How does it act in this environment?
Dioxins and furans can enter your body through breathing contaminated air, drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. About 90% of exposure to dioxins and furans is from eating contaminated food. Dioxins and furans can build up in the fatty tissues of animals.
Dioxins and furans are mainly distributed through the air.
Eating contaminated food is the primary source of exposure.
What does it do to the human body?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that it is likely to be a cancer causing substance to humans. In addition, people exposed to dioxins and furans have experienced changes in hormone levels. High doses of dioxin have caused a skin diseased called chloracne.
People who have been unintentionally exposed to large amounts of these chemicals have developed a skin condition called chloracne, liver problems, and elevated blood lipids (fats)
Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions.
Source: pentachlorophenol.pdf (epa.gov)
It was primarily used as a wood preservative. Pentachlorophenol is extremely toxic to humans from acute (short-term) ingestion and inhalation exposure.
During the late 1940s, pentachlorophenol (penta) was approved for use with wood crossties. Penta is an excellent wood preservative that is still in use in the wood utility pole industry. During the next decade, or so, penta was either added to creosote for ties (proving to be highly corrosive) or used as a standalone treatment by railroads in small quantities, in various methods of application, for wood ties (Cellon process, heavy oil carriers, etc.).
The practice of using penta for ties fell out of favor with RRs in the early 1960s.The principal use for pentachlorophenol is as a wood preservative; it is also used for the formulation of fungicidal and insecticidal solutions and for incorporation into other pesticide products. (1) Workers at wood treatment facilities and lumber mills are estimated to breathe in about 10.5 to 154 mg/ day, and workers who handle treated lumber can absorb about 35 mg/day through the skin. (1) Pentachlorophenol and its breakdown products can be measured in blood, urine, and tissues. (1)
How much is in the ground, air or dust and water?
How does it act in this environment? ‘
What does it do to the human body?
Acute inhalation exposures in humans have resulted in neurological, blood, and liver effects, and eye irritation. Chronic (long-term) exposure to pentachlorophenol by inhalation in humans has resulted in effects on the respiratory tract, blood, kidney, liver, immune system, eyes, nose, and skin. Human studies suggest an association between exposure to pentachlorophenol and cancer.
Source: Creosote Health Effects (Tronox).pdf (cdc.gov)
Creosote can be released into soil and water and can then move through the soil to groundwater. Groundwater is water found underground in cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and rocks. After creosote gets into groundwater, it may take many years to break down.
1929 – Creosote and its solutions reaches peak use (203 plants treating 60 million+ wood crossties). For a short period of time, zinc-chloride was added to creosote (discontinued in 1934). During WWII, shortages of creosote developed, so heavier oils and Copper Naphthenate were used as creosote extenders – these practices were discontinued for a variety of production related issues as available creosote supplies returned to normal near the end of the war.
How a person can be exposed to creosote:
You are exposed to creosote only by coming in contact with it. People may be exposed to creosote by: working in a wood preserving facility, – Workers in wood preserving facilities might be exposed to higher levels of creosote than the general population. living close to a wood preserving facility if the facility discharged creosote into the air or onto the ground, – The most common way that creosote in soil enters the body is through the skin. accidentally “eating” soil contaminated with creosote, – For example, children playing in areas with soil contaminated with creosote can swallow the creosote if they put their hands in their mouth after touching the soil. using wood treated with creosote to build fences, bridges, railroad tracks, or installing telephone poles, living in houses made of wood treated with creosote, drinking water contaminated with creosote, or eating some food, like fish and shellfish, contaminated with creosote.
Source: Chemical and Physical Information: ALDRIN-DIELDRIN (cdc.gov)
Wood creosote is discussed separately because it is different in nature, use, and risk.
Wood creosotes are derived from beechwood (referred to herein as beechwood creosote) and the resin from leaves of the creosote bush (Larrea, referred to herein as creosote bush resin). Beechwood creosote consists mainly of phenol, cresols, guaiacols, and xylenols. It is a colorless or pale yellowish liquid, and it has a characteristic smoky odor and burnt taste (Merck 1989) It had therapeutic applications in the past as a disinfectant, laxative, and a stimulating expectorant, but it is not a major pharmaceutical ingredient today in the United States. It is easily set on fire. Its color is usually amber to black. Creosote is the most common product utilized to preserve wood in United States. Creosote is also a pesticide. A pesticide is a substance that kills pests
Beechwood creosote is obtained from fractional distillation (200–220 EC at atmospheric pressure) of beechwood or related plants. The mixture has only recently been characterized to any significant extent (Ogata and Baba 1989). Phenol, p-cresol, and guaiacolsguaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol) comprise the bulk of beechwood creosote. Xylenols, other methylated guaiacols, and trimethylphenols account for virtually all of the remaining phenolics in the material.
Source: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Phenol | NIOSH | CDC
Phenol – Mildly acidic, it requires careful handling because it can cause chemical burns. is a colorless to light-pink, crystalline solid with a sweet, acrid odor. Exposure to phenol may cause irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and nervous system – Autonomic nerve damage may produce the following symptoms:
Inability to sense chest pain, such as angina or heart attack
Too much sweating (known as hyperhidrosis) or too little sweating (known as anhidrosis), lightheadedness, dry eyes and mouth, constipation, bladder dysfunction and sexual dysfunction (Nerve Pain and Nerve Damage – WebMD: Neurological Symptoms)
Some symptoms of exposure to phenol are weight loss, weakness, exhaustion, muscle aches, and pain. Severe exposure can cause liver and/or kidney damage, skin burns, tremor, convulsions, and twitching. Workers may be harmed from exposure to phenol. The level of harm depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.
Cresols Toxicological Profile for Cresols (cdc.gov)– cresols are widely distributed in the environment and the general population may be exposed to low levels of cresols mainly through the inhalation of contaminated air. Cresols are also the product of combustion of coal, wood, and municipal solid waste; therefore, residents near coal and petroleum fueled facilities, as well as residents near municipal waste incinerators, may have increased exposure to cresols. When a substance is released either from a large area, such as an industrial plant, or from a container, such as a drum or bottle, it enters the environment. Such a release does not always lead to exposure. You can be exposed to a substance only when you come in contact with it. nose and throat irritation, gastrointestinal damage, skin can cause severe skin damage and cancer even death. You may be exposed by breathing, eating, or drinking the substance, or by skin contact. The EPA has determined that cresols are possible human carcinogens. A carcinogen is an agent with the capacity to cause cancer in humans.
Guaiacols https://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/06742.htm & Guaiacol | C7H8O2 – PubChem (nih.gov)– Causes severe eye irritation, Causes skin irritation, Causes gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, Causes respiratory tract irritation. Guaiacol is also present in wood smoke, as a product of pyrolysis of lignin (Pyrolysis is the heating of an organic material, such as biomass, in the absence of oxygen. Because no oxygen is present the material does not combust but the chemical compounds (i.e. cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin) that make up that material thermally decompose into combustible gases and charcoal)
Xylenols – Xylene: An overview of its health hazards and preventive measures (nih.gov) The main effect of inhaling xylene vapor is depression of the central nervous system, with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Feeling “high,” dizziness, weakness, irritability, vomiting, slowed reaction time, Giddiness, confusion, clumsiness, slurred speech, loss of balance, ringing in the ears, Sleepiness, loss of consciousness, death.
How much is in the ground, air or dust and water?
There is no data on the odor threshold in water or air because it is odorless. The major components of wood creosote (phenols) are susceptible to oxidative degradation when exposed to air (oxygen), particularly if the material is basic (high pH).
Creosote can be released into soil and water and can then move through the soil to groundwater. Groundwater is water found underground in cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and rocks. After creosote gets into groundwater, it may take many years to break down.
How does it act in this environment?
What does it do to the human body?
Longer exposure to creosote vapors can irritate the lungs. Exposure to small amounts of creosote over time by direct skin contact or by contact with creosote vapors, may cause: – Blistering, peeling, or reddening of the skin – Damage to the eyes – Increased sensitivity to sunlight Eating food or drinking water with large amounts of creosote may cause: – Burning in the mouth and throat – Stomach pains Accidentally eating large amounts of creosote for a short period of time can cause: – Bad skin rash – Eye burns – Convulsions – Kidney or liver problems – Unconsciousness or death
MONUMENT UNVEILING REMEMBERS THOSE IMPACTED BY KOPPERS
In mid-October, advocates for social and environmental justice gathered at Attucks Park to commemorate men impacted by the former Koppers wood-treating plant with an honorable monument showcasing their hardwork.
Koppers allegdely caused environmental pollution by contaminating soil and water systems near a predominantly black community that the facility mostly employed during its operation from 1902 to 1991.
