The Illinois EPA has issued a draft of a 10 year operating permit for MAT Asphalt, the hot mix asphalt plant across the street from McKinley Park.

** The IEPA has indefinitely postponed their planned hearing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Updated information will be posted as soon as it becomes available. **

There will be a public hearing about the permit on March 23rd at Horizon Science Academy in McKinley Park at 6:30pm. To get involved and join us as we prepare, follow us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletter.

The Illinois EPA will accept written public comments on the draft permit during the comment period. Written comments must be received no later than midnight April 22nd, 2020 unless otherwise specified.

Written comments should be submitted to:
Illinois EPA
Attn: Brad Frost, Re: MAT Asphalt
1021 N. Grand Avenue East, PO Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276

You can read the draft permit, or check our archive of key documents to see the ILEPA’s “fact sheet” about the project.

If you’re just learning about the plant now, here are the most important things to know:

It shouldn’t have been built in the first place

The ILEPA admits that they “dropped the ball” on the Environmental Justice Review process that should have happened in 2017, before the plant was built. Nobody in the community was notified. It’s across the street from a 70 acre park and next to a school.

MAT did not comply with their construction permit

The construction permit allowed them to operate for a year, forbade them to create an odor nuisance, and limited the amount of visible emissions the plant could produce. The ILEPA allowed them to keep operating after their permit expired and did not cite them even when odor nuisance and visible emissions were clearly documented.

Nobody has ever measured the specific pollutants

The draft permit, like the construction permit, contains limits on the emissions of specific pollutants: carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic materials (VOMs). At no point have these emissions been measured. The 2018 “stack test” only measured the particulate matter (PM) levels and the opacity of the smoke. None of the ILEPA inspections (or the CDPH inspections, or the USEPA inspection) ever measured the content of the emissions. There is no evidence MAT complied with these permit requirements.

MAT is a potentially major source of pollution promising to only pollute at minor source levels

MAT is applying for a Federally Enforceable State Operating Permit (FESOP). If you have a plant that’s capable of producing “major source” levels of pollution, but you don’t want to be regulated like a major source, you can apply for a FESOP. The state then sets pollution limits that should keep you at “minor source” levels.

Much like having a sports car and promising that you will only drive 50mph, the only thing preventing them from being a major source of pollution is their promise. Given the inadequate nature of ILEPA inspections and enforcement, this is a serious problem. MAT’s first FESOP application was rejected because it would have put them at major source levels.

There’s a lot more

If you want to get into the details, there’s so much more. Check out the media coverage of the plant or our collection of key documents to get more of the back story, which is so Chicago it’s hard to overstate.

It includes plagiarism and corruption by city officials and city contractors, paperwork filed with the wrong addresses, a tangled nest of interconnected businesses, and failures of process, inspection and enforcement at the city, state, and federal levels. (And turkeys. There are turkeys for some reason.)