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What's next for Lakeshore Recycling Systems' waste transfer center proposal

A Google Earth image of the site of the proposed waste transfer station in south Bloomington.
A Google Earth image of the site of the proposed waste transfer station in south Bloomington.

A series of public hearings on a proposed new waste transfer station in south Bloomington ended a day early on Thursday, propelling Lakeshore Recycling Systems' (LRS) application into its next phase.

Hearings on the Chicago area firm's application to develop a second waste transfer center in McLean County were slated to take three days this week, but ended Thursday evening after both LRS and waste disposal company Republic Services finished making their cases to members of the McLean County government committee that's hearing the matter.

Per county guidelines, another public hearing will be set for what's called the McLean County Regional Pollution Control Siting Hearing Committee to make a recommendation on LRS' application that will then go to the full county board for approval. A date for that meeting has not yet been set.

What's been proposed

In August, LRS submitted an application to develop a second waste transfer center in Bloomington, a facility the company says will meet a growing demand within McLean County. Waste transfer centers take waste from collection trucks and load them to larger transfer trailers, which then take the waste to landfills.

Republic Services owns and operates such a center in west Bloomington; LRS has argued that because Republic owns the only such center in the area, provides hauling services and takes trash to its own landfills, the company's vertical integration has created an effective monopoly.

The new, 12,000 sq. foot transfer center would be located near the 42-acre Henson Recycling Campus and take up about 3.09 acres. (While HRC is located in south Bloomington, the land LRS is proposing for the transfer site is unincorporated county land.)

The center could accept up to 400 tons of municipal solid waste per day; the majority of the waste is expected to be residential (84%), with some commercial waste (12%) and some, single-stream recyclables (4%). LRS said in its application it expects the new center to process about 200 tons of waste per day.

Five employees would run the center. It would receive loads of trash from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.

A new public, two-lane road, called HDI Court, would be built to provide access to the center across from Bunn Street. The road would intersect Bunn where that street meets the existing Henson Recycling Campus.

What people are saying

Responses to LRS' proposal from the public have been mixed.

In its application, LRS included letters of recommendation for the project from 33 local government leaders, business owners and others. Two of those supporters, former Bloomington mayor Tari Renner and former Normal city manager Mark Peterson, spoke in favor of the project during public comment Thursday.

"I am here to say it is scary, given the volume of residential solid waste that both cities are dealing with, to have only one vendor," Peterson said. "It's always helpful to have more than one facility, again, in case something happens."

Jon Fehr, the corporate manager of Sam Leman Automotive, said neither he nor the group of dealerships he represented were against the idea of another waste transfer station — but the location is a concern, given the proximity of the center to some of those dealerships.

"I understand there's industry there now... but there hasn't been a solid waste facility there and that's what our concern is," Fehr said. "So, we just want to voice that. We believe that as a taxing body for the county and for the city, we generate enough that we should at least be given consideration."

Speaking on behalf of LRS during public comment, K.J. Loerop, the company's vice president of business development, said placing waste transfer sites is not as easy as it seems, given zoning requirements and other regulatory guidelines. LRS, which owns Henson Disposal, determined the area where the Henson Recycling Campus already operates fit a number of criteria.

Signs opposing Lakeshore Recycling Systems proposed solid waste transfer center application have begun appearing in Bloomington.
Eric Stock
/
WGLT
Signs opposing Lakeshore Recycling Systems proposed solid waste transfer center application have begun appearing in Bloomington.

"Illinois has some strict statutes; you can't put these things in the middle of nowhere — only specific sites," Loerop said. "Fortunately, because of M2 (light manufacturing) zoning and everything else, (HRC) has one of the most rare sites around. This is exactly where it's able to be permitted to go in."

Much of the verbal public comment was in support of LRS' proposed development, though many people who had signed up on Wednesday to speak publicly were not present when comment was taken Thursday.

Douglas Shaw, a resident of Hilltop Mobile Home Park near the proposed site, said he felt there exists a discrepancy between the community leaders supporting the development and where they live in proximity to it.

"I bet they do (support it), but I bet they wouldn't want it close to where they live. I know they don't live in a mobile home park; they live in the nicer neighborhoods. I bet they wouldn't want it close by to where they live. They're looking at the business aspect of it, but they're not looking on having to live close by it," Shaw said.

Sites like the waste transfer center are required to be at least 1,000 feet away from the nearest residence; an engineer for the LRS project testified on Wednesday the nearest residences were just over 1,000 feet away from the site's boundaries.

A petition against LRS' waste transfer center plans gathered 165 signatures from people who live nearby.

What's at stake

LRS has proposed giving both Bloomington and the McLean County governments host fees from the site, if it's built. Those fees would be based on tons of waste processed per day; the expectation is that each government would get over $70,000 a year, which could then be directed toward county recycling efforts or the Ecology Action Center.

LRS has also argued that Republic Services' near-monopoly on waste disposal services in the county has led to inflated pricing. By introducing a second site, competition will increase, "which is anticipated to reduce the cost of waste disposal and improved services," according to its application.

LRS has also argued that there is a 200-ton shortfall of waste that needs, but is not, processed for transfer out of the county each day. Ahead of the public hearings, Republic Services entered itself as a party to LRS' application, which allowed it to have a legal team present and to cross-examine LRS witness; Republic argued the county faces "no" shortfall in waste processing.

Lea Cline, a member of the McLean County Board, reviews a document during a public hearing on Lakeshore Recycling Services' application to build a new waste transfer center.
Em Bollinger
Lea Cline, a member of the McLean County Board, reviews a document during a public hearing on Lakeshore Recycling Services' application to build a new waste transfer center.

In deciding whether to approve the new transfer center, the pollution control committee will consider a number of criteria, including whether LRS' application demonstrates:

  • The facility is necessary for the county's needs
  • The design, location and operating plans ensure public health, safety and welfare are protected.
  • The facility matches the character of the surrounding area and the effect on nearby property values is minimized
  • The operating plans minimize danger to the area from fire, spills and other accidents
  • The plan minimizes the impact on existing traffic flows in the area
  • The plan includes containment and evacuation procedures in case of a hazardous waste emergency (LRS has said the transfer site won't accept hazardous materials for disposal)
  • The facility is consistent with the goals outlined in the county's solid waste management plan

What's next

The county is now entering a 30-day period of receiving written comment on LRS' application; the deadline for written comment to be submitted has been extended to Jan. 2 to allow for county holiday closures. McLean County staff are also expected to develop final reports on the application and submit them for the record by Jan. 2; LRS and Republic Services may also submit findings of fact and conclusions of law by that date as well.

Anyone wishing to file a written comment may do so until Jan. 2.Comments are being taken by the McLean County Clerk's Office. A date has not been set for the next public meeting on the matter. If it were approved, LRS would then seek:

  • Development approval from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
  • Local building permits to build the new facility
  • An operating permit from the IEPA.
Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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