Shelia Brown, daughter of former Kopper’s worker Willie Neil Brown and a keynote speaker, said the community asked her to speak at the event because they know her father started the fight for justice.
Brown said she was born and raised north of the former Koppers wood-treating plant where her family cared for apple trees, corn, beans, and a wide range of pets and livestock.
“My mother, brother, grandmother, aunts and uncles all lived out there,” Brown said. “When my uncles and them graduated and went about their way, we were still there.”
Brown also said her mother’s garden was near the Koppers site.
“My mother planted corn and beans…everything,” Brown said. “We had pigs, dogs, cats and a horse out there.”
Brown said when their dogs would get the mange spots in their body, they would take the dogs out near the Koppers plant where there was a pond of creosote and dipped the dogs in it.
According to PetMD, an online authority for pet health, mange is an inflammatory disease in dogs caused by the Demodex mite.
“When the number of mites inhabiting the hair follicles and skin of a dog rapidly increases, it can lead to skin lesions, skin infections and hair loss,” according to PetMD.
Brown said the people in the neighborhood would dip their dogs in the pond to get rid of the mange.
“Not only would they dip those dogs in there, but a lady that lived in the back of the Koppers plant where the Dillingers had a pond… all the fish died,” Brown said.
The Dillingers reportedly owned a farm north of the Koppers plant along with three other farmers.
“When we found out the plant [property] was contaminated, we brought the people together and marched,” Brown said.
The community marched from Knight Street to Thomas school, where they had their meetings, coming together to raise awareness of the Koppers’ property contamination near their homes.
However, the Environmental Protection agency visited one of their meetings and said that the Koppers propoerty was not polluted with cancer-causing chemicals such as creosote.
Brown said that when the city of Carbondale and current owners of the Koppers property, Beazer East Inc., took soil samples to test for land contamination, they did not go down far enough.
“It wasn’t pleasing to us,” Brown said.
Melvin Holder, also known as Pepper, said the EPA and others started this problem of allowing the black community to be potenitally exposed to chemicals emanating from Koppers.
“I want you to think about something…in 1901 [and] post-civil war…the United States was growing in order to take the [wood-treated] cross-tie to one place or the other,” Holder said.
Holder said Koppers was the largest operation globally by creating these wood-treated cros- ties for necessities such as telephone poles.
“All this while creosote was the proponent of keeping it all together,” Holder said.
Holder said he did not work on the ground at the Koppers facility during its operation. However, he transported cross-ties to other local southern cities and across the country.
“I’m trying to demonstrate that our participation in slavery…before World War I…we were here making these things to progress America in doing what they have done, but who did not go with them,” Holder said.
Holder said this community of black people did not make that trip and have not received any reward or repair for the things that helped America go forward.
James Chappell, a keynote speaker, said the community created and installed this monument to remind us of what the people of Carbondale went through.
“I’m glad I got to make it down and thank everyone who made it out today,” Chappell said. “I didn’t think it’d be this many people.”
Chappell often said people forget, but it is good to see many people talking about the history of Koppers and its workforce.
“People on Facebook were telling me…my dad used to work out there…my uncle used to work out there…,” Chappell said. “I remember a lot of those people.”
Robert Lee Ollie, also known as Mr. Ollie, a former Koppers worker, and keynotw speaker, said many of his friends are dead and gone due to suspected chemical exposure while employed by Koppers.
“I had three sons that passed away from the same thing,” Ollie said. “We just have to keep praying and I thank God.”
Dan Johnson, the event organizer who created the monument, said Rodney Morris called him after being referred by an art professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who thought he would be an excellent person to create the sculpture to remember the workers of Koppers.
“I said I would be honored to do it and at that point I had done drawings of the art and the committee approved it and that’s how we got the ball rolling,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the whole world is there.
“You just have to want it in terms of art,” Johnson said. “I thought I had more of an intimate look at what these guys were going through, and that was the heart of it.”
Johnson said that’s why he did those silhouettes of the workers at the plant as the center of the monument.
Johnson also said we poured a concrete base but then had to get the sculpture up on top using a truck provided by the Attucks park district.
“It was nice in terms of coordinating and getting that city truck to come put the piece up,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said he had all kinds of people telling him stories about their fathers and uncles who worked at the plant.
“They talked about playing at the plant as a playground as kids…they’re up there on the ties, running through the boxcars…can you imagine they had no idea what was going on,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that he became very educated about the situation of Koppers as he worked on the monument.
“I also had a friend…when I told him about building this thing…[who] remembers the creosote,” Johnson said. “[He] had a very bad experience with the railroad tie parking lot installed once for boy scouts.”
According to the friend’s note, Johnson said he broke out all over his body in a wicked rash and was nauseous for a day.
“I’m sure it came from that facility,” Johnson said reading from his friend’s note. “So horrible people worked in a factory producing that kind of stuff which led to illness and death.”
Johnson said he thinks a monument is a tool for education and a testament to these workers and the community around those workers.
“I hope that it functions in that way…that it kind of educates both the community and other people who come,” Johnson said.
Rodney Morris, a keynote speaker at the event, said everybody had an idea the community put together to give to Johnson.
“And Dan [Johnson] made a masterpiece,” Morris said. “I’m kind of emotional…this represents hard working people that are here and that are gone.”
Morris said he does not want people to look at this and think this is a tombstone for the people that lost their lives working at Koppers.
Morris also said the community wants the city of Carbondale, Beazer East Inc. and the EPA region five-division located in Chicago, Illinois, to know that this is the starting block.
“This [monument] to us is a starting block because we are not going to stop this fight until the northeast side of Carbondale is clean of all contamination,” Morris said.
The northeast side community launched a website called carbondalekoppersjustice.com, where there is more history about the facility.
Healing Illinois funded this website project through the Southern Illinois Community Foundation.
GOVERNMENT DETERS JOURNALISTS, ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS COMPROMISED
Pilsen and Little Village, a primarily Mexican American enclave facing years of poor air quality after the mishandling of a demolition project of an old coal-treating plant, only made the news because it was a disaster, not environmental racism.
This story of air pollution impacting a community of color living near a former industrial plant is another classic case of environmental racism the mainstream media covers due to its visual appeal for television.
William Bike, the editor of the Gazette-Chicago, a monthly community newspaper covering issues across Chicago, Illinois, said the demolition of the Crawford Generating Station plant located at 3501 S. Pulaski Rd. caused the community to become agitated.
Bike said the folks tearing down the coal plant did not do it too well and did not get proper permits to conduct the demolition in April of 2020.
Then when the construction crews of developers Hilco Redevelopment Partners tore the facility down, they created a massive cloud of dust over the entire neighborhood, which was only 50-feet away.
The smokestack was imploded, blanketing the neighborhood with toxic dust causing Mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue a stop-work order, according to WBBM.TV, a local station in Chicago.
“That made alot of news,” Bike said. “Pilsen and Little Village completely flipped and started being opposed to plants,” Bike said.
According to WGN-TV, a Chicago-land broadcast station, the residents thought their health was harmed by the toxic dust permeating their community.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a suit against Hilco and its demolition contractors Management Corporation and Controlled Demolition Incorporated for violating state pollution laws.
The coal plant was built in 1924 and permanently closed in 2012 because Midwest Generation’s owners disagreed with the financial burden of complying with air standards and would rather shut down.
News on Environmental Racism
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, minority, low-income, and indigenous populations frequently bear a disproportionate burden of environmental harm and adverse health outcomes while living near power plants that cause air pollution.
The health effects of air pollution include the development of heart or lung diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis, according to the USEPA. Also, increased susceptibility to respiratory cardiac symptoms and premature deaths can occur.
The air quality concerns in the Mexican American community have continued for over ten years since the release of toxic dust particles entered their neighborhood, according to the USEPA.
Medill Reports, a student-run publication at Northwestern University in Chicago, said coal contained many heavy metals and was detected in the air and quadrupled the national standard.
According to Medill Reports, several acts of negligence at the industry level posed a hazard to public health.Northwestern University in Chicago
According to the Chicago Reporter’s analysis completed in 2008, public health data shows people living closer to the Chicago power plant have higher death rates because of lung and heart disease.
This Mexican American neighborhood also has higher hospitalization rates for asthma or bronchitis than other parts of the city.
In the Crawford case, Bike said other cases such as the Fisk Generating plant, another coal-fired electric station located at 1111 W. Cermak Rd., were the most significant environmental issues the Gazette covered, impacting communities of color.
Out of the six operational coal-burning plants in the Chicago area in the early-2000s, Fisk and Crawford were five miles apart near this Mexican community.
The Fisk station went into service in Pilsen in 1903, closing in 2012 after air pollution disasters.
