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Great Lakes Article:

Waukegan Harbor cleanup to clear way for renewal
By Susan Kuczka
Chicago Tribune
Published November 17th, 2004

A $27 million cleanup is scheduled to start this week near Waukegan Harbor, where 36 acres are contaminated with dangerous chemical waste, officials said Tuesday.

City officials hope to develop the area into a residential neighborhood when the two-year project is complete.

"Once this land is cleaned up, it will not only become a premier development site for the city but also a showplace for the whole North Shore," said Ray Vukovich, Waukegan's director of governmental services.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pressed for the cleanup more than five years ago after the discovery of cancer-causing chemicals at the site, located on a peninsula between Waukegan Harbor and Lake Michigan.

The site formerly housed a coke manufacturing plant that shut down more than 30 years ago when it was purchased by the now-defunct Outboard Marine Corp., which used the property to test snowmobiles and other vehicles it manufactured.

The abandoned coke plant produced arsenic and other toxins that remain buried, threatening to seep into Lake Michigan, federal officials said.

"If someone used this prime lakefront property to build houses without cleaning it up, people who live there could come in contact with pollutants . . . and have an increased chance of contracting cancer," said Kevin Adler, the EPA's remedial project manager assigned to the project.

A federal consent decree signed Oct. 13 in U.S. District Court in Chicago requires North Shore Gas, General Motors and other former owners of the site to pay for the cleanup, Adler said.

Plans call for workers to remove 30,000 to 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil before covering the land with 6 inches of clean topsoil. The soil cleanup will be followed next fall with removal of contaminated ground water.

Soil contaminated with high levels of naphthalene and similar organic compounds will be sent to an out-of-state regulated utility to be burned for power generation. Soil with lower levels of contamination will be buried in a Zion landfill.

The contaminated ground water will be pumped to an on-site treatment plant to filter out the arsenic and other dangerous toxins. Then ground-water quality under the site will be monitored for at least 30 years, officials said.

The site is one of many near Waukegan Harbor slated for cleanup over the next several years as the city attempts to redevelop its lakefront, Vukovich said.

Besides upscale condos, city planners hope to develop office and commercial space near the harbor as they lead the former Rust Belt city in a new direction.

"This is just one piece of the puzzle, but it's an important one," Vukovich said.

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