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Nicor Contamination Cleanup Hits a 'Bump in the Road'

Residents surrounding the Skokie area should expect to see 192 trucks a day for 21 months carrying contaminated waste in order to clean up a site proposed for a new sports park. The traffic route for the trucks has not been finalized.

A contamination cleanup at the southwest corner of Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard has hit a 'bump in the road' after a public forum at McCracken School Tuesday.

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.

Lincolnwood residents became "outraged" after they learned of the traffic route the trucks carrying the contaminated waste would take to dispose of the material.

The original plan was to have the trucks exit Oakton Street and turn right on McCormick Boulevard before heading west onto Touhy Avenue and merge onto the Edens Expressway to a landfill in Joliet.

When Lincolnwood residents realized the vehicles would be cutting through their village, however, they organized a protest and provided an animated spectacle at Tuesday's forum by laughing at several statements made by Nicor officials and questioning those with opposing views.

An estimated 24 trucks were originally set to drive up and down Touhy Avenue in Lincolnwood every hour, eight hours a day for 21 months. That comes out to 192 trucks travelling down Touhy Avenue a day or 4,032 truck for the estimated 21 months it will take to complete the project.

While Nicor can keep their original traffic route - Touhy Avenue is a state road which Lincolnwood has no say over - the utility company has already backtracked.

"The traffic plan has been scrapped," said Jim Tansor, Manager of Community Relations and Economic Development for Nicor Gas at Tuesday's open forum. "[At this time] there is no traffic plan. There is no route. [The new traffic plan] will involve the Village of Lincolnwood and the Village of Skokie."

While the original traffic route would have been the most efficient - Nicor Gas prefers the trucks only turn right as turning left takes more time - Lincolnwood residents are suggesting the vehicles take Oakton or Dempster Street west to the highway. The contamination cleanup has a tentative start date of July 23.

Touhy already is a busy avenue. With the construction of Touhy Marketplace, , many residents feel the original traffic route would only lead to more congestion.

Nicor Gas will be holding future open forums for Lincolnwood and Skokie residents to come up with another solution to the traffic route dilemma.

A tale of two villages -

The forum, which was hosted by Nicor Gas, featured a seating arrangement typically found at an American wedding. However, instead of having the groom's family on one side and the bride's on the other, it was Lincolnwood on one half and Skokie on the other.

Lincolnwood Mayor Jerry Turry responded to Tansor's comments by standing up from his seat and addressing his constituents.

"We know [the original traffic plan] existed at one point," rebutted Turry. "We are not going to jump through hoops just because there is green fields for baseball fields."

Turry is up for reelection this February and Turry's comments were met by applause from many Lincolnwood residents in the audience.

One Skokie resident, however, shared a different point of view.  

"I do not share many of the views expressed by Lincolnwood residents," he stated before an audience of about 100. "I'm very excited about the possibilities to come. I think it is exciting for many people who are young and have kids. I'm hoping some of the views of others will be listened to.

"It exists beyond us," he added. "And I think we all need to think about that."

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.

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 Village of Skokie 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 to the Village of Skokie. 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.

Nicor's history of Skokie 

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Earl Weiss June 15, 2012 at 11:39 AM
219 is as broken as any as is 73.5. One minute theyr are broke and need to raise taxes and the next they spend like drunken sailors. It's a myth that fewer districts will trim adminsistrative costs. Just check out 219 and see how many "Assistant" admiinistrators one district has.
JC June 15, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Earl, Your "myth" is your opinion, and neither accurate nor representative of this area. It is a myth that a high school operates the same way as an elementary district. Maine Township, Evanston, Des Plaines, Wilmette: each of these has consolidated elementary districts with fewer administrators. 219 has its own problems, especially that it gets more money than its feeder districts, where the education begins.
Earl Weiss June 15, 2012 at 02:53 PM
"Earl, Your "myth" is your opinion, and neither accurate nor representative of this area. It is a myth that a high school operates the same way as an elementary district. Maine Township, Evanston, Des Plaines, Wilmette: each of these has consolidated elementary districts with fewer administrators. 219 has its own problems" Wait I'm confused? You are claiming what I said is "A Myth" except that with 219 it's a reality? 73.5 also has a boatload of administrators. I am glad you have faith that the beaurocrats would streamline operations under consolidatioI have no such faith. Nothiong in the districts has ever lead me to believe this will happen. I'd like to see examples of where it happened. The former Super of 219 championed this same cost cutting theory. Not long before he was the literal front page poster child for spending excess.
Mike from Skokie June 15, 2012 at 05:12 PM
40 year resident of Skokie I think politics are what drives all this B.S. truly any improvements that help to improve the enviornment are welcomed by all now and for future generations. This is a blip in time as far as traffic is concerned. Grandstanding by th LW Mayor is a joke . Gee what did he say when he was just a resident when lincolnwood town center was being built and the demolition of Ditto company property happened and soil remediation was needed and trucks were driving 24 hours a day from all directions. Let's get real and support all improvements weather it's Lincolnwood or Skokie even Niles and Morton Grove. Let's move on and stop wasting time. LW shouldn't be jealous of the sports park I don' think it match's tax income that they get from the 2 major shopping centers they have.'
Nasia July 23, 2012 at 01:46 AM
I beg to differ with you here, George. I live 2 blocks from where Carter was killed. It had nothing to do with "safety", it had to do with a woman who was wasted out of her skull, was known to be a drug user and who caused a tragic accident. Meanwhile, my parents and neighbors have been writing to Skokie village for over THREE years to get a stop sign put up on the intersection (Keeler and Brummel) where people dive 45 MPH down the street with children present and it has been the site of many accidents. They have been ignored. People drive down the 8300-8400 block of Christiana doing 40 mph to avoid McCormick in spite of kids all over and school buses and a pack of drug dealers (I call at least once a week...) holding court on Main and McCormick, using the alleys to speed down or sell. McCormick is backed up like a parking lot from 2 pm to pm, from Pratt well past Main street complete with the same 4 homeless people working the corner of Touhy and McCormick in shifts almost every day, in shifts, and yet this is the route they want to put all this truck traffic on? Skokie might be looking to improve road safety but they aren't looking very hard. Talk is cheap. It doesn't take a committee and all this yapping to 'fix' safety. Ask any of the residents. Or do we just wait for a toxic spill, or the death of someone, or when the gunshots coming from across the canal to call attention to it?

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