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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Neighbors Of General Iron Ask EPA To Return To Chicago For Independent Study Of ‘Fluff’

Neighbors say the dust coming from the facility should be studied further before General Iron moves to the Southeast Side. 

General Iron's scrapyard
Alisa Hauser/ Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — Neighbors of General Iron want federal investigators to take a closer look at the scrap metal facility before it moves to the Southeast Side.

Lara Compton is asking her fellow neighbors to email the Illinois branch of the Environmental Protection Agency and ask officials to perform independent testing of “fluff,” a substance that regularly coats neighbors’ sidewalks, rooftops and yards.

RELATED: Before General Iron Leaves Lincoln Park For Southeast Side, Neighbors Want Cleaner Air — And Answers

In 2006 and 2012, General Iron agreed to two settlements with the EPA involving refrigerant and fugitive dust or “fluff” escaping the facility. Spokesperson Randy Samborn said the fluff is not hazardous.

The EPA defines fluff as “fugitive dust.” In 2006 and 2012, General Iron agreed to two settlements with the EPA involving refrigerant and fugitive dust escaping the facility.

In 2018, the EPA cited General Iron after inspectors found fugitive dust outside the shredder site. The law requires fugitive dust not be “visible by an observer looking generally” toward a metal shredder.

General Iron disputed the allegation and the EPA dropped it from an Administrative Consent Order issued in August, spokesperson Randy Samborn said.

Compton, a neighbor, said in December that she cautions her children against playing outside when the air “smells” a certain way. PAWS, a neighboring business, changes its HVAC air filters weekly, she said. 

An air filter in the Ranch Triangle neighborhood after a week of use.

In September, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) shared a video of the “fluff” accumulating in sidewalk cracks in a newsletter to his constituents. 

Samborn told Block Club the fluff is not hazardous, but would not disclose what it contained or say whether General Iron has tested it. Without knowing what’s in the fluff, Block Club has been unable to independently confirm whether or not the dust is toxic.

General Iron promised Mayor Lori Lightfoot Lightfoot and Hopkins the company would vacate the riverfront site by the end of 2020

That agreement was made following a 2015 fire, a 2016 city-ordered shutdown, a 2017 harassment lawsuit and a 2018 EPA citation for excessive air emissions

RELATED: After Explosions at Extra-Alarm Scrap Yard Fire, Ald. Calls for Its Closure

Long owned by the Labkon family, General Iron sold last year to Reserve Management Group, a specialist in recycling and scrap metal processing with operations in nine states. 

In 2021, RMG will move the plant from its current spot, 1909 N. Clifton Ave., to 11600 S. Burley Ave., Samborn has said.

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A gate guards the General Iron truck entrance Monday.