Within the transfer station, garbage trucks dump their load onto the floor, where it is scooped up and tossed over a wall and into a larger truck waiting below to haul the waste to a landfill.

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The odor of garbage in the air that hovers over the section of Church Street near Darrow Avenue most summer days is “overpowering,” some residents say. Less noticeable in the colder months, the exudation nonetheless is there year-round when the Veolia solid-waste transfer station is in operation.

The station handles about 500 tons of solid waste per day, said Marc Moxon last week at a Fifth Ward meeting at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

Residents say they are concerned about those transfers and also about what, in addition to the smell, might be transferred from the station into the neighborhood: noise, rodents, noxious vapors and chemical particulates, they say.

Veolia occupies property on both sides of Church Street just east of Dodge Avenue, where the Fifth and Second Wards meet. Melanie Williams, director of community and governmental relations for Veolia, told the RoundTable that garbage trucks that collect residential or commercial refuse dump their loads onto the floor of the transfer station. “A loader then pushes the waste over a wall and into a larger tractor-trailer,” she said, which then transports the load to a Veolia-owned landfill.

The hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mr. Moxon said, and trucks are allowed in the facility between 6:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The City and the Environmental Protection Agency have the authority to regulate the facility, said Second Ward Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste at the Nov. 18 meeting.

“We know that you are operating under the law,” he said to Mr. Moxon and other representatives of Veolia at the meeting. He noted, though, that under the City ordinance trucks are not allowed into the facility until 7 a.m. “The neighbors continue to have issues with health and with rodents. The contradiction between your right to operate and the neighbors’ concerns will continue to exist,” he added.

Ms. Williams said the company would like to work with the neighbors to address their concerns. She said she had met with some neighborhood groups already.

In a separate interview with the RoundTable that included a tour of the transfer station, Ms. Williams indicated Veolia’s willingness to work with the City and the residents. The transfer station itself is located on the north side of Church Street just east of Darrow Avenue. It has three sides and a large door that is open almost continueally during hours of operation.

Across the street Veolia maintains a lot that is used for turn-arounds for trucks, temporary storage of off-load garbage carts and gasoline pumps for Veolia’s fleet.

Mr. Moxon said the company cleans the transfer-station floor before closing for the day and also cleans the sidewalks on Church Street and on Darrow Avenue south of Church Street.

The Smell

Neighbors pressed Ms. Williams, Mr. Moxin and Gregg Asciutto, Veolia’s general manager for the Central Region, about how they planned to alleviate the smell, the pests and the noise that plague the quiet, well-kept neighborhood that surrounds the facility.

Muffy McAuley, who with her husband, John Leineweber, owns the nearby Strange Lofts, asked what sort of chemical was used to mitigate the smell. She and others said they were concerned about the air quality from both the garbage and the chemicals used to mask its odor.

Veolia uses a chemical “that is applied daily through a misting system,” Ms. Williams said. According to a material safety data sheet (MSDA) Veolia provided to the RoundTable, the chemical is Product 6068 manufactured by ChemStation/Chicago of Bensenville. The MSDA also said the product “contains no OSHA, NTP or IARC-listed carcinogens” and “there is no known effect from chronic exposure to this product” and the “components are not known to cause birth defects in humans.” The liquid, a surfacant, can be “irritating” to the eyes and skin upon direct contact, according to the MSDA.

Ms. Williams also said the company has ordered custom-made charcoal filters to fit over the transfer facility.

Rats and Noise

At the beginning of the meeting, Ald. Holmes said there has been an increase in rodent problems in parts of the Fifth Ward.

Residents asked what sort of pest control Veolia provides. Ms. Williams said the company hires a pest-control service and follows its advice on baiting traps. On the tour of the facility, she pointed out many of the rat traps.

Other residents complained of early-morning noise such as back-up warning beeps and idling trucks.

“Trucks arrive before 6:30 and sit idling on Church Street,” one of them said. Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said residents who witness such activities should call the non-emergency police number to report a violation of the City’s anti-idling ordinance.

Strong Measures Suggested

Ms. McAuley asked whether Veolia was “familiar with governmental best practices for solid-waste transfer.” Mr. Moxin said he was not. Mr. Asciutto said those were guidelines, not EPA regulations. Ms. Williams told the RoundTable she is looking for a list of those practices.

Ms. McAuley also said, “… You’re transferring waste in a three-sided tin shed in the open air.”

Mr. Asciutto said, “It’s not a tin shed, it’s an engineered facility.”

“What’s it made of?” asked Mr. Leineweber.

Ms. McAuley suggested that Veolia retrofit the facility or “seek a property where you can start from scratch and build a facility that is not offensive and doesn’t present health hazards.”

“What would it take to make you leave?” asked one resident.

Ms. Williams responded that Veolia plans to remain in Evanston. She added, “There is a willingness to do anything” to work with the neighborhood.

The framework for discussion is the operation of a business in a neighborhood that doesn’t want it.

Asked in a separate interview about the clash of the operation with a quiet neighborhood, Ms. Williams told the RoundTable that the company “offered to relocate if the City would help us find a new place.” A meeting scheduled with City officials was unproductive, she said.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz confirmed with the RoundTable that at a meeting in November, representatives of Veolia said they would be willing to relocated if the City helped them find a new site. He added that he had responded that the impact tax, not relocation, was the topic of the meeting, “and they got up and left.”

Veolia’s Plans

Veolia plans to renovate the property, demolishing a building that, Mr. Moxon said, has not been used for years, and adding landscaping at the rear of the property.

Ms. McAuley, however, said she thought the plans look like “trees planted and driveway widened to allow more trucks in.”

Next Steps

The City has assigned Carl Caneva of the Health Department to assess whether Veolia complies with City ordinances regulating noise and odor, Ald. Jean-Baptiste said. He added, “The framework [for discussion] is the operation of a business in a neighborhood that doesn’t want it.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...