The site of a former outboard motor plant in suburban Chicago is undergoing asbestos remediation as part of a redevelopment plan. The city of Waukegan, Illinois, received more than $18 million as part of a federal stimulus package to clean up the site of the Outboard Marine Corporation manufacturing facility. When the plant closed its doors, the high level of asbestos, PCBs and other industrial contaminants earned it a place on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Superfund” list.
Mayor Bob Sabonjian announced that the city would use the money to remove the asbestos from the walls and ceiling of Plant Number 2 before demolishing the old building. The site, near the shoreline of Lake Michigan, will later be redeveloped into a commercial and residential development area. Mayor Sabonjian also said that a portion of the site would be reserved as an environmentally friendly “green space” for residents and visitors to enjoy the lakeshore views.
The mayor promised that the asbestos would be cleared from the site in the coming months and that the area would be ready for redevelopment by the end of 2010. At a press conference announcing the plans, he said that visitors would be able to view the lake from the site “for the first time in generations” sometime in early 2011. He later backed up his words by taking part in a ceremony where he swung a sledgehammer at one of the abandoned plant’s outer walls.
EPA Administrator Mathy Stanislaus joined in the ceremony and also swung a hammer at the walls. He stated that the stimulus package, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, would help Waukegan recover from the depths of its past and emerge as a positive role model for “hundreds of communities and millions of people” affected by the economic downturn and the decline of the Rust Belt manufacturing industries.
The plant facilities were constructed in the late 1940s, when use of asbestos as insulation and fireproofing material was widespread. The plant operated as one of the leading employers in the area between 1948 and 2000 before EPA inspectors declared it a Superfund site. Investigators discovered high levels of PCBs had leaked from the manufacturing floor into the nearby lake harbor. The company shut down the plant in 2002 and the site has been abandoned ever since.
According to federal regulations, the structure must undergo asbestos removal and cleanup before the full demolition project can begin. A work crew with a local contracting company, Tecnica Environmental Services of Chicago, is engaging in the asbestos remediation process. Workers will use special breathing masks and protective clothing to prevent exposure to the hazardous dust particles. They will also use special containers to dispose of and move the asbestos-containing materials in order to prevent further contamination at the site.
Kevin Adler, the EPA Project Manager for the cleanup efforts, said that, in addition to the asbestos remediation and demolition work, the site would also undergo cleanup to remove much of the toxic chemicals from the soil and surrounding water. The bottom of the harbor still contains high concentrations of PCBs, which will require dredging the lake. A groundwater treatment plant, built inside another Outboard Marine manufacturing facility, is processing water previously contaminated with arsenic, benzene and other toxic chemicals.
Sources: ChicagoBreakingNews.com, SuburbanChicagoNews.com