Trump Tower continues to skirt rules about discharge into Chicago River, AG Kwame Raoul alleges


Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower has continued to skirt laws and regulations related to its intake and discharge of water in the Chicago River, the Illinois attorney general’s office alleges.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed an amended complaint Thursday to a lawsuit filed in 2018 that alleged the owners of the building operate a cooling water system without the necessary permits, and that it underreports the amount of water it discharges into the river.

The lawsuit claims the owners of the building, located along the river at 401 N. Wabash, pulls in around 20 million gallons of water each day and releases it back into the river at a higher temperature to operate the building’s cooling water system for its heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems.

Sucking in such large amounts of water each day can be harmful to aquatic life, as fish and other organisms could be caught in the stream and become trapped against intake screens, Raoul’s office said.

Further, the building owners have allegedly been releasing water into the river without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which is required under federal law. 

The building’s previous NPDES permit expired in 2017. It hasn’t been renewed because the owners did not include in its application for a new permit reports outlining intake structure conditions and other information, the lawsuit states.

The attorney general’s office and the building owners agreed to an interim order later in 2018 that required them to still comply with the permit’s provisions, but the owners failed to comply with the interim order, according to the lawsuit.

“Even after the state of Illinois took steps to hold Trump Tower accountable for violations of state and federal environmental laws, violations have continued — underscoring a disregard for the laws and regulations that are in place to protect our waterways and aquatic life,” Raoul said in a statement.

Building owners also have allegedly reported inaccurate information regarding the amount of water the building takes in and releases into the river, effectively failing to submit monthly reports to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The lawsuit wants the court to impose a $10,000-a-day fine for each day it was in violation, which could cost the hotel up to $12 million in fines. 

Last month, an appellate court ruled that insurers of Trump Tower are not obligated to pay insurance claims connected to the alleged misuse of the river because the building did not sustain damage.

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