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South Chicago, East Side

Building On General Iron Owner’s Property Collapsed With Asbestos Inside — But The Company Didn’t Tell The City For Months

The asbestos doesn't pose an immediate health risk, officials said. The city will cite Reserve Management Group, which is suing to open a fifth scrapper on-site, for building and health code violations.

Community members, leaders and activists gathered outside City Hall to call on Mayor Lightfoot to deny the permit to move General Iron to the Southeast Side on the 20th day of the hunger strike on Feb. 23, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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EAST SIDE — City officials will cite General Iron’s parent company for failing to alert them of a collapsed building at the Southeast Side site where the company plans to move the metal scrapper’s operations.

The Chicago buildings and health departments determined Reserve Management Group violated city code after discovering a partially collapsed roof last week on the company’s recycling campus at 11600 S. Burley Ave.

Though materials containing asbestos were found in the building, there are no immediate threats to nearby residents’ health, city officials said. The asbestos is unlikely to become airborne or pose an environmental hazard.

“RMG failed to maintain the vacant building in sound condition and good repair as required by code,” Victor Owoeye, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s deputy press secretary, said in a statement.

The company also “failed to monitor and maintain the vacant building in a secure and sound condition and failed to notify the city of the partial roof collapse in a timely manner,” Owoeye said.

The company was aware of the damaged building since April, but did not let the city know until last Wednesday, officials with the buildings department said.

The vacant structure will be demolished once the Chicago Department of Public Health completes an investigation into the incident. Asbestos professionals will be on hand for the demolition.

RMG must also file a plan for controlling the spread of dust and monitoring air quality during the demolition.

Company spokesperson Randall Samborn declined to comment.

RMG operated General Iron in Lincoln Park until this year and wants to move the scrapper’s essential equipment and most employees to the Southeast Side site.

Company officials have said they spent $80 million to build a new facility for Southside Recycling at 116th and Burley, where four other recycling facilities already operate. The roof collapse was not related to the new construction, the city confirmed.

State and city officials controversially approved some of Southside Recycling’s needed permits over the past year, but the company awaits the green light on a city operating permit to officially open for business.

City officials first refused to say when they would rule on the permit, then halted the review entirely at federal regulators’ request.

Southside Recycling and RMG sued the city in Cook County Circuit Court July 1, seeking $100 million in damages and the right to open in the East Side neighborhood. A federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit in late June.

RMG claims the city and public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady violated a 2019 agreement to help the company move General Iron’s operations to the Southeast Side.

City health officials did not immediately respond when asked whether the citations would impact Southside Recycling’s permit review.

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