CHICAGO (CBS) — Families living in one Chicago neighborhood could finally get the answers they’ve been pushing for.
On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is testing the soil in Mount Greenwood for potentially hazardous chemicals.
CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reports from 11th and Drake with the details.
The U.S. EPA said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wrote the agency a letter late last year asking for an investigation. It’s testing this week to find out whether there is something hazardous in the ground.
The test results will help the U.S. EPA decide what to do next.
The sound of machines taking soil samples is the sound of progress for Mount Greenwood mom Janessa Cannon.
“It’s a relief,” Cannon said. “These citizens have been fighting for answers for 15 to 20 years.”
Cannon and others in Mount Greenwood have suspected for years that contamination in the area could be causing cancer.
“The family members of lost ones, they just wanna know what’s going on,” Cannon said.
Ramon Mendoza of the U.S. EPA said in the early 2000s, a dry cleaning business on 111th Street hired a company for environmental testing. Mendoza said that test indicated the business had an onsite spill of a potentially hazardous chemical used in dry cleaning.
“The problem was they hadn’t cleaned it up,” Mendoza said.
The U.S EPA said it is now testing to see whether that chemical spread off the property.
“People who get exposed to it, they can get cancer at high enough levels,” added Mendoza.
Mendoza said these tests will be going on this week near 111th and Drake and the results will hopefully be in by late May. He said the tests will not focus on drinking water, but on what people could be breathing in.
He said the U.S. EPA is open to suggestions on other spots to test in the area.
According to Medoza, the Illinois EPA did not contact the U.S. EPA about the area of the dry cleaners until late last year.
“That program they were working under is a state voluntary cleanup program. We don’t generally get involved with something that the state is involved in unless we are called in. In this case, we were called in,” Mendoza said.
CBS 2 reached out to the Illinois EPA asking when they knew about the initial tests here. The agency said in 2001, the cleaners entered the state’s Site Remediation Program, but it was removed in 2013. CBS 2 reached out for more information on why.
Mendoza said the person who owned the dry cleaners in the early 2000s has died. He said they no longer clean clothes on site. CBS 2 also asked for the current owner and the woman who walked to the counter said she did not want to do an interview.
Residents with questions or concerns on the testing can contact Adrian Palomeque, the US EPA’s Community Involvement Coordinator, at 312-353-2035 or palomeque.adrian.@epa.gov.