First off, I have great sympathy for Gerardo Castillo’s family, that’s got to be a hard way to die.
Chicago officials and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration hunted Monday for the cause of a fatal gas release that killed a North Side man and hospitalized two others at a chocolate factory on the Near West Side over the weekend. Gerardo Castillo, 30, was killed Sunday in the second fatal accident since 2001 at Blommer Chocolate Co., 600 W. Kinzie St.
Castillo of the 1700 block of West Olive Avenue was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after a release of ammonialike fumes at the factory. A substance mixed into the chocolate somehow triggered a gaseous chemical reaction, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman said.
OSHA last inspected the facility in 1994, said federal compliance officer Tricia Railton, who was reading from a report. Those safety investigations had to do with workers who were cleaning a piece of equipment that either had not been disconnected or was not marked as being potentially dangerous to the cleaners if turned on. It was not immediately clear if an injury prompted that inspection, Railton said. In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent an inspector to check the factory after a neighbor complained about the aroma of burnt chocolate. The unidentified complainant also noted a powder-filled plume churning out of a roof duct.
Based on what the inspector saw two mornings in early September, the EPA cited Blommer for violating limits on opacity, or the amount of light blocked by the factory’s grinder dust.
But this EPA thing has been ongoing for a while. In fact, we mentioned it to Alderman Reilly when we met him in his office just prior to Reilly being sworn in, and his staff was going to look into it. Pollution and particulates are pollution and particulates, even if they smell like chocolate, and shouldn’t be allowed to permeate the lungs of local residents (like myself, ahem). I am curious as to what the details of this September investigation actually were.
Previous coverage of Blommer on my old blog