Rockford's Independent Newspaper

City receives $500K to clean up contaminated soil

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – The City of Rockford will receive $500,000 in federal funding to clean up sites contaminated with toxic pollutants.

The funding is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revolving Brownfields Program; Rockord’s share was announced Monday by U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin.

“We are grateful for Senator Duckworth’s and Senator Durbin’s advocacy and support in obtaining these grants funds from the USEPA,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said.

Duckworth said the funding is not only crucial to help spark economic growth, but vital to public health.

“Eliminating contaminated sites is critical in protecting the health of Rockford children,” she said. “I’ll continue working with Senator Durbin so that all Illinoisans can breathe clean air and live in a safe environment without fear of toxins and pollution.”

Durbin, who makes frequent visits to the area, said he is committed to cleaning up the city’s hazardous material as it “undermines the health, growth and beauty of Rockford.”

McNamara added that the grant is vital to development strategies that identify and remove environmental barriers to redevelop brownfield sites, specifically vacant industrial buildings.

The EPA Brownfield Program was launched in 1995 with a small pool of seed money that went toward hundreds of two-year pilot projects. It was followed by the 2002 Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, commonly known as the Brownfields Law, that bolstered the agency’s ability to expand to both the public and private sectors.

In other city business, aldermen enhanced Rockford’s tobacco ordinance, specifically Section 3-102, by banning the sale of synthetic marijuana. It is now illegal in Rockford for stores to sell a long list of non-tobacco products, including K2 and Spice, two popular brand. Others include 8-Ball, Aztec Gold, Banana Cream Nuke and Black Diamond.

While there are state laws on the books to curb the sale of the harmful products, Rockford officials say prohibiting them on the local level gives code enforcement officials more power to investigate stores that may be in violation.

“It’s the stores that we’re concerned about,” Legal Director Nick Meyer told reporters after the vote, “where kids are going into stores and buying these things legally. We have (had) no mechanism to combat that locally, so now we do.”

The amendment excludes hookah products and those listed in Section 3-101, which requires a license to sell tobacco, alternative nicotine products, electronic cigarettes, electronic cigarette liquid, liquid nicotine, and smokeless tobacco.

Stores in violation of the new code are subject to fines of up to $750 per day. R.

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