Calling the incident “utterly unacceptable,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has ordered an investigation after the implosion of a smoke stack on the city’s West Side blanketed a neighborhood in dust.
On Saturday morning, the Hilco Redevelopment Partners company conducted a scheduled implosion of a smoke stack at the Crawford Power Generating Station, located in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. After the implosion of the structure at the now defunct coal-fired power plant, a massive cloud of dust quickly engulfed a large area around the site.
The Chicago Fire Department posted a video of the implosion on Twitter:
After the incident, Lightfoot issued an immediate stop-work order at the site, and blasted the company's actions at a press conference.
"What happened yesterday was utterly unacceptable," Lightfoot said. "It's unsafe, and it's not sanitary. I wouldn't tolerate it in my neighborhood, and we're not going to tolerate it here either. I want residents to know that I understand your answer, and I'm extremely angry myself that this happened."
Residents have expressed concerns about the materials kicked up by the implosion, posting dramatic photos and videos on social media:
Lightfoot announced a series of actions the city will take against the company after the incident. All residents impacted by the dust cloud will be given masks as a safety measure, and a stop-work order at the site will remain in effect until a full investigation into the implosion is complete.
The Chicago Department of Public Health will take steps to test the dust for contaminants, and will continue to monitor air quality in neighborhoods impacted by the incident.
The city will also order Hilco to conduct an "immediate clean-up" of the neighborhood.
"Street sweeping occurred yesterday, but that's not good enough," Lightfoot said. "I want the dust removed, and I want any impacted property to be restored."
Finally, the city will issue citations to the company in connection with the incident, meaning that fines will be assessed.
Officials also plan to conduct an extensive review of the permitting process for such controlled implosions. The permits for the project were issued earlier this year, according to city officials, but officials at the company had promised that numerous safeguards would be in place that would have prevented the release of dust that neighbors were affected by on Saturday.
"Hilco made repeated assurances that they could do the implosion of the smoke stack and contain the dust to the site itself," Lightfoot said. "Based on that, they were allowed to proceed forward, but something went horribly wrong yesterday."
Lightfoot said the company had proposed using water cannons to spray down the smoke stack before, during and after the demolition to help control the spread of dust.
"The videos I've seen don't suggest that there were any of these high-powered 'dust bosses' on site that would have contained the dust," Lightfoot said.
Chicago Alderman Michael Rodriguez said Sunday that the company had promised to alert residents to the planned demolition, but failed to do so.
"They said they would give adequate notice via mail," he said. "I demanded they communicate to the public immediately, and they committed to doing so. That didn't happen."
Rodriguez accused the company of being "disingenuous" with their promises that dust would not leave the site, and called their failure to prevent the release of dust "unacceptable."
"I have lived in this community all my life, and know that I am with you in this," he said. "I will take every step in my power to hold Hilco responsible."