The operator of the Countryside landfill needs to take decisive action before state authorities consider an increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide that can be released, residents and elected officials charged.
Years of frustration with odors and other issues regarding the landfill near routes 83 and 137 in Grayslake peaked Tuesday night during a public hearing hosted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Countryside, which is operated by Waste Management Inc., and Countryside Genco LLC, a separate facility that converts landfill gas to electricity, have applied to the IEPA to more than double the amount of allowed sulfur dioxide emissions.
Emissions of the gas, which can aggravate respiratory ailments, have been increasing and the facilities exceed the current permitted limit.
The hearing was another step in a process to modify the permitted amounts, which are considered as a combined total. About two dozen people, including Lake County and village board members and state Rep. Sandy Cole, testified during the three-hour hearing.
"There are huge differences of opinion and obviously these are very heartfelt and emotional issues," said Dean Studer, hearing officer for the IEPA.
An overriding sentiment was the amount of sulfur dioxide being released already is near the amount requested and no one knows if it will continue to increase.
Cole of Grayslake and others urged the IEPA not to take any action on requests to increase emissions until a scrubber is installed and the results evaluated.
"I want to see the best technology used to control the emissions, not only at this level but the level we'll see two or three years from now," said resident Dick Hosteny.
Complaints have escalated since 2008 when the landfill accepted ground construction debris, including drywall containing gypsum. That led to an increase in hydrogen sulfide gas, which creates sulfur dioxide when burned as fuel in Genco's engines or the landfill flare.
Residents charged Countryside should have known what would happen. The company has not adequately addressed the issue and regulators are not enforcing the rules of the existing permits, they charged.
"There have been lots of promises, excuses and delays," resident Kimberly Thoede said. "We need you to be the enforcers."
Mike Hey, district manager of Countryside, said the landfill stopped accepting the ground gypsum and has made "very aggressive changes" in its system to control odors. A full-scale scrubber, as requested, would not help in that regard, he added.
He said the high sulfur dioxide levels were temporary and may start dropping.
The IEPA will accept written comments and respond to concerns and questions raised at the hearing before making a decision on the permit applications, which is expected in June.