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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Hilco Agrees To Pay $370,000 After State Sues Over Smokestack Fiasco

Hilco must pay $370,000 to a Little Village wellness organization working to address asthma in the area and continue dust mitigation efforts for the remainder of the site's demolition.

A drone video showed how the dust cloud spread from the Crawford demolition site and descended onto Little Village homes.
Alejandro Reyes/YouTube
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LITTLE VILLAGE — More than seven months after a botched implosion covered Little Village in a cloud of dust, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has settled a lawsuit against Hilco Redevelopment Partners and its contractors.

Raoul announced the settlement Thursday, which will require Hilco to pay $370,000 into a fund to support the community’s “long term health and wellness.” The money will go toward ACCESS’ Little Village Community Health and Wellness Program, which works to address asthma, diabetes and hypertension.

The settlement will also require the developer and its contractors to comply with dust mitigation plans for the remainder of the demolition project.

The demolition of the old Crawford Coal Plant site is nearly complete and construction has been underway for months.

In a statement, Raoul said the settlement held Hilco and its contractors “accountable for their failure to adequately protect residents from air pollution during demolition at the site.”

“It also represents a step toward environmental justice for residents of the Little Village community,” Raoul said.

In the lawsuit filed in May, Raoul alleged Hilco and its contractors, MCM Management Corp and Controlled Demolition, violated the state’s air pollution regulations when it demolished a 378-foot smokestack at the nearly century-old Crawford site April 11.

The city-approved implosion sent a cloud of dust into the air and covered the streets of Little Village, causing neighbors to worry about the contents of the dust.

“The companies responsible for the demolition of the Crawford Power Generating Station’s smokestack failed to take steps to protect the community from air pollution and compromised air quality at a time when we are urging residents to remain in their communities to minimize the spread of a deadly respiratory disease,” Raoul said in a press release at the time.

Credit: Maclovio/ instagram@macnifying_glass
Little Village streets were covered in dust following demolition of a smokestack at the old Crawford Coal Plant April 11.

Hilco, which purchased the decommissioned coal plant in 2017, is demolishing the site to make way for a one-million-square-foot logistics facility.

Following the implosion, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency referred the investigation to the state attorney general’s office after the company and its contractor “failed to take necessary steps to protect nearby residents from the resulting impact of the implosion,” Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim said in a statement at the time.

Following the demolition, city officials issued a stop-work order at the site and hit the company with $68,000 in fines. The company’s contractor, Heneghan Wrecking, has been allowed to clean up demolition debris at the site.

This is not the first time Hilco and its contractor have faced allegations of environmental violations.

In Maryland, Hilco and its partners were fined $375,000 in 2015 for environmental violations related to the demolition of retired steel mill buildings. Contractor MCM Management Corp., which worked on the Crawford site, also was part of the Maryland project.

In a settlement agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the developers and its contractor also were required to complete $3.375 million in environmental projects.

Following the April implosion, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and neighbors called on the developer to abandon its plan to redevelop the site into the distribution center.

Activists in the majority-Latino neighborhood on the Southwest Side also want Lightfoot to rescind the $19.7 million in tax subsidies the city has promised Hilco for the project. Last month, Chicago’s city council approved an ordinance allowing the city to claw back tax breaks for “bad actor” developers, but it is not retroactive and could not be used against Hilco.

Earlier this year, the city’s Inspector General Joseph Ferguson confirmed he has opened an investigation into the implosion

Representatives from Hilco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read all of Block Club’s coverage on Hilco here.

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