The Silver Shovel Scandal happened in Chicago in the early 1990s, where elected officials were involved in a multitude of illegal activities, including illegal dumping in residential areas. In the 2004 Journal of Urban Affairs (pg. 154 V.26 I.2) the issue is explained like this: “Circa 1994, the FBI arrested John Christopher (aka John Davito) on federal charges. Christopher was a known member of Chicago organized crime. Instead of taking him to trial and possible conviction, the U.S. Justice Department made a deal with Christopher – he became an FBI mole. Christopher was an illegal dumper. He owned a refuse hauling service that would contract with construction and demolition companies to transport construction and demolition rubble to be deposited in certified landfills. Instead of transporting the material to the intended landfills, Christopher would dump the loads on back road desolate land in Chicago and pocket the landfill tipping fee, illegally increasing his profit. The U.S. Justice Department agreed to suspend prosecution if he would wear a wire while attempting to bribe Chicago officials to aid his illegal dumping operation. This federal snare initiative was titled ‘‘Operation Silver Shovel’’ by the U.S. Justice Department and became one of the most successful federal sting operations in Chicago history, netting 10 convictions of prominent Chicago officials. Chicago media labeled Christopher’s dumping grounds as ‘‘Silver Shovel dumpsites.’’ Click here to read the full text of the article.
It was through meetings with the community that I was made aware of that one of the community garden sites could possibly be a Silver Shovel site. Currently, I am working with one of the neighbor’s here that plans to start a community garden on the same street (Fulton) as the school. This garden will literally be about 100 ft northeast of the school. Click here to see a map of the site.
So far, I have taken soil samples and sent them to a soil analysis lab. As many of you may know, part of the problem with illegal dumping is that it can pollute the soil with toxic metals and chemicals that are not normally found in urban soils. This creates a problem for residents of the polluted area because they don’t know what they should be testing the soil for. Additionally, soil tests are extremely expensive and to test an area for a laundry list of contaminants can become very costly.
For our purposes, we are testing the area for heavy metals and will compare those results with those from past soil tests that we’ve done around the school. I’m hopeful that, based on my research, these dumping sites are much further south than the school; however, depending on the results of the soil tests, we will need to take the appropriate actions to ensure that the garden site is a safe site.
I will keep you posted with the results.