On this page:
- What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?
- What Is the Current Site Status?
- Activity and Use Limitations
- Green Remediation
- Emergency Response and Removal
- Enforcement Information
On related pages:
The Celotex site is located at 2800 S. Sacramento in a portion of Chicago's South Lawndale Community known as Little Village – a predominantly Latino neighborhood affected by environmental justice issues. U.S. EPA oversaw the cleanup of the Celotex site and residential properties near it between 2002 and 2009. In 2009 the City of Chicago signed an agreement (PDF) (95 pp, 4.89 MB, About PDF) with U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice agreeing to enhance the cleanup and develop the Celotex site as a public park using certain sustainable development practices. The agreement gave the city protection from potential liability for the contamination at the property. This paved the way for the sale of the site to the City of Chicago. The Chicago Park District acquired the site in 2012 to turn it into the recreational and green space that the community had envisioned for many years. The dream became a reality in 2014 with the opening of La Villita Park.
What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?
The Celotex site was used for making, storing and selling asphalt roofing products. In 1989, Illinois EPA received citizen complaints about coal tar present on their property due to Celotex. Illinois EPA found pollution at the site. U.S. EPA inspected the site in 1993 and informed the public of the potential health hazards. By late 1993, Celotex had removed all the buildings and visible polluted soils and material. Celotex covered the west side of the property with 2 feet of soil to even out the grade. A concrete trench had been sent off-site for grinding and then returned to the property for fill. EPA did not approve this work done by the Celotex Corp.
In mid-1994, EPA determined that no top soil had been placed over the site and there were no plants to hold the top soil layer together. EPA documented the flooding of residences on Troy Street due to heavy rains in 1995 and later met with the responsible companies to agree on a remedy that would ensure that future flooding would be prevented. EPA held several public meetings in 1995 and 1996. In August 1997, EPA informed residents that the site was re-graded and flooding would be resolved by a new sewage drainage system.
In June 1999, AlliedSignal Inc., one of the companies EPA identified as a potentially responsible party, submitted a draft engineering evaluation and cost analysis report to EPA. The draft report was revised per EPA comments. AlliedSignal Inc. acquired Honeywell Inc. in 1999 and became Honeywell International Inc., which agreed to perform the cleanup. In 2002, Sacramento Corp. bought the Celotex property and placed at least 2 feet of gravel on about 22 acres of the main site for company use. An additional two acres (also referred to as the Palumbo property) at the site were covered with porous clay or gravel as part of a cleanup plan approved in 2004. The plan also included digging up contaminated soil located in some nearby residential yards and disposing of it at an EPA-approved landfill.
What Is the Current Site Status?
In December 2014, the Chicago Park District opened the La Villita Park on the site. La Villita Park responds to the community’s vision for a vibrant multi‐use park, encompassing a wide range of recreation options, including:
- Natural grass and turf soccer fields
- Basketball courts
- Skate park
- Playground and splash park
- Picnic pavilion
- Walking trail and fitness stations
La Villita Park is accessible to pedestrians from 27th Street (north entrance) and 31st Street (south entrance). From the 27th Street entrance, paths guide visitors to two basketball courts, a skate park and a naturally landscaped playground and splash pad. A picnic pavilion and rest room facilities are centrally located. Central and southern portions of the park host two turf athletic fields with lighting and two natural grass, multi‐purpose athletic fields. Walking trails,
The Chicago Park District is responsible for the site’s long‐term stewardship as well as regular maintenance of La Villita Park. The city government’s presence at the site provides certainty for EPA that a responsible entity is in place to help monitor the site. The Park District’s investment in the site has created a valuable amenity that community members are proud to have in the neighborhood. Since park planning started, community perspectives have been a vital part of all phases of the process. Community members were involved in the design and naming of the park and are involved in the on‐going development of park programming.
Activity and Use Limitations
At this site, activity and use limitations that EPA calls institutional controls are in place. Institutional controls play an important role in site remedies because they reduce exposure to contamination by limiting land or resource use. They also guide human behavior. For instance, zoning restrictions prevent land uses – such as residential uses – that are not consistent with the level of cleanup.
