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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Instead Of Getting Fired, City Official In Botched Implosion That Covered Little Village In Dust Gets Written Reprimand

The city's watchdog wanted the Department of Public Health official punished or fired because the official knew in advance the problems the implosion could cause, according to a report.

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 — A city public health official received a written reprimand for his role in the botched Hilco implosion that blanketed Little Village in dust — even though the Inspector General recommended the official be punished or fired.

In a new report, the city watchdog recommended discipline for three city officials involved in the botched implosion at the old Crawford Coal Plant, 3501 S. Pulaski Rd., and found one of the officials knew in advance the implosion could cause problems.

“The senior official’s abdication of responsibility and willful bureaucratic negligence allowed the demolition contractor to proceed unchecked with minimal dust mitigation measures, including a failure to soak the ground prior to the implosion,” the inspector general wrote in the report. 

The Inspector General’s Office recommended the Department of Public Health official, who is not named, be punished or fired.

After receiving the Inspector General’s recommendation, the Department of Public Health agreed the official should be punished, but said it would be a written reprimand, the report said. 

The inspector general also recommended two unnamed Department of Buildings officials be punished for not following regulations that “required the demolition permit application to detail the techniques and processes to be used, including whether explosives would be utilized.”

The Department of Buildings declined to discipline those two officials, the report said.

The implosion at the Crawford site has been a flashpoint in the ongoing fight over environmental racism in Little Village. The April 2020 explosion coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving neighbors concerned over how the dust might exacerbate the respiratory illness. 

Activists begged the city to halt the demolition during the pandemic, but it went on regardless. Hilco Redevelopment Partners was slapped with $68,000 in fines for the mishap, and was forced to pay an additional $370,000 in a settlement with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Hilco’s warehouse opened as a new Target distribution center in July, despite protests by community members.

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