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Will this ever get going???? What's the real story?

Waukegan, EPA spar on harbor priorities
November 14, 2008
By FRANK ABDERHOLDEN <!-- e --><a href="mailto:fabderholden@scn1.com">fabderholden@scn1.com</a><!-- e -->

WAUKEGAN -- PCBs are hard to get rid of because they are nearly indestructible, but the ones in Waukegan Harbor are tough because of competing interests among the various officials.

The first public meeting to comment on the new plan by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 shows just how complicated it can get, with the city and its environmental attorney wanting one thing and EPA officials and the Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group pushing for another.

The EPA outlined its plan to reduce PCBs in harbor sediment to .25 parts per million, which in five years will led to a drop in the amount of PCBs found in harbor fish. The project will cost $34 million, and the material will be placed on the old Outboard Marine property and capped in an area designated by the city as a nature area.

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Eighth Ward Ald. Rick Larsen said the economy of Waukegan is being overlooked because the plan would still allow for commercial boat traffic.

Eighth Ward Ald. Rick Larsen said the economy of Waukegan is being overlooked because the plan would still allow for commercial boat traffic, including cement and gypsum ships entering the harbor. The city wants a purely recreational boating harbor.

He would like to see the EPA cap everything (Alternative No. 5) for $9.6 million.

The city's environmental attorney, Jeffery Jeep, questioned why the dredging costs vary so much over the years and also requested that the comment period be extended.

He and Ray Vukovich, city administrator, both questioned why they would clean the harbor before cleaning up the last remaining building that contains PCBs, since the contaminants could eventually migrate to the harbor and re-pollute it.

"You patch the leaking roof before you repair the ceiling in the living room," Vukovich said.

Keven Adler, site supervisor for the EPA, said that was a possibility, but they do not have the funding for it. The PCBs in the harbor pose an immediate health threat to the general public because it is found in the fish people catch and eat. The building that Jeep and Vukovich cited is contained and being maintained by the city.

Suzi Schreiber, chairman of the citizen advisory group, said the city bought the building and knew it was contaminated. She felt they should keep moving forward, clean the harbor and get as much of the contaminate out as possible and then work to get funding for the building.

"It just seems logical to clean it as good as you can get it. As long as you (the city) keep saying no, nothing happens," she said. "The job we have is to go forward."

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