Chicago – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has obtained a preliminary injunction requiring a copper smelter in Chicago's mainly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood to reduce lead emissions.
The H. Kramer plant must act "immediately" to curb the emissions, according to a statement from Madigan's office.
The injunction was issued after Madigan filed a complaint with Cook County Circuit Court alleging that the smelter posed "a substantial danger to the environment and the public, including nearby schoolchildren," the statement said.
It said that the action was based on a recommendation by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which found that measurements of lead emissions made in April 2010 showed a violation of federal air-quality standards.
Meters placed on the roof of Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School registered 0.24 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air, higher than the federal limit of 0.03 micrograms.
H. Kramer and Co., founded in the 1920s, is one of the most polluting industries in the Chicago area.
The company was warned in March by the federal EPA that it was in violation of clean-air standards and that it was failing to use filters to minimize emissions.
"The emissions coming from the H. Kramer facility pose serious health risks to the surrounding community," Madigan said. "Today's agreement requires H. Kramer officials to make immediate changes to reduce harmful pollution levels."
Besides H. Kramer, the Fisk coal-fired electricity plant also operates in Pilsen, and its contaminants affect nearby schools and residential streets.
Environmentalists have accused H. Kramer and Fisk of polluting the air and plaguing the area with high levels of illnesses, from chronic bronchitis and asthma to lung cancer and heart attacks.
The Chicago City Council has on its agenda a proposed Clean Energy Ordinance promoted by Latino Alderman Daniel Solis that would put an end to locals' complaints that go back to 2004.
The ordinance targets plants spewing pollutants in the immediate vicinity of Pilsen and another mainly Hispanic neighborhood, Little Village.
Though Solis says he has the support of 31 of the 50 aldermen, he has been unable to put the measure to a vote after months of discussion.