Chicago 606OD needle yard gets clean-up after I-Team expose

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Last September Chuck Goudie and the ABC7 I-Team discovered thousands of used syringes and needles at a homeless encampment on the Chicago River. Now something is being done. (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
Nearly seven months after the ABC7 I-Team found thousands of illicit drug needles near a downtown homeless encampment on the Chicago River, city officials have started cleaning and clearing the site.

Following the I-Team report, Chicago 606OD, "the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) conducted an environmental inspection of the property near the bridge house on Congress Avenue" said Anel Ruiz with CDPH. Ruiz said that the health department "deemed that the presence of used needles and other potentially hazardous waste in the area posed a threat to the safety of the general public."

This month a two-week "intensive clean-up effort" was contracted by the Chicago Department of Transportation to "restore the property."

The thousands of needles, which had apparently been discarded by drug abusers, have now been removed along with several makeshift homeless shelters and the personal accouterments that were scattered along the riverbank.

The site is in the shadow of Chicago's tallest skyscraper, the Willis Tower. Tourist boats pass by the location every day.

Amid an epidemic of overdoses - 6,590 during the most recent reporting year in Chicago and hundreds resulting in deaths - the discovery of a downtown needle-yard was stunning, but not necessarily surprising.

According to city officials, "the Department of Family Support Services has been working to engage individuals in the surrounding encampment by offering them options for services and transport to shelter."

Last week as the clean-up was underway, piles of garbage could be seen along the ramp to Lower Wacker Drive and fencing was being installed to cordon off the properties north and south of Congress Parkway on the river, a gateway to downtown. Posted signs revealed that the city was behind the cleanup and CDOT officials on Thursday verified that the project was underway.

While it isn't known what the property will be used for - if anything - it seems evident from the fencing that a tent city for the homeless and a drug yard will no longer be allowed.

The cleanup rids the riverfront of a hazardous needle-yard and probably blocks it off from future use by drug abusers. The underlying problem continues-overdoses that city data puts at about 18 per day...and hundreds of opioid deaths every year.

The abuse is occurring in plain sight, according to what we found - with overdoses on Michigan Avenue, State Street, Navy Pier, at both of the airports and both major league ballparks.
Related Topics:
I-Teamopioidsheroinfentanylillegal drugsdrug addictionChicagoLoop
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