CHICAGO – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has filed a
lawsuit against a suburban recycling company following a tire fire the
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency claims jeopardized air and
Madigan filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court
against GMI Recycling Services, Inc. following a tire fire at its 10-acre Ford
Heights-based facility at 1705 Cottage Grove Ave. The complaint alleges that
nearly half of the roughly 7,800 tons of shredded tires at the Ford Heights
facility ignited on May 24, starting a fire that could reportedly be seen from
“The tires are not still burning, and we do not believe
there is a risk of a flare-up for the fire,” Madigan spokeswoman Annie
Thompson told the Cook County Record.
According to Madigan’s complaint, officials from the IEPA
responding to the fire detected odors indicating the presence of volatile
organic compounds. When burned, shredded tires release oils including
benzene, toluene and metals, which can mix with water runoff from firefighting
activities and rainfall, Madigan’s office said in a news release.
“We sought and were granted an interim order to address any
immediate environmental threats while the case continues,” Thompson said.
Madigan’s office said the court’s order requires GMI to
secure the facility, notify the IEPA in the event there are any more flare-ups
and immediately contain any additional flare-ups. GMI must also take steps to
prevent potentially contaminated runoff in a retaining pond from spreading to
nearby waters. According to Madigan’s complaint, a culvert on the east side of
the Ford Heights facility discharges into Deer Creek and eventually flows into
the Little Calumet River.
“This tire fire caused a significant threat to the
environment and public health, and just as importantly, expended valuable
resources of multiple fire departments, federal, state and local government
agencies to respond to this emergency,” IEPA director Lisa Bonnett said in a
statement. “The steps taken through this order will ensure prompt notification
and required actions to limit environmental and public health impacts to the
The GMI facility is in a residential area near
schools and businesses. The attorney general’s release said tire fire emissions
include pollutants such as carbon monoxide, chemicals and metals that pose
health hazards. Madigan’s lawsuit seeks to prevent future contamination and to
obtain appropriate civil penalties.
“ We sought and were granted a legally enforceable court order
that GMI must comply with,” Thompson said. “Our case is ongoing.”
The agreed interim order gives Madigan and her employees and
representatives and the IEPA, and its employees and representatives, the right to
enter the GMI Ford Heights facility “at all reasonable times” to conduct
inspections and check on the status of the company’s compliance with the order.
The interim order requires GMI to pay a penalty of $300 per
day, per violation, if inspections reveal any
non-compliance with the terms of the interim order. The penalties would be
assessed until GMI returns to compliance.
Madigan’s complaint seeks payment of a $50,000 per violation
civil penalty in connection with the actual fire, with an additional $10,000
penalty for each day the fire-related violation continued. Civil
penalties are set by statute.
As part of the interim order, the court scheduled a July status
Representatives from the IEPA did not return requests for comments.