Murdock Mine neighbors: 'It smells like something died'


Murdock Mine neighbors: 'It smells like something died'

RURAL MURDOCK — Zala Swigart believes the private company that took over the reclamation of the idled Murdock Mine in northeast Douglas County is not doing all it could to ensure the safety of area residents.

"I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would think this is OK," she said.

Swigart was one of two residents who took part in a press conference held by the Prairie Rivers Network announcing the Illinois attorney general's office has filed a complaint with the Illinois Pollution Control Board alleging that Alpena Vision Resources has polluted the air and a stream near the site because of improper disposal of waste from various places in Illinois, including Champaign-Urbana, Decatur and Danville. The complaint alleges that Alpena has not handled the waste in a manner that complies with its permits, causing water and air pollution. The complaint calls for revocation of the company's permits and fines.

The details of those complaints were published in Wednesday's News-Gazette.

Swigart, who lives downwind of the mine, said that the odor from the disposed waste is "terrible."

"It smells like something has died," she said. "It takes my breath away."

Swigart said she contacted the Illinois EPA to report the odor and calls them any time she smells the odor.

She has also witnessed coal ash visible in the air.

Officials with Alpena have not returned phone calls to The News-Gazette for comment.

Alpena has been accepting approved types of waste, including lime sludge from the Decatur and Danville water-treatment plants; sludge from the Urbana Champaign Sanitary District; and gypsum, a lactic acid by-product, from Archer Daniels Midland Co. in Decatur, among other types of waste from other places in Illinois.

"I watched them bring load after load in on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," Swigart said. "I prayed that they would stop."

She said she refuses to drink her own water because she is afraid of pollutants from the waste making its way into her well. Swigart said it is also difficult for her to leave her windows open or even go outside her home because of the odor.

"I just want to be able to go outside with my nieces and nephews," she said.

Jeri Luth, who farms with her husband, Michael Luth, directly to the south of the mine, also spoke at the press conference.

"What is frustrating is the stuff being dumped in this mine isn't even from our community," she said. "It is shipped here from communities who don't want to deal with it."

Luth said the smell is very strong from the mine and the area around her home often smells like human waste.

"It's here and it's not going anywhere," she said. "We are stuck with the long-term consequences."

Traci Barkley, from the Prairie Rivers Network, said the group is advocating for the residents and was trying to pressure state agencies to enforce the regulations.

Barkley said the former mine was more like a landfill and as such, should adhere to the pollution controls that are required of landfills.

Barkley said she felt the Department of Natural Resources, which deals with mine permitting, was not capable of making decisions about landfilling.

"We know that landfill regulations are in place to protect residents," she said. "Skirting those regulations is really unfair."

There will be community meeting at 2 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Murdock Community Center to discuss the alleged pollution issues with the Murdock Mine.

Rep. Chapin Rose is scheduled to attend.


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LocalTownie wrote on October 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

It's about time something was done about that mess. It's despicable that cities are dumping their waste out there. I never understood how that could be legal. Feel bad for the people who live nearby, smelling that every time a new load is brought out and having to worry about the water that their families are drinking because toxic waste is seeping into the ground. Disgusting. I'm even more disgusted by the fact that these cities are even doing this at all. Shame on you Danville, Champaign, Urbana, and Decatur!

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Think about the Mahomet aquifer, and the Homer coal mine.  Think about the environmental issues.  Think about the regulatory issues.  I have been a critic of Chapin Rose in the past, and will remain so on some issues.  But; Thank You, Chapin Rose, for your stand on this issue, and the Mahomet aquifer issue.

natebaux wrote on October 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I never understood how that could be legal.


dig deep, that mine goes waaay down. look at the permit they hold, who issued it, and the money that pushed it through. since mr stinks like a rose, is seeking a senate seat, take those cameras to his office and invite him to come camp out and enjoy the stench of his hard work. block his door, refuse to leave. you went this far, take it all the way. then you can see firsthand how much your opinion matters to him. this dosent involve grandstanding over the meth issue, or making residents show id to purchase off the shelf products, so i really doubt he is going to be much help.

natebaux wrote on October 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

"I prayed that they would stop."

and how did that work out for you?

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Give the woman credit.  She stood up, and would not let it go.  She has got it this far.  It is a start.  Now; others have become aware, and involved.  Rather than mock her; I respect her.

asparagus wrote on October 13, 2012 at 10:10 am

The waste has to go somewhere.  That being said, let's not jump to conclusions about rampant disregard for safety and the environment.  The local cheese factory has made a horrible stench many times in the past.  It didn't mean they were poisoning people, and it seems to have been largely fixed.  Let's get the area/processes/materials analyzed and then make some reasonable adjustments to address the issues.  The creators of the waste and the the disposal company should bear the costs associated with monitoring and any further actions.

LocalTownie wrote on October 15, 2012 at 7:10 am

You really think that dumping raw sewage waste into an abandoned mine might NOT be hazardous to the health of people who live nearby?? This isn't just about the smell. There are farms all around that mine, not only is the waste leaching into the ground and potentially the water source, could quite possibly be contaminating the crops growing there too.

I do agree though, testing must be done ASAP and be paid for by the company being paid to dump there.

serf wrote on October 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Raw sewage?  You sure about that?

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm

It is not raw sewage.  It is sludge.  Nasty sounding name isn't it.  "Sludge is the residue, semi-solid material left from industrial wastewater, or sewage treatment process.  Sludge will become putrescent in a short time once anaerobic bacteria takes over, and must be removed from the sedimentation tanks before this happens."  The listed municipalities, and the industrial company contracted with a waste disposal company.  New York sludge has been shipped as far as to small communities in Texas.  In this case; it was local, less than 60 miles.  Whether the municipalities, and industrial company knew the destination, and disposal method is unknown from the article.  The Attorney General is involved now.  The disposal company is the one being investigated.  Sludge has to be dumped into storage, used for fertilizer, or burnt.  None of the methods are preferred by those living around the disposal area.  Imagine the outcry if the Champaign-Urbana Waste Treatment Plant burnt it at their own facility, buried it, or gave it to local farmers for fertilizer.  It would affect sales at the Farmers Market.  It was easier to "see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil"; and, perhaps, smell no evil.  It has to go somewhere; but no one wants it where they live. 

asparagus wrote on October 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Sid, I agree.

You and I see eye to eye on many things.

Maybe we are not oppositional ideologues, but rather, warriors after a common cause, with different backgrounds.


The vegetable called Asparagus.



Sid Saltfork wrote on October 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Asparagus;  We do see eye to eye on many things.  Waste disposal is one of them.  No one wants it in their neighborhood; but everyone has it.  Everyone wants it hauled to some isolated, rural area; out of sight, out of mind.  A technological advancement in the disposal of it should be a higher priority than high speed trains.  

I look forward to agreeing with you more......   on some things.

Have a good week. 

LocalTownie wrote on October 16, 2012 at 8:10 am

Maybe before you pick apart my post you should read it a little better - I said raw sewage WASTE, which is exactly what is being dumped out there. Call it sludge, call it waste, same darn thing.

Perhaps this stuff could be buried in your backyard, lets see how you like it.

serf wrote on October 16, 2012 at 6:10 pm


Sid Saltfork wrote on October 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

LocalTownie;  The sludge came from your community.  Your community contracted with a waste disposal company to have it removed from your community.  What do you propose to do with your sludge?