By Tammy Webber
CHICAGO, Ill. (AP) – Residents in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods have complained for years about diesel fumes, noise and vibrations from a blocks-long rail yard that slices through their community. Now, plans for a massive expansion have prompted them to do something they say the city and company won’t: Test the air around their homes for elevated pollution levels.
With the help of environmental advocacy groups from Chicago and California, community activists in Englewood installed two pollution monitors that will sample the air for two months at various points around the Norfolk Southern yard, where about a dozen freight trains and more than 1,200 semitrucks load and unload every day – all powered by diesel fuel and idling constantly while large metal freight containers are transferred from one to the other.
The 140-acre yard handles more than 480,000 containers a year, but the company wants to expand it by about 85 acres to accommodate another 800 diesel trucks a day, and is buying vacant lots and homes from the city and private owners.
Residents say the plan, backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will simply add to the neighborhood’s pollution, which a nearby interstate and another rail yard also contribute to, and cause elevated levels of asthma and other health problems.
“I think the railroad has completely not acknowledged the welfare of the neighborhood,” said 74-year-old Julian McClendon, who lives about 1,000 feet from a railroad embankment – where he says trains often sit and idle while waiting to get into the yard – and a block from where the expanded yard would end.
“I hear the train noise and I smell the pollution on a regular basis (especially) at night and in the early morning hours,” said McClendon, who has lived in Englewood for more than 50 years and wants the railroad to conduct an environmental impact study.
A spokesman from Norfolk Southern did not return phone or email messages.1 2 next >>