Residents sue over demolition that blanketed Little Village in dust cloud

Several residents filed a federal class-action suit, while another sued developer HIlco Redevelopment individually in Cook County Circuit Court.

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A cloud of dust spreads across the Little Village neighborhood after a smokestack was imploded in 2020

A cloud of dust spreads across the Little Village neighborhood after a smokestack was imploded April 11, 2020. A neighborhood resident filed a lawsuit over the demolition on April 15, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Several Little Village residents are suing the property developer behind an implosion at a shuttered coal power plant that covered the Southwest Side neighborhood in dust Saturday morning.

A group of Little Village residents filed a class action suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Wednesday, naming Hilco Redevelopment LLC, contractor Controlled Demolition Inc. and other companies as defendants.

It was filed on behalf of Antonio Solis, Jose Solis and Juan Rangel, as well as any other Little Village residents similarly affected by the demolition.

The smokestack at the 95-year-old Crawford Power Generating Station was demolished April 11, blanketing the surrounding neighborhood in a massive cloud of dust.

The federal suit alleges that the demolition caused “distress, nuisance, and property damage” in addition to the health effects of the dust, noting that chemicals used at the plant could cause respiratory problems and that some residents have already experienced health issues.

The plaintiffs are calling for the companies to clean up the homes, businesses and public areas affected by the dust cloud, Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law said in a statement. The suit also calls for the defendants to provide testing and sampling of the dust and air and provide particulate masks and home air filters to neighborhood residents.

Clifford Law Offices also filed a suit in Cook County Circuit Court on Wednesday on behalf of Katherine Ramirez-Mercado, attorney Sean Driscoll said during a virtual news conference.

Ramirez-Mercado lives about half a block from the site of the demolition, Driscoll said. She has asthma and has experienced respiratory problems since the demolition.

“Nothing was done to make sure that the smoke was contained on their property,” Ramirez-Mercado said in a statement. “Nothing was done to minimize the effect of this hazardous material to not flow to all of us surrounding this plant.”

Defendants charged with negligence in the 15-count lawsuit include Hilco and its subsidiaries involved in the project, as well as Michigan-based construction firm MCM Management Corp. and Maryland-based Controlled Demolition.

In addition to seeking $50,000 in monetary damages for each of the 10 negligence counts, the suit calls for each of the defendants to provide medical monitoring — including testing and diagnostic examinations — for any health effects that could arise in the future as a result of exposure to the dust.

“We need testing done on exactly what is in the dust,” Ramirez-Mercado said. “We don’t even know if we can go outside to get groceries or other necessities with all that dust still on our homes, trees, yards, cars and everything we touch.”

Hilco CEO Roberto Perez issued an apology to Little Village residents Tuesday for the “anxiety and fear” caused by the implosion.

Perez said Hilco is “cooperating with the city of Chicago and all appropriate agencies” conducting a full review of the April 11 demolition while forging ahead with its own “corrective action plan.”

Hilco, MCM and Controlled Demolition did not immediately respond to requests for comment about either lawsuit Wednesday evening.

Read both full complaints below:

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