Franklin Park files lawsuit over contaminated property

Franklin Park files lawsuit over contaminated property

Source: http://franklinpark.suntimes.com, June 11, 2014
By: Mark Lawton

The village of Franklin Park has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the owner of a contaminated manufacturing property.

In May, the village filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Joslyn Manufacturing, which owns a 34-acre site roughly bordered by Martens Street, Fullerton Avenue, Willow Street and Richard Street.

Starting in the 1920s, Joslyn Manufacturing treated railroad ties and telephone poles with creosote, pentachlorophenol and copperchromium-arsenic. Over the decades the chemicals seeped into the soil and partially into groundwater of the site, said Greg Dunn manager of the voluntary site remediation unit at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Joslyn Manufacturing ceased operations on the site in 1970. In recent years, Joslyn was purchased by Danahar Corporation, headquartered in Washington DC. Danahar declined to comment for this article.

In the late 1980s, Joslyn cleaned up a portion of the site, roughly 25,000 tons. Another 3.5 acres was cleaned up in the early 2000s with state and federal funds in connection with the Grand Avenue underpass project. Still, that left a large portion of the property unusable.

In 2002, Joslyn entered into a voluntary remediation program with the Illinois EPA. While the Illinois EPA basically gives property owners time to clean up properties, they do have to show progress.

On May 24, 2011, Illinois EPA sent Joslyn a letter asking about progress.

“They had issues with the insurance company and issues with (permission) on off-site property to put in a boring well,” Dunn said.

The wells were dug to see if contaminated water had leaked off site.

“At this site, there is no real off-site contamination,” Dunn said. “No health issues for anyone off site. All the contamination we’ve seen from reports from Joslyn indicates the contamination is remaining on site.”

The village government has been waiting for Joslyn to clean up the site, hoping it would happen voluntarily.

“Usually, in voluntary status, it gets the property cleaned up more quickly than if you litigate,” said Village President Barrett Pedersen.

Dunn agrees, saying the majority of property owners in the voluntary remediation program have their properties cleaned up in two to four years.

“They want to receive a No Further Remediation letter (from the Illinois EPA) so they can sell the property,” Dunn said.

Pedersen said filing a lawsuit is a last resort as the property is unlikely to be cleaned while the lawsuit is working its way through federal court.

“In this situation, the voluntary status was not having any apparent success,” Pedersen said.

The Joslyn property is a desirable one, with two railroad spurs, close to O’Hare airport and with easy access to the highways. Pedersen said two to three parties have expressed interest in purchasing the property in the last year.

If bought and developed, that would mean property taxes for the village and jobs.

“Shortly after the clean up, I would be surprised if we didn’t get a development really quickly,” Pedersen said.

 

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