“The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) strongly condemns the implosion of the Crawford coal plant smokestack by Hilco Redevelopment Partners (Hilco). For almost 2 years now, LVEJO, the Little Village community, and those in solidarity have been sounding the alarm to decision-makers on the lack of commitment, transparency, and responsibility by Hilco for the consequences of their redevelopment activities and demolition plans on neighborhood residents and workers. Despite their many statements, Hilco has not been accountable to the community and has dismissed the deep concerns of community leaders about the redevelopment of the site from a formerly polluting coal plant to a future polluting warehousing and distribution facility that would continue to have devastating impacts on public health in an already overburdened environmental justice community.
“In this case, Alderman Mike Rodriguez (22nd Ward) knew about the smoke stack implosion on April 2, 2020 and wrongly assumed Hilco would protect the health of nearby neighbors despite many warnings by LVEJO and neighborhood leaders to the contrary. Hilco and Alderman Rodriguez only issued a last minute “notice” the night of April 9 that failed to reach many affected households before the April 11th implosion. The City of Chicago (City) also permitted the implosion, trusting Hilco’s assurances that the company would use protective measures to contain dangerous activities. Despite our best efforts to stop the implosion once we knew about it at the same time the community was “notified,” on top of previous warnings about the company and their prior violations including the death of a community member on site, Hilco was allowed to move forward and completely failed to implement protective measures.
“The City also failed to consider how allowing Hilco to keep the demolition schedule during the COVID19 respiratory disease pandemic was reckless and may have severe consequences for a community already impacted by respiratory health issues if anything went wrong. Given the above, it is the State of Illinois (State of Illinois Office of the Governor, State of Illinois Office of the Attorney General, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency), Cook County (Cook County Board, Cook County Assessor’s Office), City of Chicago (City of Chicago Office of the Mayor, Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago Department of Buildings), 22nd Ward Alderman, and Hilco’s shared responsibility to provide immediate relief to Little Village community, including residents, those incarcerated in Cook County Jail, and businesses, as follows:
1. There must be immediate and comprehensive public disclosure of the mix of toxins and materials that made up the polluted dust cloud — the stack constituents — to enable affected residents to seek appropriate medical treatment and take any protective measures possible.
2. Hilco must take responsibility for all costs to assess the release of toxic dust and to remediate its effects, including a full cleanup of residences and all affected community areas. Hilco must also be held responsible to cover medical care for community members that result from this tragedy. A study to determine the nature and extent of the release and its impact of nearby residential and commercial properties must also happen immediately. Public disclosure of the pollutants will enable this to move forward.
3. We have reports that the dust entered the inside of homes of nearby residents during the implosion. The City of Chicago must release guidance on safely cleaning and handling of this dust by residents immediately who are waiting for more formal cleanup while living amongst the dangerous dust inside of their own homes. In the meantime, we strongly urge residents to be as careful as possible and avoid close contact with the dust as much as you can while the City determines what is in it. Use gloves, wear masks, stay away from it, and try not to disturb it as much as you can.
4. LVEJO and Little Village community renew our call for perimeter Particulate Matter (PM) monitoring at the fenceline of this site, a request that was previously made to and rejected by Chicago Dept. of Public Health and IL EPA last summer based on evidence of dust releases during demolition activities.
5. The release of air pollution beyond the boundaries of the property is a violation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. This case must be referred to the Illinois Attorney General for investigation and Hilco must be prosecuted by the State of Illinois for these violations to the fullest extent of the law.
6. There must be an immediate suspension of demolition activities on the site during the stay-at-home order and until the city can conduct an independent review of the demolition, the oversight exercised by city agencies, and additional measures that must be implemented to ensure the health, safety of nearby residents. This suspension of demolition must be extended to ALL sites across Chicago. This release is exactly the type of occurrence that a city demolition permit must be designed to prevent, but it did not do so here.
7. High quality protective masks must be distributed to those living in the Little Village community and adjacent areas impacted by the spread of dust. Residents have notified us that they only received 2-3 one-time-use masks but have multiple residents living in the building. Distribution should not just be the immediate surrounding blocks, but also include all the residents and the community incarcerated at Cook County Jail.
8. The Cook County Assessor’s Office must rescind the $19.7 Million dollar tax break Hilco received in January of 2019.