Neighbors Sue to Close Indiana Recycling Plan Over Stench

January 29, 2009

Residents living near a recycling facility in Elkhart, Illinois have filed a lawsuit alleging that dust from the plant has led many of them to seek treatment for asthma, nosebleeds and breathing difficulties.

About 100 people who live near the VIM Recycling Inc. plant filed suit in Elkhart Circuit Court with the help of the public interest law firm Legal Environmental Aid Foundation.

The suit alleges that the plant failed to properly dispose of 18,000 tons of wood chips that contain formaldehyde, a preservative used in construction materials that can cause breathing problems. It also is believed to cause cancer.

“The horrible stench from VIM wakes my husband and I up in the middle of the night,” said Annette Freel, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The stench enters our home through the venting, fireplace, dryer vents and anywhere it can enter. We both have trouble breathing because of this.”

The lawsuit ultimately seeks to shut the facility down, said Kim Ferraro, a Valparaiso attorney representing the group.

Tom Holt, a spokesman for VIM, said state health officials surveyed the area in December 2007 and did not find higher instances of asthma, nosebleeds or other health conditions.

“I see (the lawsuit) as an unnecessary step that doesn’t truly benefit the neighbors, the county, the state or VIM in resolving the issues that exist,” Holt said.

In 2007, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined VIM $10,000 for safety violations following an explosion at the plant that killed one worker and seriously hurt another.

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