Afternoon Edition: Toxic former plant site could use a good cleaning, feds say

Today’s update is about an eight-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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The former Acme Steel coke plant near 114th Street and Torrence Avenue should be added to a list for cleanup under the federal Superfund program, the Biden administration says.

Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Good afternoon, Chicago. ✶

A relic of Chicago’s steel-making past is finally in line to get cleaned up, under the federal government’s Superfund program.

Started in 1980, the program aims to clean up hazardous waste sites abandoned by their former owners. The location, on the Southeast Side, is part of an area of Chicago that is “already overburdened with legacy contamination,” said Debra Shore, regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Below, we get into this new development for this toxic site that has posed a threat to nearby Chicagoans for years. 👇

Plus we’ve got the other stories you need to know this afternoon.

⏱️: A 7-minute read

— Matt Moore, newsletter reporter (@MattKenMoore)


TODAY’S TOP STORY

Toxic Acme site on Southeast Side picked for EPA Superfund cleanup

Reporting by Brett Chase

Toxic site on list to be cleaned: The long-abandoned Acme Steel coke plant on the Southeast Side poses “significant threats to human health and the environment” and should be cleaned up under the federal Superfund program, President Joe Biden’s administration said.

Acme and Chicago: The Acme site covers more than 100 acres and sits near the Big Marsh and Indian Ridge Marsh city parks on Torrence Avenue. The location was once used to produce the steel-making fuel, coke, for much of the last century but shut down operations more than two decades ago. State officials said in a 2007 report that cancer-causing chemicals in the soil posed a risk.

Why the attention now?: Three years ago, the community group Southeast Environmental Task Force petitioned the government to take action on the toxic site so it could be reused. Cyanide and mercury are among the harmful chemicals and metals found through recent testing of the Acme soil and surrounding areas used for fishing may be contaminated as well, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. The Acme site is a relic of Chicago’s steel-making past and is one of hundreds of so-called brownfield former industrial areas that have been contaminated and vacant for years.

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WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?

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Runners gather on Columbus Drive at the start of the 2021 Chicago Marathon. This year’s marathon could be the largest ever, race organizers say, with more than 47,000 participants signing up.

Jamie Sabau/Getty

  • This year’s Chicago Marathon could be the biggest: More than 47,000 runners are registered for the Oct. 8 race, a sizable field that could sprint past the record attendance set in 2019 of 45,932 finishers, organizers said.
  • Reputed ‘Goonie Gang’ member sentenced: Javion Bush, a reputed Chicago gang member, was sentenced to six years in federal prison for retaliating against two witnesses who were cooperating in a criminal investigation into the gang’s activities.
  • Restaurant association’s wage pitch: The Illinois Restaurant Association is trying a different approach in a long-shot bid to discourage the City Council from eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers. Instead, it is proposing higher fines for restaurants refusing to make up the difference whenever their tipped workers don’t make enough in tips to reach the city’s $15.80-an-hour mandatory minimum wage.
  • ABC 7 Chicago’s Jim Rose to retire: Rose, 70, is calling it quits after 41 years in Chicago and 50 years in broadcast journalism. He will sign off for good Sept. 15 with his sportscast at 10 p.m.
  • Lime scooter ridership booming: Electric scooter-sharing company Lime says its ridership in Chicago is thriving, with more than 1 million rides recorded this year.
  • Previewing Week 3: As students prep for another weekend of high school football, Mike Clark previews the matchups of Week 3.

OUR CITY IN COLOR 🎨

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At left, Gina Caruso’s mural at the Loyola Park seawall featuring images of her husband’s face on Post-It Notes. At right, some of the notes done by Caruso with drawings and love messages for her husband at their home.

Robert Herguth/Sun-Times, provided

Reporting by Sun-Times staff

The seawall at Loyola Park is plastered with murals, more than 160 of them, created as part of a lakefront arts festival in Rogers Park.

And one piece is worth taking particular note of.

It features row upon row of painted yellow squares, each marked by a different year, from 1993 to 2023. Each features a different image of the face of the same smiling man, who, as the years progress, changes ever so slightly.

The angle of his head or eyes differs in each frame. His hair changes, too, in later years some gray creeping in. But always he’s smiling.

The mural is a love note of sorts from artist Gina Caruso to the man in the squares — Keith Lord, her husband.

It’s not only a tribute to him. It also plays off a tradition that sees Caruso draw something for Lord on a Post-it note using markers. Every day she does that, most days leaving it in the fridge, so he’ll be sure to find it. Each drawing bears a love note.

“I feel like every day — this may sound a little corny — every day is an opportunity to celebrate my relationship with Keith and also express myself creatively,” says Caruso, an urban planner with a visual arts background. “It’s my way to bring a little joy in a 3-by-3-inch piece of paper. It really focuses my heart.”

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BRIGHT ONE ✨

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The Harris Theater for Music and Dance is celebrating 20 years of cultural arts programming on its main stage.

Kyle Flubaker

Celebrating 20 years, Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance remains a cultural arts hub

Report by Kyle MacMillan

During Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell’s 1989-92 tenure as a performer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the company was itinerant, constantly shuffling among venues.

But when she returned in 2021 as Hubbard Street’s artistic director, Fisher-Harrell was delighted the company had found a home at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, becoming one of 12 founding resident companies when the Millennium Park facility opened in 2003.

The Harris will celebrate its 20th anniversary Saturday with “Harris Fest: Music + Dance in the Park.” The free, all-day event will take place in the Pritzker Pavilion and other locations around Millennium Park, with performances and workshops by many of Harris’ resident companies, including the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, South Chicago Dance Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater and Giordano Dance Chicago.

Lori Dimun, the venue’s president and chief executive officer, said the Harris decided to mark 20 years versus waiting for the more typical quarter-century milestone, in part, so it could also celebrate its reemergence and that of its 30 resident companies after the COVID-19 shutdown.

“It felt like a moment to talk about what we’re doing, but also really uplift the amazing work that is happening and the companies that are affiliated with the theater,” Dimun said.

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YOUR DAILY QUESTION ☕️

Where’s one place in the city that you would make car-free — permanently — if you could? Tell us why.

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Editor: Satchel Price
Newsletter reporter: Matt Moore
Copy editor: Angie Myers

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