A Petition to Fight Environmental Classism on Chicago’s Southeast Side

By Jake Hanahan, SUST Student Associate

Recently, the Southeast Environmental Task Force started a petition to stop the relocation of a major polluter to Chicago’s Southeast Side in a blatant case of environmental classism. The polluter in question, open-air scrap metal facility General Iron, had announced plans to move there from their original location in Chicago’s wealthy Lincoln Park neighborhood due to Lincoln Park’s riverfront revitalization project.

Now, the residents of the Southeast Side — a low-income, minority neighborhood that has already been burdened with the effects of dangerous levels of industrial pollution for decades — are fighting back. They hope that this petition will keep another polluting facility from moving into their neighborhood, as well as send a message to the city’s wealthy neighborhoods like Lincoln Park that their days of offloading their dirty industries to low income and minority neighborhoods like the Southeast Side are over. The petition can be signed here. Below is the text of the petition from the Southeast Environmental Task Force:


General Iron is the largest, open-air, scrap metal facility in the city of Chicago. The facility is going to be relocated from Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side because it is being forced out to accommodate for the Lincoln Yards riverfront revitalization project.

This relocation of General Iron to the Southeast Side is a clear act of ENVIRONMENTAL CLASSISM, which refers to any practice that disproportionately affects communities of varying income classes in respect to environmental quality. Low income communities are often left to face the brunt of environmental injustice as they are treated as dumping grounds of polluting industry while affluent neighborhoods enjoy an environment free of toxic development.


1) HIGH VOLUME OF TRUCK TRAFFIC. General Iron is currently known to handle an average of 600 diesel trucks per day. The Southeast side already experiences an average of 189 diesel trucks traveling through any one intersection PER HOUR. These numbers don’t include the projection of trucks that will come from the new warehouses. Diesel truck traffic negatively impacts air quality and the safety of drivers and pedestrians. General Iron stated it would have most of it trucks travel through Torrence Avenue—where residents’ homes are already cracking from the abundant truck traffic.


2) THE SOUTHEAST SIDE IS ALREADY BURDENED BY ITS INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR. Our industrial corridor is a danger to the community’s environmental health, public health, public services, and economic status. The quality of adjacent schools such as George Washington High School and George Washington Elementary School are also negatively impacted, and will be in close proximity to General Iron’s new site. The following map provides a visual of this and the disparities that further contribute to environmental classism. Why is it that affluent communities cannot share the burden?


3) EPA VIOLATIONS AND INSUFFICIENT ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROLS. General Iron will enclose their shredder; however, many of their operations will still take place outdoors. These operations have resulted in an abundance of Environmental Protection agency (EPA) violations, as shown at the following link:


4) A DANGER TO OUR NATURAL AREAS. The increased truck traffic being rerouted to Torrence Avenue will negatively impact visitors and wildlife in the adjacent natural areas such as Big Marsh and Hegewisch Marsh.

5) GENERAL IRON IS AN ALREADY ESTABLISHED FACILITY. Those that are currently employed at General Iron will still be employed at the new site. This means that General Iron will produce FEW IF ANY NEW JOBS for our community.

ABOVE ALL ELSE, this relocation serves as an extreme injustice, affecting the most vulnerable populations. Residents living within one mile of the new site will be Latino, under the age of 18, and over the age of 65, and a female-headed household with children present. Why should what is not good enough for the upper class residents of Lincoln Park be good enough for the residents of the Southeast side? Sign this petition to keep General Iron out of our community!


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4 Responses to A Petition to Fight Environmental Classism on Chicago’s Southeast Side

  1. SUSTatRU says:

    Reblogged this on Schaumburg's Sustainable Future and commented:

    Research and writing on the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website and blog has prioritized environmental justice and waste issues for the last several years. Please read this petition from our neighbors on Chicago’s Southeast Side, who are hoping to prevent the relocation of another industrial polluter to their neighborhood.

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