By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Assistant Editor
CLINTON — A wall of green has popped up along a part of the Clinton coal tar contamination site owned by Alliant Energy.
About 60 trees have been planted this week along the edge of Alliant’s property on First Street to create a barrier between the riverfront area and the company’s utility yard.
“When our Alliant crews come in to get a pole, they think it’s beautiful, but we know the people swimming don’t feel that way,” Alliant spokesperson Justin Foss said.
Alliant contractors first removed concrete from the border of the property at the corner of Second Avenue South and First Street and replaced it with black top soil. Since the beginning of the week, they have planted mostly aborvitaes and a couple of hardwood trees. They will finish the new planting area with river rock.
Alliant Manager of Environmental Services Jill Stevens hopes the trees will grow tall enough in the next two years to shield the utility yard from the city’s river view amenities.
“This will blend in a little better with the city’s beautiful Riverview Park,” Stevens said. “It’s a nice area so this is one thing we could do to be good neighbors.”
The tree additions are aesthetic and not related to remediating any of the remaining coal tar contamination. Regardless of their purpose, the trees are part of the property’s history, Foss said.
“It’s another move forward on a highly visible property,” Foss said.
Work on the site has been ongoing for more than 20 years and cost more than $12 million. The 7.9-acre site was home to a manufactured gas plant from 1869 to 1952 that left pockets of coal tar contamination.
From 2005 to 2007, Alliant removed 120,000 tons of soil contaminated with coal tar, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls.
While the active remediation work is complete, residual contamination remains in the groundwater and some surrounding soil. Some of it is below the buildings that currently sit on the property.
The site doesn’t present a risk to anyone in the area, Stevens said, but some work needs to be done before the Department of Natural Resources will say Alliant no longer needs to monitor it.