Former Pillsbury Mills Plant Begins Massive Asbestos Abatement Project
The Pillsbury Mills plant in Springfield, Illinois was once home to 1,500 employees and millions of dollars in products from flour and yellow corn meal to Farina. The mammoth 18-acre facility, which opened in 1929, was the reason so many small businesses and families in the area were able to thrive. As of January, the historic plant sat abandoned and flagged for controlled cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Just one month later, an asbestos abatement project was underway.
The PM site consists of a 750,000 square feet processing plant, warehouse, storage, and office space that is nearly the equivalent of four retail supercenters. “At one point,” says the EPA, “it consisted of 26 structures including warehouses, office buildings, grain-mixing buildings, and grain storage silos.” Due to the sheer size of the site, the abatement project is one of the largest many EPA officials have ever seen.
In order to reduce health and safety hazards that the EPA says were “only getting worse” due to neglect, the agency decided that it was time to intervene. The move, they say, will stop the ongoing release of asbestos into the environment and protect the health of local residents.
Around 11,000 residents live within a single mile of the plant, with the nearest resident living within a mere 100 feet of the main entrance.
The project is expected to take around six months to complete at a cost of $1.8 million. Cleanup crews from the EPA began working through the site in February, as other workers, clad in white hazmat suits, piled concrete, metal, soil, and broken glass into trucks to be transported to a landfill near Taylorville, Illinois.
Besides ensuring that workers are properly trained, managed, and protected, the EPA has set up air-quality monitors on the plant perimeter to ensure that asbestos is controlled at the site. According to a recent State Journal-Register (SJR) report, a tanker truck regularly sprays water on debris piles to hold down dust. And this is just outside.
Inside, where the environment is even more perilous, workers must locate and remove asbestos “floor by floor” and “corridor by corridor from the massive complex of deteriorating structures,” says SJR. Once the project is complete, area residents, who have seen the plant go from thriving neighborhood employer to “dangerous eyesore,” will breathe a sigh of relief.
You see, the Pillsbury plant closed back in 2001. Since then, “sporadic salvage operations under multiple owners have left piles of rubble strewn about the grounds, tangles of metal pipes, rusted equipment, and shattered windows.” And despite the presence of security fences capped with razor wire, trespassers, including kids, frequented the area. Sadly, what they probably didn’t realize is they were putting themselves and their families at risk of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma—a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the tissue surrounding the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Currently, there is no cure for the disease.
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Landis, Tim. "Asbestos Removal Begins at Abandoned Pillsbury Mills Plant." The State Journal-Register. GateHouse Media, LLC, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
"Mesothelioma." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
"Pillsbury Mills LLC Removal Site." EPA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 09 Mar. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.