordinance for Ameren and on a case-by-case basis (yes, that is confusing, and it falls short of a full scale city-wide repeal, but it’s a start).

You can see media coverage of last night’s City Council Study Session here:

Please stay tuned to this issue. The vote last night was informal. Staff will still have to write an ordinance and the City Council will still have to vote on it. We will keep you posted!


Here are the highlights from the meeting:

Supporters of repealing the groundwater ordinance packed the room! Every seat was taken, and it was standing room only for most of the night.

Study Session

The comments made during public participation were great! They were all in favor of repealing the groundwater ordinance. There was not a single person who spoke in favor of keeping a city-wide groundwater ordinance. Many of the comments were poignant, insightful, and heartfelt.

The only opposition came from City staff, who recommended that the City Council keep the citywide groundwater ordinance.

We won’t review their entire testimony, but they did talk about testing the 6 homes in the 5th & Hill neighborhood, and that the test results showed benzene and other toxic contamination to be at levels that far exceed the U.S. EPA safety levels, by as much as 10 times higher!

The experts also stated that there is no other state that allows cities to pass citywide groundwater ordinances like this, and that they will work with us to change the state rules that allow the IL EPA to offer these ordinances to our cities.

CCHCC’s Executive Director, Claudia Lennhoff, informed the City Council about the pipe from the Boneyard Creek (in case they hadn’t seen yesterday’s news).

She explained to the City Council that both the IL EPA and the City staff had REFUSED to investigate the existence of this pipe, even though there was a lot of documentation about it. IL EPA and the City said there was no sign that it existed.

This is the pipe that the manufactured gas plant had installed, that ran from the gas plant property all the way down along the railroad tracks, into the Boneyard Creek, so that the gas company could dump coal tar into the Boneyard Creek.

Claudia brought a piece of the pipe into the City Council chambers in a box. She said that the piece of pipe stunk with a petroleum-like smell, even though active coal tar hadn’t flowed through it for the last 60 years. She offered to let the City Council members smell the pipe, but no one wanted to.

She notified the City Council that earlier that day, she had served the City with a Notice of Intent to Sue the City under the authority of the Clean Water Act.

She said CCHCC organization filed the Notice of Intent because of the urgency to stop contaminated groundwater from flowing into the Boneyard Creek through this pipe.

Claudia said the city is violating the Clean Water Act by allowing contaminated groundwater from the Ameren gas plant site to seep into that pipe. The pipe still contains coal tar in it, and every time water seeps into the pipe and flows through it, it’s spreading the toxic chemicals from the coal tar.

She said that it’s very important for the city tor respond to this issue, but the city can thank Ameren for the pipe, or the predecessor company, but it is on city property and so, the responsibility is up to the city to get it cleaned up.

The City has 60 days to take corrective action, and if they don’t, the Clean Water Act would subject the City of Champaign to fines of up to $32,500 per day.


The City Council voted in a straw poll last night to change the citywide groundwater ordinance and repeal it for Ameren.

It was confusing, because it was not a straightforward repeal of the citywide groundwater ordinance.

Specifically, they informally voted to direct staff to repeal the ordinance for specific geographic locations, including 5th & Hill/Ameren, but to allow the four companies who had already used the ordinance, to keep it (mostly gas stations in other parts of the City).

The vote last night was informal. Staff will still have to write an ordinance and the City Council will still have to vote on it.

Once again, thank you for your support and activism on this issue! The community was out in force, and it made a huge difference! We were up against powerful interests, and even against the City Staff. Every single person’s action, as part of this collective effort, made a huge difference!

All of us at CCHCC and the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign

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