Between the early 1940s and the mid-1970s, more than 4 billion pounds of explosives were manufactured and assembled at the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. The facility closed in 1977, eliminating nearly 8,000 jobs. Because of extensive contamination, two Superfund sites were designated on the 36-square mile property. The Army is responsible for cleanup under EPA and Illinois EPA supervision.
The plant was declared excess property in 1993, opening for development more than 23,000 acres of open space 40 miles southwest of Chicago. Under the leadership of Congressman Sangmeister, the Joliet Arsenal Citizens Planning Commission was charged with creating a redevelopment plan. The Commission’s 24 members represented business, community, and environmental groups as well as federal, state, and local governments.
The Commission’s proposed reuse plan was unanimously approved and served as the basis for legislation introduced by Congressman Weller, titled The Illinois Land Conservation Act of 1995. The bill, signed in 1996, is being implemented by the US Army, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Will County, and the State of Illinois.
Recently, the parties used a consensus-based process to resolve disagreements over cleanup levels that had halted their progress. A hired facilitator helped stakeholders break the stalemate, including citizens, environmental groups, and federal, state, and local governments.