PILSEN — Five years ago, Pilsen resident Sallie Gordon wanted to start a community garden that would unite her neighborhood around farming and other activities.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) pointed her to vacant land near 21st and Sangamon streets, and in 2009, she and others started the GrowingStation, a space where residents gathered to plant everything from lettuce to jalapeno peppers in pots and large planting beds.
But in December, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency found lead levels of nearly 26,000 parts per million — an incredibly dangerous level — just 10 feet from the garden that now has Gordon and other community members frightened about their health. Already, they've had to throw away $400 of mulch stored on top of the contaminated soil that was meant to be used in the garden.