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State panel considers new rules for former quarries

A truck leaves dumping facility Monday 119th Street Naperville-Plainfield Road Plainfield. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

A truck leaves a dumping facility Monday at 119th Street and Naperville-Plainfield Road in Plainfield. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 10, 2012 6:35AM

Will County officials will keep a close eye Tuesday on Chicago, as a state panel considers proposed regulations for dumping in former quarries — regulations some local officials wish were tighter to better protect the county’s drinking water.

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is scheduled to consider a set of rule changes that would regulate dumping of debris from things such as road construction and demolitions into old quarries.

The IEPA filed its proposed changes about a year ago. The Illinois Pollution Control Board must adopt the rules by July 30.

A main concern of some, including Will County officials, is that quarries are not lined with clay, like landfills. This can allow contaminants from debris dumped in a quarry to leak into groundwater supplies.

The proposed rules define fill that is “uncontaminated” and requires quarry owners, an engineer or a geologist to test soil that comes in to ensure it meets that definition.

In June, the pollution control board wrote an opinion that worried county officials.

The board decided that soil certification, testing and record keeping would be enough to prevent groundwater contamination from the debris, and that groundwater monitoring — which was advocated by the IEPA — would not be required.

Will County officials wrote a letter in response urging the state committee to reject the board’s opinion, saying it “disregards the health and welfare of Will County residents and the environment” and puts the 350,000 residents who rely on public and private wells at risk.

“I grew up around factories, and we’ve seen when they’re not being good stewards,” said Will County Board Chairman Jim Moustis.

Even construction debris and dirt from Chicago often ends up in suburban quarries.

Eleven of those quarries — nine active sites — are in Will County, concentrated around Joliet, