Judge throws out Pliura suit over Clinton landfill plans

Judge throws out Pliura suit over Clinton landfill plans

CLINTON — A judge this week dismissed a lawsuit in DeWitt County against a proposed chemical waste landfill, but the LeRoy physician and lawyer who filed the action said his fight is not over.

Moultrie County Judge Dan Flannel ultimately ruled that Tom Pliura, who lost a bid last month for the Republican nomination in the state's 51st senate district, had no standing as an individual to bring the lawsuit against Clinton Landfill. Pliura says he has not yet made a decision whether to appeal the ruling, but promises to continue his battle against a proposed disposal site for polychlorinated biphenyl materials.

"I continue to think this is a crazy idea, a stupid idea to proceed with, knowingly putting a toxic waste landfill directly over the Mahomet Aquifer," Pliura said on Thursday.

Landfill officials are awaiting approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was also named as a defendant in Pliura's lawsuit, to begin burying PCBs at a site in Clinton above the natural underground reservoir from which an estimated 750,000 central Illinois residents draw their drinking water.

In his lawsuit, Pliura alleged that agreements between landfill officials and the DeWitt County Board were made in private, and therefore in violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Brian Meginnes, an attorney for Clinton Landfill, said that the judge's ruling supports the company's position that everything has been done in the open. In a public session, the county board eventually approved a resolution stating that "the county supports and approves the permitting, development, construction and operation of the chemical waste landfill by Clinton Landfill, Inc."

"There was nothing done in secret," Meginnes said. "That was approved before (the federal permit application) was filed."

Pliura also alleged that landfill officials made sworn testimony to the county board in 2002, effectively saying they would not seek the federal permit to bury PCBs. Meginnes refuted that claim, too.

"Clinton Landfill made full disclosure to the DeWitt County Board before they applied for that application," Meginnes said. Landfill officials sought the federal permit only after the board's resolution supporting the chemical waste unit, he said.

Pliura said the lawsuit was not a loss. Officials initially anticipated that the EPA would have approved the permit last year, but in March, the agency determined further study of the way the water interacts with the ground is necessary before it gives approval.

"We've bought some time," Pliura said. "I continue to oppose it, and now the U.S. EPA is looking at it."

In the past few months, seven government agencies in central Illinois formed a consortium to consider how to protect the aquifer and potential legal action against the landfill.

"There's a heck of a lot more attention on this," Pliura said.

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