On June 18, a handful of residents stood near the intersection of Church Street and McCormick Boulevard to protest the construction of a water-pumping station just east of there. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District owns the property at 2525 Church St. and leases it to the City. The site borders residential area on the western edge of Evanston.

The City of Evanston has entered into a contract with the Morton Grove-Niles Water Commission to sell water. Evanston must pump the water from its water- treatment facility on the lake to the west edge of Evanston.

Public Works Agency Director Dave Stoneback has said the only water main in Evanston large enough to handle the volume of water is along Emerson Street. The site selected for the pumping station is on Church Street, about a half mile south.

Residents have said they oppose having the 3,620-square-foot pumping station across from their homes, because of possible noise, vibrations, destruction of their view and impact on property. Some have termed the selection of their neighborhood an example of environmental injustice or environmental racism. They accuse the City of not having followed its own ordinances and protocols.

City officials said they followed proper procedures in approving zoning for the project. On March 7, just weeks after City Council’s Feb. 12 approval of zoning for the pumping station, residents Glen Mackey and Verzell James attempted to file an appeal of the City’s zoning decisions,  saying, among other things, they did not receive adequate notice of the project and a chance to voice their concerns before City Council.

At that time, a zoning official told them the zoning office had no jurisdiction to accept the appeal, and that their only recourse was to go to court.

On March 8, after a City attorney interceded, Mssrs. James and Mackey were allowed to file their 78-page appeal with the City’s zoning office.

Two weeks later, in a letter dated March 22, Assistant City Attorney Mario Treto Jr. advised appellants that the ZBA lacked jurisdiction to hear their appeal. His letter states that City Council approved a Municipal Use Exemption for the project, and the ZBA does not have jurisdiction to review a decision of City Council. The only recourse left to the resdients was expensive, time-consuming litigation in the judicial system.

 An ad-hoc group, the Pumping Station Task Force, opposes the pumping station. Mr. James, one of the members of the Task Force, wrote in an email to supporters of the opposition: “We are in the process of scheduling protests to block the gates of the construction site so that no workers or trucks can enter the site. The Task Force has worked hard on your behalf. If we are to defeat this project now is the time for all of you to step up and do your parts. Stand with us.”

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...