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updated: 12/11/2017 7:39 PM

Old fuel tanks, tainted soil being removed from preserve near Warrenville

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  • The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is having contaminated soil removed near the indoor horse riding arena at St. James Farm Forest Preserve near Warrenville.

    The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is having contaminated soil removed near the indoor horse riding arena at St. James Farm Forest Preserve near Warrenville.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Two multimillion-dollar projects at St. James Farm Forest Preserve are expected to remain on track despite the discovery of contaminated soil on the property near Warrenville.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County last month hired RW Collins Co. to remove two underground fuel storage tanks. The antiquated tanks -- one with diesel fuel and the other containing gasoline -- were unexpectedly found during a $2.9 million project to bring water and sewer service to St. James Farm.

"Both tanks were relatively full and not in too bad a condition," said Ed Stevenson, the district's executive director. "But we did our due diligence and contacted the state fire marshal and declared them to be leaking."

Crews have since removed the tanks and some tainted soil. But additional soil removal is needed, officials said.

Because the extra work will increase the total cost of the remediation to more than $20,000, forest preserve commissioners must vote on the expenditure. They are expected to talk about the issue during a Tuesday morning planning session.

It's unclear what the final cost will be. Officials said the plan is to dig until all the contaminated soil is removed.

"We're going to continue until our concerns, along with the concerns of the Illinois EPA, have been fully satisfied," Stevenson said.

Remediation is being done as work continues on the installation of water and sewer mains at St. James Farm. Other crews are working on a roughly $3.1 million project to improve the site's indoor horse riding arena.

The tanks were found in an area between the arena and the main parking lot. They are believed to be decades old and were used when St. James was an operating farm.

The forest preserve district bought St. James Farm from philanthropist and conservationist Brooks McCormick in 2000 for $43 million. It took possession of the more than 600 acres along Winfield Road after McCormick's death in 2006.

Despite the soil contamination, the water and sewer project is expected to be done by April.

Getting water service will allow for needed life-safety improvements so buildings at St. James Farm can be made available to the public. While the property is open to forest preserve users, residents can't spend time inside the stables and other historic buildings.

Meanwhile, the renovation and expansion of the indoor riding arena is expected to be completed by the end of May.

That project includes upgrading the HVAC, electrical and lighting systems and building an expansion that will feature a reception area, multipurpose room and restrooms.

"The public is going to realize that St. James Farm is an absolute gem of a property," Stevenson said. "It's got a rich history, and these improvements are going to prepare the property for public access and enjoyment for decades to come. Finding the tanks was a brief setback. But we're just glad that we were able to act quickly."

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