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Illinois Sues Trump Tower Over River Violations


The state of Illinois is suing the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago for violating clean water laws. The hotel has allegedly been dodging regulations that protect the Chicago River and its wildlife for years. Max Green from member station WBEZ easy reports

MAX GREEN, BYLINE: The 98-story Trump International Hotel and Tower looms over the Chicago River. Its placement is scenic but also strategic. The building uses river water for its cooling systems.

JACK DARIN: Trump Tower has probably been violating the Clean Water Act for years...

GREEN: Jack Darin is director of the Illinois Sierra Club. He says every day, the building takes in and spits back out nearly 20 million gallons of water.

DARIN: ...Without the protections required by law for fish so that they don't get sucked up into the building and killed.

GREEN: The Illinois Sierra Club and other environmental groups began sounding the alarm on Trump Tower's alleged violations earlier this year. The lawsuit isn't Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's first attempt to force the building to comply with pollution laws. In 2012, she accused the hotel of lacking the proper permits to release pollutants into the river. Trump Tower operators were also misreporting the amount of water the tower uses and discharges. The new lawsuit says the hotel's practices are jeopardizing the river's fish and other aquatic life.

LISA MADIGAN: There are fish living in the Chicago River, grown-up fish that people are out there catching on their hooks and having a great time. But there's also fish eggs, fish larvae, juvenile fish, and all of them can be harmed by this.

GREEN: Margaret Frisbie is with the group Friends of the Chicago River. She says bigger fish can be killed as they're trapped against the water intake screen. Fish eggs and smaller fish are sucked through the screen and die from exposure. Frisbie says the river is also home to animals like turtles, muskrats and eels. She says the hotel pumping hot water back out into the river is also a major problem.

MARGARET FRISBIE: Hot water depletes the amount of oxygen the water itself can hold. And every aquatic creature is reliant upon that dissolved oxygen to breathe, just the way we breathe oxygen in the air around us.

GREEN: Frisbie says there are numerous possible solutions buildings used to deter wildlife from swimming into dangerous spots. A Chicago Tribune investigation earlier this summer found of about a dozen buildings that use river water for cooling, Trump Tower was the only one that failed to properly document its efforts to meet state regulations. In an emailed statement, a Trump Organization spokesperson says the company is disappointed the alleged violations aren't being handled at the administrative level. The spokesperson says the lawsuit is motivated by politics.

For NPR News, I'm Max Green in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Max Greene