A federal investigation has found that the city of Chicago violated its residents' civil rights by moving a polluting business from a mostly white neighborhood on the North Side to a largely Latino and Black community on the Southeast Side.
In a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot obtained by NBC News, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said it determined that the city had a “broader policy of shifting polluting activities from White neighborhoods to Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, despite the latter already experiencing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms.”
HUD is demanding the city change its unlawful planning, zoning, and land use as their two-year federal investigation into Chicago's relocation of General Iron's metal shredding business comes to a close.
Between December 2019 and March 2020, General Iron was cited at least 11 times for pollution and nuisance law violations, NBC News reports. The business also saw two explosions in May of 2020.
The Lightfoot administration has refuted HUD's findings.
“Unfortunately, HUD leaked their letter, as they have done in the past,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “We will respond given the opportunity but any allegations that we have done something to compromise the health and safety of our Black and Brown communities are absolutely absurd; we will demonstrate that and prove them wrong.”
However, advocacy groups that pushed the federal agency to launch an investigation on the polluting business' relocation two years ago found HUD's letter to be a major triumph.
“The tide of segregation and environmental racism in Chicago has been devastating Black and brown communities for far too long,” the groups said in a joint statement. “This federal investigation from HUD shows without a doubt that systemic racism in Chicago is creating sacrifice zones and putting the most vulnerable in harm’s way. All eyes are now on the Mayor’s office and City Council to take accountability and end the systems that allow the dirtiest industries to pile up in our communities.”