Friday, May 24, 2019

Environmental, safety issues concern group of Vienna residents

A group of nearly two dozen Vienna residents attended a special public meeting Friday afternoon at city hall to discuss environmental and safety issues in their neighborhood.

The Vienna Times and a nearby daily newspaper were notified late Thursday morning by city hall of the special meeting in an email that read: “The City of Vienna has tentatively scheduled a public meeting for Friday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. at City Hall.  The City expects to receive lab results from samples taken at the City’s Sanitation District and will meet with citizens to discuss results and concerns pertaining to the Wastewater Reclamation Project with emphasis on sludge removal.”

The meeting stemmed from the removal and redistribution of the sludge near the Vienna baseball fields on the southwest side of town.

Most of those in attendance were from the Circle Drive neighborhood, which borders the ball fields.

Also in attendance was state representative Brandon Phelps, Vienna’s city engineer Brian Ziegler of Clarida & Ziegler Engineering Co. of Marion, mayor Jon Simmons and councilmen Danny Rockwell and Kevin Breeden.

The engineering firm is the lead agency in the construction of the city’s new $4 million wastewater reclamation project that includes the removal and cleanup of the old system.

The project is the result of a 50% matching grant awarded to the city from the USDA Rural Development that was applied for more than five years ago.

During the final stages of removing the outdated lagoon system that is now underway, some of the sludge was spread near one of the ball diamonds located on the southeast corner of the property. This area also borders several Vienna property owners.

The intent of the meeting was to discuss the soil sample testing results.

The city requested testing on the soil after several complaints from the neighboring concerned citizens.

Tests for fecal coliform were performed on four soil samples from the area in question on August 7th by Teklab, Inc. Environmental Laboratory in Collinsville.

Fecal coliform is a form of coliform bacterium. Coliform bacterium is a rod-shaped bacterium found in the intestinal tract of humans and other animals. Its presence in water indicates fecal contamination and can cause diarrhea and other dysenteric symptoms.

The safe level of the coliform in soil by EPA’s standards is 1,000 most probable numbers (MPU). Each of the four samples tested resulted in numbers below the 1,000 mark, ranging from 0-884.

“According to EPA’s standards the soil is safe,” Ziegler said of the lab results. “The dirt is safe enough to even eat if you wanted to.”

Many of the citizens voiced concern of safety for children playing in the area while others complained of the odor in the neighborhood.

“Our children play in that area,” one resident said. “My kids have collected 32 baseballs they found [in the area] since the sludge was spread,” she said.

She described the baseballs as black and covered with sludge. “I noticed all these baseballs showing up at my house all of a sudden – when I discovered that my kids had been picking them up from that area,” she said. “I still have all of [baseballs] in my shed.”

Tracy Dalton, a resident of the neighborhood expressed her concerns of being able to sell her property there. “I have property that is going on the market – and I hate to show it right now with the smell that is in the air,” she said.

Margaret ‘Corky’ Cole presented a bucket of the dirt in question to the officials and invited everyone present to see and smell what she collected from the land. She also invited anyone to “eat it if you wish.”

No one present at the meeting accepted her offers.

One topic of discussion included the future use of the property.

John Summers expressed the desire to have soccer fields on the property and questioned the safety of the land.

Ziegler said the Illinois EPA has inspected the site and did not require the removal of the soil. “But if removing the soil is what the city wants us to do, to make you happy, we will,” he said.

Representative Phelps asked Ziegler if there were options to neutralize the soil. Ziegler responded by saying lime could help neutralize it.

The end result of the meeting, once it is voted on and approved by the city council, could be that the engineering firm have one foot of the topsoil removed from the area to an off-site location.

“The removal of that one foot should take the ground to hard clay,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler estimated that the additional removal cost could be in excess of the $10,000 range.

Mayor Simmons asked Ziegler if the city would be responsible for the additional costs.

Ziegler explained that there is excess money in the grant that should cover the cost.

No formal council action was taken on the removal due to the lack of a council  quorum.

The council was (is) expected to vote on the issue during their regular meeting Wednesday, August 15.

The council meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.All city council meetings are opened to the public.

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