Guest Column: Landfill lawsuit likely
By Paul Gorski
The Winnebago County Board voted to allow the landfill expansion, and now it seems the board may not have followed the evaluation rules for approving a landfill, guidelines clearly defined in Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) publication IEPA/BOL/98-021, revised March 2003, which reads as follows:
The law specifies that the site location suitability be evaluated only in accordance with the following criteria:
• The facility is necessary to accommodate the waste needs of the area it is intended to serve;
• The facility is designed, located and proposed to be operated so that the public health, safety and welfare will be protected;
• The facility is located so as to minimize incompatibility with the character of the surrounding area and to minimize the effect on the value of the surrounding property;
• The facility is located outside the boundary of the 100-year flood plain;
• The plan of operations for the facility is designed to minimize the danger to the surrounding area from fire, spills or other operational accidents;
• The traffic patterns to and from the facility are designed to minimize the impact on existing traffic flow;
• If the facility will be treating, storing or disposing of hazardous waste, an emergency response plan for the facility will be developed to include notification, containment and evacuation procedures to be used in case of an accidental release.
• If the facility will be located within a regulated recharge area, any applicable requirements specified by the Board for such areas have been met. This criterion should be read together with groundwater protection provisions of the Environmental Protection Act;
• If the facility is to be located in a county where a solid waste management plan has been adopted, the facility must be consistent with that plan.
Nowhere in those guidelines do you see consideration for economic development. However, nearly all the focus in the press seems be the fees and jobs coming to the county from the landfill. If the county board approved the landfill for economic reasons outside the guidelines, that will help lay the groundwork for a legal challenge.
What you do find in the guidelines: is the landfill necessary? Technically, no, as we also have the Veolia landfill in Ogle County. Also, will the landfill be operated to protect public health and welfare? Given that the landfill has been emitting noxious odors for almost four years, the answer to this question is a generous “maybe.” Lastly, has the landfill been located to minimize the effect on local property values? Likely not.
The landfill expansion may cause a domino effect in decreasing property values. Land near the landfill has been identified as an economic development zone. These types of zones can spur growth, but generally drive down property values in the larger community because of the tax breaks assigned to these zones. Many local land owners feel property values will be hurt by the landfill expansion. So, the landfill expansion may drive down property values for the economic development area, which may have its own negative effect on regional property values.
Questions about the hearing process and the criteria used to approve the landfill give ample reason to challenge the board’s decision. If a challenge is to come, it will likely come from local land owners.
Paul Gorski is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.
From the July 18-24, 2012, issue