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Illinois Pollution Control Board Hearing Re-Cap Regarding 2nd LRS Waste Transfer Site

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“I’m shaking, you guys!” she exclaimed after she walked away from the podium with papers in hand. If I had to guess, I’d not think she was shaking or nervous at all. She breezed through her several pages of notes as she read them aloud to the folks gathered in City Council Chambers, with an interpreter following her lead and delivering the speech back to those gathered back in English. She straightened out her black skirt and sat down in the row of chairs in front of me. She, being Julieta Alcantar-Garcia- someone I’ve known since grade school, and more recently can be identified as a strong advocate for the West Chicago and greater DuPage Latino communities. Between activism and being a Mom, her life is busy. I always see her on Facebook delivering self-filmed videos about causes near and dear to her heart affecting the Latino community.

In class at Lincoln School, I remember her being quiet and reserved, but convincingly, she finds her voice when she is passionate about things that she thinks are unjust or those that she feels are unfairly impactful to the community she identifies with. I thought she delivered her thoughts with an empowered air, and a quiet strength in front of the Illinois Pollution Control Board (appointees of  Illinois Governor, J.B. Pritzker), attorneys for Protect West Chicago (another concerned group located in WeGo), A sole lawyer from Lakeshore Recycling Services (LRS), and her own attorneys from Northwestern University’s School of Law.

In her presentation, Alcantar-Garcia told of how Hispanic residents from PODER (People Opposing DuPage Environmental Racism) were not afforded an interpreter at the hearing which eventually ended up granting LRS the right to construct a second solid-waste transfer station in West Chicago – right down the road from the first.  She explained how she felt insulted and offended that LRS held the hearing on Mexican Independence Day of 2022, which is usually a time for families to gather and celebrations to take place. She told how she felt as though strategic roadblocks were set up to try and make it difficult for her and her group to voice their concerns and be taken seriously. She commented that when her group was invited to sit down and discuss the matter with Lakeshore, they were served inauthentic Tacos as a way to be placated. She also discussed how she used an air quality monitoring device to check the air quality outside of the first transfer station- and how she was concerned when the readings exceeded the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s safe and allowable air pollution levels. She counted trucks coming in and out of the facility that houses the only solid waste transfer site in DuPage County. She watched garbage trucks from all over the county bring garbage in and drop it off in West Chicago. She was not allowed to present that data during city hearings earlier this year in February which ultimately led to the initial LRS approval.

Following that meeting in February 2023, when the West Chicago City Council approved the second transfer station, Alcantar-Garcia said many of her group members left the meeting because of the language barrier. Although the plan was presented in Spanish on the city’s website, no interpreter was provided during the City Council meeting. “I felt we were silenced,” Alcántar-Garcia said. Despite resident concerns, The West Chicago City Council voted to approve LRS’s application for a second waste transfer station in WeGo.

On examination of Alcantar-Garcia on Thursday after her speech, A lawyer for trash hauler LRS, came at opponents of the project hard and accused them of waging a “culture war” while failing to consider possible benefits of the plan.

“They want to throw us into the culture war,” LRS lawyer George Mueller said at the hearing Thursday. “Lakeshore is somehow responsible for oppression of the population.”

Mueller asked if Alcántar-Garcia spoke English and whether she was an immigrant since she worked with an organization called Immigrant Solidarity DuPage. She said she grew up in West Chicago.

Thursday, Members of the Illinois Pollution Control Board traveled to West Chicago for an appeal hearing. Attorney Rich Meza, an attorney representing Protect West Chicago gathered testimony and cross-examined city staff. He grilled City Mayor Reuben Pineda, Tom Dabareiner- Director of Community Development, City Administrator Michael Guttman, as well as Deputy Mayor/Council Woman Lori Chassee.

Those inquiries delved into the concerns Meza made that the director of community development, Tom Dabareiner allegedly wrote a letter recommending the approval of the transfer station during the application process, something that is the responsibility of the applicant (in this case Lakeshore and their consultant APPIM) drawing conclusions that the vote was allegedly pre-determined before it even happened. Meza stated that APPIM should have been responsible for helping Lakeshore to meet the required criteria,  so the proposed facility might be approved. He drove home the point that nobody on city staff should be redlining letters of application, making corrections, or writing an application letter on behalf of an organization trying to win city approval in the first place.

Meza argued and probed into the circumstances of an addition to wording that was made to the recommendation letter in question to reflect that residential housing is not possible in the area of the proposed second transfer station- and that a consultant LRS hired (APPIM) identified potential problems with the application and suggested that the site was not amenable to a second waste transfer facility in that location unless more criteria such as a wildlife plan were met. The purpose of APPIM being hired by LRS was to review the contract by LRS.  The city council addressed the proposal on February 27th and it was then continued into a closed session meeting on February 28th. Councilwoman Chassee was not available in person to attend the hearing when the vote was finally cast behind closed doors on February 28th, but she attended via phone call and cast her vote during the meeting on February 28th.

While being questioned about the lead-up to the vote, and other facts surrounding the city council vote, Mayor Reuben Pineda answered that he either “did not know” or “did not recall” over 20 times during the hearing. Testimony went on nearly all day, with there being objections on both sides.

If allowed to continue, West Chicago would be the only community in the entire State of Illinois (other than the much larger City of Chicago) to have more than one transfer station within its borders. This proposed waste transfer station would move and dump about 4 million pounds of garbage near homes, and about 400 garbage trucks would travel through the West Chicago community on city roads every day.

