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Pilsen, Little Village Residents Sue Over Coal Plant Pollution

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Coal-Fired Power Plant

A coal-fired power plant. (Credit: Charlie Riedel/AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Residents of the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods have filed class-action lawsuits against two coal-fired power plants.

As WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports, the lawsuits claim the noxious emissions from the Fisk plant, at 1111 W. Cermak Rd., and the Crawford plant, at 3501 S. Pulaski Rd., are damaging the residents’ health and their homes.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports

The suits, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, claim that sulfur dioxide is emitted into both neighborhoods.

The suits claim that sulfur dioxide is emitted into the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods, which has been noted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The emissions create a very heavy black or white powder that requires constant cleaning and makes residents prisoners in their homes, precluding them from full use and enjoyment of their properties, the suit said. Some of the chemicals generated also are extra hazardous and are known carcinogens.

The suit claims negligence, trespass, and strict liability. It seeks a class-action determination, damages, post-judgment interest of 12 percent until paid, and attorney fees, court costs.

A representative of Midwest Generation, LLC, which owns both the Fisk and Crawford plants, was not available for comment Tuesday evening.

In May 2011, eight Greenpeace activists climbed a 450-foot smokestack at the Fisk plant, and eight others rappelled from the Pulaski Road Bridge near the Crawford plant and dangled above the Chicago River to prevent a coal barge from passing.

The demonstrators were arrested, but the protests drew attention to the health issues created by the coal plants.

Both actions were set to coincide with a U.S. EPA public hearing on increased pollution controls from coal-burning plants.

In December, demonstrators took their protest to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at City Hall, demanding the passage of a clean power ordinance that would force the plants to close.

Emanuel and a majority of aldermen have expressed support for the ordinance, but Kimberly Wasserman, director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said at the protest that the ordinance still hasn’t received a City Council hearing.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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