C-U residents plan reaction to toxic site

By Patrick Wade

The C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice held a meeting Saturday afternoon at the Champaign’s Douglass Branch Library to call attention to a toxic site at the corner of Fifth and Hill streets, and to call community members to action.

The manufactured gas plant, which used to sit on the property, primarily used coal to make a substance similar to natural gas and created by-products potentially harmful to human health, said Chuck Allen, professor in the University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

More than 40 years after most of the plant was razed, the by-products now sit in deposits 15 to 40 feet below the surface.

“These are highly carcinogenic compounds,” Allen said.

Among the harmful chemicals are coal tar, benzene, cyanide and arsenic, and could have caused a number of cases of rare forms of cancer, including leukemia and multiple myeloma.

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Now, the group is forming a coalition of concerned community members to lobby local and state governments to work towards a thorough clean-up of the site and its toxic elements.

The first meeting for the coalition has been scheduled for Jan. 19.

“We need to not go away,” said Champaign County Health Care Consumers Director Claudia Lennhoff. “That’s where our power is going to come from.”

Check Monday’s edition of The Daily Illini for the full story.