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Residents doubt Veolia can be good neighbor

Neighbors voiced skepticism Thursday night about the potential for eliminating odor and other problems at the Veolia garbage transfer station in Evanston through a negotiated agreement with the city.

A front-end loader moves garbage from one truck to another at the transfer station.

At a Civic Center meeting attended by about 16 neighbors, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz outlined plans for intensified inspections of the transfer station.

He said a newly hired part-time city staffer has been walking the perimeter of the site every day for the past few months, and that if a negotiated agreement isn't reached with the company soon, he expects to have someone conducting daily inspections of the property all next summer.

The unspoken implication was that such inspections in warm weather months would likely turn up many city ordinance violations that could be taken to court.

Until now the Veolia operation at 1711 Church St. has been overseen primarily by the state Environmental Protection Agency, which typically only checks the property once a year and has only found violations of its rules at the site once in over a decade.

Bobkiewicz said Veolia officials have indicated an interest in reaching what's called a "host community agreement" with the city and he wanted residents' thoughts on what provisions such an agreement should include and whether they believe it is a viable approach.

He said he was unwilling to discuss in a public meeting what strategies the city might have at its disposal for forcing or persuading the company to close the transfer station if no agreement is reached.

Ashley McIlwee of the city's health department said an agreement could require the company to maintain a log of all complaints received from residents and submit it to the health department, prohibit keeping any waste on site overnight, and to install high speed doors at the entrance to the transfer station building so that the doors could be kept closed except when trucks are entering or leaving.

Several residents suggested other provisions that might be added to an agreement, but there also appeared to be deep skepticism among the group that any changes in the operation could turn the transfer station into an acceptable neighbor.

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