The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) published on November 22nd that Pilsen does not meet the health-based national air quality standards for lead set in 2008. The determination was made after collecting air quality data from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, an air quality monitor atop a neighborhood school recorded that Pilsen’s air was at or above the national norm during 11 months that year, up to 10 times in December.
“This designation confirms that we have a public health emergency,” said Rosalie Mancera, a Pilsen Alliance board member. “I hope that this means the government will do something decisive about the polluters they have identified.”
A report draft available at the U.S. EPA website identifies lead sources likely to be contributing to the poor quality of the air in Pilsen. “There are two facilities in the state recommended nonattainment area that emit at, or above, 0.1 tpy of lead,” the report reads. “Kramer is one of these facilities, as is the Fisk Electric Generating Station.”
H. Kramer and Co. is a smelter only blocks from Perez Elementary School, where the first monitor was located. U.S. EPA cited Kramer for emission violations in March and April of this year. Fisk is one of the last remaining coal-fueled power plants in Chicago. Midwest Generation, the company that owns Fisk and Crawford (located in Little Village), is under intense political pressure to either clean up or close down these plants.
Nationally, lead in the air dropped 93 percent on average since 1980, when lead-gasoline began to be phased out, U.S. EPA reported. Lead can be dangerous to people’s health, particularly to children’s learning abilities and behavior.