A cleanup of contamination of a former mental health center in Tinley Park is moving along. The building was abandoned in 2012 and the long awaited cleanup process is finally becoming more of a reality. A piece of legislation signed by Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker says that 15 million dollars will be designated to the purpose of cleaning up contaminated areas and rebuilding the property. The area of the former mental health center may become a casino and a racetrack. The money that will be granted will be given to the village on Tinley Park, but a timeframe of when that will happen is still unclear.
Late in 2019 Tinley Park officials wrote to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and said that the conditions are hazardous for the environment and for all the residents living in the area. There are many dangerous things on the property, including asbestos.
During an inspection very few inspectors were allowed in the building as result of all the black mold and asbestos. “Any material that is not is not bare stone, glass, metal or untreated lumber should be considered suspect (asbestos) until proven otherwise by an authorized inspector” said Pete Bruskey of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Air.
Asbestos used to be used widely and commonly across the United States. It was used in roofing sealant, pipe lagging, glue for flooring, wall panels, ceiling tiles and many other things. It was fireproof and that seemed like, and indeed it was a good thing. Some people worked in asbestos factories. But it’s cons outnumbered its pros. Many people were getting sick and health officials finally drew the line between asbestos exposure and many of the sicknesses that people were getting. Asbestos particles are so tiny that they get trapped in peoples’ lungs and can cause cancer. Asbestos was banned in the 1970s. However many people had already suffered. Many of the buildings that were built before the 1970s may very likely contain asbestos.
Testing done in the former mental health center revealed environmental issues besides asbestos, although asbestos is a major concern. Things such as soil contaminated with mercury and lead as well as abandoned sewage treatment plan and leaking underground storage tanks.
The price of cleanup isn’t always cheap. In 2015 Tinley Park planned to pay the price of 4.16 million dollars, which was the asking price then. But they backed off of the offer.
Funding for the 45 million dollar Rebuild Illinois plan will have to be a result of higher taxes on fuel and money made from gambling and a casino.
State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, who worked to secure the allocation for Tinley Park, said the village would need to work out an agreement with the state to either get ownership of the site or gain access to it for the cleanup.
A complaint was filed by a Tinley Park resident Nancy O’Conner, which made Illinois Environmental Protection Agency inspectors come to the site in December. There were many known and unknown materials scattered around the property.