CHICAGO | Environmental activists and some local officials were upset Saturday with a Cook County judge’s ruling in favor of a disposal company that wants to expand use of a landfill at the far southern edge of the city.
A judge ruled Friday after spending two days hearing testimony in a lawsuit that the Land and Lakes landfill at 138th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue meets all the legal requirements for property to be moved from one municipality to another.
The landfill is mostly within the Chicago city limits. But the southernmost edge lies within Dolton. Landfill operators want the boundary shifted so that the entire facility would be in the suburb.
“We believe that we have exceeded the legal standards and statutory requirements to disconnect our facility from the city of Chicago,” the company said in a statement. “We are pleased the court has agreed.”
Not pleased was 10th Ward Alderman John Pope, who said he sees the ruling as the equivalent of finding a legal loophole allowing the company to get around Chicago’s moratorium on landfill operations within the city — an idea Pope sponsored — until at least the year 2025.
Dolton has no such restrictions, and landfill officials have said that allowing the entire facility to accept trash would allow it to remain in business for nearly two more decades. The Dolton portion alone would be able to accept trash only through next year until capacity is reached.
Pope said city officials will ask for an injunction to prevent Land and Lakes from doing anything at the landfill until certain legal and governmental obligations are complete.
Those include an actual de-annexation vote by the City Council, which Pope opposes but 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale, whose ward contains the landfill, supports. They also include a bill pending in the Illinois General Assembly that would prohibit the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency from issuing permits to create or expand landfills within Cook County.
That measure has been passed by the state Senate, and the Illinois House may consider it sometime this week. It is sponsored by state Rep. Marcus Evans Jr., D-Chicago, and among its co-sponsors is state Rep. Connie Howard, D-Chicago.
When asked if he was placing his faith in the Illinois Legislature to act, Pope said, “I do.”
Among other actions to occur this week will be a rally Tuesday at the New Life Celebration Church of God, 14243 S. Dante Ave., in Dolton, where activists say they will try to urge people to oppose the landfill on the grounds that it causes health and life quality problems
Southeast Environmental Task Force President Bob Lehrer said his group will continue to reach out to government officials, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, to try to turn them in their favor.
But at least one official, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., doesn't need much swaying. Speaking Saturday at an organized labor rally in the East Side neighborhood, Jackson said he believes the landfill issue illustrates why there should be a constitutional amendment providing for a person’s right to live in a clean environment.
Of all that garbage that would be destined for the landfill, Jackson said, “If you don’t want it on the North Side (of the city), then don’t dump it on us on the South Side.”