WBEZ | Little Village Environmental Justice Organization http://www.wbez.org/tags/little-village-environmental-justice-organization Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fisk and Crawford pass air and radiation tests, but lead persists at nearby smelters http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/fisk-and-crawford-pass-air-and-radiation-tests-lead-persists-nearby <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/senor_codo/4394430498/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pilsen-smokestack.jpg" title="Midwest Generation's Fisk power plant in 2010, before it shut down. (Chris Diers via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>Environmental tests at the former Fisk and Crawford coal plant sites showed dust concentrations and radiation levels typical for Chicago, Environmental Protection Agency officials reported Tuesday at a public forum in Walsh Elementary School.</p><p>But lead contamination data at other sites underscored the southwest side&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.epa.gov/reg5oair/enforce/pilsen/">ongoing environmental challenges</a> as it struggles to cleanup an industrial legacy that has jeopardized public health in the area.</p><p>The EPA recently <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/18057600-418/epa-plans-to-clean-up-pilsen-lot-after-finding-high-levels-of-lead-in-soil.html">announced its plans</a> to take &ldquo;emergency action&rdquo; this spring to clean up the lead-contaminated Loewenthal Metals site, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-23/news/ct-met-pilsen-lead-20121123_1_brains-of-young-children-leaded-gasoline-chicago-s-pilsen">years after the dangerous heavy metal was first discovered</a>&nbsp;in a vacant lot near Pilsen&rsquo;s Walsh Elementary School.</p><p>After it was moved to action in part by a <em>USA Today</em> investigation, the government quelled an uncooperative landowner with a Department of Justice warrant ordering soil tests. Officials said they would pursue similar measures to access the property again if the property owner does not consent to the cleanup.</p><p>Now blocked off with a fence, the toxic site showed lead levels near the surface were more than 14 times the federal limit for areas where children play. When they dug a foot or more into the soil, EPA testers found levels as high as 23,000 parts per million &mdash; more than 57 times the limit. That suggests the landowner may have laid fresh soil down after the plant closed, said EPA&rsquo;s Steve Faryan.</p><p>Officials also reviewed the results of soil tests at copper smelter H. Kramer and Co., which <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/epa-lead-levels-too-high-pilsen-air-87913">was the subject of lead-emissions complaints in 2011</a> and <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-01-31/news/chi-pilsen-polluter-h-kramer-agrees-to-cut-lead-emissions-20130131_1_aggression-and-criminal-behavior-lead-pollution-air-pollution">recently agreed in a court settlement to spend $3 million to curb its emissions</a>. Lead levels at that site averaged nearly seven times the limit at the soil surface, and nearly 12 times at a depths greater than one foot.</p><p>Paul Ruesch coordinated the EPA&rsquo;s air monitoring project at Fisk and Crawford. Ruesch, who lives with his wife and young daughter near the Fisk site, set up four stationary air monitors on all sides of the defunct power plant. To make sure no air escaped the network of Dataram monitors, he mounted another one to a baby carriage and wheeled the mobile unit around during the two eight-hour monitoring sessions.</p><p>Although the tests seemed to confirm the shuttered coal plants were no longer an air quality concern for the Southwest side community, Ruesch said his particulate matter readings spiked in sync with ongoing industrial activity on adjacent properties and with heavy traffic on nearby highways.</p><p>The EPA wants residents to volunteer their yards for soil testing to determine whether dangerous metals released by local industries over the years settled into the neighborhood. Residents interested in volunteering should contact Heriberto León at 312-886-6163 or&nbsp;<a href="http://mailto:leon.heriberto@epa.gov" target="_blank">leon.heriberto@epa.gov</a>.</p><p>The EPA <a href="http://epa.gov/region5/littlevillagepilsen/">will hold another meeting</a> in English and Spanish Thursday at Little Village High School at 3120 S. Kostner Ave.</p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/fisk-and-crawford-pass-air-and-radiation-tests-lead-persists-nearby Activists rejoice as coal-fired plants shut down http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Fisk.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 219px; width: 300px; " title="Built in 1903, the Fisk station stands near Dvorak Park in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. (AP file/M. Spencer Green)" /></p><div>Neighborhood and environmental activists are celebrating as Chicago&rsquo;s last two coal-fired electricity plants enter a three-month decommissioning phase. But the closings are leaving dozens of Midwest Generation workers without a job.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The company, a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, says its Crawford station in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood burned its last lump of coal more than a week ago after operating since 1924. The Fisk station, constructed in 1903 in nearby Pilsen, shut down Thursday night.