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Latino State News

COMMUNITY:  Pollution Effecting Communities’ Health

Activists are saying that emissions from two coal-fired electric plants located in Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago are affecting the health of local residents.

The Crawford Generating Station in La Villita (Little Village) and the Fisk plant in Pilsen emit mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide particles, all of which cause acid rain and contribute each year to the public’s respiratory problems, which includes asthma.

The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, have been fighting to stop the pollution from the two plants for years.

The organizations recently received justification for their struggle when the Environmental Law and Policy Center released the results of a study on the Crawford and Fisk contamination.

ELPC calculated that since 2002, the effects of the emissions on residents have generated $1 billion in healthcare costs.

“The public can’t afford the huge health costs from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants in Chicago neighborhoods,” ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said in a press release accompanying the analysis.

In this war to improve air quality, said Dorian Breuer of P.E.R.R.O., not even Pilsen Alderman Danny Solis is supporting them.

Breuer mentioned that a study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health – which analyzed data on the soot particles emitted by the Fisk and Crawford plants in 2001 – calculated that about 40 people in Pilsen and La Villita “die prematurely” each year.

P.E.R.R.O. and LVEJO on Monday organized a march from the University of Illinois in Chicago to the Fisk plant in Pilsen to call attention to their demands.

Ian Viteri, an organizer with the LVEJO, said that Aldermen Solis and Ricardo Muñoz of La Villita receive donations from the company that operates both plants, Midwest Generation.

“If I thought for a minute that we’re putting the residents of District 25 in Chicago in danger, I myself would be pushing to close the two plants,” Solis said in a written statement.“But that is not the case. These two plants are meeting the rigorous state and federal requirements designed to protect public health and safety.”

The two plants were built before the creation 1977’s Federal Clean Air Act, and so they are exempt from the most rigid controls that other facilities must face.

Viteri said that the worst thing about the case is that the energy created by the plants is not destined to be consumed within Chicago.

“Apart from the 200 jobs that these two companies create, we don’t get any benefit,” said Viteri. “But we certainly get all the pollution.”