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‘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.
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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.

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RELATED COVERAGE:

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

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