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Activists campaigned for more than a decade to close the plants or curb their harmful emissions, which included asthma-triggering soot and carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Standing near Crawford on Friday afternoon, Rafael Hurtado of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization almost had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn&rsquo;t dreaming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The smokestack and the chimney are not running,&rdquo; Hurtado observed. &ldquo;The parking lot is empty other than the security guards. This is a victory not only for our organization but Little Village and Pilsen and the city of Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Local 15 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represented about 135 workers at the plants, says some are accepting retirement packages or transferring to another Midwest Generation site, where they will bump employees with less seniority. The union represents about 700 workers at the company&rsquo;s six Illinois generators.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;There just aren&rsquo;t enough jobs,&rdquo; said Doug Bedinger, a Local 15 business representative for the workers. &ldquo;There will be hardship.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Midwest Generation President Douglas McFarlan said roughly 100 union members are leaving voluntarily while another 50 get laid off.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>McFarlan, meanwhile, said the company is trying to sell the Chicago sites. The timing of environmental remediation &ldquo;depends on the interests&rdquo; of the buyers, he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s part of the sales process,&rdquo; McFarlan said, adding that a school might have different cleanup needs than a warehouse.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The closings resulted partly from federal clean-air rules requiring Midwest Generation to retrofit its plants. McFarlan said a bigger factor was the rise of natural gas production, which has put downward pressure on energy prices. &ldquo;We just can&rsquo;t run profitably,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 31 Aug 2012 18:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129 Settlement could lead to big park for Mexican neighborhood http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-12/00_580x350_parks6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago could be near the end of a five-year legal battle for control of a former industrial site with potential to help form a 24-acre park. If an eminent-domain settlement holds up, the land could be an asset for a Mexican-American area of the Southwest Side.<br> <br> Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sanjay T. Tailor this week signed off on the deal, under which the city will pay more than $7.5 million for about 19 acres owned by 2600 Sacramento Corp.<br> <br> “I don’t get a penny,” company owner Joanne Urso said Friday afternoon. The money will go to the Cook County Treasurer’s Office and remain there as Urso tries to settle with a bank that has filed suit to foreclose on the property, according to her attorney.<br> <br> Urso’s land could combine with an adjacent five acres the city already controls. The park would total about five blocks, all just west of South Sacramento Avenue and north of West 31st Street. The perimeter would pass residential buildings, industrial properties and the Cook County Jail.<br> <br> Activists in the Little Village neighborhood hailed the settlement. “We have not seen any park development in over 75 years,” said Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.<br> <br> Wasserman said the deal could inspire other neighborhoods to push for public amenities and services. “Regardless of language and regardless of immigration status, as long as there is determination in these communities, we can continue to get the things that we need,” she said.<br> <br> The park concept has the backing of the local alderman. “That’s what we’re pushing for,” said Juan Manzano, an aide to Ald. George Cárdenas, 12th Ward.<br> <br> The property served industrial manufacturers for more than 70 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Their output included asphalt, coal tar and driveway sealer. Celotex Corp. made roofing products on the site from 1967 to 1982, the EPA says.<br> <br> Allied Chemical and Dye Corp. purchased that operation. A series of mergers and acquisitions turned Allied into New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc. The corporation dismantled the Celotex facilities between 1991 and 1993, according to the EPA. Urso’s company bought the property later.<br> <br> After cancer-linked chemicals turned up in nearby homes and yards, the EPA designated the area a Superfund site. A Honeywell cleanup consisted largely of covering the land with gravel. The cleanup finished last year, the agency says in a statement.<br> <br> Chicago filed the eminent-domain suit in 2006. The case became more complicated in August 2010, when Texas-based United Central Bank filed the foreclosure suit, a nearly $10 million claim, in federal court. The loan involves both the Celotex site and another Urso property.<br> <br> The city’s payment for Urso's land will consist of $6 million from the Chicago Park District and more than $1.5 million from city general-obligation bonds, according to Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.<br> <br> But the timeframe for creating the park is not clear. Ownership of Urso’s property will transfer to Chicago upon payment, due September 7, but the city is not specifying a date for turning over the acreage to the Park District. “Possibly later this year,” Hoyle wrote Friday afternoon.<br> <br> A possible obstacle is a Chicago Fire Department facility on the adjacent five acres.</p><p>The biggest challenge could be funding the park construction. Wasserman’s group is calling for playgrounds, a farm, sports fields, an amphitheater and a community center. Building all those amenities could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, the group says.</p></p> Fri, 12 Aug 2011 22:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552