The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance today that will protect the health of Chicago residents and enhance the quality of life in communities across the city. The ordinance imposes tough restrictions aimed at restricting new and expanded facilities from storing manganese throughout Chicago.
“This ordinance will allow the City to better ensure the health and safety for our families and communities, especially for those who live near facilities on the Southeast Side of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “No neighborhood should have to deal with manganese dust that covers our cars and homes, gets into our lungs and threatens our quality of life.”
Manganese is a naturally occurring element that is used in steel production. While very small amounts can be found naturally in soil, coal and other resources throughout the U.S., direct, ongoing inhalation of large amounts of manganese can be hazardous.
"Ensuring that residents are breathing clean air is a top priority," said Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D. “We will continue to work together, with city leaders and community members, to improve the quality of our air, water and soil."
The ordinance bans new manganese-bearing facilities from opening and existing facilities from expanding. This will prevent any increase in manganese-bearing material operation uses citywide, including crushing, screening, transporting, storing or handling of the material. The ordinance helps to limit the potential for manganese emissions to negatively impact residents who live near these facilities. It requires current bulk material handlers have a 150-foot set back from residential zoning. Further, CDPH has committed to quarterly comparisons of reports from manganese facility owners, and using that analysis to recommend further changes. If an issue is identified, CDPH will have increased consultation with the Department and Planning and Development to determine limitations of manganese.
“Manganese is a quality of life and economic development issue, not just a health issue,” said Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Commissioner David Reifman. “When excessive dust blows offsite from manufacturing plants, it keeps people indoors and discourages restaurants and other businesses from locating on the Southeast Side. The new ordinance is an important step in improving the quality of life for Chicago residents.”
Various tests and studies have confirmed that manganese is being emitted into the air on the Southeast Side. A two-year study that came out in late 2016 from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) identified manganese as a risk to the community. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) confirmed material handling company S.H. Bell was a source of manganese. Last summer, the City of Chicago retained a consultant to confirm levels, impact and sources of manganese on the Southeast Side. The results of that study will be used by Mayor Emanuel, CDPH and community groups to determine additional measures to be taken to further improve the environment.
In December 2017, Mayor Emanuel and CDPH announced new efforts to protect Southeast Side communities from air pollution created by industrial facilities. As a result of community feedback and after numerous revisions of the proposal, CDPH has accepted a strict, robust and protective revised "fugitive dust plan" to increase S.H. Bell’s manganese dust control measures and more stringently protect the air quality for residents living near their Southeast Side facility. In addition to holding S.H. Bell accountable, CDPH denied a request by Watco for special exemptions from air monitoring requirements in the City’s Bulk Material Regulations. Watco, like all bulk materials producers in the city, will be required to install fence line monitors to measure dust emissions and take additional measures as needed to ensure dust cannot escape.
Chicago’s current bulk material regulations for storage and handling are among the strongest in the nation. Presently, companies that manage bulk materials are required to have fugitive dust plans, which outline dust control measures, such as sprinklers and enclosures, as well as air monitors to ensure the measures are working. In November 2013, in response to concerns about petcoke, bulk materials company KCBX was required to install air monitors at its site. This air monitoring began in February 2014 and continues to this day. Results showed elevated levels of manganese. S.H. Bell, located near KCBX, was implicated as a source. As a result, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) required S.H. Bell to install air monitors.
More recently, Mayor Emanuel championed the newly passed fly dumping ordinance designed to crack down on the practice of illegally dumping or storing waste on public or private property. Under the direction of Mayor Emanuel, CDPH is expanding its environmental protection team, increasing the department’s capacity to inspect and fine polluters citywide.