PILSEN — Allowing a scrap metal shredding company to open a huge new facility in Pilsen could be a "huge slap in the face" after the neighborhood had made great strides toward cleaning up, community members said Wednesday night.
Community members, including Ald. Danny Solis, also worried about fumes from delivery trucks coming in and out of the proposed $30 million Pure Metal Recycling facility, which wants to open on 15 acres of land near Cermak Road and Loomis Street.
"One of the biggest things that was raised today was the issue of diesel. That’s the biggest problem we’ve got,” Solis (25th) said.
Solis was among the 50 people who turned out for the meeting to discuss the plans Wednesday night, including representatives from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Respiratory Health Association and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO).
PERRO representatives worried granting a rezoning to allow the shredder could backtrack on recent environmental strides in the neighborhood, including the cleanup of the Fisk Coal Plant and the lead-filled H. Kramer site.
“You’re not providing any concrete examples that there will be absolutely no air pollution after we fought so hard to reduce the air pollution in this community. It’s actually a slap in the face,” PERRO member Sarah Finkel told Pure Metal Recycling representatives.
The company is largely owned by Brett Baron, whose father, Larry Baron, is president of the Bridgeport-based Acme Metal Refinery, which was recently raided by agents from the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division. Justice Department spokesman Randall Samborn said this week there was no update on the investigation.
Brian Hynes, a lawyer for Pure Metal Recycling, declined to answer questions on the investigation, saying the company is not directly connected to Acme.
But he assured residents that the plant would have an indoor contained shredder, which he said would reduce air pollution. Trucks would unload inside to minimize the impact on local traffic and would also be required to kill their engines while unloading. Company officials also said that Pure Metal Recycling would have to abide by newer, more stringent environmental regulations than existing metal scrappers.
"If you have an old hospital, it's going to be dirty. They try to clean it and disinfect it every night, but it's still going to be dirty," Hynes said of older scrap metal places in Chicago. "At a certain point in time, a newer, modern efficient facility will be built to compete with that. And that's what you have here."
And he said the facility would bring 100 jobs.
Some community members were split on whether the metal shredder should be approved. Several said they thought it could be a good competition for Sims, a scrap metal facility at 2500 S. Paulina St., just down the street from the proposed site.
“It’s a greener, cleaner facility and anything that goes through there is going to be cleaner,” said Emma Lozano, a longtime resident and pastor at Lincoln United Methodist Church.
Details of the company’s projected emissions were not available Wednesday, with Pure Metal Recycling representatives saying it was too early in the process to provide them.
Diesel emissions "are clearly a huge issue,” Pure Metal Recycling rep Mark Sweadlow acknowledged. He stressed that a large portion of the facility would be dedicated to unloading trucks, thereby containing some of those emissions.
“Having the control is really the only way to move in and be a good neighbor and address some of these issues,” he said.