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EPA in Illinois

Air Issues in Chicago's Pilsen Neighborhood

EPA has been addressing air pollution concerns in the Pilsen neighborhood for over 10 years. In 2005 EPA responded to community inquiries about air emissions and cited H. Kramer and Co., a smelting facility in the area, with an administrative violation. In January 2013, EPA and the State of Illinois signed a consent decree with H. Kramer to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act and state air pollution violations at the firm's brass smelting foundry in Pilsen.

Although the January 2013 consent decree did not require ambient air monitors in the community, it did require “parametric monitoring” to ensure that the lead pollution control devices – the pulse-jet baghouse filters and High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters – operate effectively. This parametric monitoring continuously measures the pressure upstream and downstream of the baghouses and HEPA filters to ensure that leaks do not occur. If the measurements exceed manufacturer’s guarantees, an alarm sounds, and H. Kramer must immediately replace the broken filters to prevent leakage.

Both filter systems were in place and operating by August 12, 2013.  In addition to the continuous monitoring, H. Kramer must ensure efficient operation of the control system, maintain appropriate records and keep track of several additional criteria.

Prior to the January 2013 consent decree, two ambient lead monitors were operating near the H. Kramer facility: at the Perez Elementary School and Juarez High School. Illinois EPA removed the Juarez High School monitor, but the Perez monitor remains operating. The Perez Elementary School monitor measured its highest concentration in December 2010—0.580 micrograms per cubic meter. But the monthly average lead values have been below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) since the beginning of 2011.

To obtain the most up-to-date data on the Perez Elementary School air monitor, visit EPA’s Outdoor Air Quality Data webpage. This tool queries daily air quality summary statistics for the criteria pollutants by monitor. You can get data for specific monitors or all monitors in a city, county, or state. To get the specific data for the Perez Elementary School: select “Pb” as the pollutant, the year you are interested in from the drop-down options, and “Illinois” for the state. The monitor site ID for Perez Elementary School to select from the drop-down options is 170310110.