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City girds for battle with trash giant

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If you think of "whereas" clauses as weapons, Evanston officials laid in a huge new stockpile Monday night.

Anticipating a legal challenge from trash transfer station operator Veolia Environmental Services, the City Council adopted a new version of the waste transfer station fee ordinance it approved last fall.

The original ordinance had just three "whereas" clauses setting out the rationale for the fee. The new ordinance has 53.

City Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar said the company "has told the city it's going to engage its high-priced attorneys to sue us" so the city was rewriting the ordinance "to make the legislative record absolutely clear about the basis for the fee."

The new ordinance justifies the $2 per ton fee by saying, among other things, that the city received more than 50 complaints from residents through the 311 system in a period of less than three months this spring and summer about the transfer station's operation.

It also argues that the cost of investigating complaints of noise, odor, rats and other problems imposes a substantial burden on the city.

The vote to approve the new ordinance came after nearly a dozen residents along Church Street complained at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting earlier in the evening about garbage trucks thundering past their homes and the odor from the operation.

Ben Gaines, of 1645 Fowler Ave., several blocks from the transfer station, said he can sit in his kitchen and feel the whole house shake when trucks go by. He said he believes the trash trucks are responsible for cracks in his home's foundation.

Cindy Leavitt, of 1645 Church St., across a old railroad embankment from Veolia, said that most days it stinks so bad she can't even work in her garden.

Residents also said that the state now requires at least 25 acres of land for a new transfer station, while the Veolia site covers just two acres — much of it surrounded by homes.

And they suggested the current location amounted to a form of economic and racial discrimination — saying it would never have been allowed in a higher income or majority white neighborhood.

The aldermen also voted to authorize the mayor to send comments to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency opposing Veolia's request to expand the operation in ways the city says would violate its zoning ordinance.

Top: A garbage truck emptying its load at the transfer station (file photo)

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