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Companies in Oak Creek seek to remediate lakefront properties

Nov. 7, 2012

Oak Creek - Residents will soon be seeing work trucks rolling down to the lakefront and workers cleaning areas around abandoned factories. DuPont and EPEC, owners of lots in need of remediation, will begin groundwork on the sites Monday.

The city has been working with the SmithGroupJJR to revitalize more than 250 acres of lakefront that previously had been used by heavy manufacturing firms. The plan is create a vibrant commercial area with some housing and places for the public to come and enjoy the lakefront.

To take on such a task, the city has to overcome myriad obstacles. Many of the properties were being used for manufacturing before the Environmental Protection Agency existed, and now are left contaminated with various toxic and carcinogenic substances in varied concentrations. The sites are owned by different entities, that have differing levels of interests in their land. Each property is contaminated in a different way and requires a different approach to land use, city officials have said.

To combat most of these problems, Oak Creek has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to have each property owner participate in the Voluntary Party Liability Exemption program.

Each owner must go through a rigorous series of steps to clean their sites, but once their sites meet DNR approval, the state assumes any liability for any future environmental cleanup and the city takes over the land. This means if any additional contamination is found later, the extra money required to clean it up won't come from the property owners or Oak Creek residents.

Work will continue on the sites as long as the weather permits. Remediation efforts will pick back up in early 2013 and the city plans to have the sites ready for development in late 2014-15.

The sites that require the most remediation are the EPEC, Connell and DuPont properties, located along the shoreline, east of Fifth Avenue and between Ryan and Depot roads. Most of the sites require a soil cap, which will basically bury the contaminants under 30,000 cubic yards of soil. The groundwater is contaminated, but with the city's water supply coming from Lake Michigan, the main remediation concern is to hold the water in place.

"The DNR is satisfied with the plans that we have because they won't create a public health risk," City Administrator Gerald Peterson said. "There clearly are contaminants on the site and they're going to remain, but the public won't be exposed to them."

EPEC Polymers

ADDRESS: 4240 E. Ryan Road

ACRES: 57.6

PAST USES: polymer factory and Boerke landfill

THE FUTURE: The plan is to turn most of what was once EPEC into a public access park and to build a corporate conference center on the east side of the property.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN: The ground and groundwater in the area is contaminated with industrial waste and must be capped before it can be developed.

The site's land runs to the lake and must be graded to support drainage.

Ryan Road is slated to be expanded closer to the lake and have it curve north, eventually connecting with American Avenue. The new road is to be called Lakefront Drive.

DuPont

ADDRESS: 9180 S. Fifth Ave.

ACRES: 56.76

PAST USES: polymer factory

THE FUTURE: athletic fields

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN: Much like EPEC Polymers' land, DuPont's site has soil and water contamination. The city's plan for the property, directly to the north of EPEC and south of American Avenue, is to place a cap of soil on it and turn it into a park. The cap would be similar to the one at EPEC, in that it could not be pierced and would be checked annually by the DNR. The majority of where DuPont now stands would turn into athletic fields. The proposed Lakefront Drive is slated to run along the east and north sides of the fields.

Connell Aluminum Properties

ADDRESS: 9100 S. Fifth Ave.

ACRES: 22.2

PAST USES: aluminum plant, previously owned by Vulcan

THE FUTURE: amphitheater and green space flanked by neighborhood retail stores.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN: The area must be capped and will serve as an event venue. The plan, titled Carrollville Green, is to have sculpted land leading to the amphitheater with open space between the small stores on the north and south sides, along Depot Road and American Avenue.

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