A. Finkl and Sons steel mill, considered the worst polluter in Chicago, is moving its operations from a predominantly white neighborhood on the North Side to a predominantly black neighborhood on the South Side. Photo by Joe Gallo.

The news:

A. Finkl and Sons steel mill will be moving from the North Side of Chicago to the South Side in early 2010.

Behind the news:

According to A. Finkl and Sons, the company is committed to improving the environment. Indeed, the Chicago business has received awards from Friends of the Park, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Arbor Day Foundation for planting over 6 million trees. The company is also the worst polluter in Chicago, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, and is moving from a predominantly white to a predominantly black neighborhood.

“Corporations tend to move to areas of least resistance,” said Sylvia Hood Washington, a research associate professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and editor- in-chief of Environmental Justice magazine. “When they offer jobs there is a trade off between jobs for the community and possible environmental damages.”

The Environmental Protection Agency lists A. Finkl and Sons as the 21st worst polluter in the nation of out of more than 16,000 facilities listed in the EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators database. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune was a misrepresentation of the EPA’s data, said A. Finkl and Sons President Joe Curci. He added that the new mill will be even more efficient at reducing emissions.

“One of the drivers for us moving is that steel mills don’t draw a lot of employees from the Lincoln Park area,” Curci said.

A. Finkl and Sons is moving from Lincoln Park, where the white population is 84.6 percent and the median income is $68,613, compared to Burnside, whose black population is 96.5 percent and median income is $34,790.

Eighth Ward Alderman Michelle Harris, whose jurisdiction includes Burnside, said she welcomes the business. “I think that them coming to the area is a plus for the community to have and maintain that industrial community.”