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

Developer In Little Village Demolition Gone Wrong Cited By State EPA With Violating Pollution Laws

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office is reviewing the incident that covered the Chicago neighborhood in dust.

A drone video showed how the dust cloud spread from the Crawford demolition site and descended onto Little Village homes.
Alejandro Reyes/YouTube
  • Credibility:

LITTLE VILLAGE — Illinois environmental enforcement officials and the state attorney general have entered the fray in the controversial demolition of an old coal plant that blanketed much of the Little Village neighborhood under piles of dust earlier this month.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has accused the developer behind the demolition with breaking air and water pollution laws, while Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office on Wednesday said it was reviewing the incident.

The double-barreled move from the state against developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners comes a week after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration said it was fining Hilco $68,000 for its role in the demolition of a smokestack at the plant.

Hilco could face tens of thousands of dollars in additional fines as a result of the state EPA violations, according to the state law. While Chicago has limited authority to enforce its local ordinances related to construction dust and air quality, Raoul has broad powers to enforce the Illinois Environmental Protection Act

“Photographs and videos taken during and following the implosion show a large cloud of dust and airborne material,” Illinois EPA officials said in a statement Wednesday. “While some dust suppression controls were utilized, a substantial plume of dust exited the site from the implosion.”

The state EPA referred the case to Raoul’s office following the April 11 incident at the former Crawford coal power plant. The botched demolition, which happened with little notice and during a respiratory pandemic, blanketed the community with dust. The dust cloud was widely recorded on video and in photographs. 

“We received the referral from the Illinois EPA and it is under review,” said Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

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

Specifically, the EPA said in its violation notice, Hilco violated the state Environmental Protection Act by failing to comply with its stormwater protection permit that required the control of dust during demolition and construction. The company also failed to adhere to a stormwater pollution prevention plan and did not establish and follow procedures to prevent or mitigate air pollution, the state EPA said in the notice.

In all three areas, the EPA told Hilco that “compliance is expected immediately.”

Hilco and its demolition contractor used explosives to implode the tall smokestack at the old Crawford site.

“The demolition of an on-site smokestack resulted in a large dust cloud that adversely affected residents in the surrounding area,” the EPA violation notice sent to Hilco on April 16 stated. “Due to the nature and seriousness of the alleged violations, please be advised that resolution of the violations may also require the involvement of a prosecutorial authority.”

Hilco received its stormwater permit in 2019, the state EPA said in its statement. According to the statement, Hilco itself reported to the state EPA on April 15 that it violated its permit.

The city’s $68,000 in fines are being assessed, the mayor announced, based on violations of four city ordinances that relate to construction and demolition dust as well as air pollution. 

Lightfoot has said the city’s health department will be “working hand in glove” with the Illinois EPA to determine additional enforcement measures that may be taken.

Lightfoot issued a stop-work order at the site, but is allowing the developer and its new contractor Heneghan Wrecking to clean up debris from the implosion.

This isn’t the first time Hilco faced environmental violations.

In Maryland, Hilco and its partners were fined for environmental violations related to the demolition of retired steel mill buildings, according to a settlement. Contractor MCM Management Corp., which worked on the Crawford site, also was part of the Maryland project.

In a 2015 agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the developers and its contractor settled, and were forced to complete $3.375 million in environmental projects. The companies also were fined $375,000.

Last week, the Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson confirmed he has opened an investigation into the implosion.

Representatives from Hilco did not immediately return calls for comment.

This story was produced by Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit newsroom focused on Chicago’s neighborhoods, and the Better Government Association, a nonpartisan watchdog organization.

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.


Hilco Can Clean Debris At Old Little Village Coal Plant This Week, But Other Work Still Banned At The Site

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

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