Demolition of the vacant building at the site is underway at the Advanced Disposal Services on Church Street.-- RoundTable photo

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Officials from Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) and the City, on July 19, spoke at the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center to update neighborhood residents on new developments concerning Advanced Disposal’s waste-transfer station located at 1711 Church Street.

The site – where garbage is transferred from standard garbage trucks to semi-trailers that haul it to out-of-town locations – has been a source of consternation for both neighborhood residents and City officials. Residents have long complained of unpleasant smells, noise and rodent infestation from the station, which opened in 1984.

 The station had been embroiled in legal battles for several years; in 2010, the City imposed a $2-per-ton charge on the station owners. Veolia, the owner at that time, filed a lawsuit disputing the charge, maintaining that it was retaliation for the neighborhood complaints.

That litigation was settled with a Host Community Agreement negotiated by City staff and approved by the City Council in February, 2016. Among the provisions were the addition of a tarping station covering waste as trucks leave the station, landscaping and improvements to the site entrance, and a complaint hotline. ADS dropped the lawsuit against the City that sought damages for the allegedly improper ordinance that instituted the fee. The waste-transfer fee dropped to $.75-per-ton, effective January, 2018. The City kept the $1.2 million in proceeds it had already collected, and ADS agreed to foot the bill for the aesthetic improvements to the site.

In 2016, after the settlement was reached, City officials surveyed neighborhood residents about their perceptions of the station and their thoughts about how issues there should be addressed. Sixty percent of respondents said they noticed foul odors from the station, while 33 percent said they had seen rats in the vicinity.

One respondent said of the site, “This is the largest environmental justice issue we face in Evanston, and the people living close to this station should be the priority in terms of addressing health concerns resulting from the impact of this station.”

Another respondent said, “I have been complaining for 30+ years about the facility, I hope now the city is serious about fixing this health issue for the citizens. Who wants to live breathing noxious, stinky air everyday?
Do you?”

Scheduled work for this summer includes demolition of a vacant building at the site, replacing it with an 81-foot-long, 12-foot-high fence that matches the fence already on the perimeter of the location. ADS will also plant shrubbery and foliage to beautify the periphery
of the property.

ADS has permits in hand for the demolition work, and it is in process by Bridgeview-based Sullivan
Construction. The permit-process for the landscaping is not yet complete, said officials.

Many audience members were concerned that the work signaled an expansion of the site, but Cris Manley, general manager for ADS, said there were no such plans.

“There are no intentions that I’m aware of to expand that property,” said Mr. Manley. “It is just strictly a beautification project.”

Mr. Manley and other ADS officials added that the City would have to take the lead in expanding the property, an unlikely prospect given the years-long antagonism between transfer-station owners and City officials. “I don’t believe that our customer-base would be expanding because we are changing our entrance,” Mr. Manley said.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, who moderated the meeting and in whose ward the transfer-station sits, said, “The building has been abandoned. They are going to bring it down and replace it with landscaping.” He was one of many who criticized the 2016 settlement when it was released to the public before any input from the City Council.

Chris Sullivan of Sullivan Construction said the building “has been on the City’s scope for a long time. They want it taken down.”  

A weekly rodent-abatement program has been in place for two months at the station. According to ADS management, no rats have been captured in the traps. Audience members who live in the neighborhood said that smells still remains a problem.

“If you wanted to do the moral and ethical thing … you would take the money and move it,” said one audience member of the site.

Though organizers said they intended for the meeting to inform residents about the upcoming work, another audience member said that the planning efforts by the City and ADS were nevertheless too opaque.

“It’s a little too late,” she said. “It’s an accomplished project. … But it’s better for the neighbors to get in on the process earlier on.”