Friday, December 14, 2007
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County Board Hears Plans to Place a PCB Landfill Over Underground Water Supply to 12 Counties

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[December 14, 2007]  Concern about the potential location of a chemical waste landfill for PCB-contaminated materials was brought to the attention of the Logan County Board Thursday evening.

The chemical waste site would be adjacent to and part of the Clinton Landfill. That landfill is located over the Mahomet Aquifer.

The Mahomet Aquifer is a vast underground lake supplying water to the counties of Logan, Cass, Tazewell, Peoria, Woodford, McLean, DeWitt, Piatt, Macon, Champaign, Iroquois and Vermilion.

The proposed site is in the permitting process with the EPA. One of the evaluating criteria in the permitting process is public opinion. Board members were asked by a grass-roots organization known as WATCH, representing "We're Against Toxic CHemicals," to join in making a statement of opposition to the EPA.

PCB-contaminated material, and only-PCB contaminated materials, would be accepted at the site.

The use of polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, was banned in the U.S. in 1979. According to the EPA, PCB contamination has been linked to numerous health issues, including cancer and non-cancer effects on the endocrine, reproductive and immune systems.

The proposed site would be located with the Clinton Landfill. The chemical waste area would be a set-aside area covering 22.5 acres of the nearly 160-acre landfill. It would be filled to a height of approximately 140 feet (equivalent to a 14-story building) above the ground.

Examples of materials that would go there would be shredded old transformers that once held PCB fluids, and contaminated soil and refuse from Hurricane Katrina.

The landfill is located south of Clinton, north of Salt Creek and east of Route 51.

Three WATCH representatives, Matt Varble, David Taylor and David Holt, were present and took turns explaining the issues. They provided maps, plans, and boring and geology diagrams, some made available through the EPA.

The site would have the required minimum 3-foot clay barrier and plastic liner to prevent contamination. The clay base that is there ranges from 3- to 10-feet thick. However, borings indicate that if chemicals were to breach containment units, there is a pocket of sand piercing the clay barrier that would aid and speed seepage, increasing the possibility of contamination.

The WATCH representatives said that the No. 1 concern is that the water supply would become contaminated, and that is irreversible. It would have widespread health and economic impact.

Also, cleanup of the site would still need to take place, and in all likelihood the cost would fall to all the communities affected.

Seepage through clay is estimated at a rate of one foot every 10 years. Sixty years is the estimate to seep through. But this is not solid clay; it is mixed, a representative pointed out.

The group contends that they are not against DeWitt County hosting this chemical wastes site. There are other locations in the county where it would be acceptable, just not over the aquifer. "This is not a good place to put toxic chemicals; at some time this will leak," Varble said.

Champaign County agreed to oppose the permit. The group will be asking Macon County next week but has received indication that they will support the opposition as well.

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The representatives turned the matter over to Logan County Board members to ask questions.

First was Chuck Ruben. He said that he felt he had inadequate information to make a decision to oppose it. That's what we pay the EPA to do. "This should be decided on scientific evidence," he said.

He likened this to "not in my backyard." We spent 20 years fighting where to put nuclear wastes. The government has spent billions of dollars and is still fighting it. I wouldn't want that in my backyard and I don't want this in my backyard. But I feel inadequate to make that determination in the long term. "That's what we have the EPA for; let's let them make the decision."

He said that he's spent a lot of time in meetings regarding concerns that hogs would contaminate the environment, even when set standards would prevent that from happening.

He later brought up that people have complained about the negative impact that windmills have on the environment.

The EPA is there to decide for our safety. They have strict guidelines. If the project is following all their regulations, then this is not a valid complaint.

If the EPA finds that this is going to contaminate our water source, I don't want it here. But the decision should be made on scientific evidence not on social "not in my backyard" thinking.


George Mitchell -- Windmills and toxic chemicals are two different things. Windmills are not going to hurt anybody.

As county board members, we are to represent the people of Logan County. If there is a chance that it is going to leak, I don't want that.


John Stewart recalled some of the chemical mistakes that we have made in the past that we now understand differently. "I don't want to look back 20 years from now and say maybe we made a mistake."


Dick Logan agreed with the concern that the location poses a potential threat to the health and safety of Logan County residents, and possible economic impact. We may have environmental problems to speak to from this. I think this affects us our children, our grandchildren, our grandchildren's children.


A straw poll of the board indicated that the resolution favoring a statement of opposition to the EPA would pass. The vote was 6-3 and just met the two-thirds mark. Ten board members were present. One person did not vote. Absent were Gloria Luster (she was in the parade) and Vickie Hasprey.


You can find more details on the issue at WATCH Clinton Landfill.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on polychlorinated biphenyls


[To download Adobe Acrobat Reader for the PDF files, click here.]

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