Trump Tower of Chicago Sued by State for Violating River Protections

by | August 17, 2018 AT 9:15 AM

By Michael Hawthorne

Trump International Hotel & Tower is endangering fish and other aquatic life in the Chicago River, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan alleges in a new lawsuit targeting the president's skyscraper for multiple violations of clean water laws.

The president's glass-and-steel skyscraper is one of the city's largest users of river water for its cooling systems, siphoning nearly 20 million gallons a day through intakes so powerful the machines could fill an Olympic swimming pool in less than an hour, then pumping the water back into the river up to 35 degrees hotter.

Madigan's lawsuit, filed late Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, accuses building managers of failing to meet several requirements in a state permit intended to limit the number of fish pinned against intake screens or killed by sudden changes in pressure and temperature.

Trump Tower also failed to properly renew its permit and has been operating the building's massive cooling system unlawfully for nearly a year, according to the lawsuit.

"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."

The Tribune first reported in June that the decade-old skyscraper developed by Donald Trump is the only Chicago high-rise that has failed to document it took measures to protect fish and aquatic life in the river.

Trump's Chicago managers also haven't conducted a study of fish killed by the luxury hotel and condominium complex _ another step required five years ago by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in the initial permit for the building's water intakes.

A draft of the state's latest permit gives building managers another three years to complete the ecological study and confirms state inspectors failed to ensure the skyscraper has complied with the fish-protecting regulations.

The Illinois EPA pulled back from renewing Trump Tower's permit after the Sierra Club and the University of Chicago's Abrams Environmental Law Clinic threatened to sue.

Lawyers for Trump Tower couldn't be reached for comment.

Federal and state biologists have found nearly 30 types of fish swimming in the downtown stretch of the river during the past four years, including largemouth bass, bluegill, white perch and walleye.

In October, a boy fishing on the Riverwalk a block away from Trump Tower caught the first American eel ever seen in the river.

Most of the fish arrived naturally and appear to be growing in number, based on periodic surveys by federal, state and local officials. Another species found downtown is channel catfish, a relatively easy catch for anglers that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocked in the North Branch four years ago after building artificial nesting cavities to encourage reproduction.

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