Group pushes for soil tests around power plant

October 12, 2012

Download Story View Transcript

A company that is decommissioning Chicago’s last two coal-fired power plants insists there are no hazards on either site, but a neighborhood group is pressing for soil tests and for disclosure of the results.

Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, shut down its Fisk and Crawford stations in August. The company says it is talking with about two dozen potential buyers of the sites.

A task force set up by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office reported last month that the sites could now be used for light manufacturing and could offer public access to the nearby Chicago River.

But a report coming out Saturday says residents of the city’s Pilsen neighborhood, where Fisk stands, want something done first.

“Their number-one concern was, 'How is that site going to get cleaned up, how do we know it’s not going to be a danger in the future, and how do we know what’s there right now in terms of pollution and contamination?' ” said Jerry Mead-Lucero, organizer of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, which held neighborhood forums and surveyed residents.

Midwest Generation President Douglas McFarlan said the public has nothing to fear about coal, ash and liquid fuel that his company and its predecessors stored near the plants. “There’s nothing inherently dangerous at the sites,” he said.

McFarlan said Midwest Generation would comply with environmental regulations and said any cleanup would depend on the interests of the buyers.

Fisk was built in 1903. Crawford, which stands in the Little Village neighborhood, began operating in 1924.

The closings resulted from falling energy prices and federal clean-air enforcement that required retrofitting the plants. Activists had campaigned for more than a decade to close the generators or curb their harmful emissions, which included soot and carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming.