Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced a new measure to protect the health of Chicago residents and enhance quality of life in communities across the city. The ordinance, introduced to City Council today, would impose tough restrictions aimed at restricting new and expanded facilities for the storage of manganese throughout Chicago.
“Putting tough restrictions on manganese is the right thing to do for our families and communities, especially for those who live near facilities on the Southeast Side of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “While the administrations of President Trump and Governor Rauner are asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting the environment, the City of Chicago will continue to take necessary steps to protect our residents.”
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 expect all companies to comply with our strict environmental standards and are prepared to take all appropriate steps necessary to protect our residents and communities."
The proposed ordinance would ban 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. Further, the ordinance will help limit any further potential for manganese emissions to negatively impact residents who live near these facilities.
“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 has retained a consultant to confirm levels, impact and source of manganese on the Southeast Side. The results of that study will be used by Mayor Emanuel and CDPH 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, 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 direction of Mayor Emanuel, CDPH is expanding its environmental protection team, increasing the department’s capacity to inspect and fine polluters citywide.