Illinois Attorney General files suit against GMI Recycling Services

Suit filed following a tire fire at recycling yard in late May.

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against GMI Recycling Services Inc., based in Ford Heights, Illinois, following a fire at the recycling company’s facility on May 24, 2016, which burned several thousand scrap tires stored at the site. The Attorney General’s lawsuit noted that the fire, which could be seen miles away, jeopardized air and water quality.

According to Madigan’s complaint, officials from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) responding to the fire detected odors indicating the presence of volatile organic compounds. When burned, shredded tires also release oils such as benzene, toluene and metals, which can mix with water runoff from firefighting activities and rainfall.

Along with filing the lawsuit, Madigan’s office obtained an agreed interim order that addresses the immediate environmental concerns while the litigation continues. 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.

“This order will ensure that the company secures the site to protect residents from potential contamination caused by the fire,” Madigan says.

“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,” says Illinois EPA Director Lisa Bonnett. “The steps taken through this order will ensure prompt notification and required actions to limit environmental and public health impacts to the surrounding community.”

Madigan’s lawsuit seeks to prevent future contamination and to obtain appropriate civil penalties. Tire fire emissions include pollutants such as carbon monoxide, chemicals and metals that pose health hazards.