Appeal on DeKalb County landfill refused by Ill. Supreme Court

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 30, 2013 9:24 a.m.CDT

A legal challenge to the expansion of the Waste Management landfill in Cortland Township ended Wednesday when the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The court’s refusal to hear the appeal from the group Stop the Mega-Dump could clear the way for Waste Management to proceed with its planned 594-acre expansion of its landfill on Somonauk Road, south of Interstate 88 in the southwest corner of Cortland Township. The expansion would allow the landfill to accept as many as 2,000 tons of trash a day.

DeKalb County Board President Jeffery Metzger, R-Sandwich, said county officials plan to meet with Waste Management soon to discuss plans.

“It’s nice to get final resolution to this,” Metzger said. “It’s been going on for a long time and left a lot of folks in limbo. It’s just kind of nice to have an end to the situation.”

The court’s refusal to hear the case ends a legal battle that began not long after the County Board approved the landfill expansion in May 2010. Opponents had contended the approval process was unfair and that the County Board’s approval of the plan was not based upon the available evidence.

The expansion was upheld on appeal both by the Illinois Pollution Control Board and later by the state’s 2nd District Appellate Court.

Opponents of the project, including Stop the Mega-Dump co-founder Mac McIntyre, are holding out hope that Cortland Township residents will raise the money to mount another legal challenge.

“I think it really comes down to the residents of Cortland Township, and if they want to continue their fight,” McIntyre said. “If they do, then I’ll put more money into it and I’ll help them raise money. If they don’t, then so be it.”

Waste Management will need a permit from state regulators to begin the expansion, a construction project that would take about a year to complete, DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson said.

The expanded landfill could accept trash from as many as 17 counties, which would have to pay a “tipping fee” to dump there. County officials long have eyed the tipping fees as a means to fund a planned expansion to the DeKalb County Jail that would cost about $30 million. The jail is well over its 89-inmate capacity, and many inmates are sent to other counties at a cost to county taxpayers.

Hanson said it would take some time before any jail expansion could begin, as the county will have to wait for tipping fees to accumulate for the project.

Another challenge to the expansion plan could be in the offing, however. Frankie Benson, a Cortland Township resident who lives across I-88 from the landfill expansion site, said she is working to raise funds for another legal challenge.

A new challenge would focus on a section of the Illinois Township Code that says townships have the power to regulate the disposal of waste within their borders. The township board has officially opposed the landfill expansion.

Benson and others have organized a not-for-profit corporation, the Cortland Township Electors Association, and are raising funds. Benson said thus far, donors have pledged about $20,000 toward the effort. They have a June 21 fundraising deadline before deciding how they will proceed, she said.

This fight is not over, Benson said.

“Not in any way,” she said. "I feel that the people are going to speak, they’re going to contribute and get us to the point where we can go to court."

Hanson said the county was not factoring any future challenges into how it plans to proceed.

“Nothing has been filed along those lines and we don’t see that the law that’s cited pertains to the landfill,” he said. “So at this point, we plan to proceed.”

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