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EPA to oversee lead cleanup near Pilsen high school

EPA to oversee lead cleanup near Pilsen high school

Chicago (Oct. 6, 2015) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement with H. Kramer & Co., the City of Chicago and the BNSF Railway Co. to remove lead-contaminated soil near the Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen. The alley at 21st Place behind the H. Kramer foundry and a portion of the BSNF railway spur at 21st Place and Cermak Road will also be paved to eliminate potential exposure to lead. EPA will oversee the cleanup, which is expected to begin this month and to be completed by the end of the year.

EPA has been investigating lead contamination in the Pilsen neighborhood since 2011. Soil samples collected in 2012 and 2013 from the alley, the railroad spur and several nearby residential properties showed lead contamination at levels which require cleanup. EPA continues to investigate lead contamination at the residential properties.

A 2013 consent decree signed by EPA, the State of Illinois and H. Kramer & Co. to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations required the company to install new state-of-the-art pollution controls to reduce lead emissions. On Aug. 24, 2015, EPA released air monitoring data which demonstrates that the area around the facility now meets federal air quality standards for lead.

EPA continues to work closely with the City of Chicago and neighborhood organizations to provide information to residents about steps they can take to reduce exposure to lead contamination.

More information about soil contamination in the Pilsen neighborhood is available at

H. Kramer to spend $500,000 on Pollution Filters

Pilsen residents’ activism, research, and communication with officals pays off.

On April 6, 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 reached an agreement with H. Kramer and Co. on alleged clean-air violations at the company’s brass and bronze manufacturing plant at 1339-1359 W. 21st St., Chicago, Ill.

The agreement, which includes a $500,000 environmental project and a $10,000 penalty, resolves EPA allegations that H. Kramer failed to comply with testing and notification requirements when it installed furnaces used in melting scrap to make brass and bronze.

This settlement comes after an 18-month campaign by residents to clean up the century-old plant, which neighbors say has spewed noxious emissions into the air for decades. After a referendum in November 2005 calling for an investigation of the plant passed by 95%, neighbors mobilized an effort that included working with state and federal EPA officials, the Chicago Departments of Environment and Public Health, and the 25th Ward alderman’s office. They held community meetings, performed independent testing for toxics in the area, and conducted independent research.

The most recent publicly available data shows that H. Kramer emitted 45,000 pounds of particulate matter, which is believed to cause breathing problems, into the air in 2003. Documents provided to PERRO by H. Kramer suggest that in 2004 it emitted 1,200 pounds of airborne lead, which is known to cause brain damage in children. EPA soil testing of H. Kramer property in 2005 found lead levels up to 162 times the residential limit. H. Kramer is located in a residential area of Pilsen across the street from a school and blocks from a public park.

Combined with other sources of industrial emissions in Pilsen, such as the Fisk Generating Station at 1111 W. Cermak, PERRO believes Pilsen suffers from a disproportionately high level of air pollution because of its industrial legacy, its low median income, and its density of first-generation immigrants.

For more information:

Read more about why neighbors are concerned about H. Kramer Co.