Asbestos Remains at Pillsbury Site

Despite Clean-up, Asbestos Remains at Pillsbury Site

The feds spent a whopping $1.8 million to clean up asbestos at the old Pillsbury site in Springfield, Illinois, but there’s still plenty of the toxic asbestos material lurking about in hard to clean places, officials say.

Despite Clean-up, Asbestos Remains at Pillsbury SiteAccording to an account in the Springfield Journal-Register, a Sangamon County judge on Wednesday refused to lift an injunction that is blocking property owners from entering the 18-acre site, even though environmental inspectors claim that what remains is not a hazard as long as those materials are not disturbed in any way.

The judge offered a date in mid-December to revisit a request from the owners to enter the property, which has been abandoned since 2001 when Pillsbury ceased operations there.

The buildings and land are owned by partners of P. Mills LLC.

Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed more than 2,200 tons of asbestos-contaminated debris and 1,160 cubic yards of bulk asbestos from the site, reports show.

There were also other toxins and a great deal of waste oil on the property, all of which were also removed.

However, Project Coordinator Kevin Turner is quick to point out that this clean-up was a “bulk asbestos removal”, not an asbestos abatement.

The latter would have been a much more extensive clean-up and would have been much costlier as well.

He points out that the remaining asbestos is only on the interior of some of the dozens of buildings at the site, and he doesn’t believe it constitutes an airborne threat.

While he wouldn’t allow anyone to work in those conditions, he stressed that the neighborhoods surrounding the old flour mill have nothing to worry about.

P. Mills LLC partner Joseph Chernis IV, who was present at the recent hearing. believes the company should be allowed to resume work at the site since the EPA pronounced the clean-up “complete.”

“What has really been accomplished here? We’ve spent $1.8 million of taxpayers’ money,” said Chernis, adding that he has offered 45 percent of proceeds from salvage materials to go toward additional cleanup costs, should the EPA wish to proceed and rid the property of the remaining asbestos.

“The only thing they keep responding back with is ’Where is the rest of the money going? So, clearly this is about money. It’s not about cleaning that place up,” said Chernis.

Local fire marshal Chris Richmond says he is more worried about keeping the site secure. Since the closure of the Pillsbury mill, the property has been a prime target for vagrants and vandals.

“We know the site has a significant past history of, other than the ownership, of folks in the community breaking into or trespassing in that facility for a variety of purposes,” said Richmond. “In some cases, it’s been young folks, juveniles, curious about an old factory complex.”

Richmond added that caution signs have been updated and fences repaired so as to keep out trespassers. Nonetheless, he expects monitoring to continue.

“If those buildings remain just the way they are, it’s highly unlikely it will be problematic,” said Richmond. “It is, however, very problematic with the remaining asbestos fibers. They would need to be abated for the property to either be reused or demolished.”