Tire Gastrification Plant Eyes Stephenson County

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A plan to build a tire gastrification plant in rock city is fueling controversy across Stephenson County.

Rebecca Levi can see the Berner Cheese plant from her yard, the proposed site for a tire burning plant in rock city. A project that has Levi and other residents fired up.

"It distresses me greatly that when I go to my county board they refer me to a for-profit company that will make money from this project, and refer me to their Web site and public relations company," said Rebecca Levi, Rock City resident.

Levi says there are also health concerns, and questions about the impacts on a small agricultural community.

It's a complicated issue, but basically here's how the plant will work. Tire chips will be melted down into petroleum, which will be used to burn whey, a byproduct from making cheese.

"This basically allows for a cost-effective way to take care of two things that are potential problems. Not environmental hazards, but environmental headaches," said Bob Skurla, Executive Director Freeport Area Economic Development.

Skurla says the system is a prototype of sorts but the technology is proven and safe.

"It's going to be a very safe use to put out in the country side and will probably produce no more effluence than half a dozen tractors operating in the farms in the immediate area," said Skurla.

County leaders are excited about the economic opportunities. They say the plant will boost tax coffers and employ about forty people. But there are environmental concerns. They say after American EcoEnergy secures funding for the project, they'll hold a public hearing.

The tire gastrification plant could employ up to 40 people and company officials say independent emissions tests will be conducted next week.

Concerned citizens are meeting to address the issue Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Rock City. Call Rebecca Levi at 865-5668 for more information.