The City of Evanston, Illinois is a diverse northern suburb of Chicago along Lake Michigan with a population of approximately 75,000 residents. As a community, Evanston faces many challenges relating to natural resource use and hazards particularly as the instances of extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions accelerate. A particularly longstanding issue that faces the community relates to the Environmental Justice impacts of a waste transfer station located in a middle-lower income neighborhood on the western side of the City and within steps of residential homes, community centers and the local high school. The facility’s operation has resulted in decades of complaints and health and environmental concerns from neighboring residents who historically have been predominately African-American. Primary concerns have been odor, air quality, lack of transparency about waste moving through the facility, noise, traffic congestion and impact on infrastructure, runoff/discharge and rodent control.
In early 2016, the City settled a lawsuit with the facility operator which resulted in the Evanston receiving $1.26 million in cash funds but allows the facility to continue operation under a modified host agreement. The City and neighboring residents are now in the process of determining how to allocate those funds to effectively monitor, evaluate and mitigate the negative impacts of the waste transfer station on the surrounding neighborhood.
Unfortunately, Evanston lacks the experience or technical understanding to best determine exactly how to allocate funds. The community has expressed its hesitancy to fund a large environmental impact study by consultants given the City’s funding allocation limitations. Given these factors the City is looking for technical assistance and partnership opportunities to address the primary obstacles of limited funding allocation, lack of staff experts in the field and staff time.
Kumar Jensen, Environmental Project Coordinator, serves as one half of the City of Evanston’s Office of Sustainability. His work revolves around a few primary projects including habitat restoration, forestry education, solid waste contracting, waste reduction, broad community engagement implementing the City’s energy and water benchmarking ordinance. Kumar has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Earlham College, Richmond, IN and recently achieved ISSP-SA certification.
Dr. Gajan (Gaj) Sivandran is Clinical Assistant Professor in Engineering Science at Loyola University Chicago. Gaj has been engaged with community science work through Engineers without Borders (EWB) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He has a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and both Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental) and a Bachelor of Commerce (Corporate Finance and Accounting) from the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (1998-2003).
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