RANTOUL – The man who has been in charge of environmental cleanup efforts on the former Chanute Air Force Base has left for a different job.
Tim Brecheen, environmental coordinator for the Chanute Air Force Real Property Agency, left Rantoul last week to take another position within the federal government in the Northeast, according to Carl Sahre, public affairs spokesman for the agency.
"Tim's last day with us was Aug. 22," Sahre said. "We are in the process of filling his position."
Sahre said the environmental work that Brecheen had been responsible for in Rantoul will be handled on a temporary basis by the national Air Force Real Property Agency in Rosslyn, Va., until a new environmental coordinator can be named.
Rantoul Village Administrator Gary Adams, who also serves as chairman of the Chanute Restoration Advisory Board, said the Air Force still hadn't notified him that Brecheen had left.
"Clearly we are going to miss him. Tim was an asset to Rantoul. I hate to see him go," Adams said.
Brecheen took over as environmental coordinator at Chanute two years ago after coming there from Reese Air Force Base in west Texas, where the Department of Defense completed a projected seven-year cleanup in two years.
Under Brecheen's leadership, the Air Force worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to accelerate a number of environmental cleanup programs at Chanute, some of which had been on the back burner or delayed by studies.
Air Force contractor Montgomery Watson of Chicago removed 460,000 cubic yards of soil from village property south of Champaign Avenue for two years and trucked it to closed landfills near Salt Fork Creek at the extreme south end of the former base.
Work crews then used that soil to cap the landfills, and the hole created by the soil removal was fashioned into an artificial lake that will accept excess drainage from the central Rantoul area, alleviating perennial problems with flooding.
Capping of two of the four landfills was completed this past winter, and work crews hope to finish a third landfill by this December. Brecheen said earlier this year that the project has cost some $20 million.
After high levels of mercury were found in fish at Heritage Lake, Brecheen instituted new restrictions that limited fishing there to "catch and release only."
In addition, Brecheen worked with a team from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as part of the effort to determine whether Chanute should be placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List.
Brecheen also coordinated cleanup work at the former Chanute fire training area, sampling for lead-based paid beneath the old base water towers, the installation of monitoring wells and studies of the environmental effects of Chanute transformers that contained PCBs.
In addition, Mayor Neal Williams said he and his staff members had been holding regular meetings with Brecheen over converting one of the landfills near Heritage Lake into a hill for Soap Box Derby races and demolishing the former Chanute steam plant, which closed several years ago.
Brecheen also met with village officials to discuss safety issues at White Hall after a police dog died there in September 2001.
Williams said Brecheen's efforts will be sorely missed.
"Tim accomplished a lot in a short period of time," Williams said. "He had great ideas for the Soap Box Derby hill, and we were having regular talks about getting the steam plant taken down."
"We're sorry to see him go," said Chris Hill, environmental protection engineer for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
"Tim was sensitive to environmental issues and was great to work with."
Sahre said he didn't know how long it would take to name Brecheen's replacement.
You can reach Tim Mitchell at (217) 351-5366 or via e-mail at email@example.com.