A group of residents of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood are looking into filing a lawsuit, their attorney says, after a nearby smoke stack demolition released a massive cloud of dust that blanketed the area on Saturday.
Attorney Frank Avila said Sunday that he will be representing seven clients, all Little Village residents, who were impacted by the demolition as they explore legal action.
Avila said he was "appalled" by the demolition, calling it "environmentally dangerous" and adding that those responsible needed to be held accountable.
On Saturday, Hilco Redevelopment Partners conducted a scheduled and previously approved implosion of a smoke stack at the now-closed Crawford Power Generating Station. The smoke stack was successfully imploded, but the demolition released a large plume of dust into the air, which then settled on homes, vehicles and businesses throughout Little Village.
Now facing questions about why the city permitted the implosion to move forward, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday that the company had been issued permits with the expectation that they would control dust at the site, but that they failed to do so.
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.
“Hilco made repeated assurances that they could do the implosion of the smoke stack and contain the dust to the site itself,” she said. “Based on that they were allowed to proceed forward. Something went horribly wrong yesterday, and that is the core issue of the investigation.”
“We are working cooperatively with the City of Chicago to review yesterday's demolition event undertaken by our contractor," Hilco Redevelopment Partners CEO Roberto Perez said in a statement, adding, "We are sensitive to the concerns of the community and we will continue to work in full cooperation.”
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 may 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.
"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."
Avila planned to hold a news conference to discuss further action beginning at around 11:45 a.m. CST Monday at the demolition site.