Skip to contents
Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

‘They Utterly Failed’: City Slaps Hilco With $68,000 In Fines For Little Village Dust Cloud, Bans Implosions For 6 Months

The city is even looking at revoking licenses for Hilco's subcontractor, MCM Management Corp., so it couldn't work here.

Little Village streets were covered in dust following demolition of a smokestack at the site early Saturday morning.
Maclovio/ instagram@macnifying_glass
  • Credibility:

LITTLE VILLAGE — The city has put a six-month moratorium on implosions and issued a $68,000 fine against Hilco and its contractors following the weekend demolition disaster in Little Village. 

Hilco and contractors MCM Management Corp. and Controlled Demolition were slapped with 16 citations, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday. The city is even looking at revoking MCM’s licenses to work in the city entirely.

On Saturday, with little notice and amid the coronavirus respiratory pandemic, the city allowed the demolition of the former Crawford Coal smokestack. When it fell, it lifted a cloud of dust and debris that soon descended on nearby Little Village homes. A day earlier, activists begged city officials to halt the demolition, but it went on anyway.

“They utterly failed to execute. Period,” Lightfoot said. “The dust cloud, the drifting of that cloud over the Little Village community, is utterly and entirely the fault” of these companies.

RELATED: Contractor In Little Village Smokestack Fiasco Was Cited In March For Blowing Dust — But City OK’d Demolition Anyway

Asbestos was removed from the smokestack before its demolition, Lightfoot said. Dust samples collected from car windshield did not show any asbestos, said Dr. Allison Arwardy, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

And particulate matter readings in the area were not above national air quality threshold levels, Arwady said.

The city has installed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dust trackers on the site to measure particulate matter and installed air monitors at the site, Arwardy said. It’s also finalizing the installation of purple air monitors.

Data from those will be shared publicly.

The mayor said the city is conducting a thorough review of Saturday’s demolition and plans to update regulations and safeguards. What they found, Lightfoot said: Many of the city’s systems need updating.

Previously, implosions were treated “virtually” the same as standard-fare demolitions with a wrecking ball, Lightfoot said, but that will now change.

The city will also create a position for a senior environmental inspector to be “our eyes and ears on projects of this type.” The city’s systems rely on companies telling the truth, but a senior inspector could ensure everything that is said is actually being done, Lightfoot said.

And the city needs to create a rapid response protocol to address the needs of residents and mitigate environmental harms after such incidents, Lightfoot said.

“While we are taking vigorous action to hold the developer and its subcontractors accountable and protect the health and safety of our local residents, we are also laying the groundwork to ensure failures like this never happen again,” Lightfoot said.

The city has created a website with information about its response to the incident.

Roberto Perez, Hilco Redevelopment Partners CEO, said the developer will continue to cooperate with the city’s investigation “and will be implementing all of the remediation efforts that have been requested.

“The health, safety and welfare of the Little Village community is of paramount concern to us as we work toward completing this project,” Perez said.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.


Contractor In Little Village Smokestack Fiasco Was Cited In March For Blowing Dust — But City OK’d Demolition Anyway

Little Village Neighbors Sue Developer Hilco Over Demolition Dust Disaster

Little Village Demolition Dust Samples Don’t Contain Asbestos, City Says Initial Investigation Shows

Developer Fires Contractor, Apologizes For Little Village Dust Disaster, But Some Neighbors Want Them Gone

What Was In Dust Cloud That Covered Little Village? City Aims To Release Report This Week, Lightfoot Says

Planned Explosion Covered Little Village In Dust During Respiratory Pandemic — Why Did The City Let It Happen?

Mayor Shuts Down Crawford Coal Project After ‘Unacceptable’ Dust Cloud Descends On Little Village

Dust Cloud Envelops Little Village After Smokestack Demolition: ‘My Lungs Started Hurting’

After Old Crawford Coal Plant Smokestack Blown Up, Little Village Residents Worry About Dust During Global Pandemic

Old Crawford Coal Plant Smokestack Will Be Blown Up Saturday In Little Village

After Worker’s Death, Hilco Resumes Work At Old Crawford Coal Plant Site In Little Village

Little Village Residents Search For Answers After Worker Dies At Old Crawford Coal Plant Site

Demolition Of Crawford Coal Plant Suspended After Worker Falls To His Death

Worker Falls To His Death In ‘Tragic Accident’ At Crawford Coal Plant In Little Village

After Little Village Residents Told To Stay Inside During Coal Plant Demolition, City Says It Will Inspect The Crawford Site Every Week

City Tells Worried Little Village Residents To ‘Limit Outdoor Activities’ As Crews Demolish Old Coal Plant

Illinois EPA To Detail Clean-Up Efforts Of Old Little Village Coal Plant Site Tuesday

Controversial Little Village Distribution Center Gets $19.7 Million Tax Break Approval From City Council

Massive Little Village Warehouse On Old Crawford Coal Plant Site Approved By City Council

Semi-Trucks Are Taking Over Little Village, Neighbors Say — And Giant Warehouse Plan Will Make It Worse

After Post-Arrest Absence, Ald. Muñoz Returns To City Hall To Argue For Tax Break For Little Village Project

Massive Little Village Warehouse On Old Crawford Coal Plant Site Approved By City Council

Huge Distribution Hub Likely Replacing Crawford Coal Plant — Meaning More Dirty Air For Little Village, Critics Say

Little Village Neighbors Demand City Stop Crawford Redevelopment Plan

Developer Behind Controversial Little Village Warehouse Buys Fisk Generating Station In Pilsen, Alderman Says

Old Fisk Generating Station Site In Pilsen Would Become Giant Data Center Under Developer’s Plan