Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:
Dvorak Park is a very grassy, wide expanse of trees and benches, a playground for young children with an outdoor pool located in the Pilsen neighborhood, which is home to many Mexican immigrants. Rising above the park is the tall, light-colored brick smokestack of the Fisk coal power plant. Next to the smokestack is the red brick building where coal was burned to produce electricity for 109 years.
Since 1903, the plant has provided power for Chicago. And for many years, it was the number one source of pollution in the city, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune.
Jerry Mead-Lucero is a founding member and organizer of the group Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reformation Organization (PERRO). We met with Mead-Lucero in August 2012 on the day after the Fisk power plant had been closed and the Crawford coal-burning power plant a few miles away in the Little Village neighborhood was scheduled to close the next week.
There have been 55 premature deaths each year linked to the power plant, along with hundreds of asthma attacks and people hospitalized because of pollution from the plant, according to a study by a scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2001. Respiratory issues are frequently caused by coal, fly ash, soot, mercury, lead (which is a neurotoxin) and other particles emitted from the coal plant, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read more »
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