A Danville resident suggested during Monday’s City Commission meeting that officials create a citizens committee to oversee the remediation of the old Philips Lighting plant on Vaksdahl Avenue.
Carl Beckman, who also has roots in Cincinnati, spoke about the issue during the public comments portion of the meeting. The Philips plant shut down in February 2011, and the site is still owned by the parent company. Officials, including City Manager Ron Scott, have raised concerns about the possible levels of lead and arsenic at the plant.
“We need to form a citizens committee to monitor the cleanup; otherwise, it could take decades,” Beckman said. “This site needs to be cleaned up to community standards, not Philips standards.”
Beckman said the committee should be chaired by a chemist, engineer or other scientist who has no affiliation with Philips. He also suggested that city officials ask environmental watchdog groups such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club for assistance.
Scott as well as Mayor Bernie Hunstad said city officials have conducted considerable research and communication with not only Philips executives, but also state officials with the Department of Environmental Protection. Scott said Beckman’s suggestion had some merit but might not necessarily help speed the process along.
“The difficult part is that the state, not the city, has the responsibility and authority to enforce remediation,” Scott said. “It’s a long process.”
Philips and state officials have been communicating with the city, and Philips is in the second stage of evaluating the conditions of the property, the city manager said.
A major roadblock that city officials face is the legality of entering private property, Hunstad said.
“(The site) doesn’t seem to be an immediate health hazard but possibly a long-term health hazard,” the mayor said. “Plus, a major commercial site is tied up.”
City Attorney Stephen Dexter was absent from Monday’s meeting and thus could not comment on the issue.
In other business, city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to apply for a $4 million loan to partially fund the planned water treatment plant expansion. The entire project will cost an estimated $26.8 million, said City Engineer Earl Coffey. Officials hope to complete the project next year.
“The dominoes are starting to line up,” Coffey said.
Once complete, the water treatment plant would meet forthcoming guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and increase the city’s pumping capacity to 12 million gallons daily.