The spit of land east of Lake Shore Drive, North of the Chicago River, and south of Ogden Slip could be ready to be turned into DuSable Park (401 North Lake Shore Drive) any day now.
It’s been a long time since the Chicago Dock and Canal Trust donated that particular sore thumb of land to the City of Chicago for use as a public park. So far, there’s little to show for it. The reason is simple — thorium.
The land that makes up DuSable Point (what we’re going to call the space until it becomes a park) is actually landfill from the 1800’s. And until very recently, it was also contaminated with radioactive thorium, possibly by the Lindsay Light and Chemical Company that once operated in Streeterville. As recently as 2000, the EPA took radiation readings, and even at the surface it found elevated gamma radiation readings. Radiation was also detected during construction in the area in 2007 and 2008.
Now word comes from Daniel Cooper, an environmental engineer at the Chicago Park District that, “The remediation work is just about complete.”
The Environmental Protection Agency kicked in $250,000 to dig up 115 cubic yards of dirt at DuSable Point and wrap it in massive plastic bags. Mike Joyce with the EPA’s Region 5 Superfund Division tells us, “The bags of contaminated soil should be shipped soon. The Park District had to send a sample of the soil to the hazardous waste facility that accepts such waste so the facility can test it, verify the content, and give the OK for shipment.”
Once the dirt is gone, DuSable Point will once again be safe to turn into parkland. Though it’s only 3.3 acres in size, it has epic views of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, the Chicago River, and most of the fireworks displays that happen in Chicago. Plus, it’s adjacent to the over-utilized lakefront path where any additional space is very welcome.