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City addresses unsuspecting issue threatening the livelihood of its residents: 'Two out of the four of us suffered'

"We really want to overcome that."

"We really want to overcome that."

Photo Credit: iStock

Chicago has some big sustainability goals, including purchasing enough power from wind and solar operations to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025. Recently, ABC7 Chicago spoke to Chicago's Chief Sustainability Officer, Angela Tovar, who is overseeing the transition.

Tovar told ABC7 about how her own childhood experiences with pollution led her to her current career, which began as a community manager and advocate for people more vulnerable to the negative impacts of pollution. 

Tovar's parents immigrated from Mexico to the Southeast Side of Chicago to work in the city's steel mills, which they also lived near, with huge quantities of arsenic, chromium, lead, and other hazardous air pollutants being released into the air.

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"Two out of the four of us suffered from very severe asthma growing up and, you know, that's not a connection that you make at the time," Tovar said. "Not a lot of criticism back then of the pollution impacts of steel production."

Part of Tovar's mission is to end the unjust practices that have long plagued residents of Chicago and many other U.S. cities, where polluting and waste facilities are intentionally placed in or near communities primarily populated by African Americans, Hispanics, Indigenous People, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, migrant farmworkers, and low-income workers.

"People that are most impacted by pollution are Black and brown and low-income communities on the South and West sides, communities that are either bisected by major highways, and/or communities that are in close proximity to clusters of pollution producing facilities," Tovar told ABC7. "We really want to overcome that as the city of Chicago. Part of that is understanding and acknowledging that history. It is grappling with our role as city government and whether we did it intentionally or unintentionally, what our role was in that history."

Hopefully, aiding in that goal is Chicago's partnership with a solar farm outside of the city, which is expected to be the largest U.S. solar project east of the Mississippi.

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