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NewsTribune Photo/Scott Anderson Exxon Mobil’s DePue Superfund site manager Joe Abel describes the process of how water runoff and ground water from the gypsum stack north of the village is collected and treated. Exxon Mobil representatives were in town for DePue’s Citizens Action Group meeting this week in the village. The regularly scheduled meetings are a way for the citizens of DePue along with the Illinois Environmental Agency and the parties held responsible for years of pollution, Exxon Mobil and CBS/Viacom, to come to an agreement on the continuing cleanup of contamination left behind when the zinc smelting and phosphorus fertilizer plants shut down.
DEPUE — Exxon Mobil’s DePue Superfund site manager Joe Abel was in DePue this week to attend the monthly Citizens Action Group meeting in the village and to discuss ongoing efforts by Exxon Mobil to clean up groundwater from the gypsum stack just north of the village’s residential area.
Abel said Exxon currently has some ground work going on in the area, which is north of Route 29 on the bluff north of town, and laid out proposed plans for the next several years of cleanup and maintenance of the contamination left behind by the now-defunct fertilizer manufacturing facility. Abel said he believes they are treating the water as well as it should be from a conventional standpoint, but the ultimate goal is to “get out of this so these wetlands can just be wetlands and we don’t have to collect the water runoff.”
Abel said efforts have been made to treat the water as naturally as possible, by capping the gypsum stack and planting it with grasses conducive to precipitation runoff. Initially, that meant planting 80 acres with Fescue, a common grass used for ground covering and the remaining 41 acres of the gyp stack with native prairie grasses. Water than runs off from that area is then filtered to a treatment pond and discharged into the Illinois River.
One problem, Abel said, is that midway through that process, the U.S. EPA determined that Fescue was less than ideal, as it allows precipitation to seep through into the ground and into groundwater. Now, Exxon Mobil’s goal is to replant those acres with prairie grasses, a plan which hopefully will be approved by November.
The plan has to then be approved by Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and presented to the public. Abel said they hope to have a plan in place by early 2015. Abel said Exxon Mobil will have the entire area re-vegetated by 2016-2017 and will continue to monitor the area until there are no longer groundwater impacts beyond their property lines.
Kim Shute can be reached at (815) 879-5200 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @NT_Princeton.
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