Chicago has an urban flooding problem. The latest report on this issue, released by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in March, found that climate change in the Great Lakes will result in an increase in “extreme precipitation,” heavy rainfalls that are more likely to lead to flooding. This report is only the latest in a series that have sought to quantify the problem of urban flooding in Chicago, and its disproportionate impact on the South Side. In the wake of this report’s release, the Weekly went through literature on urban flooding, and pulled out the most important numbers that describe the problem.
Altgeld Gardens and Phillip Murray Homes sit about as far south as you can go in Chicago. Wedged between Lake Calumet, West Pullman, and South Deering, the almost 1,600-unit CHA-owned development is notably isolated, removed from business districts and most public transportation options. Altgeld also lies in what has become known as the “toxic doughnut”; emissions and lingering waste from former refineries and steel mills in the area have been linked to widespread public health issues in the community, including, historically, some of the highest cancer rates in Chicago.
Last Friday, City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development voted to recommend that industrial developer Hilco receive a $19.7 million tax break from the Cook County Assessor’s Office for its controversial redevelopment plan for the former Crawford Generating Station in Little Village. The meeting was hastily scheduled—chairman Proco Joe Moreno didn’t file an agenda with the City Clerk’s office until after business hours on Wednesday. (Moreno was ousted by his 1st Ward constituents in last week’s election; his office did not respond to a request for comment about how the meeting was scheduled.)
Chicago is considered the birthplace of the environmental justice movement—but mayoral candidates have never really been grilled about how they would address the issue.
In his art gallery, which inhabits a small brick house at 64th and Dorchester, originally purchased by his grandfather in 1946, artist William Hill, a co-curator of the Experimental Station showcase “Environmental Concerns,” explained the project’s concept.
A new coalition of community and environmental activists met for the first time last Thursday to discuss their effort to fight pollution on the South Side. Members of four groups from McKinley Park, Little Village, Pilsen, and the Southeast Side convened in a crowded gymnasium at the Rauner Family YMCA. The impromptu meeting space was organized after attendees quickly overcrowded the small side room originally intended for the gathering.
Down the Calumet River from a former petcoke storage site, several acres of early growth trees rustle gently in the breeze. It’s one of a few areas with sustained natural growth on the northern part of the river, which snakes through the Southeast Side’s industrial corridor. Tom Shepherd, an environmental activist and longtime Southeast Side resident—and, on a recent overcast morning, the guide of a boat tour down the river—singles that parcel out as we pass by. “It’s really amazing on that property to see how nature makes its comeback,” he says.
Late in March, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards heard testimony on a piece of new legislation from 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza. Garza’s ordinance, which passed both the committee and, the following day, City Council, regulates manganese-bearing companies in Chicago by prohibiting new facilities from being built and preventing existing ones from expanding. It also requires that companies that handle bulk materials with manganese have a 150-foot setback from areas that are zoned residential, and that manganese-bearing facilities submit quarterly reports to the Department of Planning and Development detailing the amount of manganese passing through or stored in their facility.
“The city’s done a good job on playing down [lead contamination] as not being a problem, while at the same time they recognize it is a problem and are doing things to mitigate it.” Troy Hernandez
“…boundaries get pushed over and over again. We see that mimicked by [birds].”