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January 20, 2019

12/12/2018 3:04:00 PM
James Park Environmental Litigation Fees Near $6.5 Million
By Larry Gavin

Northern Illinois Gas Company and Commonwealth Edison Company (the Utilities) filed their response to the City of Evanston’s motion for preliminary injunction in the James Park environmental contamination case on Nov. 16. The federal court in Chicago held evidentiary hearings on the City of Evanston’s motion for preliminary injunction on eight days, starting in August and concluding on Sept. 7. On Oct. 12, the City of Evanston filed a brief in support of its motion. The RoundTable has previously summarized the City’s position.

The Utilities’ 40 page response disputes the City’s position that the “black crust” on the City’s water mains in the James Park area came from a manufactured-gas plant (MGP) formerly located on the west side of the Northshore Channel in Skokie. The response says that a forensic chemical analysis “conclusively establishes that the materials detected on and in the water main and at bedrock could not have come from the Skokie MGP.”  They also presented testimony that the black crust on the cast iron water mains contained polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons because during the fabrication of the iron pipes in 1925 they were “dipped in coal tar coating to inhibit corrosion, precisely as required by technical specifications of the time.” The Utilities say, “That coating disbanded over time and mixed into the pipe’s normal corrosion and tuberculation.”  Further, the Utilities argue the City’s theory that MGP byproducts could migrate from the MGP pipelines to the City’s water mains is “implausible.”

The Utilities also argue the methane beneath James Park is not due to tar that sank, but is naturally occurring, and further that “the methane deep beneath James Park does not present a danger, much less an imminent and substantial endangerment under RCRA.” They also argue, “The City’s claims of irreparable injury to drinking water are not credible when the City has repeatedly assured the public that its water is safe and has not taken any of the steps it now says are needed.”

The City’s motion for preliminary injunction is set for oral argument on Jan. 23.

To date, the City has incurred just under $6.5 million in attorneys’ fees and expenses in connection with the James Park litigation. In this year alone, it has incurred attorneys’ fees and expenses in the amount of almost $3.7 million.


Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2018
Comment by: Junad Rizki

I suspect the pipes were coated or they have coal tar fill placed on them from the existing road went they were placed in the ground..

Everyone should understand if we lose we are out $6.5 million dollars at a minimum, not to mention we might owe the other sides fees, which could be millions.

Isn't interesting we had a $6 million dollar budget hole this year?

Wouldn't a better course of action have been the City replace all the pipe around James Park first, document the fill issues, then taken legal action, if merited. i suspect all the pipe around the park could have been replaced for under $6 million dollars. Guess what if the City is so concerned about the residents what are they doing now?

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