“If these were in more affluent areas, the power plants wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did.”Bike
Industrial plants and where people live
Dr. Leslie Duram, professor of geography in the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability and director of the Environmental Studies minor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said how you think about environmental geography is an excellent way to think about environmental racism.
Duram said this comparison works because geographers deal so much with the place and people.
A question such as why one neighborhood is impacted more than another neighborhood by an environmental hazard suggests a place issue, Duram said.
Why is one demographic more impacted by an environmental issue than another?Duram
Environmental racism is closely linked because we deal with that interface between people and the environment, Duram said.
“Whether it’s waste management or toxic spills… we’re finding that Black and brown communities are impacted more heavily,” Duram said.
According to the Toxic Wastes and Race, a national report on the racial and socioeconomic characteristics of communities with hazardous waste sites, industrial companies who mishandle toxic waste and potential pathways for contaminants to pollute the environment or pose an exposure risk to the community is a significant issue facing communities of color compared to other demographics.
“If you look at the demographics and you look at the people and the environment… you’re going to see that overlap where lower income and minority communities are closer to these environmental degradation sites,” Duram said.
Duram said whether the industry entered the environment before or after the residents is such a difficult question.
“I think throughout time you can say that lower income, poorer people were always next to those environmentally degraded areas,” Duram said.
“There are poor people who are going to be living in the dumps,” Duram said.
Duram said she thinks that this reality has intensified through time due to specific demographic groups’ lack of financial ability to leave these areas.
This seemingly is a structural aspect to this issue, Duram said.
“Rich people who have power want to stay and become more rich or stay and become more powerful,” Duram said.
“That always is going to harm people who have less power and less money,” Duram said.
Duram said there is a correlation between basic geography and the mobility aspect of who can move in and out of polluted communities.
“There’s not alot of options for lower income people,” Duram said.
Mainstream v. grassroots journalism
Whether or not these issues involve minority communities mainly being impacted by industrial hazards due to geographical and economic reasons, Duram said she does not mean to be harsh.
Duram said it feels to her that most mainstream news in America does not address environmental injustice very much at all.
“Mainstream news may have a very short news cycle…oh, there’s breaking news about toxic waste and then it’s over and we don’t talk about it, the aftermath, or any health issues after the fact,” Duram said.
Duram said the rare long-term, consistent view of environmental news in the mainstream press is depressing because what mainstream does do is a fast pass over, do one story, and that is it.
Duram asked, why don’t we report more on the environment?
Duram said our lives depend on it, and it matters that we have clean water, air, and food that we can eat daily.
“The news should cover those types of stories to keep us up to date on what’s going on, even local environmental issues,” Duram said.
Bike said environmental issues might get some coverage by the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, and television stations, but nobody covers it and neighborhood papers.
The stories featured in the Gazette are pretty significant, and that is something mainstream media may not have time to cover in-depth, Bike said.
“Our reporters have time to really delve into issues and really write about the complicated things and these pollution stories are pretty complex,” Bike said.
Bike said if you look at the Sun-Times or the Tribune, their stories are pretty short. The same thing with television.
“You’re talking about a feature on the news that’s a few seconds long,” Bike said.
Bike said he thinks local press such as the Block Club Chicago can do a better job because it can delve into the issue and devote space.
Bike also said community groups have statistical information about the prevalence of diseases near the power plant beneficial for the local press because of close community-newspaper relationships that mainstream newspapers may not have.
“We’ve got relationships with the local community groups,” Bike said. “It’s not really that interesting for the mainstream media to cover, but it is for us.”
Andrea Firestone, broadcast content manager for KSDK, an NBC-news affiliate located in St. Louis, Missouri, said it is hard to put a number on how often her station covers an environmental issue.
“If there’s a tip or an idea about an environmental issue, we cover it…but, I’m not sure if it’s daily, weekly, or even monthy,” Firestone said.
Firestone said she thinks it depends on the day’s news and what is happening.
It does not need to be a disaster, Firestone said.
Usually, the environmental stories the station covers on the local level are pollution or problems. The national news the station covers is more climate change and global warming.
“Weather is probably our number on priority to inform and keep our viewers safe when it comes to weather that is threatening their lives,” Firestone said.
“We will absolutely cover an environmental issue in a community that impacts people,” Firestone said.
Firestone said the station tries to keep their target audience in mind, usually the striving, working-class.
The striving, working-class is individuals making great efforts to achieve or obtain something in the labor force who do not have bachelor’s degrees, including high school dropouts, high school graduates, people with some college, and associate’s degree-holders.
Firestone said her station’s veteran reporters have sources all over St. Louis, including the city, Metro-East, East St. Louis, north and south St. Louis county, and affluent, striving, working-class areas.
“We really strive to reach every group of the community,” Firestone said. “What’s happening in our local area is what we’re giving the most air-time.”
Sometimes environmental stories, you have to get a response from the government, investigate what the people in the community are saying, talk to a scientist or professor who is an expert on the issue to get the whole story, Firestone said.
Firestone said these stories are not something you can turn in a day on deadline.
Firestone said that anytime the station is doing a story on an environmental issue, the reporters seek university science expertise such as Washington University in St. Louis, University of Missouri St. Louis, and sometimes SIU Edwardsville.
Firestone said the reporters at her station usually could not get officials over the phone who work at federal agencies such as the EPA for interviews.
“Most of them have a spokesperson in the office of communications where you call them and they call you back or send an email,” Firestone said. “Most of the time, they’ll give you a statement.”
If the station is covering a developing story that made national headlines, sometimes a government official or their spokesperson will be in town, and the station can get an interview with them.
Firestone said she thinks her reporters have to be persistent when gaining information from public or government sources on an environmental story.
“If it’s earlier in the day and they’re usually these government workers who are out the door by five o’clock…you have to call first thing and be very persistent in order to get a response from them,” Firestone said.
Firestone said she thinks that elected officials who represent their communities, such as aldermen, mayors, council members, state senators, and representatives, are willing to talk about environmental issues affecting their constituents.
“Usually, there’s a state representative or U.S. senator that leads the effort to change on an environmental issue and they become the point person,” Firestone said.
Government deters journalists
Amelia Blakely, a reporter for the Southern Illinoian and former journalism student at SIUC, said there seems like a gap in public information.
Blakely said that the gap is where an environmental issue will occur, and the media will wait before it becomes news because work has to be done on the government level.
Blakely said she worked for Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth, so she understands what has happened in local or state government.
According to a press release, Duckworth helped introduce the Environmental Justice for Communities Act to support communities experiencing environmental injustices, which the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated.
Duckworth also recently introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, sweeping legislation that would help achieve health equity and climate justice for all, particularly underserved communities and communities of color that have long been disproportionately harmed by environmental injustices and toxic pollutants, press release.
Around this time last year, Duckworth helped announce the introduction of legislation that would create and authorize funding for a system to comprehensively identify the demographic factors, environmental burdens, socioeconomic conditions, and public health concerns related to environmental justice and collect high-quality data.
“Officials are aware of these issues fairly quickly, but they won’t make it public knowledge until they know the steps they are going to take,” Blakely said.
Blakely said she understands that from a local government perspective because you want to have a game-plan or approach before letting things become public knowledge.
However, it hinders the reporting process for journalists, Blakely said.
“I might get a tip from somebody, but then I won’t really be able to go investigate yet because I’m just going to be stonewalled,” Blakely said.
“I’m not going to get information until after everything is said and done,” Blakely said.
Blakely also said that makes it difficult because reporters only have a certain amount of time to follow a lead on a story.
“It’s very difficult when you have people on the inside trying to clean things up or trying to do good work, but there’s no communication and bridges in my position,” Blakely said.
There might be journalists who have had relationships with government entities such as the USEPA, local city hall, or regional EPA offices for years, but from Blakely’s experience as a young reporter, that is not what she is used to.
“I think these experiences deter a lot of journalists because it makes you not even want to talk to them because you don’t have faith that you’re going to have a good coversation,” Blakely said.
Blakely said she really can not trust the USEPA and does not think many people in public can.
“Out of all the government agencies, you want to trust them because they’re in charge of the environemntal health,” Blakely said. “You can’t.”
The aura, the energy, and the vibes that the USEPA officials give off, especially those in charge of communicating with the public, feel like you are not welcomed.
“I don’t want to waste my time if you’re going to lie to me and I don’t want to perpetuate the lies,” Blakely said.
Blakely said other well-intentioned journalists, whether white or not, who have a naive perception of the government and think they are supposed to help the American people are shattered.
“Whenever I’m speaking to someone at the USEPA, I see them as a human…as someone that might be a really good person, but where they’re employed, they’re having to work towards a certain goal and our goals are not the same,” Blakely said.
