MAT Asphalt says its air pollution is below state limits

A company consultant’s report, under review by the Illinois EPA, doesn’t satisfy a community group that wants the plant shut down.

SHARE MAT Asphalt says its air pollution is below state limits
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s chief sustainability officer cited an asphalt plant that opened directly across from McKinley Park two years ago as an example of an industrial zoning issue that would get more public scrutiny under the mayor’s proposed ordinance.

Results of pollution testing by a MAT Asphalt consultant are being reviewed by state environmental authorities.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

The owner of a controversial asphalt plant in McKinley Park said testing by a paid consultant last year showed that one measure of air pollution showed relatively low levels compared with state limits.

Levels of hazardous air pollutants, particulate matter and additional cancer-causing chemicals were less than 10% of limits set by the state for the operation, MAT Asphalt said, citing a report from its consultant. The toxic gas sulfur dioxide was at 12% of the allowed limit.

These results are being reviewed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which will then offer its own assessment. The state asked the business to perform the test as part of an analysis along with University of Illinois Chicago studying environmental factors on the Southwest Side.

CleanAir Engineering of Palatine wrote the report after conducting air tests at MAT last year. The testing was limited to emissions directly from the operation’s machinery and did not measure additional pollution from dust or diesel fumes from the hundreds of trucks that enter and exit the facility every week.

A number of residents have complained about smells from the plant and have been calling for its closure since shortly after MAT opened across from McKinley Park on Pershing Road in 2018.

Michael Tadin Jr., co-owner and operator, has said the complaints are exaggerated and he is asking a state court to overturn $4,000 in city fines related to alleged pollution violations. A court hearing is scheduled for next month.

The report documented metals, such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and manganese and toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, benzene, ethylene as pollutants generated from MAT but the company says those levels of emissions are low.

“We’re registering less than a gas station,” Tadin said in an interview.

Tadin, a city contractor, said the report supports his claim that MAT is not a nuisance despite hundreds of odor complaints.

Neighbors for Environmental Justice, a group that formed after MAT opened, said in a statement that the consultant’s report did nothing to ease their concerns.

“We’re not angry because they’re in violation of the technical limits in their permit. We’re angry because we wake up to the smell of asphalt in our bedrooms,” the group said. “These tests do not make us safe and they do not make it acceptable to put a hot-mix asphalt plant next to a school, across from a park in the heart of our community.”

UIC and Illinois EPA are working together to analyze the cumulative health impacts of the industrial Southwest Side.

The area being studied includes seven public schools, several asphalt plants, a large freight hub and other sources of toxic chemicals, said Michael Cailas, associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences.

MAT is also applying to the state EPA for a long-term operating permit, which could be up to 10 years.

The MAT report is “under review” by the Illinois EPA, said agency spokeswoman Kim Biggs. “Once our review is complete, a review memorandum will be prepared,” she said.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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