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Residents raising stink over proposed compost facility near Des Plaines

Friday, April 07, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Grace Wong

Citing concerns about traffic, diminished property values, vermin and especially odor, north suburban residents are organizing in opposition to plans for a new composting facility just outside Des Plaines.

But an owner of the proposed Patriot Acres operation said opponents are jumping to conclusions and don't have all the facts yet.

Residents packed a small meeting hall and overflowed into an adjacent tent in Mount Prospect on Thursday in a session organized by detractors of the facility, which would be built by a Glenview company on a former landfill site along the Des Plaines River across Central Road from Oakton Community College.

One of the panelists, Joseph Pollina, who lives near the proposed site, said he appreciates the need for composting, "but this is not the right spot for it."

The proposal has received clearance from the Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals but must still win approval by the Cook County Board, where the plan is due to be considered next month.

If approved, the facility will occupy 25 acres and compost landscape waste and food scraps, but no meat, said John Lardner, one of the owners of Patriot Acres who attended Thursday's gathering.

The remaining 100-plus acres on the site might be used for community gardens or greenhouses, he said.

Opponents are focusing primarily on the potential for the facility to cause what they call a "stink zone" that they say could carry foul odors up to five miles away, to suburbs including Northbrook, Northfield, Arlington Heights, Park Ridge and Niles.

Brian Critchlow said he was the former site manager of a composting facility elsewhere in the Chicago area. He said his former employer regularly received complaints about odors and that operators of such facilities typically use chemicals to address them.

But Lardner said Patriot Acres will have multiple mechanisms for reducing odor and that opponents pointed only to other operations that had problems.

"It's interesting that they've already judged a project before it's even operating and they compare us to other sites that were poorly run, and yet don't talk about other compost sites that are well run," he said.

The company plans its own informational meeting for 6:30 p.m. Monday in Room 1604 of the main building at Oakton Community College, 1600 E. Golf Road.

Lardner said he will respond to various concerns raised Thursday, "and I just hope that people will give me a fair and objective opportunity to present my information."

One Mount Prospect resident who spoke also asked for residents to "put the brakes on the talk" until they get more information.

Mike Hertz said later that he could hear audience members booing softly as he spoke, "but people were listening, and maybe it got them thinking. That's the whole point. Yeah, it's an emotional issue, but you got to let the voice of reason play out in your decision-making."

But one of the organizers of the opposition, Rob Sulski, formerly with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said he does not plan on attending Monday's meeting and isn't interested in talking to Patriot Acres operators unless they pull their application. He said he has many questions and concerns about the proposal, but he will raise them in front of the Cook County Board.

Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, whose district includes the proposed composting site, said he plans on recusing himself from the vote because he formerly worked for a law firm that is representing Patriot Acres.

Twitter @GraceWong630

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