Dixon seeks Brownfields grant to tie up loose ends at old scrapyard

DIXON – The city is pursing a federal grant to address final steps needed to ready the former Dixon Iron & Metal scrapyard for redevelopment.

The Environmental Protection Agency has completed about $4 million of cleanup at the scrapyard, and the City Council on Monday moved forward with applying for an EPA Brownfields remediation grant to finish the job.

The work would total around $521,000, the grant would cover $417,000, and the city would pay $104,000 as the required 20% local match.

Target areas would be to remove diesel fuel mixed with polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs, install a barrier to fill in gaps of remaining metals, demolishing structures on the property and asbestos abatement, said Ross Grimes, project manager at Fehr Graham Engineering and Environmental.

Grimes said the amount of assistance the city has received from the EPA is unprecedented, and the grant would help “tie off loose ends.” He said the overall goal is to obtain a letter from the state of no further remediation, meaning the property is ready for redevelopment.

In 2019, the EPA began $3 million in emergency cleanup work at the site, 78 Monroe Ave., after contaminants were found going into the river and recently wrapped up $745,000 in further remediation that began in the summer.

The transformation has been impressive, Grimes said, and the agency did a variety of work including excavating as deep as 14 feet in areas, providing contamination barriers and making riverbank improvements. The property previously had been littered with decades of junk and heavy metal contaminants.

“You couldn’t go anywhere on site without kicking a piece of junk,” he said.

Now the city is closer to moving forward with extending the bike path along the riverfront in that area with a ramp to the viaducts stretching to Seventh Street. That work could begin in 2023.

“The reality of returning the riverfront area to public use is coming near,” Dixon Public Works Director Matt Heckman said.

In 2016, the city received a $2 million Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant to extend its bike path 1.6 miles – stretching east on River Road toward Raynor Garage Doors and west along the river with a ramp to the viaducts running to Seventh Street. In June, the city received $1.4 million more from the state for the project.

The city acquired the Dixon Iron and Metal Co. scrapyard in 2019 through abandonment court, after about 2 years of extending a contract to buy the property while environmental tests were conducted.

The property is part of the Viaduct Point project, a partnership in which the city and the Lee County Industrial Development Association secured about 10 acres of land stretching from the Peoria Avenue Bridge to the viaducts.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.