With the help of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Roos and Altenheim properties may undergo “brownfield cleanup,” sooner and cheaper. A brownfield site is land previously used for commercial or industrial purposes which has been contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution. 

The Park District of Forest Park and the village are applying for grants from the U.S. EPA to help assess and ultimately clean up the Roos and Altenheim sites.

The park district will apply for two grants from the EPA, Parks Director Larry Piekarz said in a hearing Jan. 9. 

The first grant, up to $200,000 per site, pays to remove hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants, according to the EPA website. The grant would require the district to share 20 percent of the cost. A second “assessment grant” is also being prepared for up to $140,000, said engineer Michael Johnson of environmental consultants St. John-Mittelhauser and Associates. 

Illinois EPA tests have already shown that soil and groundwater under the 1919 building contains small amounts of multiple hazardous substances, including vinyl chloride, benzene, methylene chloride, toluene, acetone, tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, 16 polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dangerous metals, among other substances. 

These are primarily located in a “hot spot,” the center of the property, near the old loading dock, Piekarz and Johnson said. 

The goal is to receive a “no further remediation” letter from the Illinois EPA, Piekarz said. That letter is awarded when a site is safe for residential use. 

“In 80 years, we don’t want to be the board that said we took the shortcut,” said Piekarz. The assessment grant would pay for final testing to be done on the site, leaving more money to be used for remediation. 

Johnson said the remediation process would be would be much less exhaustive compared with others in the area in the past. He mentioned the “tent” erected during environmental cleanup in Barrie Park in Oak Park in 2002 to remove coal tar from a plant once located on that site. “This will not be tented,” Johnson said. Cleanup at Roos will be, “10 truckloads, tops,” Johnson predicted.  

In early spring the park district will contract with an architect and hold public meetings to ask residents what they would like on the site, Piekarz said.

“We want people’s grandchildren to be happy with this board and what they did in 2014,” he said. 

Village joins county cleanup group application 

The village of Forest Park also will apply for brownfield cleanup assessment funds from the EPA, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. Forest Park Commissioner Rory Hoskins mentioned the grant opportunity at the Jan. 13 village council meeting. 

Forest Park was asked to join a consortium of communities under an umbrella grant request for $600,000 to be submitted through the Cook County Dept. of Environmental Control. Other communities in the consortium are Bellwood, Franklin Park, Maywood, Melrose Park, Schiller Park and Northlake.  

If the grant is awarded, the communities would each get a portion to perform brownfield “assessments” of cleanup-ready sites. Altenheim would be the site chosen in Forest Park, Gillian said. 

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...