Petroleum tanks found underneath the site of the Oak Park Station development project near Lake and Harlem could potentially increase the cost of remediation to as much as $4 million.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek tells Wednesday Journal that soil samples taken at the village-owned parking lots where the residential mixed-use project will be built reveal that much of the site is contaminated by submerged petroleum tanks.

The original cost of environmental cleanup was estimated at $1 million, she said.

“It’s just part of having an older community and redeveloping; it’s not a farm field,” she said.

Pavlicek said the cleanup costs could be paid for with revenue from the Oak Park Downtown Tax Increment Finance District.

Village Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner said the TIF still generates about $8.3 million annually.

“Keep in mind that there’s a lot of debt service that eats that up,” he noted.

He said that once the project is completed, new tax revenue from the development could be used to offset the cleanup costs.

The village, however, will have to pay upfront the remediation costs through borrowing money from a different fund or by taking out a short-term loan.

Environmental review of the site began this summer, when Terracon, an environmental consultant hired by the village, began taking soil samples.

Tammie Grossman, the village’s Development Customer Service director, said the porous soil at the site has enabled the petroleum to spread throughout much of the south parking lot, which runs adjacent to North Boulevard.

“We won’t know exactly [how far it has spread] until we start digging up the ground,” she said.

Grossman said the price tag could be substantially higher than the original $1 million estimate because the contaminated soil will have to be removed and stored elsewhere.

“When you disturb the soil and move it, you have to take the contaminated soil somewhere,” Grossman said. “You have to be able to tell the people who haul the soil away where to take it, so you don’t put dirty landfill in a clean area.”

She said petroleum contamination is not the only environmental issue at the site, but it is the most expensive.

Although the cost could be as much as $4 million, Grossman emphasized that it could be much lower.

The cleanup requirement is mandated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which ordered the village to conduct additional testing. According to the village further tests were conducted in October and November.

It is uncertain when or by whom the petroleum tanks were installed at the site.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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