The Illinois Pollution Control Board denied Lakeshore Recycling Systems’ application to open a controversial waste station after failing to properly notify a nearby property owner.
The state pollution board halted a controversial plan for a second waste station after the company failed to adequately notify a neighboring property in West Chicago.
Last week, the Illinois Pollution Control Board sided with West Chicago community groups fighting against Lakeshore Recycling Systems’ (LRS) plans to expand existing facilities by adding a second solid waste transfer station in the majority-Latino western suburb.
The Board’s 4-0 decision said the city lacked jurisdiction to review the waste hauler’s application because LRS did not properly notify one of the adjacent property owners of its proposal. The Board’s decision vacated the city council’s approval of LRS’ application from February 2023.
LRS can still appeal the Board’s decision with the Illinois Appellate Court or resubmit an application with the city of West Chicago to start the siting process over again.
The decision comes after more than two years of community-led efforts to stop LRS’s expansion. The group known as Protect West Chicago argued that the city’s public hearing and approval process lacked transparency and fundamental fairness. People Opposing DuPage Environmental Racism (PODER), a subcommittee of Immigrant Solidarity DuPage, argued that the residents of West Chicago, a majority-Latino town, would experience increased and disproportionate levels of pollution with this development.
The state board’s decision did not address these arguments. The Board stated that it did not need to address the remaining issues of fairness or environmental justice since LRS did not meet the Illinois Environmental Protection Act’s preliminary “strict notice requirement.”
“This marks a precedent for our community,” said life-long West Chicago resident Julieta Alcantar-Garcia, who spoke at city and state hearings on the proposed trash station. “Corporations better make sure what they’re planning to bring to our community is something we want.”
Robert Weinstock, director of Northwestern University’s Environmental Advocacy Center, which represented Alcantar-Garcia and PODER pro bono, was “thankful” the city’s previous decision was vacated but argued the board didn’t go far enough. “We’re disappointed that the Board did not take this opportunity to clearly announce that environmental justice considerations must be taken into account in these kinds of cases.”
The Illinois Environmental Protection Act puts forth nine criteria that must be met for municipalities to approve pollution control facilities, including that the facility must be designed with public health safety in mind and that it is necessary to accommodate the waste needs of the area.
In a brief submitted to the Illinois Pollution Control Board in December, LRS argued that both opposing groups were using the term “environmental justice” in an overly simplistic way without considering what it means. PODER argued that the second waste transfer facility would increase existing air pollution to unacceptable levels, which LRS said could not be proven. LRS and Protect West Chicago did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement published on Monday, the city of West Chicago disagreed with the state board’s decision, which it characterized as “focused solely on a very technical aspect.” In its statement, city officials believed the Appellate Court would uphold the city council’s decision.
Under the plan, the proposed LRS facility would be a transfer point for municipal garbage trucks to shift their loads to larger trailers carrying the trash to farther landfills. The expanded facility would accept up to 650 tons of municipal solid waste daily, increasing LRS’s truck traffic in the area from 43 to 105 for municipal garbage trucks and two to 20 for semi-trailers, according to the company’s estimates. Another waste hauler, Groot, already operates a waste transfer station a half-mile north of the proposed LRS facility, processing 1,500 tons of garbage daily from West Chicago and surrounding suburbs.
Steve de la Rosa, a volunteer with PODER, expects that LRS will continue to try to get their application approved. His group will continue fighting for all hearings and information to be available in Spanish.
“LRS is going to come back,” de la Rosa said. “They’re not going to walk away from it. We are going to meet and hash out a strategy for how we’re going to respond.”