The Brummetts call it the "lodge building" because "back in the day" it housed Chapter No. 108 of the Sovereign Grand Lodge Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization founded in North America in 1819. The I.O.O.F lodges provided a range of community service work, a history of the I.O.O.F. states.
David Jackson, a registered geologist with the state, provided the site's history.
Jackson serves as site manager for the Crab Orchard tract, now part of the Brownfields Program within the EPA Superfund Program. Jackson said that records showed no complaints about environmental problems when Lincoln Scrap Metal operated on the property, although the city heard plenty of complaints about dust and noise.
"Everybody had been fussing about wanting to get it out of town," said Mike Ramey, former mayor of Crab Orchard for four years, who took the property deed during a ceremony on June 16, 2005. "There had been complaints about snakes and rats."
Presence of snakes
Darrell Brummett attests to the presence of snakes, which he readily admits give him the shivers, and to very big rats, which he readily admits he dispatched of "with a .22."
Cecil King, now retired and living in Brodhead, said the EPA checked on the property.
"I never had no EPA problems at all," he said.
But within a year of the property transfer, that all changed.
In March 2006, Jackson's team assessed the site. That confirmed the scrap yard caused contamination, Jackson said.
"We are trying to help the city develop some corrective actions," he said.
But "corrective actions" translate into cash, and for Crab Orchard, that might pose a problem.
It poses a challenge for Jackson, too.
He said that the Brownfields Program offers a great service. But once a site gets a Brownfields designation, regulators such as Jackson - who ultimately want environmental messes cleaned up - assume the role of consultants to help find ways to do it.
"The city is cash-strapped, just like everyone else," Jackson said.
He wants to help the city make a bad situation good, so that means a not-so-heavy-handed approach when his agency wears its "regulatory" hat, he said.
"We have to err on the side of being helpful," he said.
The city did take some "corrective actions," Jackson said.
It cleared most of the above-ground debris, he said. It fenced the area off, but over time the fence took a beating.
Jackson's team drilled four wells on the property to measure contaminant levels beneath the site. But determining contamination in the aquifer away from the site or in nearby water sources would require more monitoring wells, he said.
Crab Orchard offers a public water system now, and some nearby property owners have wells they no longer use, Jackson said. Jackson would like to use those wells for monitoring, which would cut costs.
But getting permission draws resistance, Jackson said.
Some just don't trust the government, even if what it does could help the city, Jackson said.
"We are monitoring our wells," he said. "But we don't know what's happening off site."
Leaching contaminants could get into groundwater away from the property, he said.
Jackson said the next step for the city involves scraping off 2 to 4 feet of topsoil on the property and hauling it to a dump. Then it would need to "cap" the site to protect people from direct contact with contaminants.
Jackson said the "capping" options include covering the land with new fill, blacktop, concrete, gravel or a combination of those. Placing a synthetic liner over the property would be "a high dollar" option, he said.
"I think we had looked at a combination of topsoil and blacktop," he said. "Getting the top 2 feet off is the most important," he said.