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B-N water reclamation district could disconnect plastics recycler from sewer system

An arial view of a wastewater treatment plant and abutting nature preserve
Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District
Photo shows the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District's wastewater treatment plant near Heyworth.

A long-running series of issues public bodies have had with a plastics recycler in Bloomington could enter a new phase.

At a special board meeting on Monday, the Bloomington Normal Water Reclamation District [BNWRD] will consider the unusual step of revoking the wastewater discharge permit of Akshar Plastics, a subsidiary of Bell International LLC.

The company website indicates Akshar takes in and processes various grades of used plastic at its facility located between East Bell Street and Croxton Avenue in Bloomington. The formal address is 1100 S. Bunn St.

“Collected plastic is sent to a reclaimer, like Akshar Plastic Recycling, who will sort [by type of plastic], grind, and clean the plastic. The cleaned and sorted plastic is sent to a manufacturer who will use it as 'feedstock' [i.e., a component of the manufacturing process] to create new products,” states Akshar’s website.

Citing the ongoing case, BNWRD issued only a short statement about its sewer use ordinance that establishes certain requirements for discharging into the sewer system.

“In the event a user is not compliant with the sewer use ordinance, the district is required to take certain actions to protect the sanitary sewer system, and the health and safety of residents and the environment,” said BNWRD.

A person who answered the phone at Akshar Plastics told WGLT the company would call back Monday or Tuesday.

BNWRD held a hearing last week to give Akshar an opportunity to respond to the claimed violations. For now, Akshar remains connected to the sanitary sewer system.

There are at least two ongoing cases involving what the City of Bloomington terms public nuisances. One is set for a hearing April 30. Another involving Akshar’s parent company, Bell International LLC, has a status check scheduled for September.

It is not the first time the city has acted against Akshar.

"In 2022, based on numerous property maintenance and zoning violations at the property, a judgment of $60,000 was entered and has been paid. In September of ‘23, a judgment in the amount of $181,000 was entered against them in administrative court,” said a city spokesperson.

The larger fine has not been paid, but the judgment was mutually agreed to, said the city.

“Several property maintenance and zoning code violations remained unremedied at the property for a period of time that justified fines in that amount,” said the spokesperson.

If it remains unpaid, the city could begin collection efforts.

“In May of 2023, the city obtained an injunction against both companies [Bell and Akshar] prohibiting them from recycling and other industrial activities prohibited by the city’s zoning code,” said the city.

And in 2020, the city forced Akshar and Bell to clean up a large pile of thousands of car seats. At the time, city officials termed it an "illegal junk yard." Akshar paid nearly $38,000 in that case. The car seats had been collected at Walmart stores nationwide for recycling.

Nearby residents had complained of rodents and bad odors emanating from the property.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.