The Environmental Protection Agency has begun a long-anticipated cleanup project at the Hegewisch Little League field this week, with fences coming down and heavy equipment moving into the area.
The cleanup was undertaken after years of complaints by residents, alleging that the site was contaminated with various chemicals because of a nearby industrial corridor.
In 2013, the EPA began studying the ambient air in the area, and after residents voiced more concerns last year, the agency took a soil sample that revealed lead and arsenic contamination.
“We determined that half the field needs to be remediated due to the contamination,” EPA spokeswoman Kristina Miller said. “We will be removing contaminated soil and replacing it with clean backfill and restoring it to the condition in which we found it.”
Even with the agency’s move to clean up the site, some area residents are still furious, expressing concern that their children could have been exposed to pollutants for nearly a decade.
“It’s just disgusting,” resident Daniel Ralich said. “It’s sad my nephew can’t have fun here without worrying about getting sick.”
“For years we have been concerned about these ballfields,” Peggy Salazar added.
The clean-up project is expected to last for a least a month, costing the EPA an estimated $700,000.
At that cost, some residents have said they’d rather have a new field and playground rather than work being done to restore the existing site.
“With all the money they are spending, why not put in a new field?” resident Michelle Demkowicz said. “That way kids can have somewhere safe to play.”
The EPA is working with the Illinois Department of Public Health to analyze samples and answer the health-related questions residents may have, according to the agency.