Proposal for a New Industrial Shredder across from Benito Juarez High School Faces Community Scrutiny

March 10, 2015

Attempt to sneak in a new metal shredder in Pilsen slowed down byshredder the community

Pilsen Alliance leaders were invited to meet newly appointed EPA administrator Gina McCarthy at a decontaminated site in Pilsen two weeks ago.  Her visit was a well deserved victory lap for her agency, local authorities and continued community involvement.  However, she admitted, this victory was by no means the end of the work.  A proposal to open a second industrial metal shredder in Pilsen, originally without proper information to the community, is giving her words new resonance. 

“Pilsen already has one of the two shredders operating in Chicago,” said Rosalie Mancera, Pilsen Alliance board member.  “We want to make sure operating a second shredder across from our local high school won’t have any negative impact on any of us.”

Back in August, Pilsen residents learned from reporters that a new metal shredder was in the works at Cermak and Laflin, only two weeks before it was to be approved without scrutiny at the Zoning Board of Appeals. The new plant would be across the street from Benito Juarez H.S. and only three blocks away from SIMS Metal Management, one of the two operating Chicago shredders.  Pilsen Alliance reached out to proponents and immediately demanded more time to understand the proposal, a demand joined by unlikely ally Dick Mell.  Then Ald. Danny Solis, the project’s alderman, agreed to ask proponents to delay the hearing he had approved until October.

The short timeline and the lack information made people suspicious of the project.  Documents at City Hall were filed by Pure Metal Recycling LLC, a joint venture between SMS Mill Services and ACME Refining.  The papers describe the plan only generally, stating that the plant’s main activity would be to shred metal, including cars.  When the Sun-Times revealed that ACME’s top recipient of political money was Ald. Danny Solis at $33,000, suspicions of political favoritism grew. 

Ald. Solis is not only the alderman for the new shedder and the existing one, but he is also the head of the City Council’s zoning committee.  These positions make it unlikely for ACME not to have sought the alderman’s blessing, particularly considering the relationship mentioned by the Sun-Times.  At a public meeting last week, Ald. Solis admitted that he has known of the project for two years.  In August he consulted with the local environmental organization PERRO, now his ally.  PERRO must have okayed the deal since the new shredder proposal was put on the Zoning Board of Appeals’ agenda that very month, August, when fewer people are looking.

The attempt to express-approve the shredder did not pass the confidence test.  A Sun-Times story helped put some more light on the project, connecting Ald. Solis to ACME and the new shredder to the fight to reduce air pollution in Pilsen.

“After winning a long-running battle to close a coal-fired power plant, some in Pilsen are wary of Pure Metal Recycling plan,” the Sun-Times reported August 24.  “Rosalie Mancera, an activist with the Pilsen Alliance, says the company should put its promises in writing.”

In October, Pilsen Alliance leaders asked Pure Metal officials to postpone the hearing for a second time, and they agreed. The next and likely final hearing for the project’s permit at the Zoning Board of Appeals will be in Chicago’s City Council chambers on December 20. Pure Metal will have to satisfy a number of criteria at the hearing, including demonstrating that the shredding operation will cause no harm to the community.

During this time Pilsen Alliance leaders have looked into this new proposal, including paying visits to the two existing local shredders. We have talked to shredder owners, operators, workers, and environmental and industry experts.  We want to share what we have learned and also hear from neighbors.  Please come to the next meeting to get information, ask questions and try to reach a common view together.  

Thursday, December 12

6 PM

Rudy Lozano Library, 18th Street and Loomis

For more information, please call Pilsen Alliance: 312.243.5440