Cook County Board puts landfill restrictions on hold

2013-04-16T13:43:00Z 2013-04-16T20:01:05Z Cook County Board puts landfill restrictions on holdGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent
April 16, 2013 1:43 pm  • 

CHICAGO | A Cook County Board committee was opposed Tuesday to a measure restricting landfills from operating anywhere within the county.

Illinois law already prohibits the creation of new landfills, or the extension of permits for existing landfills, within Cook County. Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, said he wants something written into county ordinances to prevent landfills in the event that state law is ever altered.

But the County Board’s Environmental Control Committee declined to recommend passage of Fritchey’s resolution. County commissioners Patricia Joan Murphy, Bridget Gainer, Timothy Schneider and Peter Silvestri voted against the measure, while commissioners Robert Steele, Elizabeth Gorman and Jeffrey Tobolski voted “present.”

Several County Board members were in agreement with Mary Margaret Cowhey, president of the Land and Lakes Co. that operates the River Bend Prairie Landfill at the Chicago/Dolton border. She said she perceives the situation as one where her “50-year-old family-owned business” is being restricted.

She said the state law requires her landfill to be shuttered when it reaches capacity within the next year, whereas she sees the county resolution as shutting down the landfill immediately. It was the Land and Lakes landfill’s attempts last year to expand despite a Chicago moratorium against landfill operations in the city that caused the state Legislature to enact a landfill ban for the county.

Murphy, who represents much of the area along the Illinois/Indiana border, said she was “confused” about what to do. “If there were no change in the way things would go, I’d be OK,” she said. “But I’m not sure this is the right way to go.”

Attorney Tom Cushing, who has worked with the Chicago Climate Exchange, said he believes a county ordinance would interfere with proposals that the landfills be mined to try to recover any metals or other substances that might be of value.

But Cheryl Johnson, of the People for Community Recovery group based in Chicago's Altgeld Gardens neighborhood, was not swayed by that argument.

“The technology to do that is not even available today,” she said, adding that landfill restrictions are necessary because pollutants harm the quality of life in her Far South Side community. “How can we ever resurrect our community if we keep a landfill there,” she said.

Peggy Salazar, director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force based in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood, said she thinks the “legacy of industrial pollution” in Southeast Side neighborhoods warrants tough restrictions. “We’re tired of the landfill. We’re tired of the odors. We’re tired of the pollution,” she said.

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