After General Iron Fire, The Sims Should Be Shut Down
Nearly two years ago, as the Chicago Southeast Siders fiercely opposed General Iron’s plans to relocate from the affluent Lincoln Park area to our working-class community, we received news of a series of explosions and of a fire at General Iron facilities.
These explosions and fires marked a turning point. The owners of the car crushing and metal shredding facility said the community’s concerns were overblown and that their facility was perfectly safe.
As part of the facility caught fire after the explosion, our fears and the years of outrage of Lincoln Park residents were undeniably on display. We absolutely did not want this mess next to our schools and homes after hearing about the General Iron disaster.
California and Minnesota have taken great steps to protect communities from hazardous installations. This industry doesn’t just recycle soda cans – despite what their marketing would have you believe – the reality is that they handle highly toxic materials, and the neighbors are right to want to shut down these facilities.
As we fought on the southeast side to prevent General Iron from settling, another similar facility continued to operate under the radar in Pilsen, next to Benito Juárez High School. After the city became aware of the problems of facilities like General Iron, attention turned to Sims Metal Management in Pilsen. This same company, which operated in the southeast, started collecting scrap metal again in my neighborhood.
Despite the EPA’s new requirement for this large metal recycling facility to install air monitors for hazardous pollution from the site, residents of the already overburdened community wonder if local and federal agencies can and should do more to protect the health of the community. . It was determined through testing that Sims was likely emitting more than 25 tons per year of volatile organic matter (VOM), in violation of state air pollution regulations.
My neighbors and I fought for years to stop General Iron. Southeast Siders went so far as to go on a hunger strike for 30 days on top of the constant letters, protests and pleas we had to do. A facility like Sims has no place in Pilsen, next to schools and homes.
The EPA and the City of Chicago must do the right thing and keep harmful industries out of our neighborhoods.