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Neighbors underwhelmed by Veolia plans

Evanston residents living near the garbage transfer station on Church Street let Veolia Enviornmental Services employees know Thursday night that they don't think the company's plans to address noise, odor and pest complaints go far enough.

Evanston residents living near the garbage transfer station on Church Street let Veolia Enviornmental Services employees know Thursday night that they don't think the company's plans to address noise, odor and pest complaints go far enough.

Veolia's Melanie Williams shows off a design for dressing up the transfer station site.

Melanie Williams, community and government relations manager for the company, showed renderings of proposed changes to the facility, including the addition of more landscaping on the berm that separates it from townhouses just to the east.

She also said the company has charcoal filters on order to add to the fans on the main transfer station building that are intended to filter out odors and particulate matter from the exhaust air.

But Muffy McAuley, an owner of the Strange Lofts offices just west of the site, said at the 5th Ward meeting that the building is more like a tin shed, with one whole side left open to the air all day while the trash is dumped from garbage route trucks and loaded onto larger semi-trailer trucks to be hauled to landfills.

She said the federal government has issued "best practices" documents for solid waste handling and that some facilities in the area — including the one in Glenview operated by the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County — fully comply with those rules.

"Veolia is so far removed from those best practices," McAuley said, adding that the plant's operation "allows all the concerns we have of pestilence, odors and particulate matter in the air to persist at the site."

Veolia's regional manager, Gregg Asciutto, said the building isn't a tin shed, but rather "an engineered facility that cost several million dollars to put in place."

But McAuley said that, regardless of what it's called, when she takes potential tenants to tour the lofts building they sometimes step out of their cars, gag at the smell from the transfer station and turn around to leave.

The company, she said, should either retrofit the transfer station to meet reasonable standards for operating in a residential neighborhood or start from scratch at a new site.

Other residents voiced concerns about possible health risks from chemicals the plant uses to try to mask odors and rats that "start a party" in trash-filled trucks sometimes left overnight at the site.

Williams said the company plans to demolish a small building at the entrance to the site to provide a two-lane driveway and what the plan labeled a "landscaped employee seating area."

But, while praising the landscaping, McAuley said the widened, two-lane drive might allow greater capacity at the plant, which already handled 500 tons of waste a day.

The existing entrance to the transfer station, with the open-sided main transfer station building at the rear and the small building planned for demolition in the left foreground.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, who moderated the discussion, said that the city can't order the plant shut, because it is operating under a state permit.

But he said that just as neighbors of Evanston Hospital eventually convinced the hospital to close an incinerator that the neighbors feared was creating health risks for them, citizens may be able to persuade Veolia to either clean up its operations to become inoffensive, or find a new site.

Williams said the company hopes to work out a way to "live together" with the neighborhood. "We'd like to stay in this area," she added.

More stories about the transfer station.

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