This article highlights numerous actual and potential environmental issues, leading one to ask: How well does the village handle property redevelopments and what sorts of qualifications are required of contractors? [Contractor cited for downtown Oak Park oil leak, Web extra, July 23]

First, was due diligence performed before these buildings were slated for demolition? A phase one site investigation performed according to ASTM International standards (typical for most commercial property transfers) should have identified the potential presence of oil tanks in a building of this vintage. Review of historical Sanborn insurance maps (a component of a thorough phase one) could have shown the presence of historical fuel tanks. Was the phase one performed by a competent and experienced individual or just the lowest bidder? The required historical records review, while adding cost to any phase one investigation, identifies recognized environmental concerns and eliminates last-minute surprises. This step is often skipped by low bidders to cut costs.

Additionally, buildings of this era may have asbestos-wrapped pipes. Was a proper asbestos inspection performed and any asbestos abated in accordance with law before demolition? How qualified are Champion Environmental Services and Dukes Oil Service if they are unaware that notification of the state fire marshal and a permit are required prior to removal of an underground storage tank? Without fire marshal oversight, would the required clean-closure sampling and testing of the soil, following tank removal, have occurred? If not, the possibility of impacted soil remaining in place exists. If these requirements were knowingly ignored, I question their integrity. If they were unaware of them, I question their qualifications.

Lastly, I wonder about their ethics, if they thought it acceptable to pump oil into storm sewers. If Dukes is a licensed underground storage tank remediation contractor, they should know that notification of the state fire marshal’s office is required and you don’t pump oil into the sewer system. At a minimum, Dukes should be barred from future village work as should Champion, which seems ill-equipped to handle a project of this scale. The work is nearly three months behind schedule and likely to be delayed further.

Meanwhile, no parking revenue is being generated. How much more money will this cost the village? The Colt property is a continuing financial fiasco perpetrated by an earlier board that believed old buildings should be saved regardless of cost. When a study they commissioned indicated it was cost prohibitive to save or renovate the Colt building, it was ignored as it contradicted their preformed decision. So years later we have another money pit on our hands.

The lesson to be learned from this is that a cheap job done poorly is not cost effective. If one proposal is significantly less than the others for apparently the same work, it may be due to dangerous or potentially illegal shortcuts, use of improperly trained or inexperienced employees, or deliberate underbidding followed by change orders for additional funds. Hopefully the village will do a better review and investigation of its vendors prior to awarding contracts.

Donna Oswald, an Oak Park resident since 1990, has worked for two environmental engineering firms in the Chicago area since 1996.

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