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Calumet Landfill-Park Proposal Revived

Despite the City Council’s extension of Chicago’s landfill moratorium last December, Waste Management Inc. is continuing an effort to expand its CID landfill at 134th and the Calumet River. It’s the last active landfill in Chicago — and the last of scores that once dotted the Calumet region.

Waste Management has proposed expanding the landfill and operating it for an additional five years, then closing it and building a public park on the property.

Asked whether the landfill-park proposal would require an exception to the moratorium, Bill Plunkett of Waste Management said, “That would be up to the city.”

An aide to Tenth Ward Ald. John Pope said that renewal of the city’s moratorium took the Waste Management proposal out of consideration.

But petitions supporting the proposal “to add debris and close the landfill forever in five years and turn it into an environmentally-safe, 200-acre ‘Gateway Park’” have been passed extensively in the 10th Ward in recent weeks.

Rosa Perea of Centro Communitario Juan Diego said a number of women from her organization were invited to a meeting hosted by the United Neighborhood Organization to recruit people to the petition for $20 a page. They attend the meeting but declined the offer, she said. “It’s not what we’ve been fighting for.”

Juan Rangel of UNO acknowledged “some people find it a little ironic” that the group is supporting the proposal, although 20 years ago it championed the moratorium.

“We continue to support the intent of the moratorium,” he said, but the proposed landfill expansion would merely be “filling in a space between two existing dumps.” He said a UNO poll of Hispanics in the 10th Ward found respondents “split down the middle” — until the promise of up to 200 new jobs connected with the proposal was mentioned. Then there was “overwhelming support,” he said.

According to Aaron Rosinski of Southeast Environmental Task Force, those jobs are mainly connected to a recycling facility which Waste Management plans to build regardless of the success of the proposal.

The proposal would allow 6 million additional tons of solid waste to be dumped at the site over five years — or 5,000 tons a day, according to Marion Byrnes of the Calumet Ecological Park Association. She cited studies linking landfill gas emissions to increased cancer and leukemia.

The I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor is planning to extend its boundaries through the Calumet waterways of the Southeast Side, Byrnes said. “At this point in the history of the Southeast Side — with the Calumet Initiative signed by the governor and mayor to preserve 3000 acres of wetlands and develop 3000 acres of brownfields as clean industrial development — we don’t need five more years of a giant garbage dump,” she said.

The landfill is a few hundred yards from the site of the Ford Calumet Ecological Center, slated to open in 2007, Byrnes said, adding that odors from the landfill “would certainly discourage return visits” to the center.

Without the landfill expansion, Waste Management would be responsible for closing the site, which is now virtually full; a city draft plan calls for landscaping using native vegetation, with a trail and provisions for public access, Byrnes said.

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Category: environment, Southeast Side

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