CHICAGO – The U.S. EPA’s civil rights division is investigating why the state approved a building shredder in Hegewisch.
The Hegewisch community has long worried about pollution and now they’re concerned about plans to recycle cars and other products in their neighborhood.
The U.S. EPA’s civil rights division is now investigating why the Prizker administration’s EPA approved building the shredder in a low-income neighborhood along the Calumet River at East 116th. U.S. Housing and Urban Development was already on the case investigating complaints by Southeast Side residents of a long pattern of environmental racism.
They accuse the city of aiding in moving the air polluting scrap shredder from wealthy white Lincoln Park to the predominately Latinx neighborhood surrounded by Black neighborhoods.
“We already have some of the highest COPD instances than any other part of the city, higher heart disease and we’re also a community that’s medically underserved,” said resident Olga Bautista. “I’ve become very concerned that my children are gonna be in danger.”
In fall of 2019, General Iron signed an agreement to stop accepting scrap metal at its North Side location. But Reserve Management Group, which purchased General Iron’s assets, announced the Southeast Side scrap shredder.
Last June, the Pritkzer EPA approved a permit for RMG and studied air quality impacts.
“It will work with U.S. EPA and involved parties in the review of the complaint,” a spokeswoman for the Illinois EPA said.
“This neighborhood once was the hub of the steel industry and it was a time when people could actually have a job to pay their mortgage, send their kids to college but those jobs are gone. And because of the zoning that has not changed since 40 years later, we’re still accepting very dirty practices in this community,” Bautista said.
WGN News has not received a response from the company, RMG, at this time.