City investigating after smokestack demolition covers Little Village in dust

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CHICAGO – The City of Chicago is launching an investigation after the demolition of a smokestack sent up a cloud of dust that blanketed Little Village Saturday.

On Sunday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused demolition company Hilco Redevelopment Partners of being dishonest about the effects of imploding a smokestack on the grounds of the former Crawford Power Generating Station.

“The City was given repeatedly approval that Hilco had a solid plan to contain the debris and dust,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Clearly, that didn’t happen. It drifted across the area, dropped dirt and matter across homes, cars, businesses, trees and every other inch of this community.”

Lightfoot joined 22nd Ward Ald. Michael Rodriguez, CDPH Commissoner Dr. Allison Arwardy and Commissionor of the Department of Buildings Judith Frydland in saying they would hold Hilco accountable for the excessive dust.

Rodriguez said the incident caused added stress and anxiety in a community already worried about a pandemic about whether potentially dangerous particles like asbestos are being spread into the neighborhood.

“The fear and anxiety about COVID-19 has only been exasperated with this situation,” Rodriguez said.

Drone footage from Alejandro Reyes shows how the neighborhood was covered in dust so quickly.

While Hilco received the proper permitting to conduct the implosion, the promised precautions taken by the company were not adequate, and the resulting cloud of dust was a “clear violation” of Illinois pollution standards, the mayor’s office said.

In addition to issuing a stop-work order at the site effective immediately, the City issued a citation against Hilco that will result in a fine and ordered them to conduct a full clean-up and removal of dust in the surrounding neighborhood.

While this situation is under review, the Department of Buildings (DOB) is also halting any additional non-essential demolitions throughout Chicago for the remainder of the week.

“My team has already begun the process of working with the Little Village community to remediate the situation, including conducting a thorough review of what took place and strengthening our protocols to ensure incidents like this never happen again,” Lightfoot said.

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is also working to provide residents in the immediate vicinity with masks to protect against inhalation of dust, and will be testing air quality and contents of the dust in the area.

“CDPH is committed to monitoring such projects and enforcing all environmental regulations so that the air we all breathe is clean and safe,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of CDPH.

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