MARSHALL, Ill. (WTHI) - The City of Marshall, Illinois has a proposal to consider for purchasing a major plot of land. Velsicol Chemical Corporation operated on nearly 270 acres of land in Marshall for 50 years. Manufacturing stopped at the plant in 1988. Now, the company is trying to sell the property that’s located just off of Route 1.
Velsicol Chemical Corporation sells polymer additives and chlorinated derivative chemicals. EPA reports show the soil underneath is soaked with various chemicals that do not break down.
The situation landed the site on the EPA’s National Priorities List for hazardous waste sites in the 80’s. The initial listing cited contaminated groundwater and soils. Regulatory agencies approved a remedial plan in 1988.
The plant was demolished and the EPA oversaw other clean up and containment efforts. That remediation was completed in 1994. Since then, federal and state EPA officials have conducted five year reviews with the last being in 2018.
Each review has found the site to be protective of human health and the environment. The EPA listed the site as ready for reuse and redevelopment in 2010.
Just over 185 acres of the 270 acres for sale can be developed on if the City of Marshall purchased it. However, just under 85 acres are either totally restricted, with no development possible, or have limited restrictions. Those are the areas that Marshall City Council member Warren LeFever has concerns about.
“I am opposed to this project,” LeFever stated, “It isn’t a matter of politics. It’s a matter of what is best for the city.”
LeFever says if the city were to purchase this land, it takes just one lawsuit to “bankrupt them forever”. The aforementioned remediation covered chemicals that may endanger ground water and soil with cement soil. However, LeFever says his concerns go far beyond that.
“These maintenance costs go on year after year after year after year after year,” he said, “You multiply those maintenance costs by 30 for annual costs—you’ve lost your money.”
In Velsicol’s pitch to the City of Marshall, they say the EPA will continue to see Velsicol as liable for past actions. Even still, LeFever says the city is in no position to spend the over $1 million that the nearly 270 acres will cost.
“What I would like the citizens of Marshall to do is to say, ‘how is all this cost going to affect our property taxes?’” LeFever continued, “Because we would have to take the money out of there or out utilities for operation.”
LeFever says some may see this as an opportunity for the city to make money with economic development. However, he again mentioned that nearly 100 acres of the land for sale has some level of development restrictions on it. LeFever says he sees no upside for the city or its residents if this land were to be purchased.
“If they’ve got plans, it’s never been told to the city council, so we don’t know of any ideas,” LeFever concluded, “The theory that this could bring us an income—there’s operating cost and liability risk long-term that will take any advantage away.”
Marshall Mayor John Trefz told News 10 he could not make comment on this potential purchase at this time. Even if this sale goes through, it won’t be final until the end of May 2021. The Marshall City Council also must sign off before a decision is made.