Anti-landfill group moves from cyberspace

A citizens' movement to stop the county landfill from growing is getting off the ground.

DeKalb resident Mac McIntyre on Saturday formed a group on the social networking Web site Facebook to gauge public sentiment on Waste Management's proposal to expand the landfill on Somonauk Road in Cortland Township.

By Tuesday afternoon, nearly 200 people had joined the "Stop the DeKalb County Mega-Dump" effort on Facebook.

McIntyre said it's too soon to call it an organization. But on Thursday, anyone interested in getting behind the anti-landfill effort can attend an organizing meeting at 7 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb.

McIntyre's main concern is public safety, he said, such as the effects the expanded landfill might have on water and air quality. The Facebook page claims that the landfill will become "the megadump for Chicago's garbage."

Waste Management wants to expand the landfill to take in 500,000 tons of trash a year, or about 2,000 tons per day. The trash would be brought in from surrounding counties, which would pay a tipping fee to dump trash there.

The current landfill takes about 350 tons of trash per day from DeKalb County, and seven years of capacity remain.

"One criticism I've heard is that people don't want outside garbage coming to DeKalb County," county board chairwoman Ruth Anne Tobias said. "But in just a few years our garbage will have to be another county's outside garbage because we don't have enough room."

About 85 percent of the waste would come in from other counties, mostly from Kane and McHenry counties, county administrator Ray Bockman said. He added that no waste is anticipated to be from Chicago.

The amount of waste hauled in from other counties will depend on this county's growth rate, and DeKalb County trash will be guaranteed to have space at the landfill for 25 years, Bockman said.

Tobias described the proposed contract between the county and Waste Management as "strict" and one that adequately protects the public. She noted a property value guarantee, environmental protections like linings to prevent contamination, and designated truck routes are within the proposal.

County officials argue that the extra revenue stemming from a landfill agreement will serve a much-needed purpose – that of adding more jail space to house inmates. If the landfill is expanded, the county plans to issue about $32 million in bonds to fund the jail project.

Voters have turned down a ballot proposition to fund a jail project four times, and Bockman said this is the only solution that has been feasible without raising taxes or going to another referendum.

Opponents to the landfill proposal don't buy the jail argument.

"I feel that it's a shortsighted view on the part of the county board if they approve this," said Dan Kenney, a DeKalb resident and an organizer of the anti-landfill effort. "They're kind of acting in a desperate way to have a quick fix for their money problems that they're facing with the jail and courthouse remodeling."

McIntyre believes the county shouldn't allocate revenues from a not-yet-approved project.

"The motivation for (the landfill expansion) appears to be the capital improvement," he said. "The priority with the landfill has got to be safety of the residents. We shouldn't be discussing revenue. It hasn't been approved by the county board."

A public hearing regarding the proposed expansion of the DeKalb County landfill will be held March 1. The county board must approve it, along with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, a process that could take more than a year.

If you go

A public hearing regarding the proposed expansion of the DeKalb County landfill has been scheduled for 9 a.m. March 1. The hearing will conclude no later than 5 p.m. and will be continued to the next day if necessary.

The hearing will be held in the Jenkins Auditorium on the campus of Kishwaukee College, at the intersection of Malta Road and Route 38 in Malta.