Polluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanup

Polluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanup

In the news

Polluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanup

Kristin Erickson presenting at community outreach

By Jessie Molloy and Felix Sarver
Shaw Local News Network

A Will County nonprofit began its first efforts on Tuesday to gather input from residents on what potentially contaminated or polluted areas in the region could be cleaned up, reused and redeveloped.

Those areas are called brownfields by the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency. The federal agency awarded a$400,000 grant to the Will County Center For Economic Development to identify and assess those sites.

Will County CED held community outreach meetings on Tuesday inLockport and Joliet where they discussed brownfields and outlined their plans regarding them. The nonprofit has a website calledwillcountybrownfields.com that has further information about the project.

The process will involve community outreach to identify brownfield sites, followed by an environmental assessment of those sites and then the creation of plans for cleanup and reuse.

A brownfield could be a junk yard, a former gas station or an abandoned property that may be contaminated by hazardous substances such as pesticides, metals and asbestos. The EPA funding will not be used for a potentially contaminated site where there is an entity that is responsible for cleanup.

“If we know there’s a company operation that probably have contributed to the contamination … then it is their responsibility to assess and cleanup. It’s not the taxpayer’s money,” said Linda Yang, senior principal for Terracon.

Terracon, an environmental consulting and engineering firm, is one of the many partners working withWill County CED to identify and assess brownfields. Other partners include Will County government,Joliet, Lockport, Rockdale, the EPA and residents.

Lance Thies, Lockport Community and Economic Development director, described Lockport’s identified site as “an illegal dumping ground,” which is located along Canal Street.

“They asked us for input if we knew of any sites while they were putting the grant together about a year, year and a half ago,” Thies said.

“The site is owned by an entity who never got approval, but started dumping there anyway, and it’s never stopped,” Thies explained. “It’s been going on for decades. There are semi-truck trailers and containers out there that people just pulled off the road and left.”

While Thies said the city doubts there are materials like mercury or lead present, he said the number of abandoned vehicles could mean the presence of spilled oil, gas and antifreeze.

The property was previously unincorporated but was annexed by Lockport earlier this year.

“It gives us some level of enforcement authority,” Thies said. “We’ve been working on getting it cleaned up, but it won’t happen overnight.”

Community help needed

In addition to the three earmarked locations, Will County CED is looking for input from the community for other sites which might qualify as brownfields, which could have grant money allocated to their evaluation.

Recommended sites will be listed and prioritized and Terracon will evaluate if it is eligible for EPA funding then assess the problems at the site in phases by talking to stakeholders, reviewing records, taking soil samples, and testing for underground storage tanks and vapors.

“It’s a very common mentality to not want to touch sites it they are perceived to have environmental problems, because developers don’t have the budget to deal with it. In reality though, some are not that bad when you look at them,” Yang said.

The evaluation process would determine what needs to be done at each evaluated site and begin creating plans for remediation to make the properties usable.

Once plans are in place, the county can apply for further grant funding to support the clean-up efforts.

“It’s a dynamic process,” said CED Economic Development Project Manager Kristin Erickson. “We’re just beginning the work with this community outreach.”

The grant lasts for three years, during which time more sites can be identified and evaluated.

According to Yang, the largest portion of the costs goes to creating remediation plans for eligible sites, so it is not known yet how many sites may be addressed in the grant window.

While the CED will accept site recommendations on an ongoing basis, Thies encouraged residents to make recommendations for sites they already know about in the next month to ensure high-need areas are looked at.

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Polluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanup

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In the newsPolluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanupBy Jessie Molloy and Felix SarverShaw Local News Network A Will County nonprofit began its first efforts on Tuesday to gather input from residents on what potentially contaminated or polluted areas in the...

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Brownfields Assessment Grant Community Outreach Begins

Brownfields Assessment Grant Community Outreach Begins

In the news

Brownfields Assessment Grant Community Outreach Begins

The Will County Center for Economic Development (CED) will be hosting public meetings on Tuesday, November 14th in Joliet and Lockport to share information and invite community participation in the Will County Brownfields Program.

The CED was awarded a USEPA Brownfields Assessment Grant in the amount of $400,000 to assist with identification and clean-up of brownfield sites in Will County. Brownfield sites are those contaminated by hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants. Once remediated, former brownfield properties can be redeveloped into a variety of productive uses.