Blakely said she thinks gaining comment from federal agencies for an environmental piece is difficult because good things such as teamwork and cooperation are hard to get out of.
“We’re serving different people with different agendas and goals,” Blakely said.
Blakely said that the American story is the people working at these agencies, trying to serve a purpose, yet their bosses may have different agendas.
“You have people at the bottom level who want to do the work, but it seems like good people don’t always necessarily get promoted,” Blakely said.
Blakely also said the people who get to call the shots may be less qualified or have not as good intentions.
“That’s a very tough and unique circumstance, but that situation is inherently unequal,” Blakely said.
This internal problem within journalism and federal agencies translate into pollution and toxicity impacting communities of color, making it hard to legitimize those stories.
“Unfortunately, communities of color aren’t believed,” Blakely said.
Blakely asked she could get why, but how?
Whenever you listen to people’s stories and drop all the biases or reliance on how the government is always right, it is tough not to believe them.
“If you don’t have the government’s backing, people in more affluent places or don’t have experience with contamination may be looking down on them, even though they don’t realize they are,” Blakely said.
If the government is not saying yes, this is true, or yes, we are helping you, then the people facing pollution are not believed.
“If we trace this problem to the people who have power and the people who don’t have power for whatever reason…whether it’s class or it’s social…you start to have this imbalance between who’s believed and legitimized versus who isn’t,” Blakely said.
The U.S. has historically pushed people out who are minority or poor and forget about them on the outskirts and not centered in society.
Blakely said stories of environmental racism are newsworthy because journalists will perpetuate the same types of practices if they continue to put people of color on the outskirts of things and not center their concerns, experiences, and quality of living.
Journalists have to use principles to decide what is a story or not, Blakely said. What that means is that journalists have to be active for democracy.
“With environmental racism, we have to be guided by our principles to decide what’s newsworthy and what’s not newsworthy,” Blakely said.
The Pilsen and Little Village communities impacted by the Crawford Station demolition are under region five of the USEPA, overseeing corrective actions for Superfund sites.
This region also regulates the former Koppers wood-treating plant in Carbondale, Illinois, near a Black community facing decades of environmental pollution.
KOPPERS NAMED ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES, RESIDENTS SAY ITS A JOKE
Statista and Newsweek magazine assessed corporations across the country for their second annual list of America’s most responsible companies, honoring Koppers, and some residents are not happy.
For almost a century, the land located where the former Koppers wood-treating plant once operated contaminated land with creosote and other dangerous carcinogens in Carbondale, Illinois.
Marilyn Tipton, a resident of the neighborhood where the Koppers facility was operational, said Koppers being honored as one of the most responsible companies in the country is a slap in the face to the community who still lives near the site today.
“Really now…this a slap in the face.”Tipton
Tipton asked, do the people who awarded Koppers know who these people are?
Tipton also asked, is the honor based on the old Koppers or the new Koppers?
“When they gave them this award…did they know the history of the company and what they’ve done to people for years?” Tipton said. “They’re looking at what they are now, not what they’ve been.”
The award Koppers received is a joke.Tipton
“I think that Newsweek should’ve done more research to see how many lives they affected,” Tipton said.
Melissa McCutchen, a member of Concerned Citizens of Carbondale (CCC), said the award might have assessed Kopper’s company morale but not its history.
McCutchen said her father, William McCutchen, the founder of the CCC, was active in the community regarding the Koppers controversy over environmental pollution.
McCutchen, who graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a degree in social work and another degree in workforce education and development, said she became a part of CCC when the community first learned about the contaminants at the site.
“I was at the meeting when we first found out about the dioxin and creosote poisoning.”McCutchen
McCutchen also said Koppers had received an award, and environmental responsibility is a component while the past is not.
“You know how those awards work,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen said Newsweek may not have assessed Kopper’s past practices or whether the company is best improved now.
“Maybe they are not aware of the years of contamination of employees in Carbondale, Illinois,” McCutchen said.
“So, I would hope that they are not aware and it was a decision made without having the full spectrum,” McCutchen said.
Newsweek honors Koppers
The Koppers company, currently owned by Beazer East Inc., which are the company successors focusing on environmental management, received an award for being the most responsible company among almost 400 other companies nationwide this year and in 2021.
“Koppers, an integrated global provider of treated wood products, wood treatment chemicals and carbon compounds, has been named by the magazine in recognition of its corporate performance in environmental, social and governance areas,” according to a 2020 press release.
Statista is the leading market and consumer data provider, while Newsweek provides the latest news, in-depth analysis, and ideas about international issues, technology, business, culture, and politics.
According to Statista, the data provider based most of the responsible companies listed in their report on publicly available key performance indicators derived from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports, sustainability reports, corporate citizenship reports, and an independent survey.
According to Havard Business School, CSR is an internal, and external-facing document companies use to communicate CSR efforts and impact the environment and community.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Koppers, and Beazer East Inc. ranked 178th in 2021 and placed in the top half of 399 companies making a list from a pool of 2,000 United States-based publicly traded companies, according to Nancy Cooper, editor and Chief of Newsweek.
“The company ranked 30th overall in the social category and placed in the top 10 among Pennsylvania-based companies included,” according to the Cooper.
This year, Koppers ranked 376th among the most responsible companies in the U.S, according to Nancy Cooper, editor and chief of Newsweek.Cooper
McCutchen said she would like to know why Kopper’s ranking dropped because the difference within a year is interesting.
McCutchen also said it is kind of cut and dry to say that a company gets awards for environmental and social responsibilities.
“Like Germany, for example, I’ve never been there, but from what I’ve heard it’s a pretty groovy country…but that doesn’t negate the fact that there was a whole Holocaust that went on there.”McCutchen
McCutchen also said it might be excellent in Germany, but it has not always been like that.
“So, with the Koppers Tie Plant…maybe they are currently doing excellent and in the past they didn’t and caused a lot of people to die,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen said responsibility is broad.
“Does this award actually mean anything?” McCutchen said. “Just because they get an award doesn’t mean that they’re actually doing a good job.”
McCutchen also said Koppers Inc. thinks they are a responsible company and received an award that validates their being good.
“Everyone who gets an award…everyone who gets to a certain level of leadership or prestige does not always deserve the award,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen said there are people where the former Koppers plant operated and exposed the land to contaminants that are unaccounted for, allegedly exposed to creosote and dioxin.
“That’s our truth,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen also said several things used data and statistics to prove things.
“It was used to prove that Africans were an inferior race for years,” McCutchen said. “You just can’t go off the data.”
McCutchen said data guides decision-making and should not determine what it is.
Koppers site Galesburg, Illinois
The company operates 15 railroad and utility products and services across the U.S., including one in Galesburg, Illinois.
According to the USEPA, the 105-acre Galesburg plant owned by Koppers is near a rural area along Illinois Route 41.
The wood-treating facility treats green railroad ties with heat, pressure, creosote, and coal tar.
Past operations have included pentachlorophenol (PCP) and fuel oil in the mix since 1907.
Past waste disposal practices contaminated soil and groundwater at and around the site and have been under cleanup procedures.
The Illinois EPA and the USEPA recently completed the 5-year review of the selected cleanup action for a contaminant list from 1989 until September 2020.
“It included biological treatment to address contaminated soil and pumping and treatment for contaminated groundwater,” according to the USEPA. “Contaminated soil was excavated and successfully treated.”
The completed reviews ensured these conducted remedies protect public health and the environment.
“Risks and pathways addressed by the cleanup include health risks from people ingesting and touching contaminants in soil and groundwater,” according to the USEPA.
There are currently no unacceptable human exposure pathways, and the EPA has determined the site is under control for human exposure, according to the USEPA.
The USEPA also concluded that the migration stabilized contaminated groundwater, and there is no unacceptable discharge to surface water.
According to Cooper, Leroy Ball, president and chief executive officer of Koppers, who made a public press statement, said the company acknowledges the importance of promoting fairness and respect to harness the best in themselves and those around them.
“We value our role of being a responsible steward of the environment by minizing the potential impact that we can have on our world,” Ball said according to Cooper.
Ball also said Koppers is steadfast in their belief that success will follow when we hold to our zero harm culture.
Ball said this mission is achieved by placing the care and protection of their people, communities, and environment first.
“Being recognized among the country’s most responsible companies is an honor and certainly an indicator of the commitment of our people to help create a more equitable and sustainable future,” Ball said according to Cooper.
Core to the company’s guiding purpose of protecting what matters and preserving the future.
Koppers centers its sustainability efforts around improving how it operates within the three pillars of people, planet, and performance, according to Cooper.
In Carbondale, the Koppers site underwent cleanup procedures to ensure the same outcome as Galesburg.
