General Iron, 1909 N. Clifton Ave., as seen from Bucktown. Credit: Hannah Alani/Block Club Chicago

EAST SIDE — Two public hearings this week will focus on a controversial North Side scrap yard moving to the Illinois/Indiana border.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has drafted a permit to allow General Iron to relocate to the East Side neighborhood. Reserve Management Group, which owns the metal scrapper at 1909 N. Clifton Ave., plans to move General Iron to 11600 S. Burley Ave. by the end of the year.

The hearings will be held 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday at this link, which works for the afternoon and evening sessions.

If you want to comment at the hearing, you must email hearing officer Jeffrey Guy or call 217-785-8724 by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The proposed East Side location lies within “an area of environmental justice concern” for state environmental regulators. It’s less than a half-mile from Rowan Park and about two-thirds of a mile from George Washington Elementary School.

Lincoln Park residents have called for the scrapper to shut down operations during the coronavirus pandemic and have criticized the planned move to the East Side as “unfathomable.”

Last fall, General Iron promised Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) to leave the North Side. That agreement followed a 2015 fire, a 2016 city-ordered shutdown and a 2017 harassment lawsuit.

The scrap yard currently neighbors the site of the $6 billion Lincoln Yards megadevelopment.

EPA test results from June 2018 show General Iron’s air emission rates at 171 pounds of zinc, 50 pounds of mercury and 3 pounds of lead annually. These results “are low compared to EPA emission limits,” the agency said in its report.

Initial results from May 2018, which exceeded the allowable limits, were thrown out due to outside contamination — and because the company’s testing contractor failed to follow EPA test methods.

The EPA’s standards for air quality are “unacceptably low,” Alexander Dzakovic, a doctor at Lurie Children’s Hospital, told Block Club in December.

“A polluter at the level of General Iron does not belong next to a residential neighborhood with playgrounds and daycares within a few blocks downwind,” Dzakovic said.

In a statement from December, General Iron criticized Lincoln Park neighbors’ concerns about air quality as being based in “substantial misinformation.”

The statement noted the company passed state and federal emissions tests. It also claimed the commercial air sensor installed by neighbors to monitor pollution was “inappropriate” for determining the area’s air quality.

“Unfortunately, it appears that tweeting inaccurate and irresponsible information is driving neighborhood engagement, rather than discussing real facts,” the company wrote.

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