When one of the oldest residents is also the noisiest and the smelliest, the neighborhood has a problem, and residents near the Veolia waste transfer station at Darrow Avenue and Church Street have been wrestling with that for years. Within the transfer station, which operates under a license granted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, about 500 tons of garbage are dumped from smaller garbage trucks onto the floor of the station to be swept by metal plows into larger trucks waiting below ground to haul the waste out of Evanston.

Residents have complaints – some of them years-long – about the presence of rodents and of vibrations and fumes from the trucks that roll in and out from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (See Evanston RoundTable 11/23/2020: “Residents Question Veloia About Neighborhood Impact of Solid-Waste Transfer Facility”)

The state permit that allows Veolia to operate in Evanston is apparently so loose that the station can affect the quality of life of nearby residents and businesses without violating the law.  And while residents say that the station’s operations violate City ordinances, City staff say they have not had the manpower to monitor the station and its environment so as to be able to cite Veolia or trucks using the facility for violations of quality-of-life ordinances relating to smell, pests, noise and idling.

Veolia thus seems to be operating under a cloud of amorphous EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) enforcement as well as the cloud of garbage vapor and truck fumes the neighbors say are particularly offensive in the summer months.  Residents have been left for the most part to do their own monitoring and filing complaint-filing. Some are angry and some are discouraged about the continuing rats, fumes, noise and lack of follow-up.  Some, said long-time resident Carliss Sutton, “give up and don’t call [the City or Veolia] any more.”

About 25 persons attended a City-sponsored meeting on Jan. 20 to discuss two options for Veolia and the neighbors. ”The status quo isn’t working,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, who chaired the meeting. “And Veolia isn’t interested in best practices [as outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency].”

Many communities thus enter into a “hosting agreement” with waste-managers, Mr. Bobkiewicz said, that outlines duties, complaint procedures and compliance checks. He said the City, with residential input, could sign a hosting agreement with Veolia. “Ashley McIlwee of the City had prepared a draft of a typical hosting agreement, which included requesting a dedicated e-mail address for complaints, a section of the website for posting complaints and other provisions to allow neighborhood input.

Mr. Bobkiewicz said any hosting agreement would have to be approved by City Council so it could be treated as a legal document for enforcement purposes.  When he asked whether the residents thought it possible for them to coexist with Veolia, nearly all of them said “No” aloud or murmured it. But in response to questions of whether it was possible to have Veolia leave, Mr. Bobkiewicz appeared uncertain.

Meanwhile, he said, the City will monitor Veolia and residents’ complaints as much as possible. “How long have you been looking at Veolia?” Mr. Sutton asked Ms. McIlwee.

“About two or three months,” she replied.

“Then you haven’t …?” he began, apparently thinking of summer and then chuckled, “Well, wait until July.”

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...