Federal class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Little Village residents after smokestack demolition

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CHICAGO – A federal class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Little Village residents after the demolition of a smokestack at a former power plant Saturday.

Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law’s lawsuit alleges “environmental racism” and is against the developer, Hilco, and other companies who assisted in the demolition.

“The closure of the Crawford Coal Plant was supposed to represent the end of a major and deadly source of pollution in the neighborhood,” charges the suit. “Instead, the Defendants’ actions have caused the very chemicals from the Crawford Coal Plant that LVEJO and the Little Village community worried about for years to blanket residents, homes, businesses, and open spaces.”

The lawsuit claimed Little Village residents have long been victims of “environmental racism,” with pollution of their neighborhood and residents occurring at much higher rates than most neighborhoods in Chicago.

 “A 2002 Harvard Public School of Health study linked the pre-existing pollution in the community to an abnormal and large increase in premature deaths, increased emergency room visits, and asthma attacks,” according to the suit.

The suit demands an immediate clean-up of the homes, businesses and public areas of the community, providing particulate masks to all residents, high efficiency particulate air filters for their homes, thorough testing and sampling of the air and dust by independent scientific monitors, alternative housing for residents during the duration of the cleaning process, and a third-party assessor to evaluate and provide estimates of the property damage and decrease in property values.

Named plaintiffs in the class action suit are Jose Solis, Antonio Solis and Juan Rangel. All three will represent Little Village residents in the suit.

Earlier Wednesday, Clifford Law Offices filed a lawsuit on behalf of Katherine Ramirez-Mercado, a resident of Little Village who lives just yards from the property line of the Crawford coal plant.

She suffers from asthma and said she’s afraid to go outside since the demolition.

 “Nothing was done to make sure that the smoke was contained on their property,” Ramirez-Mercado said.  “Nothing was done to minimize the effect of this hazardous material to not flow to all of us surrounding this plant.”

Mayor Lightfoot would not comment about the pending litigation. She said she is not happy about what took place Saturday morning.

“All of us were assured that there was a very specific plan, that there would be water on site using the water before during and after to make sure a dust cloud didn’t migrate off site. Obviously, that didn’t happen,” Lightfoot said.

The Chicago Department of Public Health was on site this weekend taking samples of the residue and is working to distribute masks to residents.

Officials said asbestos removal was completed in November.

Street sweepers were sent to clean up the mess and Hilco sent employees door to door to assess the damage.

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