The company operates in North and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.
UNHAPPY WITH ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH ASSESSMENT, RESIDENTS SAY HEALTHCARE ROLLOUT WAS CONFUSING
The former Koppers wood-treating site occupies about 136-acres along north Marion Street on the northeastern edge of Carbondale, Illinois in Jackson County.
According to an Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) assessment conducted in 2001, the land use surrounding the site is for residential, agricultural, commercial, and industrial purposes.
“A combination of cultivated, undeveloped, and wooded land is north and east of the site,” the assessment said.
The nearest homes are immediately south of the facility, while a few rural residential dwellings scatter throughout the area.
The assessment admits visible creosote contamination of Kopper site soils and toxic wood-preserving chemicals were released from the site, polluting nearby water.
The assessment also said low levels of other toxic compounds such as phenols, pentachlorophenol, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are at the site.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a national public agency of the United States under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), creosote and these other chemicals can cause upper respiratory irritation and cancer in humans.
The assessment completed exposure pathway analysis, including ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact of toxins by private drinking water well users and the soil sampling conducted in 2005 and 2006.
Magdalene Tisdale-Davis, who lived so close to the site her birth certificate said the plant was her birthplace, said no residential drinking water wells were tested for toxins. However, the assessment includes a description of one well on residential property and the residential soil sampling was inaccurate, according to Brian Klubek, a soil scientist.
According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), a federal entity created as part of the 1973 Environmental Protection Act, community drinking water systems are inspected and monitored under the supervision of the IEPA.
In contrast, non-community drinking water systems and other environmental health hazards are the responsibility of the IDPH.
High prevalence of cancer cases went unchecked
The residential area south of Koppers is home to a primarily African-American population.
Residents who have lived in the area since Koppers operated from 1902 until 1991 said they housed Southern Illinois University students in Carbondale until the university could build enough dorms. Yet the city has forgotten about them in the northeast corner of town.
Residents voiced their concerns about the high prevalence of cancer cases in their community, but the cases were never adequately addressed by responsible city or federal officials.
Pepper Holden, who did seasonal work for Koppers during its operation, thinks that despite helping the town when the college needed housing for students before the tower dorms, originally known as the Brush Towers, were built in 1969, the black community has gone unheard.
Most residents similar to Holden and Tisdale-Davis think long-term exposure to creosote after years of living next to contaminated land caused cancer-related deaths for them and their loved ones.Media inquiry
Donald Monty, former Carbondale mayor who participated in a city-funded soil sampling investigation in 2006, said he has heard a high proportion of people in the black neighborhood had cancer.
“Environmental studies were being done for the close-out of the Koppers site by the IDPH amid other concerns of cancer-related illness in the black community,” Monty said.
Monty said based on the supplemental soil sampling analysis done by the city, results found no higher incidence of cancer in the northeast population than found in a similar U.S. population.
This human exposure risk is conclusive.Monty
The city investigated with environmental consultant Arcadis Incorporated and the initial test was completed by the current owners of the Koppers site, Beazer East Incorporated, and environmental consultant Hurshe-Rosche Incorporated in 2005.
Following CDC guidelines, the low levels of contaminants in the soil did not exceed the benchmark to pose a human risk.
“There may not have been any studies done more recently, but at least back 20 years ago when the studies were done there was no significance seen,” Monty said.
Several prominent community members such as Marilyn Tipton, Rodney Morris, and Holden said they had not received health consultations despite the conclusion of these soil investigations.
These residents also said their health concerns have continued to be unheard of by local and federal government officials during the COVID-19 pandemic, a global undertaking the last three years that has killed over five million people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), older people and those with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
Anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age, according to the WHO.
Responsibility to protect public health
The IDPH reviews information about hazardous substances at waste sites and evaluates whether exposure to these substances might cause harm.
This written evaluation is called a public health assessment with a follow-up document written on the site if new information or sampling data becomes available, called a health consultation.
In 2004, residents received notification by mail from the USEPA and IEPA that an open house would be held at Thomas School in their neighborhood to inform residents of Kopper’s site pollution.
According to a flyer provided by Beazer East Inc., in response to community feedback received during a 2004 public meeting, the USEPA arranged for a health topics panel the following year.
The panel included Dr. Ellen Rubin of Stroger Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, an occupational health specialist from Cook county.
Dr. Rubin offered health consultation services to anyone who thought they might be experiencing health effects from Koppers-related contaminant exposure.
The flyer said that Dr. Rubin offered consultation services in person at her office in Chicago or by phone if they wished to have the consultation from their personal physician’s office.
In addition, Dr. Rubin and Dr. Michelle Watters of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) met with local physicians to identify chemical exposure symptoms in their patients, in 2005.
According to Beazer East Inc., Stroger Hospital contacted the ATSDR and the IDPH to seek services in its Occupational Medicine clinic such as Southern Illinois Health (SIH) to help residents with health concerns.
“This clinic is staffed by doctors who specialize in health problems stemming from occupational [or] job-related and environmental exposures to chemicals,” the flyer said.
The flyer said the agencies set up informational sessions between a clinic physician and local doctors affiliated with Memorial Hospital of Carbondale.
“If you believe you have site-related health issues, you may wish to have your doctor contact Lynn Stone for more information about these meetings,” the flyer said.
Dr. Stone is a USEPA environmental toxicologist with the IDPH in Marion, Illinois, approximately a 30-minute drive from Carbondale.
John H. Stroger Hospital in Chicago does not record Dr. Rubin on their staff directory for comment.Media inquiry
According to a media inquiry via email, Kim Biggs, IEPA public information officer, said she did not have any information on notifying residents to go to Chicago for health consultations or who would have instructed that for comment.
New healthcare recommendations after confusion
According to a media inquiry via email, Melaney Arnold, state public information officer at the IDPH, said the Chicago clinic might reference the Great Lakes Center for Environmental Health, which has an ATSDR-funded environmental health specialty unit.
Arnold also said the IDPH recommends concerned citizens speak with their doctor or a clinic specializing in occupational and environmental medicine if they have concerns about chemical exposure.
Arnold also said testing for some of the contaminants of concern at the site is not widely available.
BLACK COMMUNITY WANTS SOIL RETESTED FOR CONTAMINATION, SIUC SOIL EXPERT AGREES
Black residents near the Koppers Superfund site in Carbondale, Il. demanded in June 2021 that their residential property be retested because previous tests used inaccurate soil sampling techniques. Those challenged tests showed no contamination and no risk of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Donald Monty, retired Carbondale city manager and observed the soil sampling to ensure a proper supplemental investigation, said this mistrust of the local government and governmental agencies is a part of a long history of segregation and racism in the United States southern regions.
“The lunch counters would not allow blacks, the movie theaters would not allow blacks…they had to sit up in the balcony or blacks could not stay at hotels and so on,” Monty said.
Monty said southern Illinois is south of Louisville, Kentucky, so in many respects, the old culture around Carbondale was probably more akin to what it would have been like in the south than, say, in a northeastern city.
“In the 1960s, the Varsity Theater then was the big movie theater in town and finally allowed black patrons to sit mingled with the white patrons,” Monty said.
So you have got that as a background not much different than if you were to go talk to people in rural Kentucky or Tennessee or Alabama…maybe not as blatant, but nonetheless.Monty
Monty said additional testing would be worth doing, but keep in mind that the resident’s mistrust of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the city can go so far.
Brian Klubek, a former microbiology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the Plant, Soil and Agriculture Systems department, says the residents are right. The soil samples did not go deeply enough to detect contamination.
Klubek said the residents asked him to get involved in demanding the retesting of the soil located south of the Koppers site for hazardous chemicals, specifically in their backyards.
Klubek said, how can there be the assurance that no contamination in those yards exists if the city or EPA do not look?
“It struck me that they only took samples at the surface six inches, and that was it. After that, they never went any deeper,” Klubek said.
If the sampling does not go any deeper, the sampling team really can not say the land is contamination-free.Klubek
“I believe they took a six-inch sample from the soil surface and no deeper,” Klubek said.
“I would not expect to detect high concentrations of dioxins or furans when these compounds have the potential to move deeper into the soil or be removed by run-off,” Klubek said.
Klubek said that how does the sampling team know that these compounds are not there if they do not look?
Those soils at that location called urban soils or human-modified soils no longer possess the profile characteristics beforehand.
“Nevertheless, there are soil samples located near that same area that are pretty much similar to poorly drained soil samples, so that site was probably the same,” Klubek said.
According to Biology Online, poorly drained soil is a condition in which water is removed from the soil so slowly that the soil is saturated periodically during the growing season or remains wet for long periods.
Klubek said the consideration of the soil profile must take place to see what is going on with the soil itself.
