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Alderman Cardenas' Proposed Chicago Charter School On Toxic Site:
EPA Lists Site as a Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program site

“I understand there’s a lot of hot debate with charters and CPS. But don’t hold hostage a decision that has nothing to do with the merits…This benefits my community,” said local Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose ward includes the vacant warehouse at 2245 W. Pershing.

In an ongoing investigation by Substance News of Chicago Alderman George Cardenas (12thWard) rushing to push through a zoning change of an industrial site to charter school, it is has been found that 2245 W. Pershing Rd is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program site (EPA ID Number 1000900874) . The EPA designation of TRI identifies facilities that release toxic chemicals to the air, water, and land in reportable quantities under SARA Title III, Section 313. The source of this database is the U.S. EPA.

TRI -- The physical location where toxic chemicals are manufactured, processed, or otherwise used. (Certain data in TRI_FACILITY were submitted on EPA Form R or Form A, Part I, Section 4, 'Facility Identification'. See specific 'Data Source' for each column.)
“Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose ward includes the proposed McKinley Park charter, was hesitant to talk about the controversy for fear of alienating Emanuel. “I don’t want to have conflict. It doesn’t help anybody,” he said. “I support the school and I’m going to find out what’s going on. I will work with the administration to assuage any concerns they would have.”
"Concept Schools NFP", is a charter school operator that is trying to have zoning at 2245 W. Pershing changed so a former industrial building, now a a abandoned vacant warehouse, can become the "Horizon Science Charter School Academy" for the start of the new 2013 -2014 school year. The zoning change will allow a charter school with an enrollment of 750 children: 18 classrooms, 4 science/computer laboratory rooms, a library, a cafeteria (with kitchen).

mkpk lofts chart school

An aerial view ("A") shows the site of the proposed Concept charter school that Alderman George Cardenas is trying to sneak into the 12th Ward behind the backs of ward residents. The baseball diamond to the north of Pershing Road is McKinley Park, which makes the proposed charter school site (currently zoned industrial) even more desirable. The site of the new charter site is next to the McKinley Park lofts condo development. Then there is to the 8-lane Western Avenue to cross to the east. The one-mile square McKinley Park and lagoon are to the north. Industrial WW2 ammunition factories to west and the old site of the CPS headquarters at 1819 W. Pershing Road. The famous Union Stockyards train yards to the south of the site. The only people that live near this site are from the condo development
What is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program?
In 1984, a deadly cloud of methyl isocyanate killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India. Shortly thereafter, there was a serious chemical release at a sister plant in West Virginia. These incidents underscored demands by industrial workers and communities in several states for information on hazardous materials.

Public interest and environmental organizations around the country accelerated demands for information on toxic chemicals being released "beyond the fence line" -- outside of the facility. Against this background, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was enacted in 1986.

One of EPCRA's primary purposes is to inform citizens of toxic chemical releases in their areas. EPCRA Section 313 requires EPA and the States to collect data annually on releases and transfers of certain toxic chemicals from industrial facilities and make the data available to the public through the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

In 1990 Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act which requires facilities to report additional data on waste management and source reduction activities to EPA under TRI. The goal of the Toxics Release Inventory Program is to provide communities with information about toxic chemical releases and waste management activities and to support informed decision making at all levels by industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and the public.

The Toxics Release Inventory Program compiles the TRI data submitted by regulated facilities each year and makes the data available through the TRI Data Files and Tools webpage.

continue reading........

Using information from the EMG Environmental Assessment then leads to the USEPA website and data base where identifying numbers were used to locate any reports for the 2245 W. Pershing Rd. property. The Federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) ID is 60609FRMNT2245W with the facility name of FAIRMONT CORP listing Benedict J. Slabik at the phone number 6308510101 as the public contact for this building. The parent company that owns this building is listed as Leggett & Platt, Inc.

The North American Industry Classification System or NAICS which describes the business activity of a company is listed as 326150: with the description of Urethane and Other Foam Product (except Polystyrene) Manufacturing. Going through the EPS report on this site there is twenty years of data documenting the use and release of Dioxin and Dioxin like Compounds at this site. The compounds specifically listed and documented are Diisocyanates and Toluene Diisocyanate (Mixed Isomers).

