OTTAWA, IL – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that the last radiation site in Ottawa, Illinois, will finally be cleaned up with the help of $90 million from President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law.
The contaminated site, which is located on the Fox River, will have over 140,000 tons of contaminated dirt removed to ensure that it doesn’t pose a health risk to the public.
The Radium Dial Company, which produced luminous dials for clocks and watches using radium-based paint, caused contamination in 16 areas of Ottawa. The cleanup of the final site took so long to do because of the significant cost involved.
At a press conference hosted by the EPA, Regional Project Manager Nabil Fayoumi stated that dust control measures will be implemented to prevent the spread of contaminated dirt during the cleanup process. Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, who attended the press conference, spoke about the importance of the cleanup site and why the infrastructure law was passed. As a nurse, she emphasized that no community should have to face the health and environmental impacts of radiation poisoning.
The project is set to begin in the spring of next year and will cover 17 acres, making it the largest superfund site that’s going to be cleaned so far. Ottawa Commissioner Wayne Eichelkraut thanked the state and federal groups for their work in cleaning up radioactive material from Radium Dial and Luminous Processes.
The contamination originated from the processing of wastes and demolition debris from the Radium Dial Company between 1918 and 1936 and from Luminous Processes, Inc. between 1937 and 1978. Following actions to protect human health and the environment in the short term, EPA developed long-term remedies for the site. To date, EPA completed cleanup at 15 of the 16 contaminated areas.
The Radium Dial Company was one of a few now-defunct US companies, along with the United States Radium Corporation, involved in the painting of clocks, watches and other instrument dials using radioluminescent paint containing radium. The luminous paint used on the dials contained a mixture of phosphor and radium, a product that the Radium Dial Company named Luna.
At one time over 1,000 employees worked on the site, mostly consisting of women. However, after suffering from radium poisoning, several young women sued their employers and brought national attention to the safety of workers. These young women helped create new laws to protect all workers.
With federal funding finally allocated for the cleanup, the people of Ottawa can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the contaminated site will soon be remediated, ensuring the health and safety of the local community. The EPA is investing $1 billion from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to start new cleanup projects at 22 Superfund sites and expedite over 100 other ongoing cleanups across the country.