Starting on Dec. 17 and for the next two years, Nicor Gas will begin cleaning a contaminated site near the intersection of Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard. The contaminated land - which is adjacent to the Skokie Sports Park on Oakton Street - will soon turn into a massive sports field, with three lighted baseball diamonds, a soccer field and possibly even a place to play cricket. But before any construction can begin, Nicor Gas - along with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency - have to dispose of contaminated material beneath the ground.
While Skokie will get to use the land for their multipurpose sports field, the property itself is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
The truck route -
Back in June, a controversial board meeting was held in Skokie regarding the Nicor Cleanup. Many Lincolnwood residents were outraged when they learned that trucks carrying contaminated waste would be traveling on their roads. The original route called for an estimated 24 trucks to drive up and down Touhy Avenue in Lincolnwood every hour, eight hours a day for about two years. That comes out to 192 trucks travelling down Touhy Avenue a day or 4,032 truck for the estimated 21 months it would take to complete the project.
All of that has changed now, as officials from both Lincolnwood and Skokie have come up with a route. Here is the breakdown, according to Nicor Gas:
- Trucks leaving the site with contaminated soil will head north on McCormick Boulevard and then west onto Dempster Street where they will get onto 94-East.
- Trucks that are completely empty will head south on McCormick Boulevard and then east onto Devon Avenue. They will then take Cicero Avenue to Peterson Avenue where they will get onto 94-East.
- And finally, trucks entering the site with clean soil will arrive from the south from Cicero Avenue to Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard.
The trucks will run from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
History of the land and resident concerns -
"The materials found underground [at the site] are a result [of] how energy used to be produced 100 years ago," said Annette Martinez, corporate communications director for Nicor Gas in June.
The site once was considered state of the art. The construction of the plant meant street lamps no longer would need to be lit by hand, and it was a more efficient way to disperse energy.
Coal was used to fuel the plant and over time it became apparent that it was hazardous to the environment. Nicor is planning to remove an unknown amount of coal tar and benzene from the site.
"If removed in a proper manner there are no health risks associated with this sight," Martinez said. "We work with an environmental firm and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. We follow all procedures. We know we can do this appropriately."
Nicor representatives added that among the inconveniences to come from the removal of the contaminated waste is an odor similar to that of mothballs, they said. Air quality will be monitored by two separate devices to make sure there is no risk to nearby residents or workers, officials said.
The cost of the contamination removal will be paid for through a funding mechanism that every Nicor Gas customer pays for that's included in their bill. Martinez added that there will be no increase in customer fees to remove the waste, she said.
The land is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago. The Skokie Park District is leasing the land from the MWRD.
Signed in 1994, the term of the lease runs through April 2032. Skokie Park District Superintendent of Parks and Facilities John Orhlund suggested that the cost of the lease was extremely minimal. He also added an estimated "ballpark" figure to complete the sports park expansion at around $3 million, but added that the number is not official in any way.