East State asphalt plant approved in 20-7 vote, despite outrage from neighbors
Online Staff Report
William Charles Construction’s plan to operate a hot-mix asphalt plant on the floor of its East State Street quarry has been approved by the Winnebago County Board following a 20-7 vote Oct. 27.
Those voting against the asphalt plant were Dave Fiduccia (R-4), Frank Gambino (R-14), Wendy Owano (R-5), Rick Pollack (R-13), Dorothy Redd (D-6), Steve Schultz (R-2) and Fred Wescott (R-9). Isidro Barrios (D-11) was not in attendance.
The vote came a little more than three months after William Charles Construction announced its plan to relocate the asphalt plant, which was originally planned for its Mulford Road quarry.
The Mulford project was approved by Rockford City Council in 2008 following a tie-breaking vote by Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I). However, that plan drew controversy and a lawsuit, which is still pending. Some neighbors of the East State Street location also had pledged to file a lawsuit if the asphalt plant were approved.
William Charles Construction announced July 19 its plan to site the plant at its East State Street quarry, which it purchased last year. The plan immediately drew sharp criticism from neighbors of the East State Street quarry.
Many neighbors of the East State Street quarry, which is right on the border between Winnebago and Boone counties, have expressed their concerns that the plant would lower their property values, bring air and noise pollution to the neighborhood, and create an increase in traffic.
Some have alleged William Charles Construction’s political clout in the form of campaign donations has played a key role in gaining support for the plan, despite intense outrage from neighbors. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, William Charles has donated more than $140,000 to more than 150 political campaigns since 2000.
Following is information from the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Environmental Health Fact Sheet on asphalt plants, viewable by clicking here.
Asphalt is used for paving roads and parking lots and for roofing. It consists of gravel, sand or stone that is bound together by cement made from crude oil. Petroleum hydrocarbons in the crude oil form a gas, which condenses into fine particles upon cooling, creating a particulate vapor. This fact sheet will answer some general questions about asphalt fumes.
What chemicals are in asphalt fumes?
Asphalt is a mixture containing thousands of different chemicals. The chemicals in asphalt vary depending on the source of the crude oil, the type of asphalt being made, and the process used. In general, the fumes are a mixture of several different types of chemicals including:
• volatile organic compounds,
• carbon monoxide,
• nitrogen oxides, and
• polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Many of these chemicals also are emitted by other combustion sources such as cars and trucks, fireplaces and wood stoves, wildfires, and industries. All of these chemicals are often found in outdoor air at low levels; however, elevated levels of these chemicals may be found near an operating asphalt plant.
How are people exposed to asphalt fumes?
Fumes created from heating asphalt can be inhaled into the lungs or can condense onto exposed areas of the skin.
What are the health effects of asphalt fume exposure?
The health effects that can be caused by exposure to asphalt fumes depend on:
• how much has entered the body,
• how long you are exposed to asphalt fumes, and
• how the body responds to asphalt fumes.
People who work in asphalt plants would have the greatest exposure to asphalt fumes. Some of the symptoms reported by workers include irritation of the upper respiratory tract, headache, fatigue, wheezing, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea.
These symptoms are from short-term exposure to high levels of asphalt fumes. They are typically mild and rapidly reversible once exposure ends. Asphalt fumes contain several chemicals that may cause cancer; however, studies of cancer in asphalt workers are not conclusive.
Residents living near an asphalt plant also would be more likely to breathe low levels of asphalt fumes for a long period of time. In this setting, exposure to asphalt fumes would depend on the plant emissions and the prevailing winds. Based on sampling conducted near asphalt plants in several states, residents could experience irritation from the odors from asphalt production, but the potential for adverse health effects is expected to be very low. Children may be more sensitive than adults to certain chemicals. No studies have linked residential exposure to asphalt fumes with the development of cancer.
Can odors from the plant cause adverse health effects?
If you smell odors from an asphalt plant, they are not necessarily at levels that would cause adverse health effects. Many of the highly odorous chemicals in asphalt fumes can be smelled at levels below those expected to cause adverse health effects; however, persistent odors may cause symptoms in some people.
Does living near an asphalt plant pose an increased health hazard?
An asphalt plant must meet emission criteria to receive an operating permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. If the permit criteria are met, emissions would not be expected to pose a public health hazard. Asphalt plant emissions may lead to odors in the community, but the potential for adverse health effects is expected to be low.
Where can I get more information?
Illinois Department of Public Health
Division of Environmental Health
525 W. Jefferson St.
Springfield, IL 62761
TYY (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466
This fact sheet was supported in part by funds from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act trust fund through a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Updated February 2009
Print This Article