Originally Printed at RichardFreePress.com
After nearly a decade, measures may soon be taken by the State of Illinois that would lead to the remediation of a site in Tinley Park that once housed a mental health center.
Tinley Park Village Manager Patrick Carr updated the Village Board of Trustees Tuesday, Feb. 1, on the status of a possible agreement with Illinois Central Management Services that would allow the Village to purchase the site.
"We have come to an agreement with CMS as it relates to terms of an agreement that will be put forth in the spring session of the legislature," Carr said during the board meeting. "We have worked diligently over the last three months with CMS. It has been very productive. We are pretty confident that this is a win-win situation for the Village and the state. We will continue to work with them and wait for our amendment to the CMS bill to be put forward in the spring session. From there, after it is passed, we will get together … for the purchase sale agreement and intergovernmental agreement with the state for the final transfer of the property."
Carr said there was no exact timeline on when things would move forward.
"But we are very happy that it has gotten to this point where we have something in writing," he said. "We are pretty confident that this will go through."
Mayor Michael Glotz thanked Carr and Village Attorney Paul O'Grady for their work on moving the legislation forward.
"This was the first time ever that we have anything in writing," Glotz noted.
He also said that the Village had an "insurance plan," as Illinois State Rep. Tim Ozinga introduced House Bill 4950 that if passed would appropriate $15 million from the Build Illinois Bond Fund to remediate the Tinley Park Mental Health Center. Ozinga also introduced HB 4951 that if approved would authorize CMS to convey the mental health center site to Tinley Park.
Glotz said an issue with the bill that the Village has worked on with CMS is that it must first go to the state senator who represents Tinley Park, State Sen. Michael Hastings.
"We have probably sent him over 30 messages, including text messages and emails over the last year," Glotz said. "He just refuses to respond or contact us in any way, shape or form. The bill has to go through him first, so we are not sure he is going to introduce it or not."
Glotz said if Hastings does not introduce the bill, the Village will need to find another representative to do so. But "either way," he said the Village would be covered with the House bill from Ozinga.
The progress regarding the mental health center comes after a May 2021 press conference Glotz and the Village held at the site calling on state lawmakers and government agencies to either sell the property or take measures to remediate the site. The call to action was after a water main break occurred on the site earlier that month and spilled a reported 2 million gallons of water onto what Glotz called "contaminated soil" and into the nearby storm sewer.
The former mental health center site – located along 183rd Street and Harlem Avenue – is approximately 280 acres and made up of about 45 structures. The site has underground tunnels, 10 underground fuel storage tanks, five above ground storage tanks, three landfills, 22 state-owned transformers and a lime pit.
A 2014 hazardous materials survey by Tetra Tech found as many as 95 drums of hazardous materials on the site, with hundreds of more containers filled with hazardous materials and buildings filled with asbestos. The consulting and engineering firm estimated that it would cost approximately $12.4 million to remediate the site.
A December 2019 inspection by the Illinois Environmental Protection found that "several environmental areas of concern were observed and noted by the Agency's inspectors. The inspection report stated that the inspectors did not enter most of the buildings because of "the presence of asbestos containing material" or because of visible black mold. But in the water treatment plant building, an inspector equipped with a respirator was able to observe three pallets of aluminum sulfate, broken bags of potash, four dozen cans of paint thinner and old fluorescent bulbs still installed in the ceiling. Inspectors also reported finding "rolled up comforters and other bedding in the tunnel that suggested the tunnel has been used as a shelter by vagrants."
In February 2020, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (1st District – Illinois) asked the U.S. EPA to take over the remediation of the site. But no action has been taken at the site regarding remediation yet.
Questions to Carr about further information regarding the proposed deal with CMS have not been returned as of publication.