Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, or LVEJO for short, is an organization that has proven that hard work, determination, and persistence pay off. The organization was founded in 1994 by public school parents who learned about the potential exposure of their children to dangerous particles during school renovations at Joseph E. Gary Elementary. The organization then remained a powerful organization that worked toward environmental justice in Chicago neighborhood Little Village. One of the most recent projects taken on by LVEJO was the improvement of the Collateral Channel on 31st and Albany. The story of the Collateral Channel in Little Village can be compared to the problems that plague Bubbly Creek.
Up until a few months ago, the Collateral Channel was fully exposed to the public. This posed a risk to the Little Village community, including the 5,000 children less than five years of age living within a quarter mile from it. The 75 year-old stagnant body of water bubbles, releases methane, and contains heavy metals. In addition, a study found that the water and sediment in the Collateral Channel are no longer usable by humans or wildlife and that the flow within the upper channel is stagnant 99% of time. On November 15, 2017, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) finally raised a fence in order to minimize the chances of community members entering the toxic waterway. Prior to this fence, the MWRD worked to improve and monitor the odor from the channel as a short-term solution while long-term plans were hashed out. Efforts included diverting water to alleviate stagnant flow, adding odor control filters, and actively monitoring odor.
The Collateral Channel is on its way becoming a safe and pleasant area. LVEJO's ultimate goals are to clean the waterway for community members to enjoy and for fish and birds to live in and around a natural oasis. LVEJO and MWRD are working together to make this dream into a reality. There will be a public meeting tonight, Monday, December 11, at 6:30 PM to discuss the upcoming work around the Collateral Channel. It will be held at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant Auditorium, 6001 West Pershing Road, Cicero, Illinois.
Stay tuned for updates regarding the Collateral Channel and the partnership between LVEJO and MWRD.
UPDATE 12/12/2017: The community meeting on the evening of Monday 11th was attended by LVEJO, community members, and MWRD staff. A pilot plan was discussed to clean up the toxins that are in the canal. It will be launched later this month. Another public meeting will be announced after the pilot has ended.