News Progress at Pillsbury site; Cleanup expected to take three to five years, cost $10-12 million

This article was originally published March 30, 2023 in the Illinois Times by Don Howard.

Moving Pillsbury Forward was formed in 2020 for the specific purpose of completing remediation of the [old Pillsbury flour mill] property to make the site more attractive for redevelopment and took control of the property March 24, 2022, exactly one year before the Citizens Club meeting.

“When we started, the situation looked hopeless, but all of us agreed that hopeless is not acceptable,” said [Chris Richmond, president of Moving Pillsbury Forward]. He said that about 12,000 people live within a one-mile radius of the facility, and cleanup of the site will have a broad, positive impact on the northeast Springfield neighborhood where it sits.

Richmond estimates that remediation will take three to five years and cost upwards of $12 million. During last month’s Springfield City Council budget hearings, $2 million was earmarked toward the project in the city’s FY 2024 budget. The organization was also awarded $2 million in congressionally directed funds in December 2022.

In spite of the fact that the project has yet to be fully funded, demolition work has already begun and work is progressing in close coordination with the Illinois and U.S. EPAs.

According to Richmond, Moving Pillsbury Forward is committed to increasing citizen involvement in plans for the eventual configuration of the property. The organization continues to hold informational meetings at public venues, and actively seeks volunteers who assist with mowing and cleaning up brush, small trees and litter at the site. Moving Pillsbury Forward also offers guided tours of the facility.

Polly Poskin, vice president of Moving Pillsbury Forward, said that while cleanup of the site involves people from all over the city and beyond, the work most greatly benefits one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Springfield. In adjacent neighborhoods, “Twenty-five percent of the population does not have a high school diploma, and the median household income is about $25,000,” said Poskin. She sees this effort as directly confronting the problem that poor communities are more likely to suffer from a lack of clean water and air and a lack of safe housing. These conditions are often the direct result of industrial facilities’ frequent proximity to low-income neighborhoods. According to Poskin, poor residents are rarely at the table when decisions are made about how to deal with industrial sites and the pollutants they produce.

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