Chicago issued citations to a developer and general contractors after a botched smoke stack demolition blanketed a city neighborhood in dust in what the mayor called a "total failure."
Officials also revealed a series of protocol changes, noting the implosion was the first of its kind since 2005.
"There was no separate in-depth permitting process for implosions," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, calling news of the damage "utterly" and "completely unacceptable."
A total of 16 citations were issued Friday, including ones to developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners and general contractors MCM and CDI, for a total of $68,000 in fines.
“While this situation is one that is extremely concerning even under normal circumstances, the current situation renders this error egregiously unacceptable," Chicago Department of Public Health Commission Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. "We will not rest until these developers are held accountable, and the department of public health will continue a robust investigation of the site and examination of all samples.”
Hilco's CEO Roberto Perez apologized in a letter Thursday "for the anxiety and fear caused this past weekend" and said its demolition contract did not follow measures that were supposed to be taken to mitigate dust from the implosion.
"We take pride in our track record of exceeding expectations for all phases of our redevelopment projects and this unintended result is not acceptable," he wrote.
The city has placed a six-month moratorium on implosion demolitions with plans to create a specific permitting process "with increased safety guidelines."
"I wouldn't tolerate this in my neighborhood and we're not going to tolerate this in any other neighborhood in this city," Lightfoot said.
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, Lightfoot previously said the company had been issued permits with the expectation that they would control dust at the site, but that they failed to do so.
“We are working cooperatively with the City of Chicago to review [Saturday's] demolition event undertaken by our contractor," Hilco Redevelopment Partners CEO Roberto Perez said in a statement Sunday, adding, "We are sensitive to the concerns of the community and we will continue to work in full cooperation.”
A group of residents of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood are looking into filing a lawsuit, their attorney says, following the Saturday demolition.
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.
The Chicago Department of Public Health said preliminary test results from both dust and air samples in the area following the implosion showed "there was no asbestos emitted from the stack implosion." There was also not detective "of particulate matter in the air," but testing is ongoing.
Since Saturday, the city said it has "taken multiple steps to hold the developer accountable and directed the developer to take swift action to clean and remediate the impacted area around the Crawford site." According to officials, the developer has agreed to the following:
- Full cooperation with the city of Chicago’s inquiries for additional information regarding the demolition of the site
- private street sweeping in the surrounding area following the implosion;
- coordination with Alderman Michael Rodriguez to travel throughout the residential streets around the perimeter to assess the damage and begin to compile a list of mitigation needs
- reimbursement to the city of Chicago for additional street sweeping measures
- deploying personnel door to door to discuss clean up needs with residents, and perform remedial services, free of charge, including window and vehicle washing
- distribution of thousands of masks to the community
“We will continue to fully cooperate with the city of Chicago and will be implementing all of the remediation efforts that have been requested," Perez said in a statement. "The health, safety and welfare of the Little Village community is of paramount concern to us as we work toward completing this project.”