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Illinois Sues Chicago Trump Tower for Breaking Clean Water Laws

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Illinois Sues Chicago Trump Tower for Breaking Clean Water Laws
1Flatworld / Flickr

It would appear that the Trump Organization's business practices aren't any more environmentally friendly than the policies of the current president, who ran it from 1971 to 2017.


Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Tuesday that she had filed suit against the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago for taking and re-releasing millions of gallons of water from the Chicago River without the proper permits and without assessing the impact of its activities on the fish that live there.

"Trump Tower continues to take millions of gallons of water from the Chicago River every day without a permit and without any regard to how it may be impacting the river's ecosystem," Madigan said in a statement. "I filed my lawsuit to make sure Trump Tower cannot continue violating the law."

Trump Tower takes in almost 20 million gallons of Chicago River water daily to cool its air conditioning, ventilation and heating systems. That's more than other, similar skyscrapers in the city and roughly equivalent to the amount of water used by a plant that cools many buildings, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Buildings that use that much water are required by the Clean Water Act to submit a study on the impact of their intake systems on fish populations, because fish can get pulled into a building's cooling system or trapped by intake screens, according to the attorney general's announcement.

Trump Tower also releases the water back into the river as much as 35 degrees warmer, according to the Chicago Tribune, and is therefore required by law to get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in order to do so, according to Madigan's announcement.

The lawsuit, filed in the Cook County Circuit Court Monday, accuses the building of failing to submit the results of a study on its cooling system's impact on fish to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) in 2013. It also alleges that the building did not renew the NPDES permit that expired Aug. 31, 2017 but continued to release heated water anyway.

Trump Tower is the only Chicago high rise that has failed to document how it would protect fish and aquatic life, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The river, once seen as irredeemably polluted, has become home to around 30 types of fish in the past four years.

This isn't the first time the Chicago Trump Tower has run into legal trouble over environmental concerns. In 2012, three years after it opened, Madigan filed a suit against the building with the Illinois Pollution Control Board accusing it of releasing heated water without an NPDES permit. Trump Tower settled and obtained a permit in 2013.

However, the Trump Organization responded to Madigan's current suit, accusing her of playing politics.

"We are disappointed that the Illinois attorney general would choose to file this suit considering such items are generally handled at the administrative level. One can only conclude that this decision was motivated by politics," they wrote in an email reported by the Chicago Tribune.

While Madigan is a Democrat, the Chicago Tribune noted that she is not running for reelection and that she filed the suit partly due to a referral from the IEPA, which falls under the jurisdiction of the state's Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

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