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Seen from the air and facing south, the footprint of the former Bassick caster factory sits idle on U.S. 6 in Spring Valley, near a new Casey’s General Store (left), Hall High School (background) and McDonald’s (right). The site has been described as a prime retail location, except for questions that lingered for decades about possible environmental contaminants from industrial operations. Documents from Illinois Environmental Protection Agency detail the result of tests over the decades, including a letter issued earlier this year giving the site clearance for industrial or commercial use under certain conditions.
NewsTribune photo/Anthony Souffle
Is the site safe to develop?
NewsTribune: What makes you confident the Bassick site is safe to develop?
1st Ward Alderman Mike Richetta: “I trust the studies and monitoring completed by the owner and supervised by the IEPA. The assumption held by most of us was that the site had more contaminants than found. The city performed testing around the perimeter several years ago, those results showed that contaminants weren’t migrating but the city could not test on-site. We were happy to hear that the contamination was much less than expected.” 2nd Ward Alderman Tom Nesti: “I feel confident the site is safe to develop because the EPA has released the NFR letter.” 3rd Ward Alderman Jack Narczewski: “A couple weeks ago, we had this attorney from Springfield. I think he did a very good job explaining to the council… that the site is clean and ready to go for commercial use. I think we have to take the word of professionals. “I’m encouraged at least something is coming to town… competition doesn’t hurt anybody, I think.” 3rd Ward Alderman Walt Marini: “The Spring Valley City Council has tried to get the proper testing done on the Bassick property for quite some time. We have wanted the owner to go through the appropriate procedures according to the rules and regulations in place by the Illinois EPA. “While we waited we paid to have the perimeter of the property tested to make sure there was nothing leaching from the property. This testing showed that there was no threat to the people of Spring Valley. We, too, thought there was a possibility the property was contaminated. “The Illinois EPA is the prevailing authority and their regulations determined what was needed to be accomplished prior to the issuance of (an) NFR letter. Comprehensive testing was done on the site to determine if any pollutants were present. “We were elated to hear that the testing was done by the owner and the NFR letter was issued. This has been the goal all along.” 4th Ward Alderman Rick Fusinatto: “At first I had some trepidation of the property, but when attorney Bill Ingersoll attended our committee meeting and answered all the questions presented to Barb Landers from the Illinois EPA on the Bassick site I was confident with the decision. Spring Valley needs these extra 60-70 jobs and new sales tax.”
NewsTribune: The “No Further Remediation Letter” contains a clause stating the letter is void if there’s a later discovery of other contaminants that pose a threat to people or the environment. How does a phrase like that fit into your perspective on the site?
Richetta: “The testing performed by the owner was comprehensive, meaning they looked for any likely contaminants. This included expected and unexpected types of contaminants. I don’t expect that any unknown issues will arise during development. However, if additional contaminants are found, they will have to be accounted for by the new owners. “The NFR letter has very clear instructions for future uses. Any new development would be required to comply with the NFR. “Ideally, a developer with experience with this type of property would be involved. I feel that the restricted use of commercial/ light industrial is a very appropriate use for this high profile location, and look forward to the development of a site that has been vacant for far too long.” Nesti: “My understanding is the NFR letter that has been issued means the site is safe for development within the restrictions or parameters set forth in the letter.” Narczewski: “It’s between the Sullivan’s and the owners of the property. Spring Valley is just the mediator of this thing. “There’s one bad spot there, and it’s capped… It’s not the city’s responsibility… There’s pros and cons on this thing, but how can the city refuse someone who is going to come and spend $10 to $12 million on the project? “I’m of the opinion everything is clean on that