Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Release Test Results from Samples Collected at Former Crawford Generating Station
Validated environmental results confirm no asbestos in dust emitted from implosion of smokestack; Air quality remains within EPA standards
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CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today joined Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Allison Arwady, M.D., in releasing validated test results from samples taken to monitor environmental impact from the smokestack implosion at the former Crawford Generating Station on April 11, 2020. Testing was conducted by two governmental agencies – the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), and CDPH’s data has been validated by a non-governmental agency. Officials believe the test results, which included analysis of particulate matter, dust composition, building debris and soil composition, show that there is no apparent health risk to the surrounding community.
“The health and safety of Chicago’s residents in all of its 77 neighborhoods remains our top priority during these unprecedented times, which includes accounting for environmental wellness throughout our city,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Since the beginning, my administration has been committed to creating a Chicago that is more environmentally sound for all of its residents, particularly those most vulnerable and who have been neglected for far too long. We remain committed to maintaining the health and wellness of Chicagoans, and conducting these tests were crucial to our understanding of what the environmental and health implications of the incident are for residents in the nearby community.”
On April 11, CDPH collected 14 neighborhood dust wipe samples, which were tested for asbestos and metals – including lead, cadmium, selenium, nickel and zinc, chromium and arsenic. CDPH also tested soil samples on April 13 for the presence of asbestos, polynuclear aromatics (PNAs), semi-volatile organic compounds, PCBs, pesticides and inorganics. SUMMA canisters that are used for air sampling were installed by CDPH on April 14 and looked at organic compounds and dust particles, with additional air monitors being installed to account for sustained readings over the next several weeks.
Air quality tests conducted by CDPH and the US EPA, published today, show no particulate levels considered to be unsafe for human health, per US EPA standards. Specifically, the US EPA measured particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10, and found no sustained readings were above the national air quality ambient standard threshold. SUMMA canister air tests did reveal low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), and CDPH is currently reviewing these results with experts to better understand potential sources and impacts while comparing them to background levels found in the air, both in Little Village and across the city. CDPH and US EPA will continue to sample, monitor and publish data on an ongoing basis to track any changes in air quality.
“We are committed to protecting the health and wellness of all Chicagoans, and it was imperative that my team conduct a robust investigation into the samples they were able to collect onsite to better understand the health implications of this event,” said Dr. Arwady. “Based on the validated results that we are publishing today we have no reason to believe the implosion emitted additional toxic materials into the surrounding community, but the department remains committed to continue ongoing tests of the site to monitor these levels.”
The settled dust composition was tested by CDPH with additional analysis and validation conducted through a non-governmental agency. Based on the nature of the former Crawford Station site, testing for lead and arsenic was made a priority, and no asbestos was detected in the samples collected from the area where the dust cloud settled. The samples were also tested for inorganic materials and metals, and while small concentrations of lead and barium were found in the dust, health experts determined that the levels found do not present an apparent health risk to residents.
Soil samples were collected from around the site of the former smokestack, and composition testing was conducted by CDPH that were also analyzed and validated by an outside party. Results revealed metals in the form of arsenic, barium, lead and mercury, consistent with expectations of the site, as well as with background levels found in soil throughout the city. Health professionals believe these levels do not currently pose a material health risk to the surrounding community. These substances are part of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (IEPA) overall cleanup oversight through the IEPA’s Site Remediation Program which began in 2018 and will continue until future buildings, roads and grassy areas are installed. The project on remediation can be tracked here.
CDPH will continue to actively monitor the site and take samples, while also dispatching an environmental consultant who will thoroughly inspect the site for any additional environmental issues. The developer and its subcontractors have been issued 16 citations that resulted in fines totaling $68,000 for the incident, and following robust conversations and collaboration with City leadership announced additional efforts to assist and support residents in the surrounding area.
All structural demolition activity remains on hold at the Crawford site while the clean-up efforts take place. Due to the dilapidated nature of the site, DOB will continue working with the developer to determine the immediate next steps to help ensure the safety of the site and prevent work site incidents.
Mayor Lightfoot has also implemented a six-month moratorium on implosion demolitions citywide, pending the creation of a specific implosion permitting process with updated guidelines. For more information, and to view the testing results, please visit chicago.gov/crawfordstationresponse.