FIRE AT SIMS METAL YARD IN PILSEN SPARKS ANGER
A fire at a controversial Pilsen scrap metal yard over the weekend is raising more concerns about the operation as it seeks a new city operating permit, Ald. Byron SigchoLopez (25th) said Monday.
Chicago firefighters were called to Sims Metal Management on Saturday afternoon after a fire started in a pile of scrap. It took more than an hour to put out the fire, and there were no reported injuries, a department spokesman said.
But Sigcho-Lopez is wary about a pattern of problems at Sims, which was sued by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul for alleged environmental violations in 2021. He’s seeking more information about the fire as well as air pollution monitoring.
“We’re really concerned about the safety of this operation,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
His office fielded complaints Saturday from neighbors who reported “strong chemical smells that are causing headaches and nausea.”
“My nostrils and my eyes watered immediately,” resident Roberto Montaño told the Sun-Times.
Montaño noticed the smell and the smoke as he was driving by the site, he said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Sims to install air monitors around its operation at 2500 S. Paulina last year. EPA gets monthly air data from Sims but asked that the company expedite its report for air quality readings for Saturday through Monday.
In 2021, Sims settled 15 city tickets for 30 violations issued the prior year, paying $18,000 and admitting no wrongdoing, records show. Among the accusations dropped were multiple citations for air pollution.
The Pilsen business is seeking what’s called a large recycling facility permit, similar to one denied for the relocated General Iron last year.
For decades, both General Iron and Sims shredded cars, large appliances and other scrap metal for reuse.
In a statement, Sims said it called the fire department “out of an abundance of caution” and apologized “for any concern this incident may have caused our community neighbors.”
City inspectors visited the site Monday.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Theresa McNamara, chairwoman of the Southwest Environmental Alliance.
Her coalition opposes Sims continuing to operate in Pilsen.