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Contaminated Soil Halts Construction of Kerry Wood Cubs Field

By Patty Wetli | March 5, 2013 11:52am | Updated on March 5, 2013 12:54pm

ROSCOE VILLAGE — Kerry Wood Cubs Field is going on the disabled list — and is likely out for the season — after contaminants found in the soil forced a work stoppage on construction of the $5 million, 1,100-seat stadium.

"It's just contained to that site. There is no danger," said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who was present at the stadium's groundbreaking last fall.

Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District, which are among the  partners in the stadium, are in the midst of preparing a site remediation plan to be filed with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Pawar said.

"We're making sure we're doing everything we have to do and doing it appropriately," said Pawar

Though Pawar didn't have a timetable for when construction would resume or details on who would pay for the clean up, he vowed, "This site will be remediated."

Representatives for the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Cubs all confirmed issues with the soil on the site, behind Lane Tech College Prep High School and part of Richard Clark Park.

None named the specific contaminants found.

"We don't yet have details on the soil issues, but the area has been isolated and made safe while we take next steps," CPS told DNAinfo.com Chicago.

Turner Construction, which is overseeing the stadium build, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

"Everyone's working together to remediate the area and move forward," said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, Park District spokeswoman.

"It's not unusual that after you do digging you might find something."

Yet, there are indications that the contaminants shouldn't have come as a surprise.

According to Christopher Dignam, Lane Tech principal, the site sits on a former landfill, and objects have been discovered that date back to the Great Chicago Fire.

In 2007, he said, Lane replaced its football field, and the soil dug up as part of that project — which was dumped onto the ground of what would become Cubs Field — was found to be contaminated.

It took a year for that soil to be removed, said Dignam.

"The whole thing's mystifying to me," said Bill Donahue, president of the Clark Park Advisory Council.

According to Donahue, who's monitored the goings-on at Clark Park for more than two decades, the city should have had an environmental study on record from its purchase of the land in the 1990s, which it acquired from UPS.

A study would have included not only surface samples but soil taken from depths of 4 feet and 8 feet, he said.

"If they did these all over the property, which they should have ... It's just common sense," Donahue said.

"Why would they wait til the 11th hour? It's just typical of the city to put themselves in that position. I think there's some embarrassment to be shared here."

Considering that the remediation plan has not been filed, it's likely the stadium will remain on hold for the entire 2013 season, giving players and coaches plenty of practice uttering a refrain that's become all to familiar with Cubs fans.

Wait till next year.