Toluene Diisocyanate (TDI) is is classified as “very toxic” by the European Community according to the 2005 edition of Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) the symptoms to exposure to TDI is “irritation eyes, skin, nose, throat; choke, paroxysmal cough; chest pain, retrosternal (occurring behind the sternum) soreness; nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain; bronchitis, bronchospasm, pulmonary edema; dyspnea (breathing difficulty), asthma; conjunctivitis, lacrimation (discharge of tears); dermatitis, skin sensitization; [potential occupational carcinogen]”
In trying to understand how dangerous these substances are, there is a Teamsters Safety and Heath bulletin describes the chemical “as a liquid combined with other chemicals and have a sharp, pungent, irritating odor.  They may also be found as white to light yellow crystalline flakes (NDI).”

The safety bulletin goes on to state:

Diisocyanates can cause a wide range of health effects.

◆    Skin contact may produce an allergic skin rash in some individuals, and can cause reddening and irritation of the skin in others.

◆    Eye contact may result in severe irritation, inflammation, and permanent damage to the eye.

◆    Inhalation of large amounts can produce nausea, headache, coughing, respiratory irritation, and shortness of breath, leading to coughing spasms, bronchitis, and chemical pneumonitis. These effects may be delayed by up to 24 hours.  There have been several fatalities reported after massive exposures to diisocyanates.  Fatalities are due to pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs).  The lethal limit for TDI in animals is reported to be 12 parts per million (ppm).

◆    Sensitization is the most common hazard reported for diisocyanates.  This is a type of chemical asthma in which the body develops antibodies for the diisocyanate material.  Once a person is sensitized, even very low levels of diisocyanates can produce an asthmatic attack with serious respiratory distress.  Experience indicates that worker exposure at levels below the OSHA standard does not seem to cause sensitization.  Sensitization can develop suddenly after years of handling the material without reaction.  Once sensitized, workers may then be unable to tolerate even slight exposure to diisocyanates.  There have been cases of sensitized workers who had to transfer or quit to avoid all exposures.”

Heavy diisocyanate exposures have also been linked with neurological problems.  Prolonged exposure to diisocyanates at low levels has caused reduced breathing capacity and an increase in bronchitis and influenza.

Several animal studies have been conducted to determine if TDI causes cancer.  Animals fed TDI  developed cancer, but animals exposed via inhalation did not.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has determined that TDI should be classified as a potential human carcinogen. Therefore, exposure to TDI should be reduced to the lowest possible concentrations.

  Diisocyanates Teamsters Bulletin

What is even more disturbing to the fact the site of a future school is labeled as toxic. Is the fact that there are at least 3 dozen sites within a one mile radius of the future charter school that are also label toxic by this environmental assessment. In a zoning hearing held just a few days earlier the public was reassured by Alderman Cardenas that this site was safe for children. Both Alderman Cardenas and Salim Ucan, vice president of Concept Charter Schools that all the proper procedures and studies were followed to secure this location as a school for over 400 K-8 students by September 2013.

Not only is there now a clear danger to the children and staff that will be forced to be work and learn in toxic site but Alderman Cardenas through his attorney is now refusing to provide the 1000 signatures that he testified to eth Zoning Committee on April 30, 2013 that were collected in support of the proposed McKinley Park charter school. The Mr. Ucan stated during the public proceedings that he had more than 1,000 signatures supporting the opening of the school. Yet when Alderman Cardenas’ office was contacted to provide proof of the signatures Jessica L. Cummings, Esq. Director of Communications & Policy on May 3, 2013 refused to provide the documents using a legal argument that the documents were not required to be provided to the public.

On behalf of Alderman Cardenas, I am writing in response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated May 2, 2013 seeking the following records:

Supporting signatures and documents regarding Concept Schools rezoning and development of 2245 W. Pershing into a charter school.

Your request is not a proper FOIA request for the reasons outlined below.

FOIA defines “public records” as: “[A]ll records . . . having been prepared, or having been used, received, possessed or under the control of any public body.” 5 ILCS 140/2(c). Illinois courts have determined that an alderman is not a public body under the definition of FOIA or any other Illinois statute defining that term. Quinn v. Stone, 570 N.E.2d 676, 678 (1st Dist. 1991). (“An exhaustive review of both state and federal law defining ‘public body’ reveals no case which would include an individual alderman in that definition.”)

Therefore, the records you are seeking are not public records as defined by FOIA.

