In 2018, the Illinois attorney general sued a former plastic bag company, arguing it should be liable for up to $250,000 in fines because it moved equipment into the old Haeger Pottery building in East Dundee without a permit and discharged chemicals for months on end that residents complained smelled like baby powder.
Last week, the government settled the lawsuit against now-defunct Golden Plastics for a $5,000 fine, a move East Dundee Village President Lael Miller called an "insult" to residents.
Miller said he has great respect for the state's EPA and the attorney general's office, but disagreed with the settlement, which was accepted by Kane County Judge Kevin Busch.
"I know from speaking to officials from both offices that they considered this a serious violation with flagrant disregard for any regulatory compliance," Miller wrote in an email.
"This caused fear and suffering from our residents until the village shut down the business for code violations. Levying a fine of $5,000, which is far less than the cost of installing the required filtering equipment sends a message that it's cheaper to pay the fine than comply with clean air regulations," Miller continued. "Corporate profit should never come at the cost of public health and safety. I would have hoped that businesses such as this would be used to set an example to deter future violators and the penalty should reflect that. $5,000 is not a deterrent to a business that clearly defies the rules, and it's an insult to our residents."
A spokeswoman from the office of Attorney General Kwame Raoul said the settlement was based, in part, on the defendant's ability to pay.
"The Attorney General's office is committed to holding companies accountable for violating Illinois' environmental laws, whether through a civil penalty or injunctive relief that requires them to stop violating the law, and we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of residents," the spokeswoman wrote. "When negotiating civil penalties, the Attorney General's office takes into account various factors, including whether a company is still operating and its ability to pay. Our understanding is that Golden Plastics is no longer operating."
The suit, filed last year in Kane County court, sought up to $250,000 in fines for five violations, including allegations Golden Plastics and its manager moved several pieces of equipment from its former location at 290 Illinois St. to the old Haeger Pottery building at 7 Maiden Lane.
From February 2017 through August 2017, residents living near the Haeger building complained about a "floral-like, baby powder, fabric-softener type odor" that caused people to experience nausea and migraines, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also named Eugene Staples, the sole manager at Maiden Industrial, which is the new owner of the former Haegar building, as a defendant. Repeated messages left in June with William Ryan, an attorney for Staples, were not returned.
Residents on Van Buren and Johnson streets, Fallbrook Drive, Hillside Lane and Williams Place lodged complaints in 2017. The lawsuit also sought fines of $10,000 a day for ongoing violations at the plant. Golden Plastics, according to its website, ceased operations Dec. 31, 2017.