The Illinois Attorney General is suing four companies accused of contributing to the discharge of polluted water into the Chicago River at a skyscraper construction site in the Loop.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a Cook County Circuit Court complaint Nov. 7 against Case Foundation Company, of Maryland, and Clark Construction Group, Riverside Investment and Development Company and 110 North Wacker Titleholder, related to a 54-story, 1.5 million-square-foot office tower.
The real estate firm, Riverside, applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System storm water discharge permit through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in September 2017, which included submission of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. The state granted coverage under the general NPDES permit to Riverside on Oct. 11, 2017.
On May 1, 2018, Case Foundation, a drilled shaft foundation company, started doing work with general contractor Clark Construction at 110 North Wacker, which is bordered to the west by the south branch of the Chicago River.
According to the complaint, Case encountered foundation shaft groundwater inflow on June 5, and submitted a remedial procedure plan to Clark on June 7. Inflow recurred on June 13 while implementing the plan. And on June 14, two Case workers “pumped the groundwater inflow, which contained slurry and sediment, from the foundation shaft directly into the Chicago River through a hose,” according to the complaint. Over about 30 minutes, “Case Foundation pumped an estimated 6,400 gallons of groundwater containing slurry and sediment from the foundation shaft directly into the Chicago River at approximately six to 10 feet above the surface of the water.”
The complaint further said a pedestrian observed the plume the discharge caused in the river — it “appeared to be billowing cloudy white mud or sludge in the water” — and took a photograph that several news organizations published online. The state further said an independent contractor took samples at the shaft indicating the inflow discharged into the river had a concentration of total suspended solids of 23,000 milligrams per liter.
The state accused the defendants of violating the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and asked the court to order immediate corrective action to permanently abate the effect of the alleged violations, as well as to assess civil penalties of $50,000 per violation and $10,000 per day the problem went without remediation.
According to Madigan’s office, the companies also violated Illinois Pollution Control Board water pollution regulations barring direct discharge of effluent containing slurry and sediment into a river. Those allegations also carry $50,000 civil penalties with a $10,000 daily assessment, with the state asking the court to compel remediation and abatement.
The complaint further detailed alleged violations of the NPDES permit terms as well as the federal Clean Water Act, asserting Riverside’s permit did not authorize discharging non-storm water.
Madigan also singled out Riverside for allegedly failing to adhere to NPDES recording and reporting requirements because it didn’t get required contractor signatures and certifications in order. The complaint said Case Foundation didn’t sign a required certification statement until July 31, 2018, and Clark Construction didn't sign until Aug. 2, about four months after starting construction. Riverside also was charged with making sure the site was inspected at least once a week and creating a report for each inspection, but Madigan cited seven weeks from April 2- June 11 without an inspection report.
Along with Madigan, the state’s attorney’s representatives include Elizabeth Wallace, chief of the Environmental Bureau, and the bureau’s Molly Snitjer, as well as Matthew Dunn, chief environmental enforcement/asbestos litigation division.