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Manganese A Threat To North Branch Too, Ald. Hopkins Says

By Ted Cox | August 9, 2017 6:14am
 Ald. Brian Hopkins
Ald. Brian Hopkins
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

LINCOLN PARK — A North Side alderman is calling for the city to monitor the presence of manganese in the North Branch Industrial Corridor, even as the Department of Public Health said it will continue to focus its study on the potentially dangerous substance on the Southeast Side.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday the city would study the presence of manganese in and around former steel mills on the Southeast Side near the Calumet River.

That was after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) late last month called out the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the private S.H. Bell company to look into reports of petroleum coke and manganese pollution on the Southeast Side.

The City Council has already pursued measures against so-called petcoke, and the city has banned it from Southeast Side storage sites.

Hopkins piggybacked on Durbin's call last week, tweeting that manganese "has also been measured in neighborhoods downwind of the North Branch Industrial Corridor," along a 3.7-mile stretch of the Chicago River between Fullerton and Kinzie avenues.

Manganese is a vital nutrient found in many foods, but it is also an element used in steel production, and if inhaled as airborne pollution it's been found to impair the nervous system.

According to Hopkins' office, he's worked with Durbin on expanding the study of manganese to the North Side, and Durbin spokesman John Normoyle confirmed Tuesday "the alderman’s office has just brought potential pollution concerns to our attention."

Yet Caitlin Polochak, spokeswoman for the city's Department of Public Health, said it would not be expanding its study to the North Side.

The department and the city "are committed to the health of our residents and our communities," Polochak said Tuesday, but she added, "At this time, the study is focused on the Southeast Side."

Just as the city is preparing to open the Southeast Side to housing developments, the North Branch Industrial Corridor has also been recently opened to mixed-use developments in a framework plan approved by the Department of Planning and Development and accompanying zoning changes approved by the City Council.