The city’s health authority has challenged a Southeast Side scrap metal permit denial.

A top city health official said Wednesday that denying a permit to a Southeast Side steel mill is based on a number of factors, including residents’ cumulative air pollution and chronic disease rates in the local community.

Megan Cunningham, deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Health, said a comprehensive analysis of health and environmental conditions in three neighborhoods — East Side, Hegewish and South Deering — convinced Chicago officials. Reject the application to open a car and open a metal breaking facility on East 116th Street along the Calumet River.

“Our purpose is to protect and promote public health,” Cunningham said at the city’s hearing about the denied permit. “Social conditions are themselves the result of policy.”

Cunningham added that city officials are concerned about the “natural hazards” of large metal operations, including large explosions.

“A license is only as strong as a company’s willingness to comply with it,” Cunningham said in defense of the license ban last February.

Reserve Management Group, the business that owns the cutting operation, wants an administrative law judge to investigate the city’s denial of a permit for the relocated and renamed General Steel Works on the Southeast Side after it moved from its longtime home. in Lincoln Park.

General Steel was acquired by a reserve management affiliate in 2019 after it signed an agreement with the city that set a deadline to close the Lincoln Park facility and move it to the Southeast Side. Despite community members protesting the move, holding demonstrations and even hunger strikes, Reserve Management built a new logging operation – at an estimated cost of $80 million – confident it would win city approval.

On cross-examination, reserve administration attorney Jeffrey Rossman asked Cunningham a series of questions. Involvement of the US Environmental Protection Agency With shredder’s permission, related Civil rights investigation by federal housing authorities And Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s possible influence on the issue.

The license was denied by Lightfoot’s appointee, Dr. Alison Arwady, who heads the Chicago Department of Public Health.

But EPA Administrator Michael Reagan paused the process in May 2021 after being appointed by President Joe Biden to recommend a health impact analysis to determine whether an already polluted community would be harmed by increased pollution.

Reserve management attorneys argued that the health impact assessment should not have been part of the process.

Cunningham said such health reviews are routinely conducted across the country and allow her department to take a more holistic approach to determining eligibility.

Among the factors that influenced the city’s decisions were the southeast’s high levels of pollution, lack of access to health care and chronic heart disease and other ailments, she said.

Rossman compared the 2019 Zoning Board approvals for the cut site to the Health Department review.

He envisioned sophisticated pollution controls for the rebuilt General Steel.

Rossman asked why Rival Metal Crushing, The Sims Metal Management, He was able to continue operating in Pilsen without adequate pollution control.

Sims, which has run afoul of federal environmental laws, is building new pollution controls and must obtain a city permit.

It’s not clear whether they can convince the judge deciding the licensing case.

Administrative Law Judge Mitchell X has repeatedly asked reserve management lawyers not to stray too far from the defining question: Did Arwady follow the rules properly when she was denied a work permit last February?

Reserve Management’s attorneys have requested a subpoena for Arwadi to testify at the upcoming hearing, saying the request relates to Ex. Last year, X rejected the same lawyers’ request for bail from the Public Health Commissioner.

Brett Chase’s report on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

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