Investigating Racial Discrimination in handling of toxic waste site by federal agencies: case study northeast Carbondale, IL
Barrow family owns the land in the 1850s, the Davis family owns the land in 1868 until the nineteenth century, and the Dillinger family from the 1850s until the first purchase of the plant property by Ayer and Lord in 1902.
The city of Carbondale created a subdivision in the northeast portion of town, known as the Tie Plant Place. The Ayer and Lord Tie Company facility was considered the largest creosote plant in the world.
Soon after opening, the plant employed some 200 men with an average yearly payroll of $85,000 in 1905. Four-million ties were generated yearly during this period and helped the city of Carbondale experience economic and population growth. In 1905, the Illinois Central Railroad employed 300 men while paying out $264,000 annually.
The Koppers Company bought Ayer and Lord in 1932. Koppers, headquartered in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, was founded by Dr. Heinrich Koppers, a German engineer who had developed a new type of coke own recover by-products of coke burning which were formerly unusable, for example, creosote, made from coal tar.
Fred Tisdale and his wife Ethel Mae moved to Carbondale from Oklahoma. The Tisdale’s lived in a home and raised a family of 11 children where the Tie Plant was their place of birth.
William Stewart, a graduate student studying at Northwestern University, conducted his thesis on Koppers property documenting the Management of Negro Laborers in a Southern Industrial Plant in 1932.
An earlier fire in 1939 that was ignited by welding sparks in a cylinder caused the release of creosote from storage tanks onto ground surface and into a storage lagoon at the eastern portion of the site.
Heavy rains then caused a breach of the lagoon berm spilling wastewater, creosote, and sludge into an off-site spill area and Glade Creek.
In 1946, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is created.
In 1954, Florence Tisdale-Scott, who lived near the Koppers plant periodically throughout the years, died of cervical and ovarian cancer at seeking treatment at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
In the summer of 1962, a fish kill occurred in the Big Muddy River due to phenol poisoning which was traced back to the overflow of the lagoon at the site.
In 1970, the United States and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency are created.
In 1980, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is created.
In 1981, two cows grazing on land next to the Koppers site died. An autopsy on one the two deceased cows revealed the cow had ingested creosote-containing material.
The Smith family farm including Mr. Russell Smith Sr. allegedly receives compensation in damages for the deaths of the cows.
In 1982, Martha Tisdale-Jones died of breast cancer after seeking at treatment at Kaiser Sunset in Los Angeles.
In 1986, a lagoon breach occurred on the Koppers site that released cancer-causing chemicals into neighboring water and soil. Glade creek was impacted by creosote and underwent cleanup procedures as a result of the breach.
In 1988, Koppers abandoned the lagoons and Beazer East Inc., the successors of the company, bought the Koppers Plant in Carbondale and completed the cleanup procedures for the chemical breach.
The cow deaths led to the Illinois Environmental Protection agency conducting a preliminary remedial investigation at the Koppers and led to the close-out of operations at the site.
In 1997, Wilberforce Tisdale died of prostate cancer after seeking treatment at Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles.
In 1999, Ethel Mae died of 16-pound tumor stomach cancer after seeking treatment at Mercy hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.
Cleanup begins for Koppers site after being placed on the USEPA Superfund site.
In 2001, Illinois Department of Public Health conducts a health assessment and consultations in correlation with the USEPA and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry who are apart of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The community residing south of the plant is notified of contaminations found on-site from a report in the Southern Illinoisan newspaper.
In 2019, Nannie Weber who is the mother of Darryl Weber, dies of breast and bone cancer.
In 2005, Beazer East Inc., with environmental consultant Arcadis Inc., conducts soil sampling of the former Koppers plant for contaminants such as creosote, phenols, or pentachlorophenol.
At the time dioxin/furan was not considered. The sampling used random sampling in community south of the site while the residents wanted grid-style tests of their yards. The conclusion of low levels of pollution and no human risk exposure.
In 2006, the city of Carbondale, with environmental consultant Hurshe-Rosche, conducts supplemental soil sampling investigation to quell residential concerns of contaminants in their community.
The sampling also used random sampling rather than grid-style. The conclusion of low levels of pollution and no human risk exposure.
Ida Shelton, who is the sister of Magdalene Tisdale-Davis, died of lung cancer after seeking treatment at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines.
In 2012, dioxin/furan is found on the former Koppers site and Beazer East Inc. conducts a third soil sampling investigation, finding low levels of contaminants on-site.
The community is made aware and demands soil sampling in neighborhood for dioxin/furan. The USEPA says dioxin/furan was tested in 2005 and 2006 at low levels posing no human exposure risk.
In 2013, a request for city council action was made by Brightfields Development LLC to receive an application to construct a solar array installation on Koppers/Beazer East Inc. land.
The city council deferred action until the community could voice concerns and after hearing the public, denied Brightfields.
In 2014, Brian Klubek who is a retired soil scientist, deciphered the USEPA reports and asked questions which the USEPA responded to about the soil samplings conducted in 2005 and 2006 being inaccurate.
In 2019, the USEPA added 15.8 acres to clean up, 8.4 acres of additional soil to be excavated and relocated to landfill in DeSoto, Illinois, and 7.4 acres of contaminated soil managed with a 1-foot soil covered.
Eva Tidwell dies of black lung and breast cancer.
In 2020, Beazer East Inc. and the USEPA finish cleanup procedures.
2021 – present
The community plans a monument unveiling of those lost to the work, environment, and pollution at the Koppers plant at Attucks park in Carbondale, Il.