CHICAGO — An environmental debacle in Little Village only resulted in a slap on the wrist for city officials who were responsible for oversight and minimal fines for the company involved, according to a new report issued by the Inspector General.
In April 2020, suburban developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners imploded a smokestack at the now-defunct Crawford Coal Plant in Little Village. The botched implosion of the 400-foot smokestack sent a cloud of dust over the neighborhood — creating serious concerns over air pollution.
Almost two years later, an Inspector General report issued Friday found multiple “warnings” as far back as 213 days before the implosion.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) requested the report and said the findings are disturbing.
“Especially with the repeated warnings for so long, we had several warnings and the assistant commissioner failed to act every single time,” he said. “I think it’s clear that the administration didn’t take this issue seriously, and of course the developer in this case did not take it seriously either.”
The report claimed “officials approached their regulatory roles in a ‘not-my-job’ fashion” and concluded that the situation led to a “breakdown of city regulatory overnight.”
The Inspector General recommended firing the health department official involved, but that person was only written up. The report said that Dr. Allison Arwady “declined to issue discipline.”
“Commissioner Arwady must have full accountability within her department. I don’t see any reason why the disciplinary actions have not been followed,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
In the end, the city issued 16 citations that should have resulted in $68,000 worth of fines, but the companies settled for just $19,000. They did not admit any guilty and denied wrongdoing or liability.