Quinn: Aquifer action on way
Governor was at UI campus for bill signing
URBANA — Further action to protect the Mahomet Aquifer — the source of drinking water for about 750,000 central Illinoisans — is imminent, Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday at a bill-signing on the University of Illinois campus.
Earlier this week, Quinn sent a letter to DeWitt County officials, seeking confirmation that federally regulated concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) waste was never authorized locally for disposal at the Clinton landfill.
A host of local officials, including state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, Champaign County Board Chairman Al Kurtz and a grassroots DeWitt County group known as WATCH, opposed to the dumping of toxic wastes at the landfill, said Quinn already has enough documentation and evidence to revoke the landfill's permit to operate a chemical waste unit.
But Quinn said Friday that "we're going to let the DeWitt County Board act," and promised "an announcement on that very shortly. I think by following the proper procedure, that's the best way to get the job done."
The governor promised to protect the aquifer "with every ounce of fiber in our being. So I'm very optimistic that things will go on in the right direction very shortly."
On Thursday night, before the regular meeting of the Champaign County Board, Kurtz told fellow board member Michael Richards, an official with Quinn's re-election team, "to please tell him that we're asking him to suspend and revoke those permits" at the Clinton landfill.
"The Illinois EPA could pull that (license) at the direction of the governor. He has that authority. And I'd like to know why he didn't pull the trigger, why he didn't direct them after he told the U.S. EPA not to give the permit because of the risks to the Mahomet Aquifer," Kurtz asked Richards.
Quinn said Friday, after a ceremony at the Illini Union, it's "good to always have sound legal advice, and following administrative procedure under the law is the best way to go in order to protect our decision, and the decision of the DeWitt County Board."
Asked if a decision on the landfill would come in August, Quinn responded, "I think it will happen very quickly. You won't have to hold your breath. I think everyone understands how important this is."
The governor signed three bills Friday afternoon, the most significant of which allows the Illinois Board of Higher Education to make agreements with other states to assure that online learning programs maintain common standards and that completed coursework is recognized by institutions in other states.
Quinn said that in the last year more than 323,000 students worldwide had enrolled in the UI's online education system.
"I think many people know that when you want to learn and learn well, go to the University of Illinois. If you can come in person that's great, but if it has to be online so be it," he said.
The bill he signed, SB 3441, allows Illinois to join other members of the Midwestern Higher Education compact to make it easier for states to regulate and for institutions to participate in multistate Internet education.
The governor also said he was willing to work with federal officials to bring more central American refugees into the state. He met last week with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
"I told her that our state of Illinois believes in humanitarian responses to any kind of situation, particularly regarding children," said Quinn, noting that about 325 children are being sheltered in the Chicago area.
"All faiths, whatever faith you practice, believes in kindness toward strangers, particularly if they're children," he said. "And I think that it's important that these children are escaping violence and they've been subjected to cruelty. We're not going to turn our backs."
Quinn also attended a fundraiser Friday afternoon for Carol Ammons, the Democratic candidate for state representative in the 103rd House District that includes almost all of Champaign-Urbana.
"I think she's got a lot of vitality and ideas and idealism, and that's what we need more of in Illinois," Quinn said. "I like Carol. I told her several months ago that if I was in the area I'd always try to help her out."