Hilco Redevelopment Partners has issued a formal apology following demolition over the weekend of a former coal stack in Little Village that covered the neighborhood in a plume of fine powder, increasing residents’ already elevated anxiety and fear in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This unintended result is not acceptable,” Hilco CEO Roberto Perez said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
The implosion experts subcontracted for the demolition, Controlled Demolition International (CDI), had assured Hilco that a plan was in place to contain the dust that migrated into the surrounding neighborhood, specifically the use of water before, during and after the implosion. Those measures were “not sufficient,” Hilco acknowledged, and CDI will have no role on the site going forward, the statement noted.
Hilco outlined further corrective actions, including distributing masks to residents and offering the cleaning of windows and vehicles free of charge, as well as its cooperation in a review of Saturday’s events.
Those actions fall short of demands made by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) in a statement and petition of its own.
LVEJO has opposed Hilco’s plan for the former Crawford Power Generating Station from the outset on the grounds that swapping a coal plant for a warehouse and distribution center is simply trading one polluter for another.
In the wake of the weekend’s demolition mishap, LVEJO is calling for an “immediate and comprehensive public disclosure of the mix of toxins and materials that made up the polluted dust cloud” and referral of the case to the Illinois attorney general for investigation.
“The release of air pollution beyond the boundaries of the property is a violation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act,” LVEJO said, “and Hilco must be prosecuted by the State of Illinois for these violations to the fullest extent of the law.”
Below, the full statement from Hilco:
April 14, 2020: A Statement from Hilco Redevelopment Partners CEO - Roberto Perez:
We acknowledge and apologize for the anxiety and fear caused this past weekend as the concrete stack at the shuttered Crawford Power Station in Little Village was demolished. These concerns were further elevated given the implosion took place during the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The implosion process was conducted by one of the most recognized implosion experts in the country who was hired by our primary demolition contractor on site. Hilco Redevelopment Partners expected the implosion expert that was engaged to follow the plan submitted to and the permit issued by the City of Chicago, including, but not limited to the dust mitigation plan and protocol, which included on-site water to be used before, during and after the implosion.
Despite the assurances we received from our implosion expert, the measures that were to be implemented were not sufficient to contain the dust that migrated off site. As a real estate redevelopment company, we take pride in our track record of exceeding expectations for all phases of our redevelopment projects and this unintended result is not acceptable.
We are cooperating with the City of Chicago and all appropriate agencies as they conduct a full review of the events of April 11th, and we are implementing a thorough corrective action plan. The following immediate steps have already been taken:
- Monday, 04/13, the prior lead demolition contractor will no longer be providing any supervisory control on the site going forward.
- Monday, 04/13, HRP confirmed that Heneghan Wrecking Company will work as the primary demolition contractor, and Heneghan will take over control of all activity once work resumes.
- Monday, 04/13, HRP confirmed that no future demolition implosions will occur at the site going forward.
- Monday, 04/13, HRP will require that the demolition contractor increase the amount of dust suppression above and beyond what is required.
- Monday, 04/13, at the request of the City, HRP (i} sent personnel door to door to discuss clean up needs with residents and (ii} offered remedial services, free of charge, including window and vehicle washing.
- Monday, 04/13, HRP committed to promptly distributing 10,000 masks to the community in response to COVID-19.
- Sunday, 04/12, HRP agreed to reimburse the City of Chicago for additional street sweeping measures.
- Saturday, 04/11, HRP mobilized private street sweepers from 31st to 33rd, Pulaski Rd. to Lawndale St . following the implosion.
- Saturday, 04/11, HRP worked in close coordination with the 22nd Ward Alderman on site and drove through the residential streets around the perimeter to assess the situation.
We understand, apologize to and sympathize with the Little Village community. The health, safety and welfare of the local community is of paramount concern to Hilco Redevelopment Partners as we work toward completing this project and driving economic viability to the community .
Hilco Redevelopment Partners purchased the obsolete Crawford power plant at the end of 2017. We entered the site into the IEPA's voluntary Site Remediation Program and intend to remediate the site to comprehensive industrial regulatory closure st andards. Upon completion, we will have remediated and redeveloped the property to support 21st century commerce and thousands of jobs for the community . This project represents an opportunity to bring improved infrastructure and a sustainable design (including, but not limited to, solar panels, infrastructure for electric vehicles, and 670 new trees) that will create a significant economic impact to the Little Village Community.