CHICAGO — Initial samples collected by the city after a demolition gone wrong left Little Village streets covered in a cloud of dust show no signs of asbestos, a public health official announced Wednesday.
The samples were collected after the demolition of the century-old smokestack at the Old Crawford Coal Plant Saturday dropped “dirt and particulate matter across homes, cars, businesses, trees and every other inch of this community,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
While preliminary tests showed no asbestos was detected, the Chicago Department of Public Health continues to test new samples in a laboratory, said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Department of Public Health.
“The laboratory sampling and work has begun,” Arwady said. “In the samples that were collected, I can tell you there has not been any asbestos … which is very good.”
Residents of the Southwest Side neighborhood say they worried Hilco Redevelopment Partners’ implosion of the smokestack that blanketed nearby homes with dust during a respiratory pandemic may have released unknown toxins, including asbestos and lead, into the air.
Arwady said air data was still being collected and would be shared in the “days to come.”
Block Club Chicago has previously asked for remediation reports to be made public, but the city has not provided the reports or data to date.
The Chicago Inspector General has opened an investigation into the demolition.
Lightfoot issued a stop work order on the site pending further investigation.
On Tuesday, the developer responsible apologized, while pointing the finger at its contractor MCM Management Corp.
Now, Roberto Perez, CEO of Hilco Redevelopment Partners, said the company is sending representatives door to door to field neighbors’ questions, cover the cost of home cleaning and to distribute 10,000 masks.
Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), who is facing criticism for failing to notify residents in advance, said Hilco made assurances they didn’t keep and failed to inform residents as promised.
The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and some residents in the majority Latino neighborhood have called on the developer to abandon redevelopment at the site.
Hilco received a $19.7 million tax subsidy from the city to redevelop the site into a massive, 1-million-square-foot distribution center.