Environmental Issues in Chicago's Little Village & Pilsen Neighborhoods
EPA staff has been coordinating with residents, community organizations, and representatives from the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry on a number of projects in Chicago's Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods to monitor and enforce air quality standards, oversee remediation projects, conduct site assessments, and establish and implement appropriate cleanup plans.
- Air Issues 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. Since before the January 2013 consent decree, Illinois EPA has been operating a lead monitor near the H. Kramer facility: at the Perez Elementary School. The monthly average lead values have been below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) since the beginning of 2011.
- Peoples Gas 22nd Street Station (former manufactured gas plant)
- Peoples Gas Crawford Station (former manufactured gas plant)
- Crawford Power Plant Demolition U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted air monitoring from April 14 to May 5, 2020 around the perimeter of the former Crawford Power Generating Station in response to a request from the City of Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) after the demolition on April 11, 2020 of a smokestack at the facility in the Little Village neighborhood. From April 19 thru May 5, U.S. EPA also collected daily air samples set in the same place as the four fence line monitors. Samples were collected using standard methods and sent to a laboratory to determine if they contain asbestos, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In August 2020 the agency received validated data for the samples collected. All results for heavy metals, asbestos and PCBs throughout the project were either below laboratory method reporting limits or below site action levels. U.S. EPA will publish the final report once it is completed.
On May 6, 2020 U.S. EPA transitioned all daily air monitoring and air sampling to CDPH.
More air monitoring and sampling information on U.S. EPA’s Crawford Power Plant Demolition page
City of Chicago Crawford Station Response
Midwest Generation Crawford Generating Station - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that dust levels measured around Midwest Generation’s Crawford Station in December 2012 – months after the plants closed – were well within both health and regulatory standards. The air monitoring determined dust concentrations around the two closed coal-fired generating stations were at levels typically found in the Chicago region. Fact Sheets about the Crawford Former Power Plant .
- Midwest Generation Fisk Generating Station -The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that dust levels measured around Midwest Generation’s Fisk Station in December 2012 – months after the plants closed – were well within both health and regulatory standards. The air monitoring determined dust concentrations around the two closed coal-fired generating stations were at levels typically found in the Chicago region. Fact Sheets about the Fisk Former Power Plant.
- East Pilsen Area Soils Site EPA concluded the cleanup of lead-contaminated soil in 15 residential properties in the East Pilsen Area Soils site in July 2018. Boundaries were West 16th Street to the north, South Sangamon Street and the Sangamon Corridor to the east, West Cermak Road and West 18th Place to the south, and South Allport Street and South Loomis Street to the west. Cleanup consisted of excavating contaminated dirt in the yards and gardens of homes with lead in surface soil greater than 400 parts lead per million parts soil. The contaminated soil was disposed of at a permitted disposal facility. Yards were filled in with clean soil and restored to their original condition as much as possible.
- Heart of Chicago Area Soils site EPA concluded the cleanup of lead-contaminated soil in 15 of the 21 residential properties in the Heart of Chicago Area Soils site in September 2017. EPA did not receive access to address the other 6 residential properties. The site was approximately 580 acres located in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood in Chicago. The boundaries were West 16th Street and railroad tracks to the north, South Loomis Street to the east, South Blue Island Avenue to the South, and Campbell Street and railroad tracks to the west.
- Sangamon Right of Way Contractors for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company concluded the cleanup of lead-contaminated soil on the Sangamon Street Right of Way site in 2018. The Sangamon Street Right of Way site is in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and runs from 16th Street south to 21st Street along Sangamon Street. It had been an unused BNSF railroad right-of-way for many years. BNSF completed soil sampling in 2013 and 2014 to evaluate lead contamination along the stretch. In August 2016, BNSF contractors had completed the removal action along the right of way between 18th Street and 21st Street with U.S. EPA oversight.
- Loewenthal Metals In September 2013 EPA concluded the cleanup at the former Loewenthal Metals site to remove high concentrations of lead in the soil and ensure that the property is safe for residential use in the future. The City of Chicago also conducted its own cleanup of a portion of land that it owns immediately adjacent and east of the Loewenthal site in October 2013 to address high lead levels in that soil. EPA held 3 open houses during the cleanup of the Loewenthal site. The city has plans for a Paseo along the Sangamon right-of-way which runs adjacent to the former Loewenthal site.
- EPA concluded its removal activities to clean up lead-contaminated soil in the residential portion of the Pilsen Area Soils site, known as Operable Unit 2 (OU2) in 2018. Overall, EPA checked 95 residential properties within the site, 68 of which underwent cleanup (overseen by EPA) of their lead-contaminated soil. The OU2 cleanup work began in December 2016 with contractors from H. Kramer & Co. EPA had concluded the cleanup of lead-contaminated soil in Operable Unit 1 (OU1) of the site in the summer of 2016. OU1 included an east-west alley between West 21st Street and West Cermak Road and between South Loomis and South Throop Streets. It also included a railway spur from South Laflin Street just north of the Benito Juarez Community Academy athletic field and ending on West Cermak Road just east of South Loomis Street.