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Heavy equipment is back this month at an Ameren soil cleanup site in La Salle.

Ameren has entered the second phase of a multi-million-dollar cleanup along and in the Illinois and Michigan Canal basin at the east end of La Salle.

In 2016, Ameren completed a $14 million soil pollution cleanup on the north side of the canal at the site of an old Illinois Power plant that made fuel for gaslights a century ago. On top of that soil cleanup cost came an additional $5.5 million for hauling and disposal of contaminated soil.

This week, residents may have noticed earth-moving equipment and an excavator had returned along the canal between the La Salle sewage treatment plant and the Quality Liquid Feeds plant south of the old Rock Island Railroad depot.

What’s happening now?

The 3-acre site where contaminated soil was excavated and replaced with 150,000 tons of soil and clean fill is being prepared as a spot where piles of sediment will be placed to dry said Dave Palmer, Ameren manager of remediation projects. Ameren spent much of last year applying for Environmental Protection Agency approval of its plans.

Why were they digging through a levee?

Ameren spokesman Brian Bretsch said a section of a soil berm (not tall enough to be a Corps of Engineers levee) has been punched out to provide an access route for soil-hauling trucks and equipment to reach an access pier to be built into the canal.

What’s next?

1. In the next month, or late winter, Ameren will install a large sewer pipe under the canal to replace a smaller pipe that currently leads from the city’s sewer plant to city wastewater lagoons south of the canal. Bretsch said the city will be getting a bigger pipe at no cost, allowing the city to upgrade pumps or electrical service for that part of the plant, either soon or in the future.

2. To control the water level, Ameren will install a temporary coffer dam in the vicinity of the QLF site at the west end of the canal-bottom cleanup project. Palmer said the canal cleanup will be done from atop barges, so work will not be stalled for long by flooding. The cleanup equipment and dredging equipment will float.

Where’s the canal cleanup happening?

In a stretch from the west edge of the QLF plant to about 200 feet east of the city sewer plant.

What will happen after winter?

Work should resume in March, with equipment arriving on barges. Loose sediment and contaminants will be removed, and equipment with large drills and augers will add cement and other material to the compacted sediment to prevent remaining contaminants from traveling into groundwater, said Palmer. It’s called deep-soil mixing or insitu soil stabilization.

How much will it cost?

Engineering estimates are not final. Bretsch said the price will be in the millions.

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