City Fines General Iron $6,000 For Explosions That Rattled North Side

General Iron’s metal-shredding operation in Lincoln Park. (WTTW News)General Iron’s metal-shredding operation in Lincoln Park. (WTTW News)

The city fined General Iron $6,000 after two explosions on Monday rattled the North Side metal shredder, officials announced.

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The explosions violated state pollution standards, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. The fines are a result of two citations issued by the city late Thursday.

City officials have ordered General Iron to cease its metal shredding operation in Lincoln Park pending an investigation of the blasts and a review of the facility's structural soundness.

In addition, city officials announced they will install air quality monitors “to better understand any potentially harmful substances that could have been emitted during the explosions and to more closely monitor the air going forward.”

The shredder, which has been the source of complaints and controversy for years, “will remain closed, with the exception of regular onsite maintenance, machinery repairs, and removal of finished materials from the site, until a corrective action plan has been approved by the city and shared with the community,” according to city health officials.

The damage was severe enough that the company is unable to operate until sufficient repairs are made, said spokesperson Randall Samborn.

The firm is still investigating the explosions.

“No other metal recycling facility in Chicago can match General’s Iron’s capacity or has the advanced pollution control equipment that we have installed, which is why it is in the city’s best long-term interest that we complete all necessary repairs, meet and exceed all city and state operating requirements, and resume responsible recycling that protects public health and the environment,” Samborn said in a statement.

Members of Clean the North Branch, a group of residents who have been pushing city officials to shut down the shredder, tweeted that the citations and fines were “a good first step.”

The group called on aldermen to hold a hearing on an ordinance the group submitted directly to the City Council on Wednesday using an obscure city rule. The measure asks for the shutdown of General Iron during the coronavirus pandemic, until phase five of the Chicago's reopening plan is complete.

However, that proposal was blocked by several aldermen from advancing to the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy, and is now mired into legislative limbo.

General Iron is planning to vacate its Lincoln Park site at the end of 2020 and move its operation to the Southeast Side. The Illinois EPA is currently reviewing the company's permit application regarding that move and is expected to announce its decision by the end of June.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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