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Boneyard Creek Pipe Contamination Press Conference

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) has an important update on the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign.

We held a press conference on 3/17/11 about the toxic pipe at Boneyard Creek, and you may have seen or heard some of the news coverage from the press conference.

Here are some links to some of the press coverage: (links expired)

  • WICD
  • WCIA
  • WILL AM 580


On Thursday 3/17, we released the environmental test results from samples of a pipe (and the soil around it) at Boneyard Creek. The pipe is one that belonged to the former manufactured gas plant at Fifth and Hill Streets in Champaign, which is now the Ameren toxic site. Our concern has been that this pipe could be an ongoing source of toxic contamination into the Boneyard Creek, and along the 5-block stretch of the neighborhood where the pipe runs, til it ends at Boneyard Creek.

When the plant was in operation, from the late 1880s until the late 1950s, the pipe was used to dump tons of coal tar and other petroleum-based wastes into the Boneyard Creek.

The environmental experts working with the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign learned about the existence of this pipe after only one day of conducting background research. The pipe and the gas plant’s use of the pipe to dump coal tar was detailed in a 1915 report by Ralph Hilscher. The environmental experts working with us asked the IL EPA and Ameren to investigate the existence of this pipe, because of its potential threat to human health, the environment, and Boneyard Creek.

The IL EPA refused to investigate, saying there was no evidence for the existence of the pipe.

It should be noted that in the 15 years that IL Power/Ameren have “investigated” the toxic site, they apparently never found evidence of this pipe.

After IL EPA refused to investigate the existence of the pipe, CCHCC’s Executive Director, Claudia Lennhoff, and CCHCC Community Organizer, Grant Antonline, went looking for the pipe in the Boneyard Creek. They simply used the description in the 1915 Hilscher report, and they found the pipe within minutes, once they were in the Boneyard Creek. They then collected samples of the pipe and the soil surrounding the pipe.

To see what they found, click here.


Based on the samples that CCHCC collected, and the test results from those samples, our environmental experts decided to come to Champaign in early February and collect their own samples.

The test results from both sets of samples show very high levels of toxic chemicals in the pipe and in the soil surrounding the pipe.

The test results also confirm that this pipe is the pipe that was used by the former manufactured gas plant for dumping its waste products — the test results show a “fingerprint” that matches the former manufactured gas plant and its waste products.

To see summaries of the test results, you can click on these links:
Table 1 – Summary from CCHCC’s samples

Table 2 – Summary from environmental experts’ samples

Note that in Table 2, some of the toxins are more than 1 million times higher than the state EPA’s allowable limits!

Mark Zeko, one of the environmental consultants working with our Campaign, wrote a cover letter to the City of Champaign to explain the test results and the implications from the test results.

If you’re interested, this letter is VERY good reading! Here is the link where you can see the letter.

We are calling on the City of Champaign to do the following:
1. Cap the pipe at Boneyard Creek to prevent further discharge of toxic chemicals into the Boneyard (and prevent a lawsuit from CCHCC under the federal Clean Water Act — the City has until April 11 to act and avoid a lawsuit. We suggest the City bill Ameren for the cost of any corrective action the City takes.

2. Stand with the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign in calling on the IL EPA and Ameren to do a real and full investigation of all toxic contamination associated with the operation of the former manufactured gas plant, including along the pipe and the Boneyard Creek.

3. Move forward to repeal the groundwater restriction ordinance that lets Ameren off the hook for cleaning up toxic groundwater. The City Council already took a straw poll calling for the repeal of the citywide groundwater ordinance, but no action has taken place since the February Study Session.

Thanks for your support, and we promise to keep you posted on any new developments!

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