The state has paused construction at a Southwest Side site intended to house newly arrived migrants amid an environmental report that found toxic contaminants and heavy metals in its soil.
Construction was halted Sunday pending an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency review of a nearly 800-page city consultant’s study that was released Friday night. The review will determine whether the project goes forward.
The agency “still has questions regarding the study,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pritzker is committing $65 million for the shelter and directing the contractor on the site.
Late Friday, City Hall released the report that found a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals were present on the property.
Despite those findings, the city said the property will be “safe for temporary residential use” once the soil is cleaned up.
The privately owned industrial land at 38th and California is being leased by the city to shelter as many as 2,000 migrants.
Mayor Brandon Johnson has been promoting the site amid a firestorm of protests from residents who say they don’t want the shelter built.
The land is zoned for heavy manufacturing, has a long history of industrial use and has never been approved for residential purposes.
Despite City Hall’s stated confidence in the safety of the property, the city’s own consultant warned that activity should be halted if additional toxic materials are discovered.
“We cannot represent that the site contains no hazardous substances, toxic material, petroleum products or other latent conditions beyond those identified during this evaluation,” city consultant Terracon said in its report.
More than 1,000 migrants remain camped out at O’Hare International Airport and temporary shelters as of Friday, according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.