Report: Contaminants being removed from vacant Chicago lot where migrant housing is planned

CHICAGO– High levels of mercury and other pollutants are being removed from a vacant lot in Chicago where a tent camp is planned to house 2,000 migrants, according to a report by a consultant hired by the city.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Terracon Consultants' nearly 800-page assessment released Friday evening said high levels of mercury and other chemicals were removed from the site in Brighton Park, where workers had already begun building giant tents this week for incoming migrants.

City officials did not respond Saturday to requests from The Associated Press for comment or access to the report. The document was released only to those who filed an open records request, despite being at the heart of the controversy over the site and despite a repeated promise from Johnson to keep the public informed, The Tribune reported.

Local residents are protesting the project, saying it does not meet zoning requirements and that the soil at the site, which has a long history of industrial use, is toxic.

But Mayor Brandon Johnson's office told the Tribune it was confident moving forward with the camp, citing the removal of soil and the use of a “technical barrier” along the site.

“With limited soil removal and barrier installation and maintenance, the site is safe for temporary residential use,” Johnson's office told the newspaper.

According to the city, more than 23,000 asylum seekers have been bused from Texas to Chicago since August last year. Other Democratic-led cities are experiencing similar influxes, including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York, which have hosted more than 120,000 asylum seekers.

The state said it would not move people into the shelter until it is deemed safe. Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said Friday evening that it would not comment until the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reviewed the report.

Councilwoman Julia Ramirez, who represents the district on the City Council and has opposed the project, did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press on Saturday.

The report came as Chicago scrambles to house hundreds of asylum seekers who are still sheltering on sidewalks, at police stations and at O'Hare International Airport as the cold weather sets in. The city this week announced a partnership with religious leaders to house 400 asylum seekers. the migrants in churches.

The mayors of Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York have urged more federal aid to deal with the wave of migrants arriving in Democratic-run cities on buses funded by Texas' Republican governors and Florida.