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Pilsen Area Soil Site Assessment

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  • Chicago, IL (Cook County)

Contact Information

Community Involvement Coordinator
Heriberto León (leon.heriberto@epa.gov)
312-886-6163 or 800-621-8431, ext. 66163 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

On-Scene Coordiantor
Ramon Mendoza
312-886-4314 or 800-621-8431, ext. 64314

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EPA is conducting an investigation into lead contamination in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.  There are many potential sources of lead in soil, including industrial air emissions, lead-based paint, past emissions from the use of leaded gasoline, lead solder, car batteries and some types of pesticides. EPA has not yet determined the specific sources of the Pilsen-area lead contamination.

As part of its investigation, EPA first collected soil samples from the alley behind an active smelting facility in December 2012. The alley runs east to west between Loomis and Throop Streets, just north of West Cermak Road (see map in the photo gallery). The alley is about 600 feet long and 15 feet wide and is roughly paved over a third of its length from the east side.

Laboratory analysis found elevated levels of lead. Soil close to the surface was found to have lead levels as high as 6,600 parts per million (ppm) with an average of 2,748 ppm. Soil from below the surface (between 6 and 24 inches deep) had lead levels as high as 9,300 ppm with an average of 4,736 ppm. More detailed information is available in this report and presentation. (PDF) (17 pp, 2.3MB).

EPA is working with the City of Chicago and local environmental organizations to ensure that the public is informed and involved to the maximum extent possible. EPA recommends that residents maintain and/or cover any exposed soil on their property with grass, mulch, gravel, or pavement to keep from coming into direct contact with lead-contaminated soil.

Here is more information about lead:

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You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

March 2014 Status Update

EPA completed four rounds of soil sampling in a number of residential yards and other properties throughout the Pilsen neighborhood in 2013.  EPA expects to complete its analysis of all the non-residential soil samples in the spring and the rest in the fall of  2014.

Soil samples along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF)-owned railroad spur near South Loomis Street between 21st Street and Cermak Road show high levels of copper, lead and zinc. EPA is working with BNSF to prevent public access to the area and determine the next steps needed to address contamination along the spur.

The complete validated results for the railroad spur area are here, Validated Data Results (PDF) (26pp 720K)

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