Residents to demonstrate about danger of waste site

By Gus Bode

Factoid:Open house will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Thomas School, 1025 N. Wall St.

Residents of Carbondale’s northeast side are planning a demonstration to draw attention to possible health risks posed by the operation of the now-closed Koppers Wood Treatment Plant and the hazardous waste left in its wake.

The demonstration Wednesday night will coincide with an open house hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at Thomas School that will provide information about the waste site’s cleanup project. Representatives of the U.S. EPA, the Illinois EPA, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Beazer East, the company that bought Koppers in 1988 will attend the open house.


At 4:30 p.m., demonstrators will march south along North Wall Street, starting near the former Koppers Wood Treatment Company facility and stop at Thomas school.

Margaret Nesbitt, who proposed the march at a community meeting last month, said she wants someone to investigate the long-term health effects of the plant’s operation.

“We want to raise people’s awareness, not just in the northeast of Carbondale, but all of Southern Illinois,” Nesbitt said. “This is bigger than we are. We need help.”

Bri Bill, community involvement coordinator for the U.S. EPA, said the open house is intended to provide information about efforts to clean up the site. No formal presentations will be made, but residents can pick up handouts, view cleanup plans and meet with the cleanup project staff, Bill said.

The open house is taking place in response to requests from Willie Neal, a former Koppers employee. Neal organized the community meeting last month.

Nesbitt, whose grandfather worked at Koppers, also thinks an investigation is warranted, but isn’t sure how it should proceed.

“We can’t come out and point fingers, but we need people to get involved,” Nesbitt said. “We need to feel each other’s pain.”


Koppers began producing railroad ties at the site in 1905, treating the wood with creosote, which has been classified as a cancer-causing agent by the U.S. EPA. An unknown quantity of the chemical was spilled at the site between 1905 and the early 1980s. The Illinois EPA began investigating the site in 1981 and the U.S. EPA is now leading the $10.8 million cleanup effort in cooperation with the Illinois EPA and Beazer East.