Natural Resources Defense Council
Metal crunches and shrieks at the General Iron Industries facility along the Chicago River’s North Branch near Lincoln Park. Here, an auto shredder flattens cars, appliances, rebar, and beams as water sprays down in an attempt to keep the resulting dust from blowing away. A potent stench fills the air.
The people living nearby complain that metallic particles blanket their patios and oily films glaze their cars. So much for the water sprays. And then there are the gas tank explosions and fires, like the one three years ago that sent dark plumes of smoke into the air.
General Iron has had a shredder operation here since the 1970s, replacing two smaller shredders with a bigger one in 2001. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited this new shredder twice for clean air violations. Despite this and neighborhood uproar, locally elected aldermen recently decided to extend an exemption granted to the facility in 2016 that lets the shredder run from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., three hours a day beyond what is normally permitted.