property.” Marini: “Due to the comprehensive testing being completed I am confident the site is okay to be developed as long as the owner abides by the stipulations set forth in the NFR letter. If anything else happens to show up the owner will have to remediate the site according to the Illinois EPA rules and regulations.” Fusinatto: “As far as that clause I know that Sullivans’ general contractor has told us that they have developed on similar remedial sites and are well aware of construction compliance so I have no reservations. This site was approved for industrial/commercial use and will be a great addition for our city.” ***** One resident who frequently attends city council meetings and is running to represent the 4th Ward, Ken Bogacz requested hundreds of pages in documents from IEPA, said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount and results of tests run over the past 10 years. As an environmental health and safety manager, Bogacz has familiarity with interpreting EPA documents. “After reading all the documents and stuff, and the letter of No Futher Remediation, I guess that should alleviate everyone’s concern with impact on that,” Bogacz said. “Yes, there’s contamination there, but the restrictions they put on the property, it isn’t going to be harmful going forward.” “What was done there was quite impressive,” he added. “It was detailed… to me, it’s an extremely positive thing, because it’s a prime location, good area for business.” Though one recent committee meeting was well-attended by members of the public, Bogacz said he was surprised more residents have not attended meetings, given the circulation of rumors about what may have happened at the site. “I’m of the belief, if someone is very aware of someone dumping or spilling something there, they should feel free to contact the EPA about that,” he said. He said he was concerned about conflicting information about the direction of the flow of water below the surface of the Bassick site, and reading the paperwork also made him more concerned about the Hobbs/Honeywell site next door, where tests showed lead in the groundwater — By Allison Ryan
Recent meetings have raised concern about what may or may not be present at the former site of a Bassick factory in Spring Valley. For years after the plant’s closure, rumors flowed freely about what potential environmental contaminants were present on the site, how they were disposed of, and what must “surely” remain in the soil. Documents available through Illinois Environmental Protection Agency show that indeed, a variety of chemicals and potentially hazardous materials were present on the site — and that, about 26 years after production ceased at the site, IEPA now considers the location remediated enough to allow for development of that land, with certain conditions. Documents from IEPA do not indicate that the site is free of contaminants. In fact, wells and soil borings across the 8-acre site, and along the border of the Honeywell property, indicate that there is enough cause for concern to prohibit the property from being used for residential development. However, a letter issued by IEPA in April of this year gives the site the go-ahead for industrial or commercial development, as long as certain precautions are taken: That an “engineered barrier” such as the current concrete cap, remain over a 70-by-58 foot portion of the site, for example, and that construction workers have appropriate protection if they will be disturbing soil in that area, and that any soil moved in that area is either carefully replaced or removed to a facility that disposes of hazardous waste. “That was done as a result of a comprehensive review of various sample results (of tests) done on the property,” Maggie Carson, a spokesman for IEPA, said of the letter. “When somebody has responsibility for a piece of property and they’re unsure about the environmental liability… they want any investigation and work they do to be documented, and they want it to be done in compliance with Illinois regulations.” Recently, Scott Sullivan of Sullivan’s grocery store chain approached the city about building a store and shopping complex on the site, and anticipated that a store could be constructed and open on that site by November 2013. Sullivan said he’s no stranger to working with Brownfield sites, and offered a list of several such locations that have become Sullivan’s stores. City officials were divided, with many aldermen saying they welcomed the development and mayor Cliff Banks expressing concern about public safety if the land is disturbed.
