Pilsen is a neighborhood in Chicago’s Lower West Side that is made mostly of Mexican immigrants and descendants. It’s sister neighborhood is Little Village, which is close by to the southwest. I lived here for two years from 2006-2008.
When I moved in, the smoke from a nearby, but yet unseen, exhaust stack was quite apparent. An uninformed or malicious local offered that it was a heat generation plant for the nearby public housing homes. This seemed unlikely, and only slightly plausible, but I didn’t question it.
Both neighborhoods have coal-fired power plants. There is Fisk Generating Station at 1111 W. Cermak in Pilsen (which I mentioned above and pictured above), and Crawford Generating Station at 3501 S. Pulaski in Little Village. Both are owned by Midwest Generation
It was not long until I read several news reports in the major Chicago newspapers about the actions of local social advocacy organizations trying to bring awareness about the danger the Fisk plant was causing for the minority residents in Pilsen. The problems became well-known in 2001 after a group of five researchers from Harvard and two private consulting agencies (one for wind, and one for environment) studied coal-fired power plants in the Midwest exempt from the provisions of the Clean Air Act. See “More information” below for a local group’s opinion on these plants’ impacts on health using information derived from the study.
The most recent call for action was from the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, who, in August 2008, demanded that Mayor Daley close the Fisk plant on Cermak.
Now, the Sierra Club magazine is reporting on a new and younger organization ready and willing to fight alongside LVEJO the battle to fix the pollution problems in Chicago’s west side Latino neighborhoods. I recently read this article at work in our “office lending library” – this along with the fact that I pass by the station quite often prompted me to write this blog entry.
- Charts comparing the Fisk plant to others around the country, using information from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory.
- The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act from the EPA.
- An estimation of the frequency of premature deaths (and rates of other health problems) due to having coal-fired power plants nearby, from Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (La Organizacin sobre Derechos y Reformas Ambientales de Pilsen).