The grant provides funding to identify sites and conduct a range of planning activities, develop site specific clean-up plans, and complete Phase I and Phase II environmental engineering for qualified sites, with a special emphasis on the Des Plaines River corridor in Will County. The Lockport meeting will take place at City Hall at 9 a.m. and the Joliet meeting will be held at the Joliet Public Library Ottawa Street Branch at 4 p.m.

The Center for Economic Development worked closely with the communities of Joliet, Lockport, and Rockdale and the County of Will through the application process. These communities helped develop an outstanding case highlighting Will County’s need to address the environmental and human health issues in brownfield areas.

Beginning in November, we will begin working with residents living in the target areas during community meetings to create a thorough site inventory for assessment. Properties identified during community outreach activities will be researched further to evaluate their qualifications for inclusion in the determination of eligibility.

Community engagement is crucial to the success of this Assessment Grant. Therefore, community meetings are being planned to keep the public informed on project plans and provide project updates. Interested property owners and residents can receive more information, suggest potential sites, and ask questions.

Additional grant and meeting information can be found at www.willcountybrownfields.com. Registration is preferred, but not required.

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Will County Center for Economic Development Awarded $400,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant by U.S. EPA

Will County Center for Economic Development Awarded $400,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant by U.S. EPA

In the news

Will County Center for Economic Development Awarded $400,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant by U.S. EPA

Areal view of bridge with traffic

The Will County Center for Economic Development is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $400,000 Brownfields Assessment grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

This grant provides funding to identify sites and conduct a range of planning activities, develop site specific clean-up plans, and community outreach related to brownfield sites with an emphasis on the Des Plaines River corridor in Will County. Brownfield sites are those contaminated by hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants. Once remediated, former brownfield properties can be redeveloped into a variety productive uses.

“Turning vacant or underutilized spaces into thriving community hubs is one of the cornerstones of our Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan, and I’m pleased to see the Biden Administration provide funding for brownfields revitalization in Will County,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This support marks another milestone in our journey to advance educational, environmental, economic and health justice for all Illinois residents.”

“Thank you to the U.S. EPA for providing the opportunity and funding for Will County to assess areas of environmental concern,” said Doug Pryor, President and CEO of Will County Center for Economic Development. “This grant will serve as a catalyst for needed cleanup and create opportunities for new growth in long disinvested areas of Will County. This work will help promote private investment, create jobs, and encourage growth in the County’s communities.”

The Center for Economic Development worked closely with the communities of Joliet, Lockport, and Rockdale and the County of Will through the application process. These communities helped develop an outstanding case highlighting Will County’s need to address the environmental and human health issues in brownfield areas. “This grant is an important first step in empowering community-focused development in these neglected areas,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “By eliminating blight and reducing the risk of environmental contamination in this region, we are supporting greener, healthier neighborhoods, as well as needed economic development.”

“We are looking forward to utilizing this opportunity to create positive outcomes for Joliet by removing environmental barriers to growth and opportunity,” added Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk. “Thank you to the Center for Economic Development and United States Environmental Protection Agency Region V for your partnership.”

“Many brownfield sites across the country are in ‘downtown’ areas revealing that cities and towns were often built up in conjunction with one another. These vacated industrial sites are in prime, walkable locations where people live,” Lockport Mayor Steven Streit said. “There is wisdom in investing money to repurpose such brownfields. Restoring them back into functional places means there is one less bit of prime farmland being over-turned for new development on the far edge of town. Building back walkable, thriving communities where people both live AND work is the blueprint of civilizations since settlements first began. I applaud our lawmakers for making funds available to assist in the cleanup of these strategic places.”

“I would like to thank U.S. EPA for the $400,000 of funding for the Brownfield Assessment grant for the Village of Rockdale and our neighboring communities,” said Sam Wyke, Mayor of Rockdale. “Investment in brownfields programs in communities like Rockdale has had a positive impact throughout the nation. Our community was settled by workers of companies and businesses involved with heavy industries that provided many jobs. Now, most of the industrial sites have been vacant or underutilized for several generations. We need to determine the unrealized potential and opportunities of the unused industrial sites. Turning polluted properties back into productive real estate will help us bring the jobs back to our Village. The grant will improve public health and safety and will also increase the tax base.”

For more information on the Environmental Protection Agency or Brownfield Assessment Grants, please visit https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-assessment-grants

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Polluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanup

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In the newsPolluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanupBy Jessie Molloy and Felix SarverShaw Local News Network A Will County nonprofit began its first efforts on Tuesday to gather input from residents on what potentially contaminated or polluted areas in the...

read more