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."