Chicago health leaders urge city officials to scrap South Side recycling plant

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Five days after activists ended a hunger strike protesting General Iron’s relocation to the South Side, opposition continues to grow.

Environment and community groups say the scrap metal facility will more pollution to an already highly-polluted neighborhood and urge the city to take action.

Southeast Side activists are demanding that Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Health Commissioner Allison Arwady deny the permit of the project.

“There’s no benefit to this company operating in our ward,” said Breanna Bertacchi, a recent hunger striker and member of United Neighbors for the 10th Ward.

General Iron closed its operation in Lincoln Park last December. But Reserve Management Group, which purchased General Iron’s assents in 2019, announced it would open a scrap shredder in Hegewisch, a predominately Latino neighborhood.  The shredder site, Calumet River at East 116th, is not far from a school.

Some call the move environmental racism.

“Does the sighting of this plant to the Southeast Side of Chicago help or hurt the health of the people? The answer is clear,” said Dr. Linda Rae Murray.

“Asthma, heart disease and cancer are linked to air pollution. Today, these Chicagoans live literally on top of the trash heaps of these industrial operations,” added Dr. Steven Rothschild.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Justice Department are investigating the General Iron move. A seperate federal lawsuit is also in play.

“These are families that built this city through years of labor at the Steel Mills,” Bertacchi said. “These aren’t families that can easily relocate to higher-income neighborhoods that have better air quality protected.”

The judge in the case expects to decide by early next month on whether to stop the city from issuing the permit. The city has yet to comment on the letter from the activists.

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