The intensity of the battle was evident. No formal decision was made by the members of the pollution control board- future hearings and public comment will happen in the future on November 13.

“¡Estoy temblando, chicos!” exclamó después de alejarse del podio con papeles en mano. Si tuviera que adivinar, no pensaría que estaba temblando o nerviosa en absoluto. Hojeó rápidamente sus varias páginas de notas mientras las leía en voz alta a las personas reunidas en las Cámaras del Concejo Municipal, con un intérprete siguiendo su ejemplo y pronunciando el discurso a los reunidos en inglés. Se arregló la falda negra y se sentó en la fila de sillas frente a mí. Ella, siendo Julieta Alcantar-García, alguien a quien conozco desde la escuela primaria y, más recientemente, puedo identificarla como una firme defensora de West Chicago y de las comunidades latinas de DuPage en general. Entre el activismo y ser mamá, su vida es ajetreada. Siempre la veo en Facebook publicando videos autofilmados sobre causas cercanas y queridas que afectan a la comunidad latina.

En clase en la Escuela Lincoln, recuerdo que ella era tranquila y reservada, pero de manera convincente, encuentra su voz cuando le apasionan cosas que cree que son injustas o aquellas que siente que tienen un impacto injusto en la comunidad con la que se identifica. Pensé que ella expresó sus pensamientos con un aire empoderado y una fuerza silenciosa frente a la Junta de Control de la Contaminación de Illinois (designados por el gobernador de Illinois, J.B. Pritzker), los abogados de Protect West Chicago (otro grupo preocupado ubicado en WeGo), un abogado único. de Lakeshore Recycling Services (LRS) y sus propios abogados de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Northwestern.

En su presentación, Alcantar-García habló de cómo a los residentes hispanos de PODER (Personas que se oponen al racismo ambiental de DuPage) no se les proporcionó un intérprete en la audiencia que finalmente terminó otorgando a LRS el derecho de construir una segunda estación de transferencia de desechos sólidos en West Chicago. justo al final del camino desde el primero. Explicó cómo se sintió insultada y ofendida porque LRS celebró la audiencia el Día de la Independencia de México de 2022, que suele ser un momento para que las familias se reúnan y se lleven a cabo celebraciones. Dijo que sentía que se habían colocado obstáculos estratégicos para tratar de dificultar que ella y su grupo expresaran sus preocupaciones y fueran tomados en serio. Ella comentó que cuando invitaron a su grupo a sentarse y discutir el asunto con Lakeshore, les sirvieron tacos no auténticos como una forma de aplacarlos. También habló sobre cómo utilizó un dispositivo de monitoreo de la calidad del aire para verificar la calidad del aire fuera de la primera estación de transferencia y cómo se preocupó cuando las lecturas excedieron los niveles de contaminación del aire seguros y permitidos de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Illinois. Contó los camiones que entraban y salían de las instalaciones que albergan el único sitio de transferencia de desechos sólidos en el condado de DuPage. Vio camiones de basura de todo el condado traer basura y dejarla en West Chicago. No se le permitió presentar esos datos durante las audiencias de la ciudad a principios de este año en febrero, lo que finalmente condujo a la aprobación inicial del LRS.

Después de esa reunión en febrero de 2023, cuando el Ayuntamiento de West Chicago aprobó la segunda estación de transferencia, Alcantar-García dijo que muchos de los miembros de su grupo abandonaron la reunión debido a la barrera del idioma. Aunque el plan se presentó en español en el sitio web de la ciudad, no se proporcionó ningún intérprete durante la reunión del Concejo Municipal. “Sentí que nos silenciaron”, dijo Alcántar-García. A pesar de las preocupaciones de los residentes, el Ayuntamiento de West Chicago votó para aprobar la solicitud de LRS para una segunda estación de transferencia de residuos en WeGo.

Al examinar a Alcantar-García el jueves después de su discurso, un abogado del transportista de basura LRS, atacó duramente a los oponentes del proyecto y los acusó de librar una “guerra cultural” sin considerar los posibles beneficios del plan.

“Quieren lanzarnos a la guerra cultural”, dijo el abogado de LRS, George Mueller, en la audiencia del jueves. “Lakeshore es de alguna manera responsable de la opresión de la población”.

Mueller preguntó si Alcántar-García hablaba inglés y si era inmigrante ya que trabajaba con una organización llamada Immigrant Solidarity DuPage. Dijo que creció en West Chicago.

El jueves, miembros de la Junta de Control de la Contaminación de Illinois viajaron a West Chicago para una audiencia de apelación. El abogado Rich Meza, un abogado que representa a Protect West Chicago, reunió testimonios e interrogó al personal de la ciudad. Interrogó al alcalde de la ciudad, Reuben Pineda, a Tom Dabareiner, director de desarrollo comunitario, al administrador de la ciudad, Michael Guttman, así como a la vicealcaldesa y concejal Lori Chassee.

Esas indagatorias profundizaron en las inquietudes que expresó Meza de que el director de desarrollo comunitario, Tom Dabareiner, supuestamente escribió una carta recomendando la aprobación de la estación de transferencia durante el proceso de solicitud, algo que es responsabilidad del solicitante (en este caso Lakeshore y su consultor APPIM ) llegando a la conclusión de que la votación supuestamente estaba predeterminada incluso antes de que se produjera. Meza afirmó que APPIM debería haber sido responsable de ayudar a Lakeshore a cumplir con los criterios requeridos

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