After two explosions and fire within its shredding operations, General Iron Metal Recycling yard was ordered to close down its Lincoln Park scrapyard by the city of Chicago this week.
The cause for the explosion is under investigation though the incident did not result in any reported injuries. However, the blast intensified local residents’ concerns over pollution and respiratory health issues, which have become worse since the onset of COVID-19.
A neighborhood resident contacted Mayor Lori Lightfoot asking for immediate and permanent closure of the facility due to the hazards associated with it. By the night of May 18, General Iron was ordered to shut down indefinitely by the city’s department of buildings, according to a statement issued to residents from Alderman Michelle Smith.
Residents have been urging the city to shut down the facility for several years citing dangerous pollution and health hazards. However, Fire Department officials said on-site air quality tests showed normal readings and did not display a direct health risk to residents or the community. Other residential complaints include odors, noise, and debris.
General Iron agreed to evacuate its Northside location and move to a Southeast Chicago site by the end of 2020 in August 2019. The plan to cease operations and vacate is still in place. The company is permitted to maintain the yard and move material from the site but cannot accept new material, which will affect newly budding flow and supply of shredded scrap in the local ferrous recycling market.
The yard may reopen only after the city reviews operations to confirm proper safety procedures are in place to prevent future incidents. The scrap processor must also provide a structural engineering report and construction plans before new building permits will be issued.