Pilsen Metal Shredder Begins to Fall Apart: Project Partner Quits
Community VICTORY ON PILSEN SHREDDER more possible
Stiff community opposition and a Pilsen Alliance lawsuit keep the shredder in limbo
A proposal to build a new metal shredder in Pilsen showed its first signs of falling apart as one of two partners behind the venture quit the project this week, AMM.com reports. Scrap Metal Services LLC announced its exit from the Pilsen shredder project as it unveiled it had purchase an existing shredder in northern Indiana and other facilities. Although the Pilsen shredder has been approved, stiff community opposition and a Pilsen Alliance law suit keep the project in limbo.
“We have been looking at sitting a major auto shredding operation in the Chicagoland area and Northern Indiana,” SMS Chief Executive Officer Jeffry Gertler said in a statement announcing its exit from the Pilsen shredder. “Rather than add another shredder in a highly competitive marketplace, acquiring an existing shredding operation, which met our company’s environmental standards, was the economically prudent and strategically a good fit.”
A spokesperson for Pure Metal Recycling, the company behind the shredder, indicated the project would move forward without SMS, but the exodus of half of the project should be making proponents reevaluate their situation. The shredder collapse would signal a big defeat for Ald. Danny Solis, a wholehearted shredder supporter. Community residents reacted to the news with optimism and caution.
“This is not a victory yet, but the weakening of Pure Metal is a sign that our work is having an impact,” said Byron Sigcho, a Pilsen Alliance board member. “We want jobs, but not at the cost of people’s health and students’ safety.”
Conceived as a done deal under Pure Metal Recycling, the shredder was a joint venture between SMS and AcmeRefining, longtime supporters of Ald. Solis. SMS and its executives have given $20,500 to the 25th Ward Democrats since 2011, wrote Dan Mihalopoulos for the Sun Times in 2013, and Acme $32,500. $10,000 was given to Solis’ organization only three weeks before the incorporation of Pure Metal. The same day, a linked law firm also donated $1,000 to the 25th Ward Democrat. Solis wrote a letter of support for the shredder and tried to approve it without community scrutiny in August of 2013..
Community pressure, started as soon as news of the shredder hit Pilsen streets. The then fresh victory over Chicago’s last coal plants made the shredder seem like a step back. Its location at a busy intersection and in clear site of Benito Juarez H.S, made the project hard to swallow. Pollution, explosions, poor labor standards and the sneaky approach to permitting made the shredder unpopular early on.
“After winning a long-running battle to close a coal-fired power plant, some in Pilsen are wary of Pure Metal Recycling plan,” wrote Dan Mihalopoulos in August of 2013. “Rosalie Mancera, an activist with the Pilsen Alliance, says the company should put its promises in writing.”
Community residents were able to delay the permitting process in order to get expert advice and inform residents. But despite overwhelming community opposition, the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved the project on February 21. Pilsen Alliance filed an appeal to that decision in Circuit Court on July 1. A hearing on the case is expected September 18.
The new shredder is opposed by the community because it would go virtually across the street from Benito Juarez H.S., including the sports fields. A new shredder will also increase traffic, diesel pollution, noise and the chance of industrial accidents at a sensitive spot and at an already congested intersection. According to expert testimony disregarded by the ZBA, truck traffic at the intersection where the shredder is proposed would increase from 1,500 to 2,500 trips a day.
A new shredder would also double this industry’s particulate matter emissions in Pilsen since it would be the second one in the neighborhood. SIMS, the current shredder, operates west of Ashland, at 2500 S. Wood. SIMS is an international, publicly traded corporation with a clean record by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sims is also a unionized company, offering living wages and benefits operating under high safety standards.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis recently expressed her opposition to the shredder as well as Alivio Medical Center, Pilsen’s preeminent health care organization.
Pilsen Alliance, founded in 1998, is an independent grassroots community organization working on the concerns of Pilsen residents.
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