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What is a Toxic Tour?
A Toxic Tour highlights specific locations where inadequate urban planning and poor decision-making by city officials negatively impact health and environmental outcomes for a given community. These sites contribute to the perpetuation of environmental injustice. The goal of the tour is to raise public awareness about these sites in an effort to motivate local, state, and federal officials to take action in shutting them down or take steps toward remediation. The Justice40rward People for Community Recovery Toxic Tour highlights some of the landfills, industrial facilities and polluted waterways in the Lake Calumet Areas with tour stops focused on key sites in current and historical struggles for environmental justice.
Chicago’s Finest Marina and Ton Farm
This is in the area of the Jan and Aagje Ton Farm for the Underground Railroad. They’re trying to make this area a historical area because of the connection to the Little Calumet River. Many people come here and just plow the land and grow vegetables in this area. Most of the vacant land and abandoned homes might be owned by the city due to back taxes. Its appearance makes you feel like this is a rural area in Chicago. There are still people living in the few homes that are here and they love the serenity of the area and being close to the river. The saddest thing about this area is the fly dumping that occurs frequently in this area, dumping of abandoned cars, construction materials and furniture destroy the beauty of this area.
Little Calumet River
This area is why we say we have multimedia exposure: air, water and land. This area is called the Lake Calumet PMD, Planned Manufacturing District and was created when Harold Washington was in office, in the 80’s. Toxic industries were already here, but it allowed for easy application and easy access to come down to this area. And that’s why General Iron is able to develop and come down into this area.
This is a manmade lake that was built as an alternative to fishing in Little Calumet River. Every year the state loads different types of fish for public recreation, but you must be licensed by the city to fish, and people do come and enjoy this area. We, PCR, advocated for this area as an alternative fishing area and the county started hosting festivals. They do a lot of kayaking here and educating the community about forestry activities. People from my community used to swim in this water when it was underdeveloped back in the 60’s and 70’s. People have drowned trying to swim across this body of water. Also, there are no fountains in this area because it has been documented that the leachate from CID landfill seeped over here into the water, and the water fountains tested positive for contamination. Elected officials knew that it would be impossible to ever clear the water foundation for the public to drink, so they just dismantled all the foundation and we never had a public restroom in our forest preserve. Since Flatfoot Lake was developed this is the only public restroom in the forest preserve and you see what it is (a port-a-potty).
Ford Calumet Environmental Center
Ford Motor is one of two biggest polluters in our community. A lot of the particulate matter comes from this facility, not to mention vehicular emissions from the trucks, cars and the diesel pollution. The odors from this facility were so bad in the 70’s and 80’s CURE demanded to meet with Ford’s representative to discuss ways to reduce or use alternative chemicals in their operation. We formed the Ford’s Good Neighbors Dialogue where we met with them about their chemical processes. Ford’s Suppliers Campus was created under Daley’s administration and this development is less than 25 years old. Before this development, trains going into Ford used to hold up traffic for an awfully long time, maybe for an hour or more. Ford’s development plan for its Supplier Campus was awarded $40 million from the city and $60 million from the state of Illinois to build an underpass along Torrance Avenue and 130th Street. In return Ford promised to give $4 million to build an environmental center. It was an investment of $100 million by our city and state. So now the trains just go up, and now we don’t have a problem of holding up traffic. An access road at 126th at Torrence was built to have access to Ford’s Supplier Campus. Before this, there were no roads to go further east to Avenue O from 126th Street.
Historic Yellow Wall and Library
Memorial Wall of Atlgeld deaths in UpTop area of Atlgeld Gardens, a former thriving commercial strip that now has only one remaining business, Gardens Fast Food. The rest of the strip is vacant and in disrepair. But the majority of these people at the bottom on the yellow bricks died from some health-related issue. This is a memorial wall, and some of the people just come and put their loved one up there. This still represents what we call our memorial wall. Memorial Wall of Atlgeld deaths in UpTop area of Atlgeld Gardens, a former thriving commercial strip that now has only one remaining business, Gardens Fast Food. The rest of the strip is vacant and in disrepair. This area is called by residents “UpTop” and it is privately owned so that’s why they couldn’t redevelop. The owner doesn’t want to sell the place. This area was contaminated with PCBs. We watched the cleanup of this area and we trained a lot of residents to be able to go over there and help clean up the site. CHA tried to clean up the PCBs three times and failed. It failed because CHA did not assess the area until there was no detection of PCBs and this left a big question: is the area clear, free from detection of this poison.