Soil Solutions told to clean up and move out of Elkhart - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Soil Solutions told to clean up and move out of Elkhart

A federal judge has approved a settlement in an Elkhart county neighborhood's long-time battle against a wood recycling facility.  You may recall a large explosion and fire at what was then the VIM plant back in 2007.  One worker was killed.  For years before that and ever since, neighbors have been complaining about fumes, health problems and thick dust everywhere.   The judge says the Soil Solutions, the company that bought the plant in 2011, has five years to clean up and move out.

"Win one, a big one, for our neighborhood."  Wayne Stutsman bought his home near U.S. 33 in Elkhart County back in 1971.  But since the year 2000, he says he's been fighting for a quality of life he lost when a recycling plant moved in.  
"We had dust, even here recently, like it was snowing."

He and his neighbors have been documenting everything for 14 years.  Three hundred pieces of video and  13,000 still photos like this one:  a dog dish not long after someone put the fresh water out.  He was in the courtroom Monday and was overjoyed to hear the judge's approval of a settlement that says the recycler, Soil Solutions, has to clean up the site and close down in five years.  

He says, for years, the neighborhood has been presenting their evidence to Elkhart County officials, as well as IDEM and the EPA.  He says all of them failed them.   And he adds, 
this settlement would not have happened if he Hoosier Environmental Council hadn't provided them with years of free legal help.

Kim Ferraro, an attorney with the Hoosier Environmental Council says, "Communities that have money to spend and have access to attorneys, can resist colluding activities like this in their affluent neighborhoods.  And so, these types of businesses often wind up in poor communities and poor people can't afford to fight back. It's our mission to provide them representation."

A spokesperson for Soil Solutions told Fox 28 it's not a win/ lose situation. He thinks the settlement is good for everybody. And he says they would've rather stayed, but the litigation costs were too high.  The spokesperson also says they were operating in 100 percent compliance.

Stutsman says he's not upset the company will have another 5 years because there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  
"It's a blessing to be able to see that and know that we're gonna be able to get our home back and our lives back."

Order to file for class action approval "
Preliminary approval order
Notice of class action settlement (approved)
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