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Residents oppose wastewater treatment plant at public forum

Years ago, when Darrell and Maureen Pinta moved from Lemont to New Lenox, they got a change of scenery, but never imagined their view would be replaced with a wastewater treatment plant.

“I knew it would be sunsets over a field and possibly sunsets over a subdivision, but I never thought it would be sunsets over a raw sewage treatment plant,” Maureen said.

The Pinta’s were among dozens on hand Feb. 7 at the American Legion Post 1977 gathering to mobilize and synchronize residents’ resistance to the Village’s proposed plans to build a regional wastewater treatment plant outside the Royal Meadows subdivision.

Off Delaney Road, there is a land sale pending over the approximate 80 acres in talks to house the industrial-use project. The land in question is currently being farmed and zoned for agriculture.

In a related development, the New Village Board of Trustees took action at its Jan. 22 regular meeting to approve a $1.9 million land agreement and a $1,500 proposal for site assessment. The latter is meant to help the Village in determining how feasible it would be to construct a regional wastewater treatment plant on site.

The project, if it advances, is estimated to cost $60 million and take four years to complete the preliminary engineering and build out. Under this plan, New Lenox intends to convert the wastewater treatment plants located off Route 30 and Jackson Branch into pumping stations.

Residents came together after learning about the project through flyers, lawn signs, media reports and word of mouth. No formal communication from the Village notified anyone of plans for the wastewater treatment plant, since no one lives within 150 feet of the site in question with its proposed buffering.

What’s more is none of the trustees reside in the Royal Meadows subdivision.

Several residents expressed opposition to the project and referenced concerns for light, noise, smells and property devaluation.

“My biggest beef is that it’s an industrial plant placed in an inappropriate place,” said Rick Shafer, a resident of the Royal Meadows subdivision. “It’s inappropriate planning.”

Shafer recently met with the Mayor Tim Baldermann and several other residents to talk about the proposed wastewater treatment plant.

“We were outside, and Baldermann was speaking to us,” he recalled. “It was freezing cold. He was selling the idea. … He didn’t come to hear us. It was a soft sell.”

The Village’s current wastewater treatment plants are at capacity at 3.3 million gallons. A new facility would be operational up to 5.5 million gallons.

Baldermann said even if they could expand wastewater treatment plant No. 2, which has nearby land owned by New Lenox, there isn’t enough space to convert it into a regional facility.

Maureen did not dispute the fact that New Lenox is in need of a new regional sewage treatment plant.

“If it’s better for the town, that’s fine,” she said.

The problem, Maureen said, is the Village isn’t taking into consideration all of the residents and has forgotten about those on the south side.

“Putting a raw sewage processing plant in our neighborhood is our worst nightmare,” she said.

In referencing why he and his wife moved to New Lenox to begin with, Darrell said this is not a welcomed change.

“We moved from Lemont to New Lenox to take advantage of the cleaner air because my wife has [health concerns,]” he said.

Baldermann said there will be a more detailed meeting held at a later date, at which point residents will hear from engineers regarding the project.

The Village continues to look at alternative sites, even as a sale is pending for the 80 acres of land off Delaney Road.

Six to seven sites have been researched, to date.

“I understand why people have questions and concerns, which is the case always when something like this pops up,” Baldermann said. “You have people putting out false information to stir the pot.”

Baldermann dispelled the idea that the project is a done deal and said the Village has not yet decided how the proposed facility would be designed.

The site of the plant would include the buffering and acreage needed to prevent it from entering the view of the neighboring residents.

Some of those in attendance for the meeting did not want to come off as attacking the mayor, but they called into question his leadership ability, as well as the Village’s planning and transparency efforts.

“We do so much strategic planning,” Baldermann said of the criticism. “We talk at length. Everything is talked about at public meetings.”

While many of those on hand for the meeting reside in the Royal Meadows subdivision, others shared opposition to the project, as well.

Consider Elizabeth Morris, a resident of the Water Chase subdivision, who was motivated to come out to the meeting.

“I just put an indoor pool in my house,” she said of her decision to settle in New Lenox, which she is now concerned for. “I’ve had my house six years now.”

Residents at the meeting came to a consensus that they need to circulate a petition, make their concerns known to the trustees and attend the next meeting of the Village Board.

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