A timetable for the Bassick site Prior to 1958 — An IEPA report indicates the site was undeveloped prairie land; NewsTribune archives state a 105,000 square-foot building was vacated by the Soreng Division of the Controls Co. of America, which had come to Spring Valley in 1940. 1958-1985 — The Bassick division of Stewart Warner relocated from Bridgeport, Conn. Stewart-Warner was an industrial heavyweight, with net sales of $121 million in 1956. As part of a requirement by the company, the local chamber of commerce raised $50,000 to purchase 20 acres of land for the company, adding it to the 8-acre site, to prepare for future expansion. The site manufactured furniture casters and gliders. A building was used for offices, storage, assembly and manufacturing. “Site operations included tooling, polishing, plating, riveting, and assembly,” according to the report by Geosyntec. “The production operations generated special and hazardous waste.” 1965 — Almost 160 people worked at the Bassick facility. At the nearby Hobbs division of Stewart-Warner, an additional 420 people worked, and a new addition to that facility was expected to further boost employment by Stewart-Warner. 1970 — Bassick planned a 100,000 square foot addition to the facility, to specialize in light an medium-duty casters and glides. Together, Bassick and Hobbs employed 510 people. 1983 — IEPA regulated Bassick as a treatment facility because the company held and treated wastewater prior to discharging it to the Spring Valley sanitary sewer. 1985 — Plating operations cease. 1986 — Bassick forced to go through an IEPA closure process because of the presence of hazardous waste stored in containers and tanks 1987 — A closure plan was approved for the site. Five years of testing began to identify the need for specific closure activities and “confirmed the success of these actions,” according to a 2009 report by Geosyntec Consulting. 1988 — A 25,000 gallon underground storage tank and 224 cubic feet of surrounding contaminated soil were removed, while a separate 10,000 gallon tank was abandoned in place. Both tanks held fuel oil. April 1989 — Cleanup of the plant was continuing and certification that all hazardous waste has been removed was not expected before July. The additional discovery of 50 vats of suspected hazardous plating residue was expected to further delay resolution. Also at that time, Chicago-based Wolverine Investments were eager to purchase the property to house small industries, such as book binder, if IEPA would certify that it was free of hazardous chemicals. September 1989 — Doors to the Bassick plant were closed and locked for the final time. 1990 — An IEPA inspector visited the property on July 20 and submitted further information to IEPA on Oct. 18 regarding the closure process. 1991 — The closure process was completed, and approved in a letter dated Feb. 26, based on the information submitted in the previous year. At that time, the Bassick company was owned by British Tire and Rubber. 1992 — Site building was demolished. 2002 — In July, Environmental Resources Management conducted a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment that resulted in closer studies on specific areas within the site. They included a concrete pit that was used to store metal nubs from casters, as well as emery grit and water generated from the rolling mill operation; the site of former electroplating tanks and lines and a possible degreaser; an indoor drum storage area; and an outdoor hazardous waste storage area. In addition, four areas of concern were identified: The 10,000-gallon fuel oil tank; the site where the 25,0000-gallon tank was located, a loading dock; and the groundwater beneath the facility. 2004 — Eight groundwater monitoring wells were installed, and nine soil borings were conducted by ERM, according to the Geosyntec report. December 2004-February, 2005 — Four new monitoring wells were dug, and eight new soil borings were conducted. In addition, groundwater samples were collected to test whether contaminants from the site also were present on the nearby Hobbs property. In samples taken from the Hobbs property — outside the borders of the Bassick property — lead and two volatile organic compounds were detected at relatively high concentrations. However, lead was not detected in any of the groundwater samples collected on the Bassick property, and according to the Geosyntec report, “lead in groundwater at the Hobbs Facility did not appear related to the Site.” 2007 — Site entered into IEPA Site Remediation Program in January. 2008 — Geosyntec conducts further studies, finding concentrations of one chemical, PCE, in the ground that formerly held the electroplating tanks. 2009 — Final Supplemental Field Investigation Work Plan documents submitted to IEPA by Geosyntec on behalf of site owner Invesnys Inc., “to pursue a No Further Remediation (NFR) letter.” All that remained of the building was a concrete floor slab with an area of approximately 921,600 square feet, according to the Geosyntec report. April 24, 2012 — IEPA issues a comprehensive “No Further Remediation” letter regarding the site. The letter acknowledges that contaminants remain on the site, but at levels that are not a public or environmental hazard as long as a 70-by-58 foot area remains capped with concrete — much smaller than the current concrete slab — and as long as the property is only used for industrial or commercial purposes. However, discovery of other contaminants on the site would void the letter. Sept. 27, 2012 — David S. Retzlaff, BOL/Regional Manager in Rockford, wrote in a memorandum addressing suspicion that the plating company could have used an injection well to deposit hazardous waste into the soil or groundwater beneath the site. “To the best of my knowledge, based on a thorough record review and my experience in this region as the UIC coordinator and RCRA inspector, there does not appear to be any proof that Bassick ever disposed of hazardous waste by means of an injection well into the soil or underlying aquifer(s),” Retzlaff wrote. - sources: IEPA records and NewsTribune archives.
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