Walworth County Board committee wants more information on potential shingle recycling company

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Andrea Anderson
Friday, June 20, 2014

ELKHORN—Traffic. Noise and air pollution. Health. Water.

These were some of the numerous concerns town of Lafayette and Elkhorn residents voiced at the Walworth County Zoning Agency committee meeting Thursday night about an Illinois company wanting to move in and recycle shingles into asphalt.

“It's not that any of us are against recycling, we think recycling is a great thing,” said Cheryl Hansen of Lafayette. “But this kind of recycling belongs in an industrial park where it can be monitored, where testing of the air and water can be done and not in the middle of a farm field.”

Reliable Materials Corporation of Illinois, a property holding company, wants to purchase the property at W4186 Potter Road, town of Lafayette. Then have Southwind RAS of Illinois run its asphalt shingle recycling business on the approximate 50-acre lot.

Southwind RAS has about 20 locations in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. It's seeking a conditional use permit that would allow it to store shingles for up to 18 months. It would take such materials as asphalt and shingles, offsite and process up to 10,000 tons of shingles per year.

It would have a 15 year sunset and need to  be renewed every five years.

“We are not asking for something new, we're asking for something less,” said Brian Lansu, president of Reliable Materials Corporation of Illinois and attorney for Southwind RAS.

B.R. Amon & Sons used to operate a gravel pit and asphalt plant on the land.

The 90-year-old company went into receivership in April 2013, according to Gazette archives.

Southwind RAS would not take the shingles, grind them and dump the material into an asphalt plant as Amon did, Lansu said. Instead, it would ground the shingles into asphalt, then sell it locally and in Illinois to serve an expanding market.

After about two hours of hearing the public and Southwind RAS representatives speak, the committee voted unanimously to table the discussion to gather more information.

Lafayette's town board and plan commission approved the conditional use permit in May.

Hansen is one of several leaders whose circulated petitions against the move. The petitions have more than 200 signatures, said Lisle Blackbourn of Lafayette.

Blackbourn is concerned about the environmental effects on water, safety for his children and on the roads, and liability issues. He would rather a company come in, take away an existing pile of shingles left behind by Amon, then restore the area to farmland.

“Everybody that's here has had enough,” Blackbourn told the committee. "We need your help to come in and hit a home run for us because we're only down by a run.”

Greg Wilcox, a consultant with Winston Engineering, which was hired by Southwind RAS to address environmental issues, told the packed room that several studies in the past decades found that grinding shingles into asphalt does not lead to groundwater issues or release dangerous chemicals.

The Department of Natural Resources approved the company's permits on April 3. The permit was to continue Amon's shingle recycling operation, said Ken Hein, a DNR waste management specialist.

The DNR limited the company to no more than 10,000 tons of shingles on site at one time, Lansu said. Amon was allowed no more than 40,000 tons on site, according to Walworth County Today. 

“The scale of the project is no larger than what has been operating out there for the last several years,” Hein said.

Recycling shingles into asphalt has been a practice at this location since 2007, Hein said.

“This is a very useful recycling of shingles into asphalt,” Hein said.  “It saves significant quantities of petroleum asphalt by using these shingles.

Merilee Holsi supports the Illinois-based company.

“These shingles should not be left in this pit,” Holsi said. “Unless a better, environmentally-responsible manner can be researched and identified,” this is a viable option.

In the next month, the committee will be provided with a side-by-side comparison of the existing conditional use permit and the proposed permit, and possibly visiting the site.

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