Federal public health regulators are cracking down on a Southeast Side industrial facility after finding alarming levels of brain-damaging manganese near the site this fall.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that is has cited Watco Transloading with violating the federal Clean Air Act for excessive emissions of manganese, a heavy metal used in steelmaking that can cause neurological damage, including Parkinson’s-like symptoms, after prolonged exposure.
The EPA published new data last week revealing high concentrations of manganese near Watco’s facility over a six-week period in September and October. Air monitors recorded average manganese concentrations of 0.416 micrograms per cubic meter, which exceeds the federal health safety limit for manganese of 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter.
Late last week, Chicago’s Department of Public Health used the new air monitoring data to cite Watco with four violations of the city’s environmental code, for which the company faces up to $20,000 in fines.
Kansas-based Watco, whose Chicago facility is at 2926 E. 126th Place, could also be subject to fines by the EPA. The company has 30 days to respond to the agency’s notice of violation.
Representatives from Watco could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the EPA, 3,780 people live within a mile of Watco’s facility, including nearly 1,000 residents under the age of 18, and 234 children ages 5 and younger.
A recently published study of children in Ohio found a significant link between higher concentrations of manganese in hair samples and declines in IQ, mental processing speed and working memory.