ABC 7 Features Roskam Tour of Kerr-McGee Facility

Jul 22, 2014

ABC 7 Features Roskam Tour of Kerr-McGee Facility

WEST CHICAGO—Today, Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06) joined community leaders for a tour of the Kerr-McGee facility site in West Chicago, which closed in 1973 after processing radioactive thorium for the federal government.  Roskam recently led a coalition to secure House passage of $20 million in federal funding for the environmental cleanup of similar sites nationwide that participated in atomic energy programs dating back to World War II.  

ABC 7 News was in West Chicago covering the story, which you can read here:

WEST CHICAGO, Ill. (WLS) -- Cleaning up contaminated soil in West Chicago was a project that started decades ago at the site of the former Kerr-McGee factory, but the job is still not done. One congressman is trying to secure millions to help finish the project.

Eyewitness News has reported on the DuPage County toxic waste site since the 1980s. Those cleaning it up worry the game is about to stop with their crews on the one-yard line. 

"A lot of good things have happened but we need to finish the job," said Dan Cronin, DuPage County chairman. 

The radioactive thorium is about 95% removed from what used to be a gas lighting plant, once owned by the now-defunct Kerr McGee company. But these nearby train cars could be among the last to leave here because there's not enough money to remove more contaminated soil. 

"We stop. (You stop?) We stop. (You just leave it here?) If you don't have funding you leave it here," said Deepak Bhojwani, engineer. 

The cleanup that began in the 1980s has already cost $1.2 billion. The Department of Energy has not budgeted its final $30 million share of remaining expenses:

"We need the money that the DOE owes us, that we submitted for, to finish this thing," said Kurt Stimpson, Weston Solutions. 

"Please. Thirty million bucks and it'll do a whole host of good things for people in this area," said Cronin. 

So far, over 200,000 tons of soil have been removed from the factory site, leaving only a small contaminated corner. But the land cannot be used again until all the work is done.

West suburban congressman Peter Roskam is leading the effort in Washington to convince politicians and bureaucrats there to awaken West Chicago from a three-decades-long environmental nightmare. 

"They've got a legal obligation to do it and they just have basically said, this is my interpretation, we'll get to it at some point. Well, that is no longer good enough. Let's get to it now and let's get this done promptly," said Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton. 

West Chicago wants to transform the 111-acre site into a park and recreation area. About 15,000 people live within a three-mile radius, and about $500 million was spent years ago to address contamination in nearby neighborhoods.