Oakton site clean-up begins next week
Lincolnwood residents were angry this summer at a hearing on removing contaminated soil from land near the Skokie Sports Park. The original traffic plan called for traveling down Touhy Avenue but it has since been changed. | Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
CLEAN-UP AT OAKTON SITE
For more information about this project, please visit www.SkokieSite.com. Project documents are also available for public review at the Skokie Public Library (5125 Oakton St., Skokie). For questions about oversight of the project, contact Stan Black at the Illinois EPA at 217-785-1427 or Stan.Black@illinois.gov.
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:12AM
SKOKIE — Nicor Gas next week will begin the long-awaited clean-up of the former manufactured gas plant site next to the Skokie Sports Park on the east end of Oakton Street.
Work originally was slated for summer, but controversy over the initial haul route for discarded material from the site on the 3400 block of Oakton Street delayed the process.
According to Nicor, the project will take about two years to complete.
The Park District wants to use the 18-acre property to build new lighted ball fields, soccer fields and a cricket patch, a dream that has had a roller coaster of ups and downs over the years.
Although the Park District has a preliminary design for the property, plans are nowhere near final, and future public hearings would be held first, officials say.
For the next two years, the property will look like “a typical construction site‚“ with trucks entering and leaving the property, said Nicor consultant Nancy Huston. 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 at an earlier public meeting. “It smells similar to moth balls or baking materials. That is typical of these types of cleanups.”
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.
But when Nicor released its proposed haul route earlier this year, it outraged Lincolnwood leaders who railed against the idea of using Touhy Avenue so heavily.
“What is happening is that Lincolnwood will be receiving all the negative impacts of this project while experiencing none of the benefits,” Lincolnwood Mayor Jerry Turry said in a letter this summer to Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen.
All parties more recently were part of the process in revising the route, Nicor officials said. There is much less impact to Lincolnwood roads.
The plan now calls for waste disposal trucks to use Dempster Street and McCormick Boulevard for most of their route. Clean fill trucks are scheduled to use Oakton, McCormick and Devon Avenue in Chicago.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District owns the property, the west half of which is leased to the Park District for the sports park. Once completed, the adjoining section would also be leased to the Park District for the new fields.
Before any field can be built, the site must be environmentally scrubbed.
The Skokie clean-up is occurring after an investigation of the site in 2007 and 2008, which assessed impacts to soil and groundwater from gas manufacturing byproducts and residuals such as coal tar, cinders and ash.
The clean-up plan was approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Site preparation and clearing activities will occur first and then excavation and off-site disposal of soil will follow. Work is slated to begin Dec. 17.
Nicor estimates the cost of the project at $60 million to $70 million.
Nicor and ComEd agreed to undertake the project cooperatively as part of a comprehensive program to evaluate conditions at historic manufacturing gas plant locations and, when necessary, take actions to bring the sites up to current environmental standards. Nicor has contracted with the environmental engineering firm Burns & McDonnell to conduct the clean-up project, which involves removing soil for off-site disposal and filling in the excavated areas with clean soil brought to the site.
The Skokie site’s gas manufacturing plant produced gas from coal from 1910 to the 1940s.