EPA in Illinois

Pilsen Area Soil Site

On this page

See map, which shows Areas 1 through 10 representing segments along the spur and alley.

July 2016 Update

Operable Unit 1 (OU1): EPA oversaw the removal by BNSF contractors of tracks and ties along the railway spur.  EPA also oversaw the excavation and disposal of lead-contaminated soil from the railroad spur and alley by H. Kramer contractors. Work was completed in Areas 1-2 and 4-10, which have been covered with either a compacted gravel cap or asphalt.

Next steps: EPA will continue to work with the city of Chicago to address any concerns in portions of soil adjacent to Area 2.

Operable Unit 2 (OU2): Earlier this year EPA reached out to owners of 130 properties by mail, phone, and in person in an effort to gain access for soil sampling. Between a 2013 round of sampling and another one this year, EPA has sampled or has overseen the sampling of over 50 properties. There are a number of properties in OU2 that have been determined to have permanent covers with no exposure to bare soil. EPA continues to work with the city of Chicago and community organizations to identify and reach out to property owners about this project.

Next steps: Under the Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for Removal Action, EPA and H. Kramer will review the data from samples collected this year. Once the sampling analysis report is finalized, EPA will continue working with H. Kramer and the city of Chicago to determine next steps in addressing lead concerns in OU2. Owners whose property was sampled this year should be getting their result letters later this summer.

Site Description

Operable Unit 1 (OU1): OU1 consists of an east-west alley between West 21st Street and West Cermak Road and between South Loomis and South Throop Streets. It also includes a railway spur that begins on South Laflin Street just north of the Benito Juarez Community Academy athletic field and ending on West Cermak Road just east of South Loomis Street. (See map, which shows Areas 1 through 10 representing segments along the spur and alley.)  Areas 1 and 2 stretch east-west just north of the school’s athletic field. Those 2 areas have separate work plans for areas owned by BNSF and the city of Chicago.

Operable Unit 2 (OU2): OU2 is a residential area bounded by 18th Place to the north, a north-south alley between Allport Street and Racine Avenue to the east, 21st Street to the south, and Loomis Street to the west. There are about 178 residential properties in this 25-acre OU2 site. About 121 of the properties have non-permanent covers in their yards such as bare soil, grass or gravel and are the focus of EPA actions.

Site Background

EPA has been investigating lead contamination in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood since 2011, when it became involved with a cleanup at the former Loewenthal Smelter. Residents requested additional investigation into potential lead contamination given the area’s long industrial history. In December 2012, EPA took soil samples from an alley behind the H. Kramer smelting facility. In 2013, EPA collected soil samples along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF)-operated railroad spur between 21st Street and Cermak Road, as well as at several residential properties.

EPA continues to work closely with the City of Chicago and neighborhood organizations to provide information to residents about steps they can take to reduce exposure to lead contamination.