Nicor lays out plans for site cleanup in Skokie
NICOR GAS CLEANUP
Where: Southwest corner of Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard next to the Skokie Sports Park.
Start date: This summer.
Project time: Up to two years
Project details: Digging up and hauling away contaminated soil from an 18-acre site and disposing of it in Joliet.
Traffic plan: Still to be determined.
For more information: visit www.skokiesite.com/siteinfo.aspx, the reference desk at the Skokie Public Library, call (888) 833-8918 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated: July 22, 2012 6:13AM
About 500,000 tons of contaminated soil are scheduled to be removed starting this summer and lasting the next two years from the 18-acre site next to the Skokie Sports Park.
The plan will allow the Skokie Park District to expand its popular sports park at 3459 Oakton St., by adding three baseball diamonds, soccer fields and a cricket patch.
The property belongs to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which will lease it to the Skokie Park District. Responsibility for the extensive site cleanup falls to Nicor Gas and ComEd, the former of which held a public hearing last week to discuss the project plans.
Nicor has estimated cleanup costs could reach $70 million, which will be paid for by “all gas and electric utility customers” over subsequent years. Costs are subject to review by the Illinois Commerce Commission, Nicor noted.
“Currently, the site is undeveloped and is covered with grass, trees and shrubs,” Nicor officials stated. “The site also contains unpaved roads, railroad spur tracks, and the remnants of some...former manufactured gas plant buildings. The site is enclosed by fencing.”
The water reclamation district filed a lawsuit several years ago against ComEd and Nicor, the former owners of the property, which ran a manufactured gas plant facility for decades.
The lawsuit cited federal legislation emphasizing that owners of a facility where hazardous substances were disposed of are responsible for cleanup costs. But the water district and the utility companies suspended their lawsuit to conduct a more thorough environmental investigation.
The investigation confirmed that there was contamination, which Park District and water district officials already knew because of their own testing. Finally, a plan was hatched for Nicor to clean up the site after which the water district can put it to use.
Last week’s hearing drew residents, mostly from Lincolnwood, who remain angry about Nicor’s original traffic plan. Also in attendance were Skokie, Lincolnwood, park district, water district and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials.
Although the original site housing the gas manufacturing plant included the Skokie Sports Park, all original operations were on the unused eastern portion of the site. The plant was likely built in the 1800s, according to Nicor.
“When the manufactured gas plant was built in your town, it was considered a very, very progressive town,” said Nicor consultant Nancy Huston. The plants were used to supply gas, mostly for lighting city streets.
Nicor’s cleanup plan calls for digging up contaminants that do not meet environmental standards set well after the gas plant was built.
Nicor will then haul the materials to Joliet where they will be disposed. The dug up area will be refilled with clean materials including topsoil to bring the ground back to original conditions. Nicor estimates as many as a dozen trucks will pull into and out of the site every hour.
For the next two years, the property will look like “a typical construction site” with trucks entering and leaving the property, Huston said. However, the site will be secured so only workers have access.
“There may be some odors from the site as we’re excavating the materials,” Huston said. “It smells similar to moth balls or baking materials. That is typical of these types of cleanups.”
Hanson assured that the odors are not a health risk, adding that Nicor has a “robust air monitoring system.” Air levels will be reported to the Skokie Health Department daily, she said.
“Even if you smell something, it doesn’t mean that it affects your health,” Huston said. “You can smell these things at very low odor levels.”
Skokie Park District Director Mark Schneiderman has long held out hope for using the 18-acre site next to the Sports Park for state-of-the-art lighted baseball diamonds, but plans were always complicated because the water district owns the land.
“The Sports Park is a regional facility,” said Schneiderman. “A lot of people from Skokie use it but there’s a heck of a lot of people from Wilmette, Evanston, and Chicago who use it, too. It’s regional in every way.”
A plan drawn up in 1993 called for four lighted baseball fields including a semi-pro field as well as soccer fields. But those plans are obsolete and new plans are being created.
A preliminary drawing of the baseball fields and other uses for the site was on view during the hearing, but the immediate concerns for Nicor and those in attendance was the extensive cleanup project.
The Skokie Park District will holds its own public hearings about plans for the site as the project progresses.