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June 2004

Hazardous Soil to be Removed from Planned High School Site by August

Chicago, IL— U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 began in May an $800,000 contaminated soil removal project at the new Sterling Morton High School Freshman Center campus in Cicero, Illinois.

The 18-acre freshman campus is set to open in August. Area residents can expect to see construction vehicles and workers in required protective clothing near the intersection of 16th St. and 54th Ave. through late June.

Prior to building the Freshman Center, the site was seven former industrial properties. In fall 2002, School District 201 demolished the industrial buildings and removed four underground storage tanks under the oversight of Illinois EPA’s voluntary cleanup program. However, the district soon determined the site contained more contaminated soil than anticipated.

Currently, there are large piles of contaminated soil on the west and south sides of the school building. Once these are removed and transported to an approved landfill, EPA, in consultation with Illinois EPA, will survey the site for additional contamination that needs to be removed before the opening of the school. When the cleanup is completed, Illinois EPA will issue a “no further remediation letter,” which will document that the site is safe for occupancy.

The soil was contaminated by a range of industrial operations that date as far back as the 1920s. EPA is primarily concerned about contamination from lead and other heavy metals; richloroethylene (TCE), a common cleaning solvent; and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Fencing around the site will be repaired as part of the project. EPA does not believe there are immediate health risks to people living near the site, but wants the hazardous material removed before the school opens and students and community residents start to use the facility.

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