PERRO in the News: Tribune Covers Dangerous Lead-Polluted Site in Pilsen

947 W. Cullerton, Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Hawthorne has published an excellent front-page article [article on the Tribune’s websitea copy on PERRO’s website] on the delays in addressing a lead-polluted site at 947 W Cullerton and it mentions PERRO’s long-time efforts in the community to address exposure to pollution. Please see the article here or a copy on our site here.

The site has been found to be over 14 times the legal limit for lead in the soil and PERRO recently posted warning signs at the site to attempt to ensure residents stay away from the site. PERRO has also started a web-page with information about the site here:

Where the article mentions PERRO:

Members Make Signs

Lead pollution is a well-known problem in Pilsen. In 2005, a year before state inspectors tested the Loewenthal Metals site, a group called the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization collected soil samples from several yards and parks in the neighborhood and found lead levels that far exceeded the federal cleanup standard for residential areas.

The group’s alarming discoveries prompted the federal and state EPAs to file legal complaints against H. Kramer and Co., a smelter that has been recycling scrap metal since the 1920s and still operates a few blocks west of the former Loewenthal Metals site.

H. Kramer agreed to curb its air pollution and cleaned up lead-contaminated soil from its site and two nearby properties. But the smelter’s lead emissions continued to plague the surrounding area.

Last year, federal regulators designated Pilsen as one of only two Illinois communities where people breathe unhealthy levels of the toxic metal. Airborne lead pollution exceeded federal health standards during a fifth of the days monitored during 2010 at Perez Elementary School, 1241 W. 19th St., two blocks north of the H. Kramer smelter. The findings led to a new round of legal complaints against the company that have yet to be resolved.

Maria Chavez, another community activist, said federal and state officials involved in the H. Kramer case never revealed that they have known for years about another lead-contaminated site in the neighborhood.

“They should be ashamed of themselves for not sharing this with the community,” Chavez said. “We’re already struggling with so many different pollution sources and now we have another one to add to our list.”


In Pilsen, neighborhood activists aren’t waiting for government officials to act. After a Tribune reporter told them about the former Loewenthal Metals site, they posted handmade signs around the vacant lot warning people for the first time that it is contaminated with hazardous levels of lead.

Said Chavez: “Since the EPA has failed to inform and protect us, we need to take immediate action to do so ourselves.”

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