Sims Metal Management, a metal scrapper at 2500 S. Paulina St. in Pilsen, pictured in 2017. Credit: Google Maps

PILSEN — The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is suing a Pilsen metal scrapper alleging the facility violated the state’s air pollution regulations.

The lawsuit claims Sims Metal Management, which owns and operates the Pilsen scrapper at 2500 S. Paulina St., failed “to demonstrate overall reduction in uncontrolled emissions.” The scrapper shreds and recycles metal materials, vehicles and major appliances.

A May 2021 emissions test revealed the facility’s shredder, which can emit volatile organic matter into the atmosphere, was at less than 50 percent capture efficiency, which is below the mandated requirement of 81 percent, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court. 

“Sims’ actions created a public health risk by exposing the community to uncontrolled emissions from its facility,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a Friday press release. “We have seen the damage these actions can cause in environmental justice communities, and I am committed to holding Sims accountable for endangering public health and will work to ensure they comply with emissions reductions requirements.”

In a separate statement, Sims Metal Management said after being notified of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s findings, it agreed to work with IEPA to address the issue “modify [its] permit, and install the advanced controls for both particulates and volatile organic compounds.”

In his statement, Raoul also said the court entered an interim agreement, which requires Sims to implement a system to immediately reduce uncontrolled emissions.

The Attorney General’s Office is asking Sims Metal Management for $50,000 for each violation with an additional $10,000 for each day the violation occurs, according to the lawsuit, but it’s unclear what the total amount would be. 

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), whose ward covers Sims, called the state’s lawsuit “long overdue.”

“We know the long-lasting, permanent effects of bad air quality,” he said. “It’s good to see the Attorney General taking a step forward, especially because we have a number of schools close to these industrial corridors.” 

Going forward, Sigcho-Lopez said he hopes the city installs more air quality monitors in industrial hot spots.

The Pilsen neighborhood and much of the city’s Southwest Side have a history of advocating for environmental justice for communities disproportionately affected by poor air quality conditions. 

At the start of the pandemic, climate activists in Pilsen called for the Sims Metal Management facility to cease activity due to residents being at great risk and “more vulnerable to the threat of COVID-19.”

The IEPA classifies Pilsen as an environmental justice area.

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

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