Chicago’s Southeast Side Community Urges City to Take Action on Manganese, Create Broader Protection
Southeast Side community leaders met yesterday with City of Chicago officials and Alderwoman Sue Garza to discuss the City’s role in protecting residents from toxic manganese near neighborhoods and schools. Earlier this month, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation to S.H. Bell for causing manganese levels in excess of the federal health-based threshold on the Southeast Side and in violation of state law.
The City followed EPA’s action by rejecting S.H. Bell’s draft plan for controlling fugitive dust and demanding a more robust, quantifiable, and protective plan that will take all necessary steps to greatly reduce or eliminate manganese emissions at the facility. If the company fails to submit such a plan by September 6, 2017, it will start accruing penalties. The City is also widening its investigation of manganese facilities.
A coalition of neighbors and health groups had been raising the alarm on manganese, a neurotoxin known to negatively impact brain function, for over a year.
At yesterday’s meeting, City officials committed to addressing manganese pollution from sites like S.H. Bell and finding a city-wide solution to storage and handling of bulk industrial materials where they pose a public health threat. A representative from Mayor Emanuel’s office also committed to engaging in a dialogue over broader land use and other code reforms to address the cumulative environmental burden on communities like the Southeast Side.
Following is a joint statement from the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (SSCBP), the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF), Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Northwestern Pritzker Law's Environmental Advocacy Clinic, Chicago Legal Clinic, Reclaim Chicago and National Nurses United (NNU):
“Neurotoxins have no place in our neighborhoods. And now that we have confirmed dangerous levels of manganese, we demand fast action to protect the community. The City needs to provide a clear picture of the process for permitting and inspecting these chronic polluters, and move swiftly to create a plan that curbs toxic pollution before people’s health is at put at risk.
“Families have been breathing in this neurotoxin for years, likely at much higher levels, yet the City doesn’t have adequate rules to find and keep this neurotoxin out of neighborhoods.
“Our meeting with City officials was helpful and may lead to important action, but it has taken far too long to come to fruition. The process of just getting the City to listen to our concerns has been a big burden to the community. We should not have to wait so long to talk seriously about dealing with this issue.
“Today’s meeting reaffirmed that an equitable solution relies on the understanding and input of the community residents that have been impacted by dirty industry. The community must be at the center of a solution to ensure that they are not at risk from manganese and, more importantly, from the cumulative burden of the toxic soup on the Southeast Side.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 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 www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.