Settlement reached in River Forest soil contamination suit

River Forest Cleaners owner will clean bank-owned site on Lathrop


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Deborah Kadin

Contributing Reporter

The owner of River Forest Cleaners will have to dig up and remove contaminated soil on the site of a two-flat owned by Forest Park National Bank, according to a settlement of a long-standing lawsuit over chemical pollution on the property at 423 Ashland Ave. in River Forest.

The building and foundation of the two-flat will have to be demolished and removed, then back-filled and graded to the level of the adjacent properties, according to an email from Thomas W. Daggett, an environmental attorney who represented Forest Park National during the proceedings.

A slurry wall also will have to be installed along the border between that establishment, at 7601 -7615 Lake St., and the bank's property to prevent future re-contamination, according to a consent decree entered in federal court last month.

Damages and attorney's fees of up to $225,000 will have to be paid to the bank by the defendants in the case. According to the decree they are Ed Ditchfield, who owns the cleaners, E&H Enterprises, an entity owned by Ditchfield and his wife, and US Bancorp.

Ditchfield will have nine months to complete all of the work detailed in the settlement, reached nearly three years after the lawsuit was filed.

In 2010, the bank sued Ditchfield and the others, holding them responsible for the dry cleaning chemicals that contaminated the block and its surroundings.

The bank, foreclosed on the two-flat in 2009, said it could not sell the property at market value because of the polluted ground under the building.

The suit sought the cost of environmental testing on the properties as well as damages for nuisance, negligence and trespass from Ditchfield and the other defendants.

River Forest has looked at investing its remaining Tax Increment Financing District dollars in the redevelopment of the Lake Street-Lathrop Avenue site. That TIF has now expired and the village has a short timeframe during which it can invest those remaining funds. The two-flat on Lathrop is adjacent to the development site. Forest Park National had been mentioned repeatedly as a tenant for any new project on the site.

An environmental remediation expert retained by River Forest told officials in 2009 that there was significant environmental contamination adjacent to a sewer line under Lathrop Avenue stemming from River Forest Cleaners.

Efforts to reach Dan Watts, the bank's president, were unsuccessful.

See the settlement here:

River Forest Cleaners - Forest Park National Bank settlement

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Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 3:30 PM

Any additional remediation of the contamination would be based on the concentrations found during the investigation. If the contamination levels aren't high enough, the contamination will remain in place. The contamination along the sewer line most likely won't be addressed until the sewer line is replaced.

Concerned Citizen from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 12:29 PM

I recall reading that the contamination reaches all the way to the church across the street and to the property on which the new Mexican restaurant stands. What will happen to those properties and when will work start?

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