Chicago residents want to stop construction of toxic dump tower along lakefront on SE Side

Tuesday, June 11, 2024
Chicago residents want to stop toxic dump tower construction
Chicago residents and the Alliance of the Southeast are taking legal action to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from building a toxic dump tower.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's a plan with a foul smell for local environmental groups: There's new pushback against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a proposed waste dump tower along the lakefront on Chicago's Southeast Side.

On the shores of Lake Michigan, nestled next to Calumet Park, sits a restricted area called the Confined Disposal Facility: a fancy title for a dump that is buried under the tall grass. For the past 40 years, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has used the 45-acre site to hold toxins dredged from the Calumet River.

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"Right now, it is full, and the Army Corp is looking to build up 25 feet of polluted dredge," said Amalia Nietogomez, with the Alliance of the Southeast.

The Army Corp is seeking permits to build a 25-foot tower on top of the full dump.

"I think it's really unfortunate that it's gotten this far without any even real public engagement. There's a lot of people that have no idea what is actually at risk here on our lakefront with this toxic dump expansion," resident Linda Gonzalez said.

Tenth Ward residents, the Alliance of the Southeast and several environmental groups have taken legal action to stop the Army Corp from building another toxic dump on the site.

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"This community is highly overburdened with already toxic sites throughout our communities, and we're sick and tired of being the dumping ground for the city of Chicago," Nietogomez said.

Residents want the land returned to the Park District for a park, which was part of the original deal, when the legislature authorized the facility in the early 1980s. The Corp was only supposed to use it for 10 years or until it became full.

"Maybe the Army Corp thought someone would forget about it, but people remember it," said Howard Lerner, the executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and more than a dozen organizations sent a letter to Mayor Brandon Johnson asking him to demand the Army Corp find alternative sites away from the 10th Ward and especially away from a changing lakefront.

Johnson did not respond to the letter.

"Why put a toxic waste dump in a place that all the scientists are telling us is going to be battered by more intense storms, high winds and heavy waves due to climate change?" Lerner said.

Because of pending litigation, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had no comment.

Citing environmental concerns, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has so far not issued the Army Corp any permits. Environmental groups will argue their case in court at the end of August.