© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Plan to haul Chicago garbage by barge to Central Illinois port shelved

A drone photo of the Port of Henry project taking shape. The Henry Bridge is about 2 miles downstream from the port.
Courtesy Ozinga Materials
A drone photo of the Port of Henry project taking shape. The Henry Bridge is about 2 miles downstream from the port.

A proposal for a first-of-its-kind program to haul trash by barge from Chicago to rural Henry is dead in the water, at least for now.

According to reporting from NPR affiliate WBEZ, an Environmental Protection Agency investigation into the potential for the program to stir up contamination in a side waterway prompted Rosemont-based garbage hauling company LRS to shelve the plan.

“My initial reaction to this project being put on hold is strong disappointment,” said Henry Mayor Jeff Bergfeld. “Mainly because of the economic impact that it would have on the city of Henry and the potential that we were looking at this as being one of the keystones to the development of the port of Henry.”

The plan would have sent hundreds of truckloads of trash down the Illinois River daily, where it would be loaded on trucks at Henry’s port and driven a much shorter distance to nearby landfills. Advocates said the program would save money and slash diesel emissions.

“The other thing that’s key about this is that the bailed and wrapped garbage on a barge, it’d be truly unique, very first time done in the United States,” Bergfeld said. “And that would have been a key marketing opportunity to put the port of Henry on the map.”

Bergfeld says the port of Henry’s developmentis part of an effort to replace the aging industrial plants, chemical and fertilizer, that power the Marshall County town’s economy. The port development is a partnership with the company Ozinga Materials.

The town was the first to build a lock and dam system on the Illinois River in 1870 and the development of the port coincides with a statewide effort to increase utilization of Illinois waterways.

“It’s not like these jobs are going away,” Bergfeld said. “These were anticipated jobs and also anticipated infrastructure that we would build to support [the trash hauling program]. It’s kind of like the old saying, you know, ‘if you build it, they will come?’ This would have been that first keystone for the implementation.”

Bergfeld says the city hadn’t expended a lot of resources into the garbage barge program specifically, only applying for a grant to build a seawall to accommodate the barge traffic. Though Bergfeld is disappointed, the plan was far from the only intended use for the port.

“We have hired a consultant to work with the city and the city’s port committee, which is made up of volunteers,” he said. “And we are moving ahead with a master plan that’s going to help us anticipate, you know, different land uses and infrastructure needs and what markets and what kind of commodities are best suited for this river port.”

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.