Federal District Court Judge John Z. Lee today rejected efforts by Nicor and ComEd to dismiss the City of Evanston’s suit claiming operation of the former Skokie Manufactured Gas Plant led to pollution in and around James Park.

The judge did dismiss one of six counts in the suit — for local ordinance violations — and limited the options for penalties under another count — regarding a federal environmental statute.

But it agreed the city could go forward with its other claims — for trespass, private nuisance, public nuisance and breach of contract.

Evanston Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar said the court could ultimately impose substantial damages against the utilities in addition to requiring them to pay the cost of remediation activities

The city claims that coal tar and related byproducts created at the gas plant leaked into the soil and groundwater at James Park and the surrounding area and have coated and penetrated a water line running along Dodge Avenue and that as they degraded they released methane gas that has been found at high pressure and concentration in the area.

Farrar says that the court’s ruling today means that the utility companies must file answers to the city’s complaint.

But a final decision in the dispute, which has been underway since 2014, could still be years away.

The case has led to a substantial increase in the city’s costs for outside legal help, which has grown to more than $1 million a year over the past two years.

The city says that despite the pollution problems the city’s water remains safe to drink.

Related document

Judge Lee’s Memorandum Opinion and Order (1/17/17 .pdf)

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Shameful

    Grant Farrar should be ashamed. Over $1 million of taxpayers dollars spent on a frivolous lawsuit.

    1. Don’t forget the drinking water scare!

      This lawsuit has our entire neighborhood up in arms about what could potentially be leaking into our drinking water.  I have to wonder at the timing of all of these actions.  Aren’t we trying to sell water to neighboring communities?  If I lived in one of those communities considering contracting with Evanston, I’d be pressuring my city government to look elsewhere for water until all of the questions around safe drinking water were answered sufficiently in Evanston.

      1. James Park is effectively a landfill with issues
        James Park and especially Mt. Trashmore is a landfill and it’s no surprise that various gases are found there. Not sure if this is a drinking water issue or not (it might be) but it sure seems like the city wants to do anything but acknowledge that it might have a problem and is desperate to place blame elsewhere ($1 Million in legal fees and rising). I’m sure there’s better use for that money.

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