MAT Asphalt co-owner Michael Tadin Jr., center, discusses plant operations with members of Neighbors for Environmental Justice during the tour on Saturday, September 21.

Neighbors, Environmental Group Tour Asphalt Plant

Published October 12, 2019

MAT Asphalt opened its doors to the public on Saturday, September 21, for tours of the facility and questions and answers about plant operations with business executives, including plant co-owner Michael Tadin Jr. and General Manager Joe Haughey. The event attracted local residents and members of McKinley Park-based Neighbors for Environmental Justice, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of the asphalt plant.

Tadin said the tour is part of MAT Asphalt's outreach to "set the record straight" on how they operate. “Based on the questions that I fielded and other remarks on Saturday, it was clear that some people are still operating under inaccuracies and other misinformation,” he said.

The tour covered the MAT Asphalt facility, including the outdoor yard where aggregate and other materials are stored; the hoppers, chutes, screens, conveyors and mixer used to push material through the production process; the asphalt storage silos and truck load-out area; the baghouse used to capture plant emissions; and the control booth from which the highly automated process is managed. The business was open and active during the tour, with trucks entering and leaving with loads of asphalt.

Neighbors for Environmental Justice was critical of the tour on the group's Twitter feed, stating that they saw dust blowing beyond the property line and smelled asphalt. "This facility does not belong in this location," the post said.

MAT Asphalt Tour 20190921 Joe Haughey Bill DrewMAT Asphalt General Manager Joe Haughey shows off the plant control room to McKinley Park resident and Neighbors for Environmental Justice member Bill Drew, left.During the tour, Haughey pointed out measures that MAT Asphalt takes to mitigate blown dust, including shelters that cover finer material; extra shields and sealing on chutes and transfer points for production and loadout; paving of the property; and regular soakings of the grounds via a water truck. All of these measures exceed regulatory requirements, he said. Haughey also noted that all aggregate is washed of dust via soaking in a quarry prior to storage in the MAT Asphalt yard.

“We were standing in a 16 mile-per-hour wind from the southwest, right in our face, and barely any particulate could be seen in the air,” Haughey said. “It was such a strong demonstration of what we have told community members from the start of operations here.”

The MAT Asphalt plant opened for business in July 2018 in Chicago's Planned Manufacturing District No. 8, an area designated for heavy industry about a city block south of the intersection of South Damen Avenue and West Pershing Road, where the plant's main gate provides access. It operates Mondays through Saturdays from about 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during asphalt season: the middle of April until early December. MAT Asphalt was developed through a partnership between Buildsmore LLC, owned by Tony Sanchez, McKinley Park LLC, owned by Charles and Dan Gallagher, and MAT Asphalt LLC, owned by Michael Tadin Jr.

In 2018, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) granted MAT Asphalt a one-year operating permit that is still active while the IEPA makes a determination on whether to issue a five-year operating permit.

Neighborhood Protest and Monitoring

The founding of Neighbors for Environmental Justice dovetailed off the opening of the asphalt plant, which remains a main focus of the group, said President Robert Beedle. The 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, founded and centered in the McKinley Park neighborhood, has opposed MAT Asphalt through demonstrations, advocacy with elected officials, investigatory oversight of the IEPA and encouraging residents to report issues with the plant.

The Neighbors for Environmental Justice website listed a single instance of a verified asphalt smell complaint by a City of Chicago inspector, who noted a smell at South Winchester Avenue and West 38th Street on July 27, 2019. She then traced this back to the truck load-in point at MAT Asphalt.

Another website post listed an instance of nearby dumping of construction debris, however, MAT Asphalt had zero involvement, Tadin said. "The incident did not occur on our property and had no affiliation to MAT Asphalt ownership or operations," he said.

A growing network of PurpleAir air quality monitoring sensors is another initiative of Neighbors for Environmental Justice, as well as analysis and regular reporting on air quality data. The network includes air sensors throughout the area, including a monitor adjacent to the asphalt plant property.

Tadin pointed to the many examples of "Good" quality readings from nearby PurpleAir monitors at times when the plant was in full operation. Literature provided by MAT Asphalt stated that annual plant emissions were lower than those of a commercial bakery operating for two weeks, or one year's worth of emissions from the average use of 13 residential fireplaces.

In addition to Neighbors for Environmental Justice, another local group called Residents for a Safer & Healthier Community has formed in the McKinley Park neighborhood to oppose MAT Asphalt. Although some members participate in each other's activities, Beedle said there is no formal affiliation between the two groups.

Bad Reports

Both Tadin and Haughey spoke of multiple instances when complaints about asphalt smell and problems were made to the IEPA, but no operations were taking place at  the plant. 

On its Twitter feed, Neighbors for Environmental Justice shared email communications between IEPA staffers stating "They have complained on days where there was no production." The email messages, released through the Freedom of Information Act, spoke in a May 14, 2019, email of an instance when complainants "are just doing it for fun."

MAT Asphalt Tour 20190921 Joe Haughey Neighbors for Environmental Justice membersPlant manager Joe Haughey, second from right, answers questions about asphalt production at the MAT Asphalt site tour on Saturday, September 21.

“We regret that some people in the community have resorted to making false claims about our operations, going so far as to report bogus odor complaints about our facility when we were not even operating," Tadin said. "Despite these unfortunate matters, we remain committed to being open and responsive to the community."

Haughey said that anyone with questions about MAT Asphalt or who would like to schedule another tour can get in touch by sending email to jhaughey@matasphalt.com. or visiting the MAT Asphalt website at www.matasphalt.com.

Ed. Note: MAT Asphalt is in the Sponsorship Program of the McKinley Park News, which ensconces the independence of reporting, editorial decision-making and news content from Sponsor interests as stated in our Editorial Standards and Policies and Sponsorship Agreement.


Log In to comment on this item.