Gen­eral Iron closer to fully re­open­ing in Lin­coln Park

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY BRETT CHASE, STAFF RE­PORTER bchase@sun­times.com | @brettchase Brett Chase’s re­port­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lic health is made pos­si­ble by a grant from The Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust.

A con­sul­tant hired by the city of Chicago rec­om­mends Gen­eral Iron be al­lowed to re­sume car shred­ding af­ter ex­plo­sions in May prompted Mayor Lori Light­foot’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to shut down the op­er­a­tion.

Af­ter the in­ci­dent, Gen­eral Iron’s par­ent com­pany Re­serve Man­age­ment Group hired a firm to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the ex­plo­sion and rec­om­mend fixes so it can re­open. The city hired its own con­sul­tant, Project Per­for­mance Group of Evanston, to re­view the plan, which said the com­pany put ap­pro­pri­ate safe­guards in place.

Re­serve Man­age­ment Group “has im­ple­mented the ap­pro­pri­ate con­trols in­tended to pre­vent a re­oc­cur­rence, and there is no rea­son to ob­ject to re­sump­tion of shred­ding op­er­a­tions,” Project Per­for­mance Group Pres­i­dent Joseph Jaskul­ski wrote in a let­ter to the city’s law de­part­ment this week.

Of­fi­cially, the cause of the ex­plo­sion is stated as “un­de­ter­mined” by Ex­po­nent, the Dal­las-based com­pany ad­vis­ing Re­serve Man­age­ment Group. How­ever, the cause of the ex­plo­sion ap­pears to be re­lated to the re­lease of a flammable gas in the shred­der equip­ment, Jaskul­ski wrote in his let­ter to the city. His con­clu­sions were based on Ex­po­nent’s find­ings and his own anal­y­sis.

The Chicago De­part­ment of Build­ings, De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health and the Chicago Fire De­part­ment will have to in­spect the site be­fore it can re­open. The city has not pro­vided a time­line for that process.

“The com­pany has in­stalled en­hanced safety con­trols to their North Side shred­ding op­er­a­tion,” a Light­foot spokes­woman said in a state­ment. “The city will next en­sure they are be­ing im­ple­mented prop­erly and that the site meets all in­spec­tion re­quire­ments.”

The fa­cil­ity at 1909 N. Clifton Ave. was or­dered to re­main closed af­ter the ex­plo­sions be­cause the city “de­ter­mined that the site posed an im­me­di­ate dan­ger and con­sti­tuted an im­mi­nent threat to the pub­lic.”

In June, the city al­lowed Gen­eral Iron to par­tially re­open at its Lin­coln Park lo­ca­tion. But the met­al­shred­ding equip­ment was not al­lowed to op­er­ate.

Ex­po­nent rec­om­mended con­trols be put in place, in­clud­ing a com­bustible gas mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that would trig­ger a shut­down be­fore an­other ex­plo­sion oc­curs.

The Lin­coln Park op­er­a­tion is the source of nu­mer­ous com­plaints from neigh­bors and the city is­sued dozens of ci­ta­tions for vi­o­la­tions of pol­lu­tion and pub­lic nui­sance laws since late last year. Some neigh­bors have asked the city to keep the shred­ding op­er­a­tion shut down.

“In­stead of shut­ting down se­rial pol­luters, we’re shut­ting down bars and nail sa­lons for a sec­ond time,” said Lara Comp­ton, whose Lin­coln Park group, Clean the North Branch, has asked the city to keep Gen­eral Iron closed at least dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Re­serve Man­age­ment Group plans to move Gen­eral Iron’s equip­ment to the South­east Side, which has drawn protests from res­i­dents there who say the shred­ding op­er­a­tion will add more pol­lu­tion in a com­mu­nity that al­ready suf­fers from poor air qual­ity.

Af­ter it was al­lowed to par­tially re­open June 29, the com­pany said it was look­ing for­ward to get­ting city ap­proval to re­sume full op­er­a­tions. In a state­ment Fri­day, the com­pany said “we are ready and plan to open as soon as pos­si­ble. All re­pairs and mod­i­fi­ca­tions have been com­pleted.”

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