“So when these soils are wet, we call them tight because they do not drain very easily…you have pooling of water at the surface, however when you get past the rainy season it gets very, very hot, and it dries out,” Klubek said.
“It starts forming cracks within the profile itself.”
Klubek also said water moves and starts infiltrating more easily into the soil when it starts raining again because of those cracks.
The sampling team can take dioxin/furans or organic compounds there, which can move in that way.
“They call that preferential flow until those clays swell, and they shut up and begin to drain again,” Klubek said.
“If dioxin and furan are moving in the profile…so in a very tight band because the water is soluble…so if they move, they move very slowly, and they are a very tight band, so we’re talking two or three-inches,” Klubek said.
Klubek said a band of these compounds are no thicker than two or three inches and took out the 24-inch core, resulting in a dilution effect.
Klubek said the concerned residents do not know what the concentration in that band is.
Klubek asked, is it at the 10-inch depth, is it at the 15-inch depth, is it at the 18-inch depth, or is it at the 20inch depth?”
Klubek said if that band exists, then where it is and how close it is to the soil surface would dictate if it were a risk or not to human health and the environment.
“So if the band is at the 10-inch, there’s a potential risk there because you’re treating soil modification at the soil surface as your chance to modify the soil, bring that soil backup and bring that stuff back up,” Klubek said.
“On the other hand, if it’s down at the 23-inch depth, that would make a safer difference because you won’t go down that deep, and that will just sit there, and then there’s no potential risk,” Klubek said.
Klubek said the city needed a more grid-type sampling system, especially starting with the residents right next to the Koppers field.
Klubek also said a grid was not started from that point south and took specific samples that would be measurable and statistically analyzed.
“But, they didn’t cut by a grid system…they just halter, skelter here and there and maybe took one or two samples out of the yards that live next to it,” Klubek said. “They went several blocks beyond that just halter, skelter.”
Statistically, the city cannot analyze its results because it is scattered and does not provide any information, Klubek also said.
Klubek said the best way to prevent off-site run-off and protect the residents next door is to haul in fresh clay and build a berm to serve as a separation barrier between Beazer property and the residents.
Hence, if there is any surface run-off, that berm would prevent any surface-off from entering the yards.
“And then, what you can do with that berm is put some grass because that grass can act as a biofilter as well,” Klubek said.
“The biggest thing is to create a berm like you have your levees to control your water and to control any potential run-off from their field into their yards,” Klubek said. “Same principle.”
Klubek said for the residents to conduct their testing would be very expensive, and Beazer is responsible for retesting the soil south of the Koppers site.
“That would be the responsibility of Beazer since they own the property,”Klubek
“As I said, these profiles are poorly drained, so during wet conditions, you can have surface run-off from the Koppers site into their yards…if you have movement from Kopper’s field into their yard, that’s their responsibility.”
Klubek said Beazer East Inc. does not own the residential property. However, they are still responsible for preventing these contaminants from migrating off their site into the residential area next door.
“In other words, if you are in a car accident and somebody hits your car…they don’t own your car, but they are responsible for the damages to your car,” Klubek said. “That would be a parallel.”
Rodney Morris, a northeast side resident who has been fighting this issue for the last ten years, said the communication between the black community, the USEPA, and the city had been everybody putting the issue of retesting for contamination on the other person.
“The city says if Beazer says it’s all right, then it’s all right,” Morris said. “Beazer says if the EPA says it’s all right, then it’s all right, and the bottom line is if the EPA says it’s all right, then it’s all right.”
Morris also said that the USEPA region five offices that oversaw this issue is the same region that told Flint, Michigan, that their water was safe.
“We are just a bunch of black people that are being deceived,”Morris
Morris said the USEPA never tested south of the fence, although they have a map with the few little areas along the fence line that they supposedly tried, concluding that it would not be any further if it is not at that point.
“Yet and still, the creeks that got filled with creosote would come through the neighborhood, and the contaminated air would come into the neighborhood, dust would blow into the neighborhood,” Morris said.
“There’s no way that it couldn’t be contaminated further than south of the fence…they just refuse to pay to test it.”
Morris said the USEPA knows that they are black poor, and the northeast side does not have the money to retest the ground themselves because if they were able to retest the ground, he is optimistic that their land would be contaminated.
“My point is, and the point that I’ve been trying to make is that we’re living on contaminated land, and they won’t test it,” Morris said. “Why won’t the city test it?”
Morris also said the city would put up new walkways up and down the main street of Carbondale, and they will put walkways up and down the areas that no longer possess buildings along the railroad tracks, but they will not come out and test the black community’s land.
“They only did a surface check of the land, and they didn’t do what is considered a real test,” Morris said.
“Now, my point has always been if they come in and test the soil and the soil is not contaminated…all the money they spend arguing, fussing, and fighting with us…if the land weren’t contaminated, we wouldn’t have anything to say,” Morris said.
Morris said the USEPA and Beazer East Inc. did not have to test his land.
“It could’ve been across the street from me, it could’ve been the land next door to me, it could’ve been the land behind me,” Morris said. “Just land south of the fence.”
Morris said the city could have had the solar operation on the Koppers site if they had proved that the land was safe, but they did not.
“They don’t want to come over here and test because the results are going to be that our land is contaminated… it is just that simple,” Monty said. “It’s a joke… It’s really a joke.”
Morris also said the city gave black residents a blanket when the city Planning and Zoning Commission said no to Brightfields land developer’s particular use permit proposal to install a solar array farm on Kopper’s site in 2018.
According to the city of Carbondale, the Planning and Zoning Commission is tasked with originating, preparing and recommending to City Council a comprehensive plan as a guide for the future physical and social development within 1 1/2 miles of City limits.
“They gave us a blanket to lay down in hopes that it would rock us to sleep,” Morris said.
Morris said the residents on the northeast side have considered a GoFundme page and other fundraisers to conduct their soil sampling and testing at an estimated cost of $61,000.
Marilyn Tipton, a resident of the northeast side whose father worked at the Kopper’s facility, said with all of the contamination in the ground, she would not grow a garden because it would contaminate her vegetables.
“I had tried to grow a garden but was just scared to eat it,”Tipton
Tipton also said she is a member of the Carbondale Spring Food Autonomy known for organic gardening, and the group would like to put a garden in the northeast neighborhood.
“But until we can find funding to get this land tested, there is no way that we could put an organic garden over here because we wouldn’t know if the food would poison us or not,” Tipton said.
Tipton said Beazer East Inc. selected her property to get tested for contamination, and she completed all the paperwork, had a date, and told Beazer East she would like to be present while they did the soil sampling.
“They called the day before saying that they had found someone else,” Tipton said. “They had found some property closer to the test.”
“It made me feel bad…it made me feel helpless because they didn’t want to test me…they didn’t want to test my property,” Tipton said. “Did they find somewhere else because I asked to be here while they did the testing?”
Marilyn said the soil still needs to be tested in her backyard.
“We will not be satisfied until the soil is tested right,” Tipton said.
Mike Slenska, environmental manager for Beazer East Inc., said Beazer has already conducted such soil testing as part of the site investigation process, along the site’s southern property boundary and residential parcels located south of the site.
The residential parcel soil sampling conducted by Beazer occurred in 2012, and the results of the sampling were included in the site’s 2015 Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA), Slenska said.
A HHRA is the process to estimate the nature and probability of adverse health effects in humans who may be exposed to chemicals in contaminated environmental media, now or in the future, according to the EPA.
According to the Field Sampling Activity report included in the HHRA, the sampling team was composed of Caroyln Bury of USEPA, Tom Edmundson of IEPA, and Rob Young of TechLaw Incorporated in 2005.
TechLaw Inc. is an environmental consultant that helps government and commercial clients assess performance, manage risk, implement sustainable remedies, and resolve uncertainty, according to their site.
According to the FSA report, the sampling team collected fourteen soil samples for PAH and PCP analysis.
This analysis was based on a review of the existing onsite data and input from northeast community representatives, including one sample from the Koppers facility in an area known for contamination and one background sample from a residential area.
According to the report, the samples were analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and pentachlorophenol (PCP) to determine whether contamination from the Koppers facility had migrated off-site into the neighboring community.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pentachlorophenol causes neurological, blood, and liver effects through acute inhalation exposures to humans.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), similar health effects can happen when exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons coupled with repeated skin contact, resulting in redness and inflammation of the skin.
According to the FSA report, the soil team collected samples from approximately zero to six inches below the ground surface.
The sampling team compared the results to USEPA region nine Preliminary Remediation Goals and the Illinois Tiered Approach to Corrective Action Objectives for residential properties to determine if the concentrations of PAHs and PCP detected in the soils could be potentially harmful to residents.
