Ten years ago the Ekberg Pine Manor Park on Rockford's southeast side was designation as a superfund site, along with some farmland owned by Glen Ekberg.
Industrial work in the 1950s left behind dangerous chemicals that seeped into the ground. Ekberg donated a portion of the land to the park district. He grows alfalfa on the other side, a crop he says is helping to remove the chemicals from the ground.
"Those roots of the alfalfa go down 20 feet. They will survive and thrive by eating up these vocs. They break it down," said Ekberg.
Ekberg points to tests from the Environmental Protection Agency as proof. In 1995 EPA well testing discovered 8,000 parts of contamination per billion. A test done nine years later found 2,500 parts per billion.
"I'd love to see this thing resolved without any cost to anybody," said Ekberg.
The EPA estimates cleanup will cost taxpayers $6 million. The park district has already set aside thousands for the effort. Aside from the financial benefits, supporters of Ekberg's plan say it would also keep the park and Ekberg's farming operations from being disrupted.
"I'm really excited to learn more and have this thing verified. I think it could have great implications for Rockford and nationwide," said 10th ward Rockford alderman, Frank Beach.
Ekberg presented his idea to the EPA last week in Chicago. EPA leaders says it will take some time to review the proposal and decide how to proceed.