Environmental Justice Evanston applauds the City of Evanston leaders and officials who supported the recent air quality study near the Advanced Disposal waste transfer station (WTS) on Church Street. The City’s Request for Proposal asked for “a community-driven environmental monitoring study … to identify potential environmental contaminants originating from the waste transfer station and to measure their presence, quantity, impact and source, if possible.”

This was exactly what the area residents as well as Environmental Justice Evanston, had been looking for and we are grateful for this responsiveness.  We also appreciated the City’s persistent efforts to ensure that the study received public input, and included several public meetings for community to hear directly from the consultant.

Some positive outcomes from the study include a) the identification of air pollutants and noise levels present near the WTS that can be further evaluated to determine if they are truly a hazard to the neighborhood and b) the City now being in a better position to have a dialogue with the regulatory programs at U.S. E.P.A. and Illinois E.P.A. to help Evanston find out more about adverse environmental impacts from the Waste Transfer Station. The study’s findings also suggest that other sites near the Waste Transfer Station could also be producing pollutants affecting the neighborhood’s air quality, which is important to know.

 There also were some limitations of the study that should be recognized. The study was not able to fully confirm that the measured pollutants came from the WTS site versus other nearby sites that could be sources. Also, there was an expectation that the report would present its findings in language that laypeople could understand and some portions of the report were overly technical.

In addition, after talking with some other experts in community-based air quality monitoring, we feel that the list of pollutants to monitor in any future projects should be expanded beyond those identified and monitored in this initial study. And last, when compared to data produced by the EPA’s long term air quality monitoring in the Chicago region, the report may be under-counting the fine particulate matter that has been linked to respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease.

We view this study as an initial effort that has provided new insights as to the pollution around the WTS and feel that many of the people, including our EJE committee members, who participated in the project have garnered knowledge that should help in any subsequent monitoring projects.

We strongly support the City’s efforts to collaborate with government agencies that regulate air quality and to plan further work to assess health risk. The involvement of the federal and/or State air quality programs would be helpful, especially with more sensitive equipment to identify the specific volatile organic compounds that may be present.  This additional monitoring would help answer community questions about the impact of the waste transfer station and about other potential sources of pollution in the area including TapeCoat and other operations. 

Ms. Garl is a member of Environmental Justice Evanston; Janet Alexander Davis and Rick Nelson are Co-Chairs of the organization.