The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Thursday it made an agreement with Peoples Gas for the company to investigate 11 former manufactured gas plant sites in Chicago. Peoples will investigate contamination on each site and evaluate potential cleanup options.

The process is expected to continue through 2009. Final cleanup determinations will be made by EPA in consultation with the agency’s Illinois branch, the City of Chicago and area residents.

“Peoples Gas deserves credit for stepping forward with a plan that will help solve this long-term problem,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Mary A. Gade. “Addressing those 11 sites under a single agreement should also get properties cleaned up faster.”

All of the properties covered by the agreement are relatively close to the Chicago River, which was a transportation route when the manufactured gas facilities operated. The plants produced gas from coal from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries. After World War II, coal gas was phased out and replaced with natural gas. Waste from manufactured gas operations includes tar, oil, cinders and coke (coal residue). The material contains polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead.

Four of the sites are clustered near Goose Island on the north side and five are on the south side along the river between Halsted Street and Ashland Avenue.

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