“The sampling team met with representatives of the neighboring community the day before the sampling event [and] the sampling team used the community representatives input and existing onsite data in establishing the soil sample locations.”
Surface soil sample 13, for instance, was collected in the Koppers Former Process Area, from within the facility’s boundaries that appeared to be visibly impacted by creosote because the objective was to obtain a “signature” of the PAHs present in the creosote-impacted soils at the facility.
Another soil sample location featured a large area southeast of the Koppers site and south of the property line, which Kopper’s managers had reportedly used to store treated railroad ties several years ago.
According to the FSA report, sampling locations included north, west, and east of the Koppers site. In addition, the surface soil samples collected from Oakdale Park and a recreation area located in north-central Carbondale were considered a background sample and located approximately one mile west of the facility.
The results of PCP analysis did not detect PCP at a high concentration in any sample other than one sample exceeding Preliminary Remediation Goals (PRGs) and Tiered Approach to Corrective Action Objectives (TACO).
The PRG and TACO is the Illinois EPA’s method for developing remediation objectives for contaminated soil and groundwater.
These remediation objectives protect human health and take into account site conditions and land use for residential exposures, according to the IEPA.
Additionally, the background sample did not detect PCP, nor was the chemical detected in any soil supplies collected outside the boundaries of the Koppers site.
“The exceedance was expected since the sampling team collected sample 13 from onsite soil material that contained visible creosote,” the report said.
“Sample one was collected adjacent to a large drainage feature and an associated sample two collected in a step-out pattern to the south of the sample; one did not contain PAHs or PCP at concentrations exceeding the residential criteria,” the report said.
The report also said that the scientist rejected PCP results in six soil samples because of low surrogate recoveries and low calibration response. Target analytes may not have been detected if present in low concentrations.
The non-detected results, for instance, were rejected because the recoveries of the acid surrogates two-fluorophenyl and phenol-d5, which are PCP compounds, were less than 10 percent below laboratory quality control limits.
The following year, the city completed a supplemental investigation because northeast residents were still raising concerns about possible health hazards and water contamination in their neighborhood.
David Kimmle, a civil engineer for Hurst-Rosche Engineers Inc., said that topographic information, including the presence of waterways and other bodies of water, should be considered when establishing a sampling plan.
According to the FSA report, the soil team collected 11 subsurface soil samples at six locations throughout the local neighborhood.
Kimmle said both random and grid-type sampling plans are appropriate based on the nature of the contamination, intent of the sampling program, and availability of historical information or previous sampling results.
“With random sampling, test locations are selected separately, randomly, and independently of previous sample locations,” Kimmle said.
“With grid sampling, test locations are selected systematically at given intervals,” Kimmle said.
Random sampling is appropriate if sample locations are selected randomly with uniform coverage, whereas grid sampling ensures the entire sampling area is systematically covered.
“With both sampling plans an appropriate number of samples must be collected to establish the desired level of confidence in the sampling plan,” Kimmle said.
Kimmle also said selecting additional and specific test locations is appropriate after a random or grid sampling program results are available.
Jennifer Sandorf, a project geologist formerly with Blasland, Bouck, and Lee Incorporated, which later merged with Arcadis Incorporated, who conducted onsite soil sampling for Beazer, was present during the sample collection with Kimmle.
Kimmle said the sampling team used a post-hole digger to dig down to the feet depth at each designated location to test for PAHs and PCP as the USEPA did the year before using the same method.
“Sandorf collected split samples on behalf of Beazer [and] Monty also accompanied the sampling team,” Kimmle reported. “An auger was then used to auger down to the two feet depth, where a second soil sample was obtained and split by Sandorf.”
Kimmle also said the appropriate depth to detect toxins is dependent on numerous conditions, including but not necessarily limited to soil type and profile, presence of groundwater, and means by which the potential contaminant may have entered the subsurface.
Without this information, an appropriate depth of sampling recommendation cannot happen.Kimmle
Kimmle agrees with Klubek concerning soil profile and its characteristics in the soil sampling process.
“Yes, the soil profile and soil characteristics…along with many other factors…must be considered when establishing a sampling plan and sampling depth,” Kimmle said. “The soil type and soil profile may dictate the ability for toxins to migrate within the subsurface.”
Monty said he does not remember why the two-foot depth was determined. However, the local soil forms a “hardpan” just a couple of feet below the surface. This hardpan is particularly impervious to water percolating through it.
According to soil research done by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR), hardpan forms when the tillage presses soil directly below it, forming a compacted layer.
Deep compaction occurs further down in the soil profile caused by excessive weight on soil, mainly when soil is wet. It can be hard to break up soil once deep compaction occurs, according to the university.
“Maybe this was a factor in deciding how deep to take the samples,” Monty said.
Monty also said only 11 soil samples were taken as a matter of practice by the sampling team. The sampling team does not test 100 percent of the lots when sampling. Instead, they select a representative sample of scattered sites throughout the area of concern.
“If testing at one or more of the sites turns up contaminants, then you would go back and do more intensive sampling in those areas to see the spatial extent of the problem,” Monty said.
Kimmle said the answer to selection location is dependent on the intent of the sampling program and other relevant information.
“For example, one neighborhood may have residential lots encompassing a quarter acre, whereas another neighborhood may have residential lots encompassing an acre,” Kimmle said. “The sampling plan and coverage of individual properties will likely be different for these two scenarios.”
One soil sampling location was at the Eurma Hayes center, where the sampling team took a sample at a 24-inch depth with no visible signs of contamination.
Other soil sampling locations featured an alleyway, an open lot behind Thomas School, and a residential lot.
In addition, the sampling team detected traces of benzopyrene, chrysene, and pyrene from a 12-inch depth sample. However, the parameter concentrations were below remediation objectives established for the respective parameters, Kimmle said.
Kimmle reported that the test results indicate that the sampling team detected no PAH concentrations above statewide remediation objectives established by the IEPA for residential properties in any collected soil samples.
Monty confirmed sites were selected in advance farther away from the Koppers facility because one of the neighborhood’s concerns was that the EPA’s testing did not take samples far enough.
“Oh, yes, they were [sampled]…Thomas school is six blocks south of the Koppers site [and] the Eurma Hayes was another four or five blocks south of that,” Monty said. “I think one of the sample sites was at a public housing project way down on Oak street, which is a long way away.”
Monty also said the city completed sampling in residential yards where residents have concerns about Koppers run-off chemicals contaminating the soil near their homes.
“My wife and I lived for eight years up in the northeast just three or four blocks from the Koppers site, and we had a garden in our backyard as did our neighbors, and we all grew good crops,” Monty said.
Monty said his family had neighbors growing food and eating food on their lots for decades, but he never heard any mention by any of them of any concern about the healthfulness of the food.
“It may be that some people have a perspective that there was a problem and were afraid, but that’s different from there being an actual problem,” Monty said.
Kimmle said he could not directly answer whether he agrees that the soils located at the surface would no longer possess the same characteristics they had beforehand due to them being urban or human-modified soils nor whether he thinks tests for toxins of residential yards closest to the Superfund site must happen.
Kimmle also can not provide a direct answer on under what circumstances would the sampling team not go deeper than six inches or locate a band at 10-inches or 23-inch depths to test the concentration levels to determine potential risk.
Monty also said if the residents want to do soil sampling and testing themselves, he would say have at it.
“But they need to hire a firm that’s competent to do it or get a university research lab who is technically competent to do it,” Monty said.
Monty also said the other thing to look out for is background contamination levels the resident’s consultant will analyze at the sampling sites.
“We’re down-wind from St. Louis,” Monty said. “We’re downwind from some coal-fired power plants that’s off to the northwest of us here. SIU has a coal-fired power facility…all of those things introduce background levels of chemicals into the air, which precipitates out,” Monty said.
Monty also said the contamination levels of concern are strictly located on the Koppers site property itself and keep in mind that science changes.
“You can have tested at one time based on what you are testing for and at what levels you consider it to be harmful, and 20 or 30 years later, people might be looking at different chemicals…levels of contamination,” Monty said.
“If the city is paying for the study then no matter how, no matter who does the study… it’s obviously biased because the city paid for it,” Monty said. “If the EPA pays for the study, the results have to be biased because the EPA paid for it.”
Monty also said to take away the soil samples from the EPA and have the Illinois Department of Natural Resources pay for them.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is a part of the state government.
Those people might talk to the Illinois EPA, and the results could be biased,Monty
“Even though the firm the city hired does this stuff all the time…from a professional perspective, they had no reason to skew the results,” Monty said.
“If somebody in that business got a reputation for skewing the results for a client, that is going to besmirch their reputation and not be good for them,” Monty said.
