Air Monitors Show Chicago Company Emitting Brain Poisons on SE Side of Chicago

CHICAGO – New US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) monitoring data shows dangerously high levels of the neurotoxin manganese being emitted in Chicago from a Southeast Side facility owned by Watco Companies. Despite citations from Chicago’s Department of Public Health and a Notice of Violation from US EPA in early December, monitored levels of brain-damaging manganese at the facility reached twice the federal health screening threshold for the pollutant (0.3 ug/m3 ) in November, while the three month manganese average between the commencement of metals monitoring in September 2018 through December remained dangerously high at 0.435 ug/m3.

Community groups and advocates continue to call for a ban on all manganese handling within city limits and urge State and federal agencies to step in to address the serious public health risk posed by Chicago’s manganese handlers.

Following are quotes from Southeast Side community leaders:

From Peggy Salazar, Director of Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF):
“Polluters like Watco don’t seem to care about the rules or our health. They shouldn’t be allowed to put us in danger and if we need to shut them down in order to protect the health of our community, then that’s what the City should do.”

From Pastor Matthew Zemanick from Lebanon Lutheran Church:
“Because of the toxic air found in our parish, we, Lebanon Lutheran Church, are moved to respond alongside the SSCBP & SETF. We do not want toxic air to affect our long-term health and the well-being of our children. When one member of the Body of Christ breaths in toxic air, we all do. God calls us to care for creation and one another.”

From Martha Torrez Allen, Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (SSCBP) Co-Chair and member of the Southeast Environmental Task Force:
“Our loved ones' health and wellbeing should never take a back seat to Watco's or other polluters' profits. They've proven that they're not going to clean up their act, so they need to get out."  

From Gina Ramirez, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) staffer and Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (SSCBP) Co-Chair:
“We keep hearing that we need to wait and give companies like Watco more time and the benefit of the doubt, but they continue to put my family, and thousands of other Chicago families, at risk. We need a ban on manganese now because polluters like Watco and SH Bell have proven to us that there is no way to safely handle this dangerous chemical near homes, schools, and public places.”


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


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