Quinn moves to block PCB disposal
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois EPA is asking DeWitt County officials for more information in order to block the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at a Clinton landfill.
In a letter dated today and made public by Gov. Pat Quinn’s office, the state EPA’s top lawyer asked DeWitt County Board Chair Sherrie Brown and DeWitt County State’s Attorney Karle Koritz for more information about a county board meeting 12 years ago where officials from Peoria Disposal Company sought a landfill permit.
The landfill is located directly above the Mahomet Aquifer, the drinking water source for an estimated 750,000 central Illinoisans.
But two state senators said today that Quinn’s move was overdue.
“It’s about damn time,” said Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet. “I brought this exact thing up at a public hearing last week in Champaign. I said I think it’s great that Gov. Quinn last month sent the letter to the U.S. EPA (asking it to deny Peoria Disposal’s request to dispose of PCBs at the landfill). We appreciate that, but if he really wanted to do something he could just direct (the state) EPA to revoke the existing permit because there was never a local siting hearing done. And the position that he has taken, his EPA has taken to protect that permit now jeopardizes our water supply but is contrary to what even (Attorney General) Lisa Madigan says. She has signed onto the local consortium’s lawsuit.”
Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, also acknowledged that citizens and officials have pushed the state to act for years.
"I think we've seen the result of months or years of citizen's action to stop this finally being heard by the governor. As someone who attended many of the hearings and has been involved in efforts to curtail this, I'm glad to see the governor take this action," Frerichs said. "I don't want to focus on how long this has taken, but the fact that action is being taken. The most important thing is that action was taken before they started dumping PCBs over our aquifer."
Champaign County Board chair Al Kurtz, a Champaign Democrat, said the governor should revoke the landfill's license to accept hazardous wastes.
"I'm certainly glad that the governor is now taking action but I think the best avenue for him to take with all the documentation we already have about the dangers of PCBs is that he should direct the Illinois EPA to suspend those (landfill) licenses immediately," Kurtz said. "If he needs more information we can provide it to him through the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium."
In the letter made public today, Illinois EPA chief counsel John Kim notes that the state EPA approved Peoria Disposal’s application to dump PCBs at the landfill “if authorized to accept those wastes by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
“Since approving that permit application,” Kim writes, “the Agency has received information that calls into question the extent of the DeWitt County Board’s September 12, 2002, siting approval, specifically whether the siting approval included approval to accept PCB wastes in (federal Toxic Substances Control Act)-regulated concentration.”
In a press release accompanying the letter, Quinn’s office said that the action “is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to protect our natural resources and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.
“The Mahomet Aquifer supplies more than 100 million gallons of water daily to 15 Illinois counties and it needs to be protected,” Quinn said. “Blocking PCB waste is the right thing to do for our environment and for hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents.”
Quinn’s office said that state law allows the Illinois EPA to modify a landfill permit upon the discovery that a decision was made using false or misleading information.
“In the transcript of a public hearing on the landfill permit from 2002, representatives of the Peoria Disposal Company testified to the DeWitt County Board that the Clinton Landfill would not accept PCBs at federally regulated concentrations. Following that public hearing, the DeWitt County Board approved the location for the landfill, and the county board’s action was the basis for IEPA approval of subsequent permitting requests from the company,” Quinn’s office said today.
But Rose said the landfill’s application to become a “chemical waste unit” required a second public hearing by the DeWitt County Board that never occurred.
“The point I made at that public hearing was that he could revoke the permit now,” Rose said. “All we’re doing now is wasting taxpayer dollars.”
Rose said he had believes his remarks at a July 12 public hearing in Champaign may have prompted the governor to act.
“It’s oddly peculiar that it’s a week after I got up in front of the room and said that, including a lot of the people in his party,” he said. “But I would suggest that it’s more about looking to November (the gubernatorial election) that anything else. He could have done this at anytime in the last four years. Dozens of us in the Legislature sent letters pointing out all these problems over the last few years.”