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EPA Completes Cleanup of Former Lead Smelter Site in Pilsen

Release Date: 11/07/2013
Contact Information: Anne Rowan, 312-353-9391, rowan.anne@epa.gov (media only)

Chicago – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy today announced that EPA has finished cleaning up Loewenthal Metals, a former lead smelter site in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. In response to community concerns, EPA removed high concentrations of lead in the soil to ensure that the property is safe for residential use in the future.

Last June, EPA began the removal of 4,800 tons of contaminated soil and debris from the Loewenthal site. Today, EPA announced that the contaminated soil has been replaced with clean soil that is seeded to prevent erosion.

“I’m proud of EPA’s work, partnering with city and state officials, to clean up the former Loewenthal Metals site,” said McCarthy. “Cleaning up dangerous levels of lead in Pilsen is just one example of how EPA is making a real difference for families and communities across the country—especially those most vulnerable to environmental hazards.”

Earlier, Administrator McCarthy toured the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods to see first-hand the progress of EPA efforts to reduce pollution in the area.

“The example of the Loewenthal cleanup shows why EPA’s work is so important to all working communities,” said Rosalie Mancera, Board President,Pilsen Alliance. “We hope we keep addressing Pilsen’s industrial footprint.”

"Over the past couple of years PERRO has developed a good working relationship with the U.S. EPA,” said Jerry Mead-Lucero, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO.) “We have regular meetings with U.S. EPA staff to stay on top of multiple sites of concern in the community. The increased cooperation between U.S. EPA and PERRO has already resulted in the remediation of contaminated sites in the neighborhood and we expect more sites to be addressed in the near future."

“It is a great day when a toxic site such as Loewenthal no longer poses a threat to a frontline community like Pilsen,” said Antonio Lopez, Executive Director, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “LVEJO congratulates PERRO for their steady commitment to Environmental Justice in Pilsen and the EPA Region 5 for the remediation work they performed. We look forward to seeing this and other former industrial sites transform and contribute to the surrounding community’s health and wellness through green infrastructure projects, and to the economic strength of the area through living-wage renewable energy jobs.”

Loewenthal Metals is a half-acre site in a largely residential part of Chicago. Historical records indicate that the facility operated as a lead and zinc smelter, as well as a scrap metal dealer during the 1940s. In December 2011, the Illinois EPA referred the site to U.S. EPA for potential cleanup. After obtaining a warrant to access the site, EPA began sampling soil for lead in November 2012 and started the cleanup last June.

More information about EPA’s activities in the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods is available on the EPA Web site: http://epa.gov/region5/littlevillagepilsen/.