Today is Day 12 of a hunger strike led by activists on Chicago’s Southeast side to call attention to the relocation of a major industrial polluter to their community. General Iron, a scrap metal shredder that was repeatedly fined for environmental violations in its former home in Lincoln Park, is awaiting a final permit from the Chicago Department of Public Health to allow it to move its operations to the Southeast side. CNT strongly supports the campaign to stop General Iron, and we urge the City to reject this permit.
It would be difficult to find a more clear-cut example of environmental injustice than General Iron’s move to the Southeast side. According to the Calumet Connect Databook, the Southeast side is primarily home to people of color (60% of residents are Latinx and 25% are Black) who face a legacy of pollution by industry and transportation, leading to dangerous air quality and resulting in health problems for many residents. Poor air quality is a problem in any circumstances, but it’s a crisis in the context of a respiratory disease like COVID-19 which is worsened by air pollution. The Southeast side also faces worse urban flooding than most parts of Chicago, with the added problem of floodwaters carrying toxic chemicals from industries into residents’ yards and homes.
As Chicago confronts the role that racial segregation has played in its history (for any unfamiliar with this topic, the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Cost of Segregation report is a good place to start), we need to stop compounding the inequitable decisions of the past. But it is difficult to see this move in anything other than racial and economic terms: a major polluter, driven from a wealthy white neighborhood by resident demands, relocates to a neighborhood of mostly Black and Brown residents who already suffer from environmental and health disparities. How can we possibly allow this?
CNT supports the Southeast Environmental Task Force, the Calumet Connect partnership, and all of the other residents and activists seeking to stop General Iron. To make your voice heard, use this form from the Illinois Environmental Council to ask your legislators to pressure the City to deny this permit: https://ilenviro.org/general-irons-pollution-doesnt-belong-here/