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August 14, 2000

Ryan Commends City of Lacon for Brownfield Cleanup Efforts

LACON -- Governor George H. Ryan today commended the City of Lacon for its environmental efforts to clean up contamination on the riverfront caused by the Grieves Woolen Mill.

"Through its continued efforts to improve the quality of life for area residents, this city has shown that even our smaller communities can leverage the resources to restore abandoned and polluted sites to become productive," Governor Ryan said. "Because of the dedication and commitment of Lacon officials and state legislators, what has been an eyesore for three decades is now on the path to becoming a tourist site," he added.

Ryan visited the former site of the Grieves Woolen Mill accompanied by Mayor Donald Hodge, County Board Chair Tom Weak, Lacon City Council members and state and local officials. The governor emphasized his administration's commitment to assisting communities in restoring their brownfield sites. Brownfields are created by abandoned and polluted industrial or commercial properties.

Lacon was awarded a $120,000 brownfield redevelopment grant through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in January 1999 to complete an environmental investigation and cleanup plan of the four-acre site. In May 1999, Lacon became one of six Illinois cities eligible for a $500,000 low-interest loan. The loan was granted to Illinois EPA through a U.S. EPA pilot Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund.

Governor Ryan also noted Lacon submitted a preliminary application to be among the first to take advantage of the new Illinois FIRST Brownfields Redevelopment Loan Program, which will provide up to $1 million per site to pay for actual cleanup costs.

"Lacon is among 21 communities so far that have received redevelopment grants for site investigation and cleanup planning. The low-interest loans under Governor Ryan's Illinois FIRST program will help many communities proceed with the next step," said Illinois EPA Director Tom Skinner.

Lacon also received a $59,008 Conservation 2000 Ecosystem Program grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Lacon used $250,000 of its local Tax Increment Financing money to remove debris and building rubble from the site in 1997. Illinois EPA performed an initial assessment of the site for the city in 1996.

Once the environmental hazards are removed, potential uses of the scenic site along the Illinois River banks include a green area, residential area, retail stores and restaurants. The site is adjacent to an existing public river access, a marina and shops.

Grieves Woolen Mill operated from 1865 to 1968, processing raw wool into felts and other wool products. The dye and wastes from processing were discharged into the Illinois River. Cinders and ashes from the two dye incinerators, as well as from the coal-burning power plant, were spread across the site. Lacon shared the experience of taking on the brownfield project by hosting a meeting of local small cities in June.


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