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Planning continues for DeKalb County landfill expansion

CORTLAND – Waste Management is still waiting for approval from an environmental agency for expanding a landfill it has owned in part of Cortland Township for 22 years.

The waste and environment services company filed an application for a construction permit with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency this year for the expansion of the existing landfill. Waste Management plans to add 594 acres to the landfill, which is in the southwest corner of the township. 

Waste Management began moving forward with the expansion plans after the Illinois Supreme Court declined in May to hear an appeal of the county’s approval for the expansion, which had been upheld by both the Illinois Pollution Control Board and the state’s 2nd District Appellate Court.

Opponents to the expansion said the approval process was unfair, and the DeKalb County Board’s approval was not based upon the available evidence. Area leaders are uncertain if the Cortland Township Electors’ Association is moving forward with plans to file a separate legal challenge to the expansion.

Currently, Waste Management has been corresponding with the environmental agency and answering routine questions on the design of a planned facility, Waste Management spokesman William Plunkett said. 

“The permit process takes a little while because of the permit writers looking at the facilities that are planned for construction,” Plunkett said. 

The design of the facility already is planned, which includes not only expanded space but a liner system and soil layers. The application submitted to the environmental agency has an exhaustively detailed document of the construction plans, which is why the permit process is taking so long, Plunkett said. 

Once Waste Management receives the permit, they will plan for construction. The process could take many months and go well into next year, he said. 

“The site will be constructed over a period of many years and includes a phased process,” Plunkett said.

The facility also is planned to promote environmental sustainability, such as establishing a native prairie landscape to support the ecological health and rural character of the area. 

Landfills are developed in a series of waste disposal cells. New cells are constructed once the previous cells have reached capacity, he said.

Of the current landfill’s 245 acres, 88 acres are dedicated to waste disposal. The proposed facility will be able to accept general nonhazardous municipal solid waste, demolition and construction debris and nonhazardous permitted special waste. The landfill itself will be able to accept nearly 2,000 tons of trash a day. 

Plunkett said the expansion will reduce disposal costs for local businesses and residents. Waste Management views the facility as an economic engine that will attract businesses, as they often choose their locations based on the cost of disposal, he said.

“Waste Management has always regarded the expansion of the facility as an environmental and economic asset for DeKalb County,” Plunkett said. 

Meanwhile, Frankie Benson, who lives one mile away from the landfill, had formed the Cortland Township Electors’ Association, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to fighting the landfill expansion.

Through her group, Benson and others were planning to use a section of the Illinois Township Code that says townships can prevent the deposit of garbage within township limits, including at garbage disposal facilities. Benson had said the law gives the township veto power over the Illinois EPA.

In May, Benson said she had raised $20,000, and had set a deadline of June 21, when the Cortland Township Electors’ Association would determine its plan of action. Benson did not respond to telephone call seeking comment this week.

Jeff Jeep, an attorney who Benson’s group had considered hiring at one point, said he was unaware of any legal action Benson or her organization had planned against Waste Management. Plunkett, DeKalb County Board member Jeff Metzger and Dan Kenney, coordinator of Stop the Mega-Dump, said they were unaware of any legal challenges Benson or her organization would pose to the company.

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