For more background, see Institutional Controls.
EPA required use restrictions to limit disturbance of gravel cover without prior approval from the Agency, and to prevent future residential, commercial lodgings or daycare uses at the site. To ensure that the site remains safe for future uses, soil handling and maintenance plans are required for any construction that would modify the clay and gravel covers.
The site’s reuse provides a much‐needed community resource for the environmentally-overburdened and underserved Little Village neighborhood and Chicago’s South Lawndale Community Area. Prior to the site’s acquisition and development of La Villita Park, the South Lawndale Community Area had an open space deficit of nearly 80 acres and ranked second out of 77 community areas in need for open space. The site’s redevelopment has increased park acres and created new opportunities for sports, play and social interaction. This is the only park in the area where playgrounds, sports fields and basketball courts are all in one location. In addition, the park has one of the largest playgrounds in the city, while the community area in the northern part of the park serves as a space for farmers markets, festivals and other community events. Because of the green space, community leaders say the park has improved local quality of life and has made the community healthier. Collaboration, cleanup and reuse have transformed a site that was once an environmental and public health liability into a highly valued community asset.
Emergency Response and Removal
EPA and potentially responsible party Honeywell (successor to Celotex, Allied Signal and Allied Chemical and Dye) signed an Administrative Order on Consent in 1996 requiring Honeywell to conduct an Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EECA) for the Main Site and residential areas under EPA’s Superfund Removal program. A 1997 Data Report for the Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis identified the following contaminants of concern at the site:
- Volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at the main site in surface soils and subsurface soils at depths ranging from 0 to 18 feet.
- PAHs in residential areas northeast of the site.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a supplemental Health Consultation report for the site. It recommended that EPA clean up contaminated soil to reduce potential for exposure and that residents in affected areas take steps to reduce exposure to PAHs in soil by maintaining grass cover in yards. Following several years of interagency discussions, EPA and Honeywell presented the results of the EECA (PDF) (376 pp, 54.51MB) and a draft proposed cleanup plan (PDF) (6 pp, 365.28 KB) to the public in September 2004 at a community. Following significant community comments, EPA issued an Action Memorandum (PDF) (34 pp, 2.13 MB) in 2005 outlining the response actions, including additional residential yard sampling. Between 2006 and 2009, Honeywell completed the removal actions outlined in the 2005 Action
Memorandum, addressing contamination on the main site and in residential areas.
- Residential Area Removal Actions: Between 2006 and 2008, the potentially responsible parties and EPA sampled soils and met with property owners to discuss residential yard cleanup and landscape restoration. Honeywell excavated 14,000 tons of nonhazardous soil from 32 residential properties and transported the material off site for landfill disposal. Clean fill was used to backfill excavated residential yards and parkway buffer areas. The areas were then landscaped to pre‐removal conditions.
- Main Site Removal Action: From 2008 to 2009, Honeywell completed several removal actions, including excavation and off‐site disposal of 16,301 tons of contaminated soil, removal and off‐site disposal of 52,250 gallons of liquid waste, placement of additional gravel cover across the main site, and placement of 2 feet of clay fill as cover across the Former Asphalt Plant. Perimeter fencing was installed after completion of the removal actions.
As a condition of the acquisition, the City of Chicago needed assurances for liability protections that would enable the City and the Chicago Park District to invest in a large‐scale park development process. Through a collaborative effort among the City of Chicago Legal Department, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and EPA, the City obtained a Prospective Purchaser Agreement (PPA) that included a Superfund liability release and a covenant not to sue from DOJ. (PDF) (95 pp, 4.89 MB) EPA Region 5’s Office of Regional Counsel and City of Chicago attorneys identified settlement terms to ensure that the Chicago Park District would serve as a reliable long‐term steward of the site and its remedy. Agreements also stipulated that the Park District would use sustainable development approaches in developing a new park. In 2012, the City transferred ownership of the 24‐acre property to the Park District.