Dec 3, 2023 - News

Mercury found on Brighton Park migrant camp site

construction site

Workers put up a tent frame as they start building an encampment for migrants in Brighton Park on Nov. 29. Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

High levels of mercury, arsenic and lead were found on the site of the Brighton Park migrant camp, according to a city-commissioned report.

Driving the news: Chicago officials say they've taken steps to reduce exposure to the toxins and make the site safe for temporary stays.

Catch up fast: Mayor Brandon Johnson's administration has been fielding questions for weeks about why it was moving ahead with construction before getting a final environmental assessment.

  • City officials promised the report by the end of last week and finally released it late Friday night, but only to those who had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain it.
  • The city finally posted the full assessment on this FAQ page by Sunday morning.

What they're saying: City officials said in a statement that mercury "was identified at one location and was removed and properly disposed off site at a landfill. Likewise, soil with a high level of semivolatile compounds [including lead and arsenic] was identified at another location, and will be removed and disposed of offsite."

Additionally, the city says it's directing crews to install a 6-inch barrier of "crushed clean stone" on the site.

  • "With the limited soil removal and placement and maintenance of the barrier, the site is safe for temporary residential use," Johnson's press secretary, Ronnie Reese, wrote in a statement.

What we're watching: When and if migrants will be moved into this partially finished state-run facility.

  • Gov. JB Pritzker's spokesperson told WTTW that residents will not move in until the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reviews the report and signs off.

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