Silliker Lab Set to Leave Chicago Heights
Residents near the food-testing lab say the business was often smelly, but its departure stirs up a fresh batch of concerns.
As laboratory giant Silliker, Inc. prepares to leave its Chicago Heights site this Friday, some residents are nostalgic, but others assert they've endured years of obnoxious odors wafting from their corporate neighbor—and are glad to see it go.
And, they say they now fear Silliker's former lab will be left unguarded against thieves and filled with chemicals.
"Our whole house smells like garbage because of this place, just smells awful," said resident Sue Wallace, who says she's lived in her home near the intersection of 13th and Halsted since 1988.
"We can't even go in our own backyard and barbecue without being bothered by the smell."
Wallace said brown liquid had often oozed from drains near the building, and that last April, she and her husband contacted the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency after discovering a bag of discarded syringes in her yard.
Dennis McMurray, a spokesman for the Illinois EPA, said Tuesday he was not able to immediately confirm or provide details about Wallace's complaint.
"They're (Silliker) leaving Friday, but are they going to clean this up?" asked Wallace. Besides the potential presence of chemical drums, Wallace said she's worried that the former lab will be a magnet for metal thieves who prey on vacant properties throughout Chicago Heights.
"Will they have security to contain the place? People will be going over there to rip off the building," said Wallace, a self-described 1978 Bloom Trail graduate.
"It's a hazard if no one is there," agreed Chicago Heights resident Paula Wakefield, who also lives near the Silliker site. "They've got air conditioning units and everything. They have had security 24 hours a day here, but it won't take them (criminals) long to figure out that no one is here."
However, Alderman Joshua Deabel, who said he worked at Silliker from 1996 to 1999, has had kinder words for the lab giant.
"They've employed people from around the community, it has been a good stepping stone," said Deabel.
And while some residents have expressed fear that the pathogens tested by the company could pose a risk to their health, Deabel disagrees. "They test bad things, they're not making them," he said.
However, Deabel agreed that the residents should receive more information from Silliker.
"There hasn't been a lot of communication with Silliker and residents at large," said Alderman Joshua Deabel. "It's been quiet, where people go by and say, 'oh, what is that.'
Silliker spokesman John Williams told Patch.com Tuesday he was not able to immediately respond to community concerns about the company's Chicago Heights facility.
Williams said he might be able to provide information Wednesday concerning any transition plan for securing and cleaning the former Silliker lab building.
When Silliker, which specializes in food testing and other lab work, signaled its plans to move and build a $9.8 million dollar facility in Crete, published reports quoted Crete Mayor Michael Einhorn as describing the laboratory as a "boutique" client.
The firm has described its new location between Steger and Richton roads as one of the largest in the world.
According to the company's website, Silliker is a division of France–based Mérieux NutriSciences Corp., which reportedly boasts annual sales of more than $350 million.
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