A heavily contaminated area in the Pilsen community is being treated to meet safety standards. Recent tests revealed high levels of lead in the soil at the former Loewenthal Metals site located on 947 W. Cullerton St.
For the next three months, nearby residents will experience traffic interruptions and loud machinery noise as the U.S Environmental Protection Agency works to extract approximately 2,000 cubic yards of lead contaminated soil from the site.
Lead is a bluish-gray metal that can be found in all parts of the environment and enters the body through breathing or swallowing. A potential health risk to both adults and children, it can affect almost every organ and system in the body, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Longtime PERRO (Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization) member and advocate, Leila Mendez, became ill in 1998 with a “rare aggressive tumor” and has since worked to bring attention to the pollution in the area.
“Contaminants in the air here, that’s how I got sick,” Mendez says. “We believe everyone has a right to breathe clean air and we’re very happy that this cleanup is being taken care of.”
The EPA has been granted legal access and authority to perform the cleanup and will be on site weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Workers will dig three feet from the surface to remove contaminated soil, then treat and dispose of the soil off-site. After the contaminated soil has been removed, workers will replace it with clean soil and seed the area to prevent soil erosion.
A community safety plan has been set in place to make sure none of the residents and workers are exposed to hazardous materials. This includes monitoring the air to ensure dust levels are under control and treating the contaminated soil before it’s taken to an EPA-approved facility.
Organizers say the goal of the $750,000 project is to create a healthy environment for nearby residents and to make it suitable for residential development or commercial use in the future.
This post is also available in: Spanish
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