City Presents Plan for Final Coal Plant Demolition, Water Cannons Included

The partly demolished site of the former Crawford Power Generating Station, which was active from 1925 to 2012. (WTTW News)The partly demolished site of the former Crawford Power Generating Station, which was active from 1925 to 2012. (WTTW News)

According to the Chicago Department of Buildings, what’s left of the former Crawford Power Generating Station, following a botched implosion of its smokestack in April, poses a great enough threat to public safety to warrant another go at removal.

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This time, plenty of water will be on hand to ensure another plume of dust doesn’t engulf the surrounding Little Village neighborhood, officials said.

Demolition of the remnants of the coal plant’s turbine building was slated for last week but put on hold after protests from Little Village neighbors, including a march on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home in Logan Square. The work has been delayed, at least for the next several days, to allow for additional community outreach, said a spokesperson from the mayor’s office.

That outreach includes sharing information about the status of the turbine’s structure, which the Department of Buildings has deemed “dangerous.”

According to department documents, steel columns are exposed and unbraced, large areas of exterior brick are unsupported and could collapse, structural steel roof trusses are damaged, and the site is attracting scrappers, who are placing themselves at risk (and trespassing) to scavenge for materials.

The site borders Pulaski Road, which is why, beginning Wednesday, the city will close two of the road’s four lanes near the site. Traffic is being shifted to the west side of Pulaski, with one lane open in each direction until demolition is complete, officials said.

Neighbors and community organizations have questioned why the demolition, including the ill-fated implosion — which resulted in a $68,000 fine and a lawsuit filed against developer Hilco by the Illinois attorney general — is considered necessary in the midst of a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system. 

The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) said the demolition is “beyond reckless and further threatens public health,” and called for the city to not simply sum up its conclusions regarding the site’s dangerous status, but to release any engineering analysis or testing results to back up the claim. 

“Enough is enough,” LVEJO said in a statement. “Environmental justice communities in Chicago support each other and demand a complete transformation of both the city’s laws and ways of doing things to processes and policies that center community power and public health.”

The city has provided more specifics about the demolition of the turbine fragment, which will be conducted by Heneghan Wrecking: To minimize dust, the contractor is using a hydraulic excavator equipped with a specialized attachment that will tap the bricks to peel them away from the steel columns.

To further control dust, three misting cannons will emit moisture into the air to capture particles. In addition, a water cannon will saturate the ground where the bricks fall during removal.

Regardless of the outcome of the pending demolition, LVEJO continues to demand that Hilco leave the Little Village community and abandon its plan to redevelop the site as a warehouse and distribution center. 

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]


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