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Ameren Illinois to hold open house, discuss plans for cleanup at former gas plant


From Illinois Business Journal news services

BELLEVILLE  – Ameren Illinois will discuss its plans to clean up a former manufactured gas plant during an open house at the site Tuesday in Belleville.

The event will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at 111 S. Sixth St., Belleville

Open house attendees will be able to walk through a temporary air containment structure that has been erected for the project. This “tent” encloses the work area where impacted soil is to be removed. Excavated areas will be backfilled with clean soil brought to the site from an off-site location. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the work.

Representatives of Ameren Illinois, the project contractor and the Illinois EPA will be present to explain project details.

According to an Ameren advisory, the tent structure has an impervious fabric roof and walls supported by metal framing. Overhead doors serve as entrances. The tent is designed to withstand high winds and storms. A ventilating system will maintain the inside air at a lower pressure than the outside air, which serves to minimize uncontrolled releases. Air will be vented to the outside through carbon filters that capture dust and vapors. The enclosure and its filtering system will significantly reduce the vapors and possibility of tar-like odors in the area.

Ameren Illinois has placed a collection of documents associated with the site work in a Site Information Repository located at the reference desk of the Belleville Public Library, 121 E. Washington St. Additional documents will be added to this repository as Ameren Illinois completes them. The documents are available for review by the public. The telephone number of the library is (618) 234-0441.

Site history

The Belleville Gas Light & Coke Company incorporated in 1856. It produced gas from coal at this location for the purpose of lighting 35 gas street lights along West Main, Illinois Street and South High Street. In August 1902, the original  company was reorganized into the Belleville Gas & Electric Company, which was empowered to include the manufacture of and sale of electricity in the city. The manufacturing process produced tars, coke and ash residues that sometimes leaked into the site soil.

In 1907, a New Jersey company consolidated the Belleville plant and the East St. Louis Gaslight Company into St. Clair County Gas and Electric Company. Two years later the gas works in Belleville were discontinued and the gas was supplied from East St. Louis plant by a transmission pipeline as well as to the communities of Edgemont, Collinsville and Caseyville. St. Clair County Gas and Electric Company eventually passed into Illinois Power ownership in 1922.

Illinois Power began decommissioning and razing the buildings and structures in the early 1950s with the final MGP-related structures removed by 1957. The only remaining MGP-related structure after that time was the former Powerhouse Building.

The property was sold to the city of Belleville in the early 1960s. The city used the property as a road-maintenance and equipment repair facility, re-fueling of city vehicles, and parking of road-maintenance vehicles. The city continued to use the property for these purposes until 1997. The former Powerhouse building was demolished in 2011. (In 2004, Ameren Corp. acquired Illinois Power Co., and changed Illinois Power Co.’s name to Ameren Illinois.)

“There was a time when a city was considered progressive if it had a manufactured gas plant. It was a source of great civic pride,” said Brian Martin, consulting environmental scientist for Ameren. “While Ameren Illinois did not build or operate this plant, we assumed responsibility to clean it up after the acquisition of Illinois Power. Our ultimate goal is to restore the site to a condition that is acceptable to the state’s environmental standards.”

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