Pilsen residents represented by Pilsen Alliance filed an appeal in circuit court Monday to invalidate the approval of a potentially dangerous metal shredder across from the local high school. The request for an administrative review argues that approval took place after specified deadlines. Despite strong local opposition and experts’ opinions, Ald. Danny Solis endorsed the shredder proposed by two companies that have donated $53,000 to his political organization.
“We promised to do everything we could to stop Solis’ friends’ shredder,” said Byron Sigcho, Pilsen Alliance board member. “This action delivers on that commitment, but it also shows that when you pay, rules can be bent.”
The complaint argues that Pure Metal, the entity seeking the shredder approval, violated several deadlines in the permitting process. Pure metal was approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals on February 21, seven months and six days after filing for a hearing on July 15 of 2013. According to the ZBA rules, approval must come within six months of filing. In addition, Pure Metal appealed to the ZBA after being turned down by the City’s Planning and Zoning Department on May 14, 2013. By appealing on July 15, 2013, it violated the 45 day deadline established by the rules. Should the appeal be accepted by the court, Pure Metal would need to reapply for a permit.
“There were a number of abnormalities in the process,” said Nelson Soza, Pilsen Alliance’s executive director and one of the complainants. “Aside from the deadlines, the ZBA chair did not take into account key zoning issues, such as traffic, noise and pollution.”
“As virtually everyone in Chicago knows, when you have a politically appointed city entity, it’s hard to think that it will act with any kind of impartiality. Ultimately, I think our complaint shows that,” Soza said.
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 increase traffic, diesel pollution, noise and the chance of industrial accidents at a sensitive and congested intersection. According to expert testimony disregarded by the ZBA, truck traffic at the intersection where the shredder is proposed would create from 1,500 to 2,500 new truck trips a day.
Exhaust from metal shredders can carry toxic gases and metals into the air, according to studies. Emissions of particulate matter are the reason why shredders need a building permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, manganese and nickel, along with Freon and toxic gases associated with waste oil, have been found in air samples taken near some shredders. Chromium VI, one of the most potent known carcinogens, has also been found in emissions from metal shredders. Pure Metal’s would be the second shredder in Pilsen. Sims Metal Management has operated a shredder for several decades at 2500 S. Wood Street.
The new shredder is being proposed by Pure Metal, a partnership between metal recyclers ACME and SMS, the Chicago Sun Times reported. Jointly, these companies have donated $53,000 to Ald. Solis’ political organization. Solis tried to sneak in the shredder proposal in August of 2013, but was found out by the community and forced to delay its approval.
“Shredders can cause serious pollution, especially when they are poorly run,” Sigcho said. “Judging by the new shredder proponents’ current scrap metal operations, this new shredder could be a new nightmare for Pilsen.”