Good things have come from unpleasant Barrie experience

Opinion

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As the remediation for much of the Barrie Park area is nearing completion (it feels so good to say that about our property, at least) I want to add some thoughts.

Working out the details of restoring our own property had been extremely stressful to me. The curve of a new sidewalk, or the lumpy sod, quick changes in scheduling that leave us hanging for days wondering when they are going to do such and such. Nicks in the siding, or cement splashed on the siding, concerns over the shortcuts taken in planting a precious tree, etc, etc, etc. It takes one of us being 'on site' every day to watch their efforts very closely; 'they' being the contractors and subcontractors hired by ComEd, doing the actual work.

For this senior citizen, it is 'kids' doing the work with what seems to be little experience. Most all involved have been exceedingly kind, polite and well meaning. Sometimes there is no way to communicate because they don't speak English.

It is nearly over for us. Not so for many. There are still real concerns for many of our neighbors. But the big reason I'm, writing today is to say that Bill and I are grateful for so many good things that have come out of this unpleasant experience.

You have read my efforts to inform, over the past few years, seen us speak at board meetings and committee meetings. All along I have been thanking God for the new friends we have made as we've met over and over around Oak Park hashing out problems. We're grateful for the nice apartment to which we relocated for over 3 years at ComEd's expense. That concession was one of the few good things the previous boards hammered out in their agreement in our stead.

If we neighbors had been allowed in on negotiations the village made in our stead, we would have made sure that relocation of residents and testing for toxicity would have been more inclusive, at least to within a block from the park. I feel so bad for our neighbors just across the alley who had no choice but to stay and endure the noise, vibrations shaking pictures off the wall, making cracks in same homes, traffic/parking snafus clogged alleys, more, etc.

We are especially grateful for the new friend, Bea, across the hall from us in the apartment. She saved dinner a few times by having just the one ingredient my recipe needed. She has been informed all along about the Barrie Park news and listens to each bit of progress with eagerness.

We are thankful that David Gullo worked so hard for so long in an effort to get the best toxic clean-up ever for a residential area. We observed him plugging away at this effort until after approximately two years he got the concession: They (ComEd/Nicor) would clean up to 14 feet overall and deeper where needed to remove toxic substances. This is my simplified view of a very complex agreement.

Getting a concession to test all properties on the rim of the park was another good effort by our village. Unfortunately, the decision to let ComEd test only contiguous properties from there on, was a grave error. Many uninformed citizens may feel it is no big deal, but when your property is so close to a known toxic site, it would be reassuring to know for certain whether your property is toxic or not.

Coal tar seeping from the site was not the only toxic material to escape from the original Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP). We have deduced that prior residents long ago used cinders and ash from the site as paving material to prevent animals or vehicles getting stuck in mud. Having grown up on a farm, I know all about this.

Since the toxicity on our property was only on the surface of our back yard we assume it came from ash & cinders easily procured from the MGP across the street. I found cinders all the time as I gardened in our back yard.

Happily our property is now clean and we await our final certificate from the Illinois EPA that attests that our property needs no further remediation. Some properties in our village have been built over sites that do not have the full, broad No Further Remediation letter but only a Focused Remediation. We individual homeowners had to battle this one out ourselves with ComEd/Nicor.

We are grateful that the people from ComEd who have been overseeing the remediation of our property, currently, have been very easy to work with; and they have bent over backwards in their effort to leave us happy campers.

We would hope that all Oak Parkers take a walk (or at least a drive) through our area to see what the grant/loan gift from our village (strongly supported/promoted by Trustee Robert Milstein and former Trustee Galen Gockel) has done for our neighborhood. We are thankful for our quite visible property improvements. Thank you, Oak Park! Thanks to all our friends around the Oak Park area who have been sympathetic and supportive.

And as always, thank you WEDNESDAY JOURNAL for your unwavering support for innocent residents around Barrie who have gone through this trial. We have been buoyed again and again with well researched, carefully presented news from you all.

Marion Biagi
Oak Park

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