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5 on Your Side helps Benld get rid of old box cars

11:23 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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BENLD, Ill. (KSDK) - A tiny community in Illinois is rejoicing. After years of wrangling that went nowhere, an eyesore is finally being cleaned up.

Every time he watches children play at Benld's Memorial Park, Ed Saracco sweats it out.

"I mean thats just basically a disaster waiting to happen," says Saracco.

For 2 1/2 years, Saracco, who supervises Cahokia Township and lives in Benld, has made call after call, sent email after email, hoping to get an eyesore in this small community cleaned up.

"The one I was really worried about, which had the door open, was the one that had all the chemicals and paint. Just things that kids could get in trouble with," said Saracco.

He's talking about these abandoned railroad box cars, three of them, and an old trailer.

"The cars have been here for as long as I can remember, they used them as offices, they used them as storage and they maintained them," said Saracco. "But a few years ago when the railroad started cutting back, they started letting them go into decline."

And it's not just what it looks like; it sits just feet away from a park and baseball field.

"Parents will be watching the ball game, the little kids will be over here at night kids roam around town or whatever I could just see one of them getting into that box car over there and picking up a pick ax and hitting someone with one of them or somebody falling on it," said Saracco.

After Saracco's complaints, Illinois' Environmental Protection Agency came in the Summer of 2011 and cleaned up some chemicals, and boarded it all up. It was a step in the right direction, but not exactly what Saracco hoped for.

"I've called numerous people with Norfolk Southern and with Union Pacific one group said it wasn't theirs, one group said it was the other ones," said Saracco.

What it amounts to is a finger pointing contest between two railroad companies. In an email sent to 5 on Your Side, Northfolk Southern admits it owns the property, but says that Union Pacific, who they brought it from, still owns the box cars. The email also states that KSDK should stay off of their property.

5 on Your Side looked around and didn't see signs or anything else that would keep a kid from coming from the playground and going onto the property.

When neither railroad wanted to take responsibility last summer, 5 on your Side went to work. A title search showed the last deed on record was recorded almost 100 years ago, a document from 1914, naming Union Pacific as the property owner.

5 on Your Side contacted Union Pacific and received an email, stating that the rail line, along with the trailer and boxcars in question, were sold to the Norfolk Southern Railway in December 1998.

"My feelings are if Northfolk Southern owns the property then it's their property and they need to clear it out," said Saracco.

According to its website, Norfolk Southern's spent the past five years implementing a sustainability program addressing concerns about the environment, safety and the communities it serves.

5 on Your Side wrote letters to company leaders detailing Benld's plight, and within days, received a response from Norfolk Southern's Corporate Sustainability Officer Blair Wimbush.

Wimbush thanked 5 on Your Side for bringing the matter to his attention, and even better, word the company is obtaining bids to remove the box cars.

"I'm excited, I'm excited they are finally going to be gone. And that's what we really wanted, that's why we contacted you," said Saracco.

A problem that's plagued Benld for years, and a solution, six months in the making, finally underway.

"I think you got to the right person in the right time and we got it done in a timely manner; so we owe it to you guys because I do not think it would have been done if it would have not been for you," said Saracco.

Workers have been removing asbestos from the cars. As soon as Illinois' EPA signs off, demolition of the box cars will begin.



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