Homer gets formal request for water from mining company

HOMER — Residents expressed concern this week about a proposed coal mine south of Homer.

The village recently received a request to sell water to Sunrise Coal of Terre Haute, Ind., for use with the mine.

The coal mine would be built in southwest Vermillion County and parts of southeastern Champaign County.

Sunrise Coal is proposing a room-and-pillar coal mine and claims it would bring 300 long-term jobs to the area.

Opponents of the project question the quantity of water available and if the coal mine will pollute area water supplies.

Resident Jeff Ward told the village board that he's worried about the village's water supply if the area experiences an extended drought.

Sue Smith, a rural Homer resident, said, "We have limited water supply in this area. That was one of the concerns that came out of the public meetings we had."

Scott Gambill from Sunrise Coal presented the board with a formal request to purchase water and sewer services from the village.

"It's very preliminary," he said. "Sunrise Coal does not want to deplete what is available."

Sunrise Coal President Brent Bilsland said the company has signed over 100 leases in Vermilion County.

"We are committed to coming to Vermillion County," he said. "We do not think we are jeopardizing the water supply of Homer. We think it will ultimately benefit the citizens of Homer."

Mayor David Lucas said he thought the request should go to the water committee in order for the village to get some questions answered regarding infrastructure, water availability, estimated revenue from the sale of the water and sewer service and legal issues. The research would be done in-house by Lucas and village employee Rob Boyer. Lucas said the Illinois State Geological Survey could also provide information.

Homer, which provides water to its citizens via underground wells, has been asked to provide about 180,000 gallons of water to the mine per day. Sunrise says most of the water would be used in spray on miners and belts to wash the raw coal.

In a straw poll, all trustees except Guy James voted to investigate the request.

James said he felt the issue should be put before the public.

Lucas said the water committee meeting will be open to the public.

"This has to work for both groups," Lucas said. "We cannot put the village at risk for water or with a bond that has to be paid that we do not have the revenues for."

Other trustees wanted the board to make clear to the public that the straw vote was not a binding contract.

"This is not a contractual thing," said Trustee Kevin Knott. "This is to our educating ourselves and this is the first step."

The water committee meeting will be held at Homer Village Hall at 7 p.m. July 30

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