By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – Garden Prairie Organics (GPO) is asking the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to renew its operating permit for a landscape waste compost facility at 11887 U.S. 20 in unincorporated Garden Prairie.

The EPA has allowed a window for comments and it will close March 18, which coincidentally is the date of the next Boone County Board meeting.

That set the county’s planning, zoning and building committee in action Wednesday night (Feb. 11) in hopes of getting a county board resolution to the EPA, expressing concerns about operations at the 35.6-acre site.

Committee member Raymond Larson claimed GPO was in violation of several conditions attached to the special use permit issued by the county in 2009. Among them were:

Having compost piles in excess of the allowable 25 feet in height;

Not having landscape waste in windrows.

Odor, which sparked complaints in the spring of 2012.

“To me, (county) ordinance 09-47 is null and void and they should not be allowed to continue operating,” Larson said. “All you have to do is not be in compliance with one.”

That prompted lengthy discussion among members of this standing committee of the county board and associate planner Gina DelRose, with side comments from board Chairman Bob Walberg and board members Craig Schultz, Jeff Carlisle and Sherry Branson, attending in ex-officio capacities.

Observations ranged from committee Chairman Denny Ellingson saying he had been told GPO was not yet in violation to Branson saying, “We need to shut these people down.”

Committee member Brad Stark thought closing the business would be “a knee-jerk reaction.”

Odor a state issue

“The only complaint the (county) building department has received is about odor,” DelRose said. And it was determined that the EPA is the only regulatory body that can deal with that problem.

Odor complaints were received during the summer of 2012. An EPA official said at that time the company was taking steps to curtail the smell, which seemed to “come and go”

But that was then and this is now. “You have to go through the process,” board member Schultz said. Referring to county building official Drew Bliss, he said, “Drew has to go out there and document the violations. Then give them a chance to comply. If they don’t, go to a judge and say there has not been compliance.”

County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said Bliss did go to the property recently, but was unable to discern the height of the compost piles.

“It’s winter now so there isn’t anything going on out there,” Stark said.

It finally was agreed that Terrinoni should check with the EPA and see if there’s any leeway on the 21-day window for comments. If there is, the full county board will be asked March 18 to adopt a resolution, expressing its concerns about the operation.

“A resolution from the board carries more weight than a letter from the (board) chairman,” Walberg said.

If there is no flexibility with the comment window, Walberg will write the letter over his signature, also expressing current concerns, and it will be sent to the EPA within the allowable timeframe.

The GPO application states additional odor management controls is one of the proposed improvements that would be made if the operating permit renewal is approved.

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