More than 100 properties within a primarily residential zoning of the DePue Superfund site that have owners who have not responded to requests for their soil to be sampled.
Toxic soil and water pollution left behind by a zinc smelting facility and phosphate fertilizer plant in the village decades ago is the responsibility of ExxonMobil and CBS (formerly Viacom) to clean up.
“The opportunity is now. (Property owners) need to realize that once it’s gone, it’s not coming back.”— Jennifer Lamkin, a member of the DePue Citizens Advisory Group
The companies have been working on cleanup in this operable unit since 2020, and projected the work would take about five years with about 800 properties needing examination, said representatives Wednesday during a community advisory group meeting of the DePue Citizens Advisory Group.
According to the EPA, the site is contaminated with elevated levels of metals that includes zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and copper. Soil sampling is taken and cleanup is handled by the companies, if necessary, all at no cost to the property owners. Contractors provide residents with the permission forms to allow them to collect soil samples. This process is offered free of charge to the property owners. Lab results then are mailed to the property owner after analysis.
Authorization, however, is necessary for sampling or work to occur, and representatives said Wednesday these 111 property owners have not communicated whatsoever.
“The opportunity is now,” said Jennifer Lamkin, a member of the DePue Citizens Advisory Group. “(Property owners) need to realize that once it’s gone, it’s not coming back.”
While the citizens group speculated some property owners have been difficult to contact, Lamkin asked if Thomas Dobrich, who is heading the advisory group, or the village government could send letters to those who haven’t responded, because some of the holdouts may not understand the issue, and others may trust the message more coming from a local voice.
Misinformation and a lack of education of the work being done may be leading to hesitant property owners, the group also speculated.
The citizens advisory group discussed how not addressing whether the property is contaminated can affect the property’s value and discourage potential buyers.
The DePue Superfund Site is a 950-acre area divided into six operable units because of its size and complexity. The units include: South Ditch, Phosphogypsum Stack, Former Plant Site Area, off-site soils/residential, Lake DePue and Flood Plain and off-site soils for agricultural and ecological areas.
The citizens advisory group heard the latest report of the action at each operable unit Wednesday, including a presentation earlier Wednesday on cleaning up the Lake DePue operable unit in a manner that preserves the community’s use of the recreational waterway. The group will meet again May 10 at the Village Clerk’s Office, 111 W. Second St.
Anyone looking for more information should contact community involvement coordinator Charles Rodriguez at 312-886-7472 or remedial project managers Rose Guardino at 312-886-2407 or Daniel Rodriguez at 312-886-6145. Go to https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0500396 for more information on the DePue Superfund site.