Senators oppose PCB permit for Clinton landfill

CLINTON — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin on Thursday said there are safer options for the disposal of toxic waste than in Clinton Landfill, and he has asked the EPA to consider the potential consequences of dumping harmful chemicals above the Mahomet Aquifer.

The Illinois Democrat was joined in Clinton by area elected officials, where landfill representatives are awaiting approval of a federal permit to begin storing polychlorinated biphenyl waste in a cell directly above the source of drinking water for roughly 750,000 central Illinois residents.

The letter to EPA regional administrator Susan Hedman is signed both by Durbin and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who was not at the event while he continues to recover from a stroke he suffered in January. Durbin said he has been in contact with Kirk and his staff, and his counterpart is worried about the landfill, too.

"Dumping toxic chemicals like PCBs in a landfill directly above an aquifer is a dangerous thing to do," Durbin said. "We're hoping the U.S. EPA reaches the same conclusion."

The Environmental Protection Agency calls PCBs a known-carcinogen, and officials' concern is that the chemicals might break free from the landfill and make their way down to the massive underground reservoir.

"We know what one leak into this aquifer might mean, the danger it could present to the people who depend on this aquifer," Durbin said.

Landfill officials have persistently said the unit they have designed to hold the waste meets or exceeds all federal regulations and will be safe for centuries to come.

Chris Coulter, vice president of the landfill's parent company Area Disposal Service, said last year that storing PCBs in Clinton could actually be beneficial to the environment. He said there are 38.6 million cubic yards of the chemicals on the loose and contaminating the Great Lakes region alone, and storing them in a closed landfill would keep them contained.

Messages left for Coulter and an attorney who represents Area Disposal Service were not returned on Thursday afternoon, but Coulter has said the chemicals are better off in the landfill than sitting at the bottom of lakes and rivers.

"That's a false choice," Durbin said. "We want it out of the Great Lakes, whether it's Waukegan Harbor or whatever. But let's not take it from one dangerous situation and put it in another dangerous situation. Let's move it to the safest possible disposal, and above an aquifer would not be on that list."

Some elected officials have taken the position that burying the waste is OK — just not over an aquifer. In the letter to the EPA, Durbin and Kirk say that four facilities are already authorized to accept PCB waste in this region, and one of those is in Illinois.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said on Thursday said this is not a "not in our backyard" issue. He said he realizes the chemical waste needs to be stored safely, but he does not think it should be over the Mahomet Aquifer.

"Be it in our region, that's fine," Koos said. "But just not on top of our water supply."

The senators' hands in what has been an ongoing fight against the permit is important, said Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing. Champaign Mayor Don Gerard called their involvement "crucial."

"Sometimes an issue that is really blatant, obvious, common sense, it takes years to get something done," Prussing said. "But when you get a U.S. senator working on it, things start to happen."

Plans have been in place for years to store the PCBs, but central Illinois government agencies have just begun a formal opposition to the federal permit within the past year. Champaign city officials said that is because of an imperfect public notification process — not everyone who depends on the aquifer was notified of the application from the beginning.

"By the time it got to us, public comment had already passed," Gerard said.

But since a government agencies started to get involved, the EPA has delayed a decision on the application in order to more closely study the way groundwater interacts with the aquifer.

"This is an example of us having a voice," Gerard said.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on May 04, 2012 at 10:05 am

Which side's lobbyist will win?  The company involved rapidly expanded in a few short years.  Some investigating reporting would shed light on the company's ownership, and past practices.  For something that should be a no brainer, this issue has got this far.  Who is supporting it?  Who is lobbying for it?  Who is the money behind it?  I would hope that the company reaches a low tax incentive deal with Indiana for it's toxic dump.

Political Observer wrote on May 18, 2012 at 12:05 am

Well, here's some research, Sid. There are layers and layers of companies here, and they seem to be making a real effort to hide who their principle executives are but (1) Clinton Landfill, Inc. of Peoria is owned by (2) Area Disposal Service, which is a part of (3) Peoria DIsposal Company / Area Disposal Service, which is owned by (4) the Coulter family of Peoria. The name that seems to keep turning up is that of Chris Coulter, who acts as a spokesperson and vice president of Area Disposal Service. He's the person who's quoted in the article above:

"Chris Coulter, vice president of the landfill's parent company Area Disposal Service, said last year that storing PCBs in Clinton could actually be beneficial to the environment. He said there are 38.6 million cubic yards of the chemicals on the loose and contaminating the Great Lakes region alone, and storing them in a closed landfill would keep them contained."

WOW!!! Thanks so much, Chris, for capturing those PCBs that were "on the loose" (perhaps just like those wild exotic animals that were let out of their cages in Ohio!) and taking steps to keep them contained forever right above the drinking water for 88 communities in Central Illinois!! (Boy, oh boy! What a wonderful place you chose to store those wild chemicals, Chris!) <Snark!>

Even though some might say he sounds like a complete idiot in that quote, Chris' company, Area Disposal Service, operates all over Central Illinois (and, I'm told, in nearby states, as well)!  For example, here's a link to a list of 57 garbage pickup places in the general Champaign-Urbana area:

http://www.yellowpages.com/champaign-il/garbage-pickup?page=1

Check out the following entries among the 57 places listed there:

#7   Rantoul

#36 Fisher

#39 Mahomet

#45 Champaign

Yep! Those are all places where Area Disposal Service operates in the area around Champaign-Urbana...and further away from Champaign-Urbana (Decatur, Springfield, etc.), you can enter your zipcode at this website, and find out if Area Disposal Service serves your area, as well:

http://www.pdcarea.com/

You know, somehow I feel like Mr. Coulter is just sitting somewhere in Peoria and laughing at us for being such fools. People all over Illinois are paying him weekly to haul away our garbage...and he's making good money from us by doing so, but it just isn't enough to keep him satisfied at the level of wealth he'd like to be comfortable at!!...So, in order to make the really big bucks, he needs to go out, capture those PCBs that are on the loose in the wild, and store them right above our only source of drinking water!

Yeah, go for it, Chris! I'm sure most of us don't mind if toxic chemicals get into our drinking water, destroy our community health, and ruin the rest of our lives and the rest of our families' lives...as long as we can have the satisfaction of knowing that we're doing our best to help make you become a billionaire, Man!!