In the middle of a commercial and residential area of Waukegan, about 42 miles north of Chicago, are 70 acres of empty land dotted with wooden posts bearing toxic gas monitors. This is Yeoman Creek Landfill, a former dumping ground for hazardous waste from homes and industry during the 1950s and 1960s. For decades it’s been a federal Superfund site – home to hazardous waste that was mismanaged badly enough to merit intervention by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But now, it’s looking at a second life as a renewable energy facility.
Cleanup to address high levels of methane and other toxic gasses is largely complete, though the EPA is still monitoring the site. The field isn’t suitable for many things, but for Paul Curran, it’s a business opportunity. His New York-based company, BQ Energy, is installing 20,000 solar panels on the Yeoman Creek site. He said it’s a $10 million project.
Curran said many Superfund sites, also known as “brownfields,” make ideal candidates for renewable energy facilities. “You don’t want parks or houses or any kind of public access on these types of properties,” Curran said. “But solar needs a lot of real estate. We need places with sun that [don’t] have a lot of trees or other impediments.”