The smokestack for the former Crawford Power Generating Station was brought down by explosives in the early morning hours of Saturday, sending an enormous cloud of dust into the neighborhood across Pulaski Road.
The wafting cloud coated homes, cars, trees, and streets with a fine powder at a time when people have been ordered to stay in their homes because of a pandemic that kills people by attacking their lungs.
People in the area flooded social media with pictures and video of streets and skies laden with dust, severely reducing visibility. Images of cars driving with headlights on were common. People also wrote of their fear, and in some cases, having trouble breathing.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also took to social media, calling the incident, “simply unacceptable.” She says the city shut down work at the site hours after it happened.
Northbrook’s Hillco Redevelopment Partners bought the shuttered Little Village power station from Houston’s NRG Energy three years ago. It is trying to turn the site into a 999,900-square-foot distribution center called Exchange 55 by the middle of next year.
A notice posted before the weekend event on Hillco’s project web site stated
As with all demolition activity, the health and safety of the workers and local community is a top priority. There will be oversight management and extensive dust control and mitigation efforts, including a variety of watering techniques such as water trucks, water cannons and direct-drive misting systems. In addition to these measures, the Chicago Fire Department will provide CFD engines for additional safety and dust suppression support.
A message posted on the fire departments Twitter account stated, “CFD provided support on demolition of stack at the old Crawford generation plant… No problems.”
The mayor appears to believe there was a problem, writing from her Twitter account, “The City… will conduct a full investigation of today’s incident, including exploration of potential regulatory changes to address operating procedures.”