ROCKFORD — Noxious odors from the Winnebago Landfill continue to creep into surrounding neighborhoods, nearly two years after state prosecutors first sought court-ordered remedies in response to complaints from nearby residents.
“Last month, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency sent Winnebago Landfill another violation notice regarding additional odors and other alleged operational violations, and we are reviewing those violations with the Illinois EPA,” said Annie Thompson, senior press secretary for the Illinois Attorney General.
Prosecutors asked a circuit court judge in September 2017 to fine the landfill and order it to control harmful waste gases that escape the landfill and threaten the health, safety and welfare of nearby residents. Lawyers for the two sides were in court for a status hearing on Wednesday, and another status hearing was set for Sept. 25. Prosecutors told Judge Lisa Fabiano that they plan to meet with landfill representatives to discuss how they’ll address the alleged odor violations, Thompson said.
The state’s complaint names two defendants — Winnebago Landfill Company LLC, which owns the landfill, and Winnebago Reclamation Service Inc., which manages the landfill. The complaint alleges that the landfill violated various state environmental laws. The alleged violations include failure to collect and control waste gas emissions, thus allowing hydrogen sulfide and other odors to spread to nearby neighborhoods.
Hyrdogen sulfide, which has an odor akin to rotten eggs, is among the volatile compounds stemming from the breakdown of municipal solid waste at landfills, according to the complaint. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers the compound “an extremely dangerous gas.” The complaint also notes that exposure to landfill gas may result in nausea, headaches and an increase in asthmatic reactions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The state EPA has asked that the landfill be required, among other things, to install and operate a gas management system capable of preventing off-site landfill gas odors and that the court levy a fine of $50,000 for every violation of state environmental regulations and an additional penalty of $10,000 for each day the violations persist.
Residents who live near the garbage dump have attended County Board meetings in recent months to complain about odors and they’ve asked the board to tighten oversight of the landfill. An additional recurring problem cited by residents: an abundance of roadside litter near the landfill that falls off of garbage trucks that dump trash at the landfill.
County Health Department Director Sandra Martell is working with the board, the sheriff’s department, the state EPA and landfill officials to ensure that the landfill and garbage haulers comply with the county’s sanitary landfill ordinance. Board member Dave Kelley, R-9, has called on fellow board members to work with Martell on revisions to that ordinance, which hasn’t been updated since 1964. In the coming weeks, Martell will present her ideas to the county Board of Health, and then the County Board for consideration.
Isaac Guerrero: 815-987-1361; firstname.lastname@example.org; @isaac_rrs
File a complaint
The Winnebago County Health Department encourages the public to report environmental health concerns by completing an online form at http://www.wchd.org or by calling 815-720-4100.
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June 12, 2019 at 07:17PM