Monty said there is a psychological part to this issue of mistrust among the black community.
“You have to have some faith that if you hire people who professionally do this work and are impartial…they have a lab, they test it, they crunch the numbers and make a report…at some point you have got to be willing to accept that kind of information,” Monty said.
Monty also said the city has been making efforts for many years to try to do things better, to improve things between black residents and the city administration.
“But I think to overcome years of suspicion and sense of injustice that just get passed down from generation to generation…I think part of that has to do with people working together,” Monty said.
“The city and people in the neighborhood are working together on projects of common interest to try to get a positive outcome,” Monty said.
The land, located at 1555 North Marion Street in Carbondale, Illinois, was initially owned by the Ayer and Lord Tie company and is considered the largest creosote plant globally.
The railroad tie production facility was operational from 1902 and was officially closed after finding onsite contamination in 1991.
Beazer East Inc. bought the land in the late 1980s and conducted Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Corrective Action (RCRA) activities under the regional office in Chicago, Illinois.
According to the EPA, site investigations identified the primary contaminants as creosote, pentachlorophenol, PCP, dioxin and furan compounds, and arsenic, which can harm humans.
1968 BREACH OF CONTAMINANTS IMPACTED SOUTHERN ILLINOIS WATER
A chemical breach threatened water safety to humans and animals, forcing current owners to finish cleanup at the former Koppers site.
According to the United States Environmental Protection agency, creosote may pose risks to fish and railroad structures made from creosote-treated wood.
The city of Carbondale allegedly received compensation for the damage of fish deaths in a pond bordering the plant due to chemicals spilling off from the site included in three separate incidents in 1968.
Despite rumors of the city and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) receiving payment for the fish kill circulated throughout the community near the Koppers site, both entities have no payment record.
According to the IDNR mission statement, the INDR aims to manage, conserve and protect Illinois’ natural, recreational and cultural resources, further the public’s understanding and appreciation of those resources, and promote the education, science and public safety of Illinois’ natural resources for present and future generations.
Jennifer Sorrell, city clerk who responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request through email, said she checked with city manager Gary Williams, city finance director Jeffery Davis and city attorney Jamie Snyder about the allegation.
“While there are certainly records relating to Koppers in the city archives…none of the city administration is aware that the city would have received funds relating to fish deaths,” Sorrell said.
Sorrell said she also checked through the indexes for minutes, resolutions, ordinances, but there was no reference to fish deaths.
According to an IDNR FOIA request response, no such records exist in their agency about alleged compensation received by the city.
The cause of the fish deaths traces to an overflow of an on-site lagoon property.
History of Koppers
The Ayer and Lord Tie company formerly owned the Koppers site, who bought the land in 1902 on the northeast side of Carbondale, Illinois, to create a wood-treating plant for railroad tie manufacturing.
The plant intended to serve the Illinois Central Railroad, was built to have a capacity 25 percent larger than any other similar plant in the entire world.
According to Science Direct, an environmental database, Koppers also became one of the world’s largest creosote treatment plants.
According to an Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) assessment completed in 2001 under the Agency for Toxic Disease and Substance Registry (ATDSR), this data made it no surprise that creosotes visibly contaminated soils at the site.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), creosote can contaminate soil or water and move from ground to groundwater.
“Groundwater is water found underground in cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and rocks,” the CDC said.
“After creosote gets into groundwater, it may take many years to break down.”
The assessment also said contamination at the site included phenols, pentachlorophenol (PCP), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), phenol is mildly acidic, requiring careful handling because it can cause chemical burns to humans.
Long-term effects cause autonomic nerve damage producing an inability to sense chest pain, such as angina or heart attack. Short-term effects cause excess sweating or limited sweating, lightheadedness, dry eyes, and mouth, the Institute reported.
The assessment said limited soil removal activities occurred at the site in 1991 for a pond and Glade creek where a run-off occurred and operation ceased, but much of the contamination remains on site.
Koppers fixed lagoon breach
When Koppers abandoned the lagoon system, they generated more wastewater than they could transport and store.
Hence, they evaporated wastewater into the atmosphere by heating it in open-topped tanks.
Mike Slenska, environmental manager for Beazer East Inc., said the Illinois EPA (IEPA) indicates the lagoon closures may have been part of a transition to a new wastewater treatment system according to a Koppers memorandum about the breach.
This procedure involved oil, water separation, and an activated sludge component based on biological treatment.
According to Britannica, wastewater is the polluted form of water generated from rainwater runoff and human activities.
Following the breach, the USEPA issued an Administrative Order of Consent (AOC) for Koppers under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) due to consequences of contamination in each incident, including the fish deaths in 1986.
A written cleanup agreement is a form of an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order of Consent (ASAOC), according to the USEPA.
An ASAOC formalizes an agreement between the USEPA and one or more potentially responsible parties, Koppers and their successors Beazer East Inc.
The USEPA uses ASAOCs for removal activity or short-term cleanups, remedial investigation and feasibility studies, and remedy design work, according to the USEPA.
“Koppers had to perform a remedial investigation to determine the nature and extent of any releases of hazardous waste from the facility,” according to the USEPA.
Under a consent decree, Koppers treated wastewater using the effluent from the oil-water separators in a wastewater lagoon system which included not only one lagoon, but four lagoons on site boundaries.
According to the memorandum provided by Slenska for this report, lagoon number one was emptied by 1988, with lagoon number two emptied by mid-June of that same year.
The third lagoon contained boiler cooling water sent to a spray field, according to the memo.
Lagoon four, which contained treated wastewater, was emptied into the spray field, according to the memo.
According to Law Insider, a contract database and resource center, spray fields are specified areas that have treated waste, agricultural, domestic wastewater, sewage, and industrial sludge applied to the land.
The memorandum also said scientists gathered two soil samples from each lagoon’s bottom and observed where black staining and small amounts of discolored water were inside the lagoons.
The wastewater ran from the oil and water separator directly to the activated sludge plant.
The heated storage tank then received treated water pumped from the plant to promote evaporation.
Slenska said the IEPA memo also offers some information concerning the heated storage tank mentioned in the Process Hazard Analysis (PHA), suggesting that tank usage was temporary.
The memo said that the sludge was shipped to Peoria Disposal Company, which received 248 loads of sludge in 1988 from the lagoon fix.
After these completed procedures, the Carbondale Treatment plant set up a monitoring and disposal station to avoid further contamination.
Chemical release put Glade Creek at risk
The IDPH assessment said heavy rains caused a breach of the lagoon berm, spilling wastewater, creosote, and sludge into an off-site spill area and Glade Creek.
Glade Creek is about 0.7-mile or two minutes away from the site located at 1555 North Marion St.
Beazer East Inc., who succeeded Koppers in 1988, is now responsible for the finished cleanup procedures and monitoring Glade Creek after the lagoon fix.
Under the decree, Beazer East Inc. emptied a small, polluted pond west of Glade Creek and filled it with clean soil, according to a community fact sheet distributed in 2005.
Beazer East Inc. also replaced a 1,500-foot polluted stretch of Glade Creek with a new creek.
Beazer East Inc. created this creek in a clean area 450-feet east of its original location on the Koppers’ property, where creosote spilled.
Koppers also installed a grout blanket in the creek bed to control the shallow contaminated groundwater discharging into Glade Creek.
The grout blanket is about 700-feet long and 30-feet wide, extending from bank to bank, according to the assessment.
The grout blanket collects and conveys the groundwater visibly contaminated with creosote periodically to a material collection maintenance hole, according to the assessment.
According to the IDPH assessment, collected material gets on-site treatment in the activated sludge wastewater treatment plant.
Glade Creek flows through the western portion of the site, around the northern edge, and past the site’s eastern end, according to the assessment.
Crab Orchard Lake separate incident
According to the assessment, the accidental releases of creosote products have reportedly resulted in off-site contamination of a Crab Orchard sediment in 1962.
All the little dirt particles that sink to the bottom of a pond are an example of sediment, according to a dictionary reference.
“Creosote is actually a mixture of 200 to 400 compounds whose composition varies from batch to batch,” the environmental database said.
According to the USEPA, the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge site, under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service agency (FWS), experienced elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
PCBs are industrial chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and pentachlorophenol (PCP).
According to the Mayo Clinic, a foundation for medical education and research, PCBs could pose serious health risks to people who frequently eat contaminated fish.
“PCBs have been shown to cause adverse health effects, including cancers, and negative impact on the immune, nervous and endocrine systems,” the Mayo clinic said.
In 1987, the USEPA placed Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge on their National Priority List, also known as the Superfund list, due to environmental contamination.
According to the IDPH assessment, the Big Muddy River receives water from the Crab Orchard.