WTTW’s Chicago Tonight
Minutes before the scheduled start of a press conference to protest the move of a Lincoln Park scrap metal shredder to the Southeast Side, a truck owned by the company rolled by and sprayed water toward the feet of protesters standing on the edge of a sidewalk outside the facility.
For the 20 or so residents who had bused up from the Southeast Side, the scene reinforced their skepticism about General Iron Industries’ pledge to be a good neighbor when the company relocates to their neighborhood in two years.
The move will transition the company’s shredding operation from wealthy, mostly white Lincoln Park to a low-income and largely Latino neighborhood that already faces threats from other industrial sources of pollution. General Iron, meanwhile, is expected to cash in on the sale of its current 21.5-acre site, which is surrounded by Lincoln Yards, a multibillion-dollar mixed-use development project planned for the former sites of steel mills and other industries that used to dominate the area.
The planned move, announced earlier this month, comes after years of complaints from Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd Ward, about the clouds of black dust, metallic odors and other pollution emitted from the facility’s heaps of flattened cars and discarded metals. Last year, Hopkins relayed results from University of Illinois at Chicago researchers who found dangerous levels of lung-damaging particulate matter near the facility.
The study prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct its own testing, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. Last week, the agency announced that it was citing General Iron with multiple violations of the Clean Air Act for failing to control emissions of hazardous metals that have been associated with cancer and other damaging health effects. The EPA also found the company failed to obtain a proper air pollution permit.
General Iron has disputed the agency’s claims, stating that it “strongly disagrees” with findings of heightened levels of particulate matter from its facility, located along the North Branch of the Chicago River near the intersection of Clybourn and Racine avenues.