PILSEN — A Pilsen environmental group is calling on the city to deny a new permit for a controversial metal shredder in the neighborhood over concerns about air pollution.
The Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization has been working for years to raise awareness about Sims Metal Management, 2500 S. Paulina St., and the impact it has on the surrounding neighborhood, said data scientist and PERRO volunteer Troy Hernandez. Now, the metal scrapper’s permit is up for renewal.
Hernandez and PERRO volunteer Donald Wink, a University of Illinois Chicago chemistry professor, posted a video to YouTube last week detailing alleged issues with Sims’ application and argued the facility should be shut down until it can prove it’s operating appropriately.
“If [Sims] can clean up, we would like them to clean up. If they can’t, we would like them to shut down,” Hernandez said. “It tells me they’re not operating in good faith.”
A spokesperson for Sims could not immediately be reached for comment.
In October, Sims was sued by the Illinois Attorney General’s office for allegedly breaking air pollution laws. The lawsuit claimed the facility failed “to demonstrate overall reduction in uncontrolled emissions.” Sims, which shreds and recycles metal materials, vehicles and major appliances, agreed to work with the Illinois EPA to address the issue.
Sims’ facility is located less than a mile from three Pilsen schools — Benito Juarez Community Academy, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and Whittier Dual Language Magnet School.
Hernandez said PERRO is encouraging residents to file their concerns during the open comment period for the permit application until Feb. 28. If there is significant interest from the public, the Department of Public Health may hold a community meeting on the matter.
Hernandez, a former aldermanic candidate, said he’s skeptical about how effective a community meeting would be, fearing it would be “performative.” He said communicating directly with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and sifting through documents is where the important, but boring, work lies.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) rallied with several Southwest Side groups Monday to raise attention about the permit application and ask the city to deny it.
The freshman alderman said he was notified the Sims facility applied for a new permit at the end of November and reached out to the city’s Department of Public Health in December to set up a community meeting before the end of the comment period. He said he has also requested a meeting with IEPA about Sims’ application.
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