- Winnebago County, Illinois could soon fine waste trucks for littering, WQRF-TV reported this month, targeting a local landfill owned by Waste Connections. The county board's operations and administrative committee unanimously moved on Nov. 21 to increase inspection fees and requirements. That ordinance must now go before the full board for approval.
- There is already a $50 permit requirement in place, but the new motion would impose a $100 inspection fee and a $1,000 fine system on littering trucks, while exempting vehicles weighing less than 16,000 pounds. Waste Connections has pushed back against the ordinance and indicated it may seek legal action, as the requirements come up against statutory and contractual limits.
- Further escalation over the site is likely, with residents also worried about odors. During a Nov. 14 board meeting several days before the littering motion passed, community members accused the county of favoring a "billion-dollar corporation from Texas" over the needs of their own constiuents. One former board member has created a shortcut website to encourage community members to submit complaints.
Tensions between Waste Connections and both the local and state government have been steadily mounting over the Winnebago Landfill.
The company acquired the landfill in 2015 from Rock River Environmental Services, following years of concerns. In both 2009 and 2010, the llinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) found "notable sulfur-like odors" linked to the site, sparking a February 2010 violation notice also backed by the U.S. EPA.
While the landfill took steps to mitigate the odors and installed gas collection wells, along with inspection systems for gas and leachate, problems have persisted. In June of this year, IEPA issued a violation notice to the landfill over odors and alleged operational breaches, including environmental hazards. One leading concern for officials is the presence of hydrogen sulfide, a dangerous gas that can trigger health impacts such as nausea and headaches, which has crept into surrounding neighborhoods.
That fight at the state level is also escalating. The Illinois Attorney General's office said last week that it plans to pursue further legal action against the landfill over odor and other persistent issues.
Waste Connections did not respond to a request for comment from Waste Dive, but the company has resisted the prospect of further inspections and code enforcement at the site.
Winnebago County officials lack significant authority in addressing concerns about the landfill, which is the state's area of jurisdiction. Board Chairman Frank Haney wrote to Pete Lyons, a Waste Connections division vice president, on Nov. 21 imploring the company to comply with IEPA regulations. Haney has also written to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker asking him to consider stricter landfill standards.
But residents feel the county could still do more to address the odors in particular and that local officials are overly sympathetic to Waste Connections. Some have accused the board of negelecting its constiuents because of host fees. The county collects around $3 million per year from the landfill.
Board Member Angie Goral defended the county during the Nov. 14 board meeting, pointing to the ordinance's limitations on littering as one of the board's only forms of recourse. "We do not own the Winnebago Landfill," she said, going on to emphasize that "we are confusing what we are actually liable for."
Some officials also offered criticism of IEPA's approach. Board Member Jim Webster voiced his agreement with unhappy residents, while underscoring a lack of faith in the agency addressing the situation through repeated fines.
"Is the state going to be able to fine them to a point there [sic] to really get their attention?" he asked.
Waste Connections has suggested using money from the fees to pay for an officer focused solely on litter ticket enforcement, a proposal effectively shut down by the ultimate motion the board committee passed last week.