Jessica L. Cummings, Esq.
Director of Communications & Policy
Alderman George A. Cardenas
Chicago City Council, 12th Ward

In the contentious zoning meeting, on April 30, 2013 hearing Alderman Cardenas defended his full support the opening of the charter school on a toxic waste site by saying it is what is best for the community. There were many questions by community members and fellow Alderman questioning the rush of this project through the committee. There were also concerns brought up about environment assessments on the site, including that this was some kind of ploy to rezone the property for commercial purposes for financial gain and to help the condo development next door. In looking at the zoning application (02013-1588) submitted to the City of Chicago Zoning Ordinance Administration on March 5, 2013 by Concept Schools NFP there is no mention of any Environmental Assessment or possible toxic clean-up issues.

  O2013-1588 2245 w Pershing Zoning Application

According to the Department of Buildings, the City of Chicago has issues multiple building violations against this property including that it has been properly registered as a vacant building therefore it is deemed abandoned by the city (Inspections # 9752890, 1849453, 10715365) with no less than 7 building code violations.

  2245 W. pershing Building Violations All

All the concerns were rebuffed by Alderman Cardenas and urged the zoning committee to recommend the zoning change to the full city council. The amendment passed by a 7-3 vote.  Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th), James Cappleman (46th) and Bob Fioretti (2nd) voted against this zoning change. The zoning change still needs the full approval of the Chicago City Council, which next meets May 8, 2013 at Council Chambers --121 N LaSalle.

To contact Alderman George Cardenas about the dangers of locating a charter school on a toxic site below are is his office contact information:

Ward Office Phone: 773.523.8250

Ward Office Fax: 773.523.8440

City Hall Phone: 312.744.3040

City Hall Fax: 312.744.4482

The full 4343 S. Hermitage by EMG Environmental Assessment can be accessed at:

The full EPA Federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report can be accessed at:

The full Toluene Diisocyanate (TDI) NIOSH report can be accessed at:

The full Teamsters Diisocyanates Safety Report can be accessed at:

A full report of 2245 W. Pershing Rd building code violations can be accessed at:

The Full Zoning Application for Amendment 2245 W. Pershing Rd. Zoning (02013-1588) can be accessed at:

The past zoning meeting notice to expand charter schools into McKinley Park:

APRIL 30, 2013, TUESDAY 10AM -
Council Chambers -- CHICAGO City Hall
Addendum to the Regular Agenda Committee on Zoning,
Landmarks & Building Standards

  Concepts Charter school Chicago rezoning April 30, 2013

Past articles on Rezoning Deal

Chicago Alderman Cardenas: Shady Charter School Rezoning Deal

McKinley Park Charter School Plan Derailed by Zoning Hang-up

Concept Charter School Proposal Back on Zoning Agenda

Charter School Slated for Vacant Factory Clears Zoning Hurdle

Science charter school gets zoning approval after heated debate

Concept Schools was granted two charter schools by the Illinois State Charter Commission.  Because they won approval through the Illinois State Charter Commission, these two schools will not be run by CPS. They will comprise a district unto themselves, governed by Concept Schools.

Background information on Charter school

Given Concept Schools their own two-school district to manage is especially problematic as Concept Schools  has a history of financial irregularity and mismanagement. (Please note: this bond was approved).

Concept Schools is also part of the larger entity, Concept Schools International, which has ties to for-profit school and to an overseas political organization.

Originally posted to Hyde Park Johnny on Sun May 05, 2013 at 09:28 AM PDT.

Also republished by Chicago Kossacks, Your Government at Work, and Occupy Wall Street.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach. -Aristotle

    by Hyde Park Johnny on Sun May 05, 2013 at 09:28:36 AM PDT

  •  Oh no, not that! Don't mess with the mighty Rahm (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    freshwater dan, JeffW, PhilJD
    “Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose ward includes the proposed McKinley Park charter, was hesitant to talk about the controversy for fear of alienating Emanuel. “
    The hits just keep on coming in our fair city, don't they?

    Thanks for another excellent report. Now.... what would it take to lure you away from Hyde Park to meet some of your fellow Chicago Kossacks? May 16th at Pegasus. We'll be paying special tribute to Studs Terkel on the 101st anniversary of his birth. Wha'daya say, HPJ?

    Link to diary with all the details right here.

    Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

    by figbash on Sun May 05, 2013 at 10:49:46 AM PDT

  •  so... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What's in the deal for Cardenas? The guy's obviously dirty, so what's his angle? Kickbacks from the developer/charter corp, campaign contributions, investments?

    History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce - Karl Marx

    by quill on Sun May 05, 2013 at 12:12:45 PM PDT

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