Landfill legislation faces growing opposition

Landfill legislation faces growing opposition

SPRINGFIELD — Mounting opposition has stalled a bill that would have prohibited the disposal of chemical PCBs at a landfill in Clinton that sits over the water supply source for Champaign-Urbana and dozens of other central Illinois communities.

But the chief sponsors of the legislation (HB 6153) said Tuesday they hoped measure could return to the Legislature in the fall.

Reps. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, pulled the bill that has been scheduled for a hearing before the House Executive Committee.

"We want to continue to work on it over the summer. It's really important to make sure that the thousands of people who drink that water have safe water, for not just today and tomorrow but for many years to come," said Jakobsson.

One plan, she said, is to hold a "subject matter-only hearing" sometime this summer in central Illinois. That's the area served by the Mahomet Aquifer, the deep and vast water source that arcs under much of central Illinois.

Rose noted that Rep. Karen May, D-Highland Park, who chairs the House Environmental Health Committee, also has been "adopted" by the Piatt County Farm Bureau under the state organization's "adopt a legislator" program.

"She's going to have a hearing in the district sometime this summer on the aquifer," said Rose, "and that way we keep moving while we address some of these issues."

Among the issues that have arisen in recent weeks, he said, is the lack of other Illinois disposal sites for PCBs. That's a problem both for industries and communities that currently host the dangerous chemicals.

"The Illinois Municipal League is against this because it has some of these places that are cleaning up and were planning on (disposing of wastes) here. You've got cities and counties and manufacturers against it," he said. "Part of this is we've got to find some place else that is not over the aquifer to do that.

"There are plenty of those" sites, Rose said, although none yet are licensed landfills, as is the Clinton facility.

"We've changed a lot of attitudes in the last week," Rose said. "And the (local) cities have stepped up their efforts. They've been lobbying this pretty hard to educate people."

But he said there isn't enough time to answer all the questions and move the bill through both houses before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment on May 31.

"One of the things we'd like to do this summer is sit down with individual members while we have time — and you don't have all these other issues like pensions and Medicaid and budgets hanging over you — and focus on it. There have been a lot of good questions. And there are a couple legislators with scientific backgrounds who ultimately I think decide that this is the right thing to do, but because they're scientists they're asking a lot of questions. They've requests a number of documents from the EPA and others that we're going to provide to them. They want to be methodical. I understand that."

Among other opponents to the bill, Jakobsson and Rose said, is Commonwealth Edison, the Chicago electric utility believed to have the most potent lobbying team in Springfield.

"But if we can educate all the legislators and start to bring in some of these opponents, there are probably people who can help find a place for this landfill," Jakobsson said.

"It will be good to have this time," said Rose. "A lot of people were told things about the bill that weren't exactly correct. We're now dislodging those folks, slowly but surely, but it's going to take a summer to work this out."

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GeneralLeePeeved wrote on May 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

While it's great to see all of this concern from our legislators over the future of our water supply, I have to wonder....."why now, where were you when the Anderson's were planning to suck millions of gallons a year out it just to make ethanol?"  ...personnally, I don't see much difference, a threat to the supply is a threat to the supply.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

It is typical Illinois Pay to Play Politics.  The Great Lakes, and Chicago are being cleaned up from PCB contamination.  The majority of state citizens live in the Chicago area.  They would holler if the PCBs were dumped there.  Commowealth Edison has to dump it some place in Illinois.  No other states want it dumped in their state.  They have their own PCBs to clean up.  A large company who handles, and dumps PCBs plus a major corporation, Commonwealth Edison, gives "campaign donations" to some of the legislators.  The result is downstate getting a chemical dump over their water supply that has protection for 50 to 100 years at the most.  Three layers of plastic ( plastic garbage bag equivalent ) over clay is the "protection".  The people who live in the surrounding area, and depend on the water have no say so in their safety; and the safety of their children, and grandchildren.  Once it is in the aquifer, it will not come out.  This is the same reason that the citizens of Nebraska are strongly opposed to the Keystone Pipeline.  Big business, and big money will probably win again with the help of elected officials, legislators, who receive their "campaign donations".   Our local legislators are doing their best in a bipartisan effort.  They should be applauded on this one. 

Political Observer wrote on May 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Not ALL of our local legislators deserve thanks, Sid. One in particular, “Terrible Tim” Johnson, who’s currently taking victory laps on his farewell tour around his old Congressional District, trying to scarf up any final thank you gifts he can get his hands on (and perhaps also trying to round up future speaking gigs at a community college or two somewhere?), really dropped the ball on this one!

Way back on January 15, 2008 (over 4 years ago!) he wrote a letter to the U.S. EPA asking to be kept in the loop on what was going on in the permitting process for dumping PCBs right above our drinking water. (Note that he said that he was just inquiring on behalf of some of his DeWitt County constituents and he really didn’t want “to prejudice the process here!”) So having gotten off to a relatively early start on this one, certainly Our Man Tim has been doing a fantastic job all this time on our behalf, right?

Well, maybe we should all be writing letters and making phone calls to Johnson’s office to get an update on all the great things he may have secretly accomplished on protecting the Mahomet Aquifer in the last 4+ years as a result of his “involvement“ in this issue!…After all, remember all the endorsements he’s gotten from area environmental groups that he’s been so proud of, over the years? Remember how when he was asked what he thought was his greatest achievement in his 12 years in Congress, it wasn’t the U.S. Post Office building somewhere in the district that he legislatively got re-named, it wasn’t his bi-partisan spirit that led to him sitting on the wrong side of the aisle for a few State of the Union addresses!…No, indeed!  It was his unbelievably fantastic “constituent service” that he wanted us to remember him for, so certainly he must have this problem almost solved for us by now! 

There’s nothing to fear, Fellow Constituents! “The Honorable Timothy V. Johnson has taken up the Clinton Landfill Case on our behalf!!  Right?!  Here’s a link that includes Johnson’s 1-15-08 original letter to the U.S. EPA and their response to him:



Political Observer wrote on May 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

It just occurred to me...Maybe this is the "secret family reason" that was in the short list of reasons why Johnson decided not to run for Congress again?...Because his family members have an aversion to drinking PCBs in their water supply?!

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I should have clarified the local legislators.  I was referring to Chapin, Naomi, and Mike.  I started to make negative comments toward Dale Righter, and Chad Hays; but I did not.  I meant no compliment toward Tim.  I should have named them positively, and negatively.