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Park City compost odor hearing draws large crowd

Updated: December 19, 2012 11:55AM

The stench of rotting garbage — or compost — and its negative effects upon the health of nearby Waukegan and Park City residents and children was underscored Thursday night in a public hearing that attracted a standing room-only crowd.

Mayor Steve Pannell and City Attorney Peter Karlovics deftly kept the emotional meeting at Park City City Hall on a productive track by cautioning against acrimony and incrimination.

“We want this to be a constructive discussion about a serious problem that concerns us all,” Pannell said. He said he won’t rest until the nuisance is abated.

The mayor said that immediate steps are being taken at city expense to employ an environmental attorney and an environmental and odor management consulting firm to assist Park City officials in tracking and resolving the noxious odor problems.

Karlovics moderated much of the discussion and stressed the importance of completing the city’s odor complaint forms to document odors coming from the Nu-Earth Organics compost facility at 3000 Apple Drive, Waukegan, since last July. Completed forms should be returned to Building Inspector Jorge (George) Torres at City Hall.

Speaker after speaker blasted the new compost company for creating the nuisance. Many demanded an immediate closure of the site. Some referred to the compost facility as a “garbage dump” that they said never should have been allowed by a Waukegan conditional-use permit in a residential neighborhood.

Mona Armstrong said its even affecting wild life that is leaving the area. “Even the skunks smell better” she said.

Nu-Earth attorney Norman Berger apologized for the company’s problem and said he welcomed the creation of the odor complaint forms, indicating they will be mutually beneficial in tracing compost odor leakages.

“We don’t anticipate that odors will be a big problem during the winter, and we hope to have the problem resolved by next summer,” he said.

However, Ald. Tom Crafton said he had lost confidence in promises made by the compost owners.

“They have made many promises, but none have been kept,” he said. Both Alds. Larry Eaker and Bud Dennis readily agreed.

Dennis said he was particularly concerned about the effects these odors were having on his young granddaughter. “We don’t want promises, we want action,” he told the compost officials present.

Karlovics said Park City officials said they would be meeting with Waukegan officials on this matter next week. “We want to be good neighbors and help resolve this mutual problem,” he said.

Waukeganites who live near the site complained not only of constant foul-smelling odors, but the heavy truck traffic that delivers food scraps and landscaping rubbish to the site.

Many in the audience complained of health problems that they say are a direct result of rotting compost vapors drifting into nearby neighborhoods and businesses.

Waukegan resident John Rigona said he pays $55,000 a year in real estate taxes for two commercial buildings in his city and the odors are driving patrons away from those businesses who rent his properties.

Park City resident Betty Humphreys said the odors have become progressively worse recently. “Something’s got to give here. This public nuisance is causing serious health problems for me and my family.”

There were several county and state elected representatives in attendance, including County Board members Audrey Nixon of North Chicago and Mary Ross Cunningham of Waukegan; and state Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan. A representative from state Rep Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, also was at the meeting. All pledged their cooperation in seeking a solution to the problem.

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, sent a letter to Mayor Pannell pledging his assistance in resolving the compost odor problem through successful negotiations.

“Rest assured, I will be closely monitoring your efforts and I look forward to responding to any request you may have,” Link indicated.

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