Yesterday, the EPA announced that it finished a time-critical removal action of lead in the soil at the former Loewenthal Metals site at 947 W. Cullerton Street in Chicago. According to historical records, the facility operated as a lead and zinc smelter, as well as scrap metal dealer, during the 1940s. The half-acre site is near the center of the Pilsen neighborhood, a largely residential area, just west of Interstate 90/94. EPA technical documents indicate that sensitive populations located within one mile of the site include numerous residential properties, two elementary schools, one high school, and two churches.
In December 2011, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency referred the site to EPA for a potential cleanup action. EPA was unable to get access to the site to conduct sampling activities until November 2012 when the Department of Justice obtained an administrative warrant pursuant to Section 104(e) of CERCLA. The site was fenced off by the City of Chicago in December 2012 to prevent public access to the property. In June 2013, EPA began the excavation and removal of 4,800 tons of contaminated soil and debris "to ensure that the property is safe for residential use in the future." Excavation and removal went down approximately three feet from the surface. The contaminated soil was treated with a stabilizer agent and disposed off-site. The contaminated soil was replaced with clean soil that was seeded to prevent erosion. The projected cost of the project was $750,000.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy touted the EPA's work at the site, and Jerry Mead-Lucero, of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization ("PERRO"), noted that PERRO has developed a good working relationship with the EPA, and that "[t]he increased cooperation between U.S. EPA and PERRO has already resulted in the remediation of contaminated sites in the neighborhood and we expect more sites to be addressed in the near future."
More information about EPA's activities in the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods is available on the EPA Web site: http://epa.gov/region5/littlevillagepilsen/.