The plume of dust that coated six blocks of homes in Little Village after the botched demolition of the smokestack at the former Crawford Power Plant did not threaten residents’ health, according to final test results released Monday by the city of Chicago.
Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the tests determined that the dust plume, released April 11, did not include asbestos or other chemicals harmful to residents’ health.
“Based on the validated results that we are publishing today we have no reason to believe the implosion emitted additional toxic materials into the surrounding community, but the department remains committed to continue ongoing tests of the site to monitor these levels,” Arwady said.
City officials tested 14 dust wipe samples for asbestos, lead, cadmium, selenium, nickel and zinc, chromium and arsenic. Soil samples collected on April 13 were tested for asbestos and other metals harmful to humans. Air pollution tests looked at organic compounds and dust particles, officials said.
“The test results, which included analysis of particulate matter, dust composition, building debris and soil composition, show that there is no apparent health risk to the surrounding community,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office and the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Small concentrations of lead and barium were found in the dust, but the health experts who analyzed the data “determined that the levels found do not present an apparent health risk to residents” and are within federal levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
No asbestos was found in the dust, according to the tests conducted by the Chicago Department of Public Health and verified by “a non-governmental agency” that city officials did not identify.
However, arsenic, barium, lead and mercury were found in soil samples collected from the site. That is “consistent with expectations of the site, as well as with background levels found in soil throughout the city. Health professionals believe these levels do not currently pose a material health risk to the surrounding community,” according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
In addition, air tests did reveal low levels of volatile organic compounds, and city health officials are “currently reviewing these results with experts to better understand potential sources and impacts while comparing them to background levels found in the air, both in Little Village and across the city.”
Additional air monitors are being installed to “account for sustained readings over the next several weeks,” according to city officials.
The city has hit Hilco with 16 citations, which come with $68,000 in fines, for allowing the plume to inundate the surrounding neighborhood, the mayor’s office announced April 17.
In addition, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has asked Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to take action against the firm for violating the Illinois Environmental Protection Act; Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations; and its permit governing the discharge of pollutants into stormwater.
Representatives for Hilco declined to comment on the test results.