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Nicor Cleanup to Start Soon, Truck Route Established

For the next two years, Nicor Gas will begin cleaning up a contaminated site near Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard. Trucks will be travelling through both Lincolnwood and Skokie.

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 filed, 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 travelling 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.

Troy December 04, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I don't see how a $3M (ballpark) investment can be justified with only a 20-year lease.
A Skokie mom December 04, 2012 at 06:10 PM
That is awesome news. Skokie is slowly but surely looking at its spaces and making improvements. Projects like this benefit our own community, give kids in the community a safe place to have fun, keep residents happy, and keep revenues in Skokie.
Harriet Sheeley December 04, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Please have the truck route be alternated by day of the week...this would cut down the risk to any one area substantially. Why should our geographic street area bear all of the risk of hazmat traffic accident spills?
Sweetg December 04, 2012 at 08:44 PM
1) I don't think the mothball smell of the cleanup will be a problem. It's location adjacent to the putrid smelling water filtration plant will make it unusable by humans long after the clean-up is done. 2) If Lincolnwood residents object to the trucks on their streets, I guess they don't plan on using the park once it's completed. 3) The park looks to be closer to Lincolnwood & Evanston homes than it is to most Skokie residences. So how much of the $3-4 million bill are they picking up? 4) The Parks department is currently planning to approve a 4.8% increase in their tax levy - with no public hearing - and that's without the cost for building & maintaining this new park. How much higher would Skokie residents like their property taxes to go? www.SkokieLandlord.org
JAMES CHWALISZ December 04, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Jim I agree withTroy. Seems to me that a 20 year lease is not very long. What happens to the $3M investment when the lease runs out?

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