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EPA Testing Soil in Pilsen for Lead Contamination

By Stephanie Lulay | January 22, 2016 10:47am | Updated on January 25, 2016 8:35am
 The EPA was involved in clean up at the former Lowenthal lead factory site in 2013.
The EPA was involved in clean up at the former Lowenthal lead factory site in 2013.
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DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

PILSEN — After lead contamination was found in the area in 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to test soil in a residential area of Pilsen.

The EPA will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the basement of Holy Trinity Croatian Church, 1850 S. Throop St., to discuss the soil sampling. A public meeting, presented in both English and Spanish, follows at 6:30 p.m.

The EPA is seeking permission from about 121 property owners to test soil in yards and gardens in the area bounded by 18th Place to the north, an alley halfway between Allport Street and Racine Avenue to the east, 21st Street to the south and Loomis Street to the west. The lead testing will help officials determine if a cleanup is needed.

Property owners can grant the EPA access by completing a form online.

The agency has been investigating lead contamination in Pilsen since 2011, when the EPA became involved with a cleanup at the former Loewenthal lead factory.

In 2013, the EPA found dangerously high levels of lead in an alley behind the H. Kramer smelting factory. The contaminated site was located near a community garden, frightening residents who worried the contamination could affect their health. The site was later cleaned up.

In 2013, the EPA collected soil samples along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF)-operated railroad spur between 21st Street and Cermak Road, as well as at several residential properties.

In November 2015, under an agreement with the EPA, BNSF Railway and H. Kramer began removing lead-contaminated soil from two areas in the Pilsen neighborhood — a railway spur and alley behind the H. Kramer foundry and an area near Benito Juarez Community Academy.

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