Pilsen environmental group calls on city to deny new permit for Sims metal crusher

PILSEN — An environmental group in Pilsen is calling on the city to deny a new permit for a controversial metal crusher in the neighborhood over concerns about air pollution.

The Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization has worked for years to raise awareness of Sims Metal Management, 2500 S. Paulina St., and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood, said Troy Hernandez, data scientist and PERRO volunteer. From now on, the scrap metal license is in the process of being renewed.

Hernandez and PERRO volunteer Donald Wink, a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, posted a video on YouTube last week detailing alleged issues with Sims’ candidacy and argued that the facility should be closed until it can be proven to be working properly.

“Yes [Sims] can clean, we would like them to clean. If they can’t, we would like them to close,” Hernandez said. “That tells me they’re not acting in good faith.”

A spokesperson for Sims could not immediately be reached for comment.

In October, Sims was sued by the Illinois attorney general’s office for allegedly violating air pollution laws. The lawsuit claimed the facility failed to “demonstrate overall reduction in uncontrolled emissions.” Sims, which shreds and recycles metal materials, vehicles and major appliances, agreed to work with the Illinois EPA to resolve the issue.

The Sims facility is located less than a mile from three schools in Pilsen – Benito Juarez Community Academy, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, and Whittier Dual Language Magnet School.

Hernandez said PERRO encourages residents to raise concerns during the open comment period for the permit application through Feb. 28. If there is significant public interest, the Department of Public Health may convene a community meeting about it.

Hernandez, a former alderman candidate, said he was skeptical of the effectiveness of a community meeting, fearing it would be “performative.” He said communicating directly with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and sifting through documents was the important but boring job.

Aldus. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) joined several groups on the Southwest side on Monday to draw attention to the permit application and ask the city to deny it.

The freshman alderman said he was notified that the Sims facility applied for a new permit in late November and contacted the city’s public health department in December to arrange a community meeting before the end of the comment period. He said he also requested a meeting with the IEPA about Sims’ candidacy.

RELATED: Aldermen push to close metal scrapers during coronavirus pandemic

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