Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is looking into odor complaints from residents around an asphalt plant in McKinley Park, saying that he wants to ensure that a community already overburdened by air pollution isn’t being harmed by the operation.
Raoul is the latest government official to step into the years-long controversy over MAT Asphalt’s opening across from McKinley Park. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently said it is testing, monitoring and involved in future permitting of the plant along with state officials.
In a statement earlier this week, Raoul’s office said the attorney general was concerned about more than 100 odor complaints about MAT and noted that McKinley Park, home to a large population of Latino and Asian residents, is an “environmental justice” community that already has high levels of pollution and health threats.
“Attorney General Raoul is committed to protecting areas of environmental justice concern and recognizes that residents in these communities are more vulnerable to environmental stressors,” the statement said. “Given the reported number of complaints from residents about the MAT Asphalt facility, the Attorney General’s office is interested in gathering more information to ensure that residents in the surrounding community are protected from any potential harmful effects of pollution.”
Michael Tadin Jr., a city contractor and co-owner of the asphalt operation, has claimed that the complaints are misguided. He provided the Sun-Times with an October 2020 memo from a consultant he hired that said the source of odors may be coming from other sources. A sampling of the odor complaints suggested it “could be reasonably argued that they are not the result of MAT Asphalt operations,” the memo said.
Nonetheless, the volume of complaints prompted Stephen Sylvester, chief of the Illinois Attorney General’s environmental bureau in Chicago, to reach out to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month for detailed information about the plant.
“We would like to obtain more information and learn what the Agency’s position is on the facility and the citizen complaints, including the status of the facility’s permit compliance, an update on Illinois EPA’s inspections of the facility, whether the facility is following any Illinois EPA approved plans for controlling odors, an update on Illinois EPA citizen complaints regarding the facility and a summary of any Illinois EPA outreach to community stakeholders,” Sylvester said in a July 2 email to state EPA staff.
The email was obtained through an open records request from the McKinley Park group Neighbors for Environmental Justice.
Since opening in 2018, MAT has operated under a state-issued construction permit. It will need to obtain another permit from the state, a process that’s been slowed by the pandemic.
“We will continue to work closely with the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. EPA as we further evaluate potential environmental impacts from MAT Asphalt,” Illinois EPA said in a statement.
Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.