Environmental groups call for air monitoring, home air filtration system in small village after two years

Environmental activists are urging the city to pay for public air monitoring systems and air filtration for residents who live near the site of a dust storm caused by the demolition of the smoke plume.

More than two years after a dust cloud formed in Little Village following the demolition of the former Crawford coal plant, community groups say there are still unanswered questions about why the neighborhood was covered in dust on April 11, 2020. Hilco Development Partners oversaw the demolition. of property.

Groups including the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and the Southeast Environmental Task Force released a list of demands during a virtual news conference on Monday.

“What this means for our neighborhood is not what we’re exposed to in the dust for more than 800 days, what’s left in the soil, or long-term health effects,” said Kim Wasserman, executive director of Little Village Environmental Justice. organization.

They want to see the installation of a paid public air monitor system to use the $19,500 Hilco paid in city fines after the demolition. Hilco also settled a lawsuit with the state for $250,000, and a related entity that owned the land and tow contractors was fined.

The group also wants the city and Hilco to pay for home air filtration systems for those who live closest to demolition.

The site of the demolition now consists of a 1 million square foot warehouse leased by Target located at 3501 S. Pulaski Road. The group wants the Chicago Department of Public Health to complete a new soil study, create a treatment plan, and install an air monitoring system in the area north of the Stevenson Expressway.

The city initially did not respond to requests for comment about the demands.

The demands came after the Chicago Sun-Times obtained internal communications. Seven months before the collapsed demolition, a city employee warned his supervisor that the plan to trap the tower could result in “almost catastrophic” damage., The messages include references to the need for plenty of water.

Wasserman said an example of unanswered questions included how much water was available and how much was used to reduce demolition.

“How can we ensure the health and well-being of the city and our communities without knowing what went wrong?” he said.

Earlier this year, the Office of the Inspector General of City Hall released a summary of an investigation into what led to the demolition. Environmental groups reiterated their demand on Monday for the city to release a full investigation and findings.

Although at least one city activist received a written reprimand in the fallout of the demolition, groups said on Monday they would like to see more accountability by those who worked for the city during the demolition.

“The city has a duty to protect its residents, and it has failed to protect the residents of the Little Village,” said Olga Bautista, executive director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force. “The mayor should issue a full OIG report and hold officials like (Chicago Public Health Department) Assistant Commissioner Dave Graham accountable for their negligence during the Hilco explosion.”

Elvia Malag√≥n’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

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