Paul Vallas - First Mayoral Candidate Promising to Put Health Concerns of LP/Bucktown 1st!

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General Iron is an open-air, scrap metal transfer station, located one block west of Clybourn Avenue at the corner of Cortland and Kingsbury in Lincoln Park. The facility is immediately adjacent to the Chicago River. General Iron has been operating at this location for several decades.  Marilyn Labkon, the owner of General Iron, has made substantial political contributions to many city politicians over the years including Mayor Emanuel and city council members of the Health Committee. Marilyn Labkon is a resident of the north shore. 

In June and July 2018, the USEPA issued Notices of Violations ( after air quality monitoring detected high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) - known cancer-causing agents. 

What is Scrap Metal?

Examples of discarded scrap metal are ordinary household metals (aerosol cans, beverage cans, old refrigerators, air conditioners), electrical metals (wire, conduit, light fixtures), car parts (radiators, batteries, transmissions) construction metals (paint cans, aluminum siding, rebar) and industrial metals (welding tanks). Some metals such as batteries, radiators, transmissions, refrigerators and paint cans contain, or are coated with, industrial chemicals.

Where Does the Scrap Metal Come From?

From anywhere and unknown origins; no questions asked.  Scrappers transport scrap metal from all over the Chicago metropolitan area to the General Iron facility. From small Scrappers who traverse the city alleys to large semi’s loaded with scrap, if it’s scrap metal, it is likely to be discarded at General Iron. The payment for the scrap metal varies based on demand for the various recycled metal.

What takes place at General Iron?

Monday through Saturday beginning at 5AM, General Iron receives truck loads of scrap metal from both known and unknown sources. The scrap metal is loaded into a shredder that shreds the scrap metal into small pieces. The shredded scrap metal is then loaded into a high-speed conveyor belt and thrown airborne onto large piles that extend 70’ or higher. There are several large piles of scrap metal stockpiled at the facility. Eventually, the shredded scrap metal is loaded onto barges and transported down the river to other facilities where the recycling process continues.  

Watch General Iron's operations first hand:

Why Should We Be Concerned?

1. While General Iron is known to receive automobiles and refrigerators for shredding, the origin for a substantial amount of the scrap metal received by General Iron is unknown.  General Iron does not pre-screen the scrap metal for coatings that contain hazardous waste, combustionable materials, toxins or contaminants that may be harmful to the environment (such as lead and acid from car batteries and Freon from discarded refrigerators) before the scrap metal is shredded and disbursed airborne into large stockpiles.

2. When the scrap metal exits the shredder, metallic dust known as PM2.5/10 and fiberglass is disbursed by the prevailing winds into the nearby neighborhoods of Lincoln Park and Bucktown. PM2.5/10 is known to contribute to various respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.  In addition,  the heat generated by the shredding process eviscerates the unknown coatings on the scrap metal causing a plume of cancer-causing VOC's and SVOC's (semi-organic volatile compounds) to be disbursed by the prevailing winds into the nearby residential neighborhoods of Lincoln Park and Bucktown. Fiberglass insulation, contained in automobiles and refrigerator-type products, survives the shredding process. Fiberglass exposure can lead to  a respiratory disease called "asbestosis." Fiberglass insulation originating from General Iron has been found on the grounds of Oscar Mayer, Goddard, KinderCare and St. Josaphat Schools several blocks away.  

3. When the stockpiled scrap metal is exposed to water or rain, unknown quantities of metal dust and unknown quantities of coatings/pollutants may be washed onto the ground into the adjacent river and city sewer system.

4. When the scrap is loaded onto barges to be transported down the north branch of the Chicago river, it is likely some scrap metal inadvertently has been spilled into the river causing additional environmental concerns. 

5. Periodically, fires have spontaneously ignited in the large scrap piles exposing nearby residents of Lincoln Park and Bucktown toxic plumes of cancer-causing VOC's . Most recently, the morning of Sunday, December 6, 2015 and the morning of Friday, December 11, 2015, the Chicago Fire Department responded to burning piles of scrap metal. The CFD declared the December 6th fire a Level One Hazmat emergency due to nearby Lincoln Park residents and businesses being exposed to plumes of thick, dense smoke and possible exposure to unknown pollutants including VOC's for a two hour period before the fire was extinguished.

6. From time-to-time, spontaneous combustion has taken place at General Iron when unknown, highly volatile gases are ignited.

7. The Lincoln Park neighborhood is exposed to significant noise levels from General Iron’s operations six days a week including as early as 5AM on Saturdays.

Can General Iron relocate to other parts of the city that is a safe distance from residential neighborhoods?

Yes. There are many parts of the city where a shredder can operate safely without jeopardizing the health and well-being of residents who would otherwise live in close proximity to their facility. In addition, General Iron has the option of investing and installing state-of-the-art containment systems that would mitigate exposure to the nearby neighborhoods by containing their dust, smoke, insulation and water on their premises. 

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