We originally organized in 2008 as a group of local residents concerned about severe problems we were experiencing with Countryside Landfill in Grayslake. The emissions from the landfill were out of the ordinary and negatively impacting on the quality of life of many in the vicinity of the landfill. We organized community members to help us convince, ultimately, the United States Environmental Protection Agency to intervene. They ultimately issued a notice of violation to the landfill and the resulting agreement has placed several restrictions on the landfill operations. For example, they are no longer allowed to accept loads of gypsum fines.
Unusual problems arose again a few years later and we advocated for help from our local government. As a result, the Village of Grayslake, Lake County Government and the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County joined together to leverage their power to reopen a host agreement with the landfill. That effort resulted in a joint agreement to implement further requirements for the landfill such as Hydrogen Sulfide monitoring.
We continue to provide oversight, monitor the landfill’s permits and self-reported data for any anomalies.
Thanks to the hard work and fundraising efforts of two Prairie Crossing Charter School students, Jon Todd and Sam Mitchell, we now own 2 handheld air monitors (one for Sulfur Dioxide and one for Hydrogen Sulfide). This allows us to travel to areas near polluting facilities, such as landfills, and collect data that can be used to alert oversight officials to potential problems.
In 2008, in our first campaign, we, under the name, “Incinerator-Free Lake County”, led a successful effort to keep incinerators out or the county 5-yr. Solid Waste Plan. We were inexperienced but worked hard and were supported by many including our friends in the Sierra Club and many elected officials. To our delight, the County Board gave us a fair and open-minded hearing and agreed with us! We were delighted to see “Incinerator-Free” groups pop up all around the country and have consulted with many anti-incinerator grassroots group to help them win their fights to keep their communities clean and sustainable.
In addition to opposing the introduction of incinerators into Lake County, we promoted a positive alternative solution to dealing with our discards; We asked the County Board to redouble their efforts in Waste Diversion. They agreed and formed the Lake County 60% Recycling Task Force to study how we could realize a goal diverting 60% of our discards by the year 2020. We served on that task force and continue to participate to help Lake County reach its goal. As a result of that effort, we are on track to reach the goal and now lead the State of Illinois in waste diversion rates!
In 2014, we joined then Lake County Board Member, Pat Carey, in successfully advocating for a Sustainability Coordinator position for the County Administration. The County Board values sustainability and has made it a significant priority. We felt that there was a need to have an environmental expert on the staff to help them realize their vision and beyond.