February 15, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency Plans Cleanup of Closed Chicago Factory

by Levin & Perconti

Our premises liability attorneys recently read in USA Today that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to clean up the property of the vacant lot where Loewenthal Metals operated in Chicago in the 1940s. The factory is located in a primarily residential area just west of the Dan Ryan expressway on 947 W. Cullerton street and has dangerously high levels of lead in the soil on the property. The EPA tested the site recently and found that the soil contained nearly 57 times the amount of lead considered hazardous by the agency. This is especially worrisome as children from the neighborhood often play in the abandoned lot and lead is seriously dangerous to their health and wellbeing. The lead levels were dangerously high not only on the site of the factory but also in several of the yards of the neighboring homes.

Due to this serious danger, the EPA is planning to clean up the property in the Pilsen neighborhood as soon as possible. Because of the huge levels of contamination, the EPA is planning to test the soil of all the properties near the factory to determine the sheer scale of the contamination, however the dates have not yet been set for that testing. This is not the first time that lead contamination was discovered at the site. In fact, both state and federal regulators did testing at the site back in 2006 when dangerous levels of lead were found. However, nothing was done to correct this problem until 2011, when USA Today asked questions about the property. In fact, the land itself remained unfenced until December of 2012. This is seriously concerning for parents and neighbors of the property, as the failure to fence the property was seriously negligent and should have been addressed back in 2006 when the problem was first discovered.

Lead is not the only dangerous contaminant that was found in the soil, it also contained high levels of arsenic, copper, manganese, and zinc as outlined in the EPA’s report on the Pilsen site. The owner of the property failed to provide access to the EPA initially, so the agency was forced to go to the courts to obtain a warrant to access the property, which was granted in November of 2012. Not withstanding the dangers of the other chemicals, lead contamination is an extremely dangerous threat to anyone exposed to it. Lead poses a huge threat to the safety and wellbeing of children. Lead exposure can cause a variety of health issues including mental and physical deformities in children and even death. The owners of property must maintain their land in a safe manner and cannot be allowed to knowingly keep a toxic and severely dangerous property. Our Chicago premises liability attorneys will continue to monitor this developing story. If you or a loved one has been injured by the dangerous levels of lead in the soil at this Chicago property, consider contacting our offices to learn about your legal rights.