EAST SIDE — A federal health agency will launch a probe into the potential health risks of pollution emanating from two Southeast Side metal scrappers, which are near where their owner plans to open another scrapper over the objections of neighbors.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will review the “hazards posed by the emissions from industrial metal shredding” at Reserve Marine Terminals and South Shore Recycling at 11600 S. Burley Ave., the agency announced Thursday.
Both facilities are owned by Reserve Management Group, which also owns General Iron. RMG plans to move essential operations from the defunct North Side scrapper to open Southside Recycling at the 116th and Burley site.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd) called on the agency to review emissions from Reserve Marine Terminals and South Shore Recycling in February. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th) supported the politicians’ request.
The Southeast Side “has long borne the burden from toxic pollutants,” and residents “deserve to know about the public health hazards around these facilities,” Duckworth said in a statement.
“It’s clear there is an urgent need for an independent, expert evaluation of the public health hazards caused by this site,” Duckworth said. “I’m pleased [the federal government] accepted our request and will begin a comprehensive evaluation of existing health risks for Chicagoans on the Southeast Side.”
The report issued at the review’s end could “include recommendations for further actions, if warranted, to protect public health.”
Napuck Salvage of Waupaca and Regency Technologies — two other RMG facilities also operating at 11600 S. Burley Ave. — were not included in the review.
RMG has already undertaken “extensive” modeling of air emissions, including the impacts of the company’s existing businesses and nearby facilities, spokesperson Randall Samborn said.
The state’s permit issued last year indicates “the cumulative air impact will not exceed established health standards,” but the company nevertheless welcomes federal officials to tour the facility as part of their review, Samborn said.
“They would better grasp that this facility is a model to emulate to effectively capture, control, and contain emissions and it is not the ‘polluter’ as it is being falsely portrayed,” he said. “Politics, not environmental protection, is the only reason why Southside Recycling is being demonized and further delayed from operating.”
Neighbors and activists have fiercely protested the company’s plans for a fifth scrapper at Burley Avenue, including filing two federal civil rights complaints and having a month-long hunger strike earlier this year.
The city agreed to help move General Iron’s operations to the Burley Avenue site under Mayor Lori Lightfoot in September 2019.
After Lightfoot halted the health department’s permit review May 7 at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, RMG sued the city for $100 million and to force the city to issue a permit to open for business.
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