WBEZ | Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization http://www.wbez.org/tags/pilsen-environmental-rights-and-reform-organization Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fisk site future sharpens, new park space ideas proposed http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/fisk-site-future-sharpens-new-park-space-ideas-proposed-107595 <p><p>Potential buyers for Midwest Generation&rsquo;s defunct coal plant sites on the city&rsquo;s southwest side could come before a Mayor-appointed task force soon.</p><p>At a meeting in Pilsen Wednesday, Jerry Mead-Lucero, who heads the <a href="http://www.pilsenperro.org">Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization</a> (PERRO), said the group&rsquo;s original plans for a park (pictured below) that would span South Throop and Halsted Streets with a riverwalk were beginning to seem unlikely.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PERROProposalGreenSpaceFisk.jpg" style="height: 296px; width: 610px;" title="PERRO's original plan for a riverwalk emanating out from a small park on the Fisk site. (PERRO)" /></div><p>The former parking lot, outlined in blue above, will be retained by the future owner. The new owner&rsquo;s identity is still up for grabs, but Mead-Lucero said to his knowledge it&rsquo;s down from dozens of interested buyers to just two developers.</p><p>Instead Midwest Generation offered a parcel behind Chitown Futbol on South Throop Street, which could foster a smaller riverwalk west of the Fisk site. ComEd would maintain high-tension power lines overhead, however, which could mar the image of a hard-won riverfront park.</p><p>The Fisk site&rsquo;s future is a hot topic in Pilsen, where activists struggled for years to close the polluting power plant. As Mead-Lucero noted, its smokestacks still visually identify the neighborhood from miles around.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re kind of at a crossroads,&rdquo; Mead-Lucero said. &ldquo;Do we keep trying to fight for the vision that we had, which is probably a lost cause at this point &hellip; or do we try to improve upon it?&rdquo;</p><p>The alternative park location could actually be bigger than PERRO&#39;s original ask, Mead-Lucero said, but that depends on how much land ComEd and Midwest Generation agree to give up.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MG-ComEd-Delta-City-GreenSpaceAtFiskProposal-ComEdMGLand.jpg" style="height: 263px; width: 610px;" title="The new green space idea proposed by Midwest Generation and ComEd. The yellow outline bounds Midwest Generation's land. ComEd has offered the red portion, where powerlines run overhead. (PERRO)" /></div><p>Located in a park-poor industrial corridor, the Latino neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village have pushed for both new jobs and public green space. Last year the Mayor&rsquo;s task force <a href="http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6258">investigated potential reuse options for the 132 acres that make up both sites</a>. The task force <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-announces-plans-fisk-crawford-coal-plant-sites-102605">issued recommendations last fall</a>, calling for light industrial uses, retail development and public park space.</p><p>PERRO had hoped to tie in with an existing but little known riverwalk behind the Blue Cross Blue Shield building on W. Cermak Road. Patricia Saldaña Natke, principal &nbsp;of architecture and planning firm UrbanWorks, who <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/architect%E2%80%99s-pilsen-vision-green-and-fashion-friendly-107256">completed a master plan</a> for the neighborhood, <a href="http://youtu.be/54P8SlcYgzM?t=21m50s">called that riverwalk segment &ldquo;a hidden jewel.&rdquo;</a></p><p>In March EPA officials said tests for air quality and radiation around the Fisk and Crawford sites <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/fisk-and-crawford-pass-air-and-radiation-tests-lead-persists-nearby">showed no lingering pollution in the immediate area</a>.</p><p>But soil tests revealed lead contamination at troubling levels. The most affected areas were near copper smelter H. Kramer and Co., which&nbsp;<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 the old Lowenthal lead smelter site, where EPA tests in December found lead contamination 65 times the legal limit.</p><p>PERRO said EPA representatives <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130606/pilsen/contaminated-soil-near-community-garden-getting-cleaned-up-epa-says">could begin soil removal at the former Lowenthal site</a> by June 24.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at @Cementley.</em></p><p>Read <a href="https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9_FvLqe8tUyVU9sU1lDbzBJakU/edit?usp=sharing" target="_blank">PERRO&#39;s remediation and redevelopment plan for the Fisk site here</a>. Watch a presentation on UrbanWorks&rsquo; Pilsen master plan here, courtesy <a href="http://www.architecture.org/">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/54P8SlcYgzM" width="610"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 07 Jun 2013 15:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/fisk-site-future-sharpens-new-park-space-ideas-proposed-107595 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 Group pushes for soil tests around power plant http://www.wbez.org/news/group-pushes-soil-tests-around-power-plant-103117 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Fisk_station_Vance.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px; " title="Midwest Generation in August shut down its Fisk Station, built in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood in 1903. (Flickr/Steven Vance)" /></p><p>A company that is decommissioning Chicago&rsquo;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.</p><p>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.</p><p>A task force set up by Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;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.</p><p>But a report coming out Saturday says residents of the city&rsquo;s Pilsen neighborhood, where Fisk stands, want something done first.</p><p>&ldquo;Their number-one concern was, &#39;How is that site going to get cleaned up, how do we know it&rsquo;s not going to be a danger in the future, and how do we know what&rsquo;s there right now in terms of pollution and contamination?&#39; &rdquo; said Jerry Mead-Lucero, organizer of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, which held neighborhood forums and surveyed residents.</p><p>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. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s nothing inherently dangerous at the sites,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>McFarlan said Midwest Generation would comply with environmental regulations and said any cleanup would depend on the interests of the buyers.</p><p>Fisk was built in 1903. Crawford, which stands in the Little Village neighborhood, began operating in 1924.</p><p>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.</p></p> Fri, 12 Oct 2012 18:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/group-pushes-soil-tests-around-power-plant-103117