Toxic site for Alderman Cardenes's charter school if zoning change goes through!

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 System (TRIS) site (EPA ID Number 1000900874) . The EPA designation of TRIS 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.

'Toxic George' Cardenas, alderman of Chicago's 12th Ward."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).

Using investigative techniques to filter data across the internet a document dated November 15, 2012 was located that referenced the 2245 W. Pershing Rd. property. The document was an Environmental Assessment of 4343 S. Hermitage by EMG, Inc. of Hunt Valley, Maryland. In a comprehensive report documenting all environmental variables and liabilities attached to the property researched property, 2245 W. Pershing Rd. is identified as a Toxic Site.

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]”

12th Ward alderman George Cardenas (above at podium) addressed Arne Duncan and the Chicago Board of Education on April 22, 2008 while then CTU President Marilyn Stewart (far left) and CPS demographer James Dispensa (behind Cardenas) looked on. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.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.”

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.

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.

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.

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:

According to the Department of Buildings, the City of Chicago has issued 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). It has with no fewer than 7 building code violations.

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


May 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM

By: John Whitfield

IDOL complaint about toxic site

There should be an Illinois Department of Labor complaint if toxic site in McKinley Park for a charter school is approved.

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