Frustrated residents explore possible lawsuit to combat stench from local landfills

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) ─ Neighbors come together to find out what else they can do about the smell coming from the Winnebago and Orchard Hills landfills.

Barry Higgs has lived in New Milford since 1977.

“Since the landfill has expanded, it’s pretty nasty. When the wind is out of the south, it’s almost unbearable,” Higgs said. “It just brings it. It wafts, right over your house, your property.”

After meeting with landfill operators earlier this year, residents banded together to form the “Citizens Against the Landfills” community-action group. New Milford resident Justin Zaugg a leader of the group.

“Enough is enough,” Zaugg said. “We’re done waiting for the government entities to help the problem, and we need to take matters into our own hands.”

Feeling dissatisfied by progress, the group sought legal help. That led them to Chicago-based attorney Glen Dunn. Dunn says he’s handled a similar case at a landfill in Hillside, Illinois, near Chicago.

“These landfills in particular are run by massive companies that have incredible profit margins,” Dunn said. “There’s really no excuse for them to be disrupting their communities.”

Zaugg says he’s fighting so that his kids can enjoy fresh air.

“I grew up outside and I want to raise my kids up outside and stuff, and there’s a lot of days this summer where we were restricted to the inside of the house because you couldn’t be outside because of the odors,” Zaugg said.

Higgs says, besides the odor, there are also concerns about health problems and tumbling property values because of the landfills.

“It’s not fair, because everybody says not in my backyard,” Higgs said. “But, people in the southeast quadrant of the county, we didn’t get that wish.”

The community-action group will meet again with it’s attorney this Saturday, October 19th, from 1-3 p.m. at Plumbers and Pipefitters in Rockford. Following that meeting, Dunn says he will approach the landfill about the creation of a complaint hotline.

“One of the most important things that people can do is make complaints to their local government and to the company that runs the landfill, Waste Connections,” Dunn said.

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