By Michael Hawthorne
Former President Donald Trump’s hotel along the Chicago River violated state environmental laws by sucking in massive amounts of water without a valid permit, a Cook County judge ruled in a decision made public Friday.
Judge Sophia H. Hall’s one-page ruling is the latest development in a case brought to public attention in 2018, when the Chicago Tribune revealed the Trump International Hotel & Tower was the only downtown high-rise that had failed to take legally mandated steps to protect fish in the rapidly improving waterway.
During the operation of its heating and air conditioning systems, Trump’s Chicago high-rise siphons nearly 20 million gallons a day through intakes so powerful the machines could fill an Olympic swimming pool in less than an hour. It pumps water back into the river up to 35 degrees hotter.
Like other large users that draw water directly from rivers or lakes, Trump Tower is required to follow federal and state regulations detailing how facilities should limit the number of fish pinned against intake screens or killed by sudden changes in pressure and temperature.
State records obtained by the Tribune show Trump’s organization never followed the requirements.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office is seeking fines of $50,000 a day, plus $10,000 for each day the violations continued. Though the penalties legally could add up to $12 million, the state typically settles with defendants for considerably less money.
“No one is exempt from compliance with the laws that protect Illinois’ environment and most valuable natural resources, and we will continue to seek to hold the defendants accountable for violations of state environmental laws that jeopardized the quality of the Chicago River,” Raoul said in a statement.
Trump Tower representatives did not respond to a request for comment. They previously had called the state’s lawsuit a politically motivated vendetta against the Republican president.
Raoul’s predecessor, fellow Democrat Lisa Madigan, sued the hotel after the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago threatened to file their own lawsuit.