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updated: 1/6/2012 2:53 PM

Pending St. Charles development has dirty land to deal with

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  • Developers of the old Applied Composites building site in St. Charles have hired an environmental cleanup firm to handle removal of polluted soil.

      Developers of the old Applied Composites building site in St. Charles have hired an environmental cleanup firm to handle removal of polluted soil.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Developers of the old Applied Composites building site at 333 N. Sixth Street in St. Charles are requesting reimbursement for costs associated with cleanup of the site.

      Developers of the old Applied Composites building site at 333 N. Sixth Street in St. Charles are requesting reimbursement for costs associated with cleanup of the site.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

While approval for the proposed new Lexington Club neighborhood in St. Charles is far from assured, the city at least wants the property cleaned up -- and there's much to clean.

Aside from the land sitting as a 28-acre eyesore that has had several run-ins with the Illinois EPA, the site has been a magnet for crime.


Developers want to bring 142 owner-occupied homes to the land bounded by 12th Street to the west, 5th Street to the east, railroad tracks to the south, and Dean and State streets to the north. They're requesting the city reimburse them for the costs of cleaning up the site.

Significant debris remains from the former Applied Composites company that conducted business in St. Charles for about 80 years. Applied Composites, at 333 N. 6th St., made rubber, plastic, metal, Fiberglas and other parts used by Zenith, American Tourister luggage and Corvette. The company laid off about 160 workers when it lost major customers in 2005 and closed shortly thereafter.

The site then became a haven for trespassers looking to cash in on scrap products.

Two men were arrested in a scheme to steal transformers from the industrial site in 2008. They were caught while bribing an undercover police officer posing as a security guard.

The same year, a 30-year-old St. Charles man was electrocuted at the site while trying to steal copper from a 4,160-volt electrical switch.

Applied Composites also entered the Illinois EPA's remediation program for leaking underground storage tanks at least three times.

The first offense came in 1990 when a heating fuel oil tank contaminated the soils. It took eight months before that incident was approved as clean.

The second instance came in 1999 when a gasoline tank was found leaking. That incident may not ever have been totally rectified since there is no record of a "no further remediation" letter being sent by the IEPA to clear the incident.

Finally, the third case came in 2000 when a "non-petroleum" substance was found leaking from an underground tank. The report is not specific as to the chemical, but the site is known to contain underground tanks with panapol, an oily resin, and phenol, an acid strong enough to cause burns.

That incident was cleared by the Illinois EPA in April 2001.

The IEPA also cited the plant in 2004 for violating clean air regulations. The violation states that Applied Composites was emitting more than double the amount of smog-producing "volatile organic compounds" allowed. Such smog is believed to cause a variety of respiratory problems and chest pains.

The developers of the Lexington Club project have hired an environmental cleanup firm, Huff & Huff, to handle the dirty work. It's the same firm that recently cleaned up problems on the First Street redevelopment property and did some work for the Red Gate bridge project.

The firm plans to voluntarily enroll the site into an IEPA pollution remediation program and remove up to 9,000 cubic yards of polluted soil.

City officials will next discuss the Lexington Club project at a meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Monday at city hall. The residential plan has at least two elements that have drawn some scorn from city officials: the mix of single-family homes, townhouses and row houses, going against a recent preference for rental properties, and a request for tax increment finance assistance.

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