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New legislation requires notice of potential pollution

Munoz071018 2CHICAGO – A large crowd of angry McKinley Park residents voiced their opposition to an asphalt plant at a town hall meeting hosted on Tuesday by Assistant Illinois Senate Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago).

When McKinley Park residents noticed new silos being built in their neighborhood earlier this year, they were blindsided, according to the Chicago Tribune. The silos were for a nearby asphalt plant that will be fully operational this month. Due to an apparent oversight by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, residents were not properly notified, receiving notice only two weeks before the project began.

Moved by the public outcry and the Tribune article, Munoz filed legislation (Senate Bill 3623) so that a situation like this – in which residents and state legislators receive no advance notice of something that may impact community health and safety – never occurs again in Illinois.

“It’s extremely unfair for residents not to have an opportunity to voice their opinion when their health, property values and livelihoods could be at risk due to possible pollution coming to their neighborhood,” Munoz said. “I learned about this project after the fact like everyone else and knew I had to take action.”

Currently, the IEPA has only a policy – not a statute or rule – that only applies in situations where a permit is applied for in areas where the minority or low-income population is twice the statewide average. That policy requires the agency to notify elected officials and organizations only in those areas.

McKinley Park residents, however, saw no public meetings, community mailers or signs posted before October when the IEPA issued a construction permit for the plant, and their elected officials were never notified.

Munoz’s legislation requires the IEPA to send notice of possible air or water pollution in any community to the public and to local state senators and representatives within 15 days from the date an application for a permit from the IEPA is filed. It also prohibits issuance of a permit until all notices have been provided.

“The issues in McKinley Park show how important it is to have this requirement in the books,” Munoz said.

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