Crawford Power, a bad old neighbor in Little Village, makes one last ugly scene

The demolition of the old power plant’s smokestack was a debacle that shows why the city cannot be too vigilant when it comes to protecting public health.

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A person walks their bicycle through a dust cloud in Little Village on Saturday after the smokestack for the old Crawford Power Generating Station was imploded.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The old Crawford Power Generating Station was a known bad neighbor for years in Little Village, belching smoke and coal dust, until it was shut down eight years ago.

And it was deja vu all over again Saturday when the plant’s old smokestack was demolished, spewing dust that blanketed homes, cars, sidewalks, lawns and everything else for blocks around 35th Street and Pulaski Road.

There’s never a good time for a cloud of dust, possibly containing who-knows-what sort of pollutants, to settle over a neighborhood. But we suppose Saturday was about as bad a time as you’ll find, given the coronavirus global public health crisis.

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As Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said, “The fear and anxiety that residents feel about COVID-19 have only been exacerbated with this situation.”

Hilco Redevelopment Partners, which now owns the site, had promised to take preventive measures so that this would not happen. But the company failed to follow through. Let’s hope it’s slapped with a hefty fine.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has issued a stop-work order against the company, launched an investigation into the matter and ordered Hilco to do a clean-up. The city’s Department of Public Health will distribute masks to residents. All necessary steps that must happen quickly.

But as Lightfoot said, Hilco’s got to own this. Where were the water cannons that Hilco had promised, to hose down the massive concrete smokestack before, during and after the demolition to keep down the dust?

Lightfoot says she has seen no indication there were water cannons.

Where was the advance notice that Hilco promised to mail to residents? The community wasn’t alerted until the day before — by the city.

There’s a lesson here for local government: Never presume responsible behavior. Be vigilant.

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