Illinois EPA extends Southeast Side waste dump operations another year

Yet to be determined is whether the EPA will issue a long-term permit to keep the area a waste dump for the next two decades.

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Behind the breakwater, a portion of the Confined Disposal Facility operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is visible from the lakefront near East Foreman Drive in the East Side neighborhood. The Army Corps of Engineers plans on expanding the facility. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency gave the green light Friday to extend operations of a Southeast Side waste dump for an additional year, despite long-held expectations that the land would be developed into a park.

The year-long permit allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue running its so-called confined disposal facility through Nov. 30, 2022. It was initially supposed to be an interim site for the river sediment removed from an industrial area of Chicago so commercial boats could navigate the Calumet River and Calumet Harbor in and out of Lake Michigan.

Since the disposal facility’s construction in 1984, several harmful metals and chemicals have been extracted from the dredged waters, including lead, mercury, arsenic, cyanide, cadmium and polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs.

In a news release sent Friday evening, environmental groups, though not surprised the EPA granted the year-long permit, voiced disappointment over the decision.

“It is clear that the health and well-being of Southeast Side community residents are not being prioritized,” Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, said in a statement. “We remain determined to resist any efforts to drag out the closure of the CDF and its conversion to a park as promised.”

The Illinois EPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Yet to be determined is whether the EPA will issue a long-term permit to keep the area a waste dump for the next two decades. The EPA is expected to make a ruling on the plan, put forward by the Army Corps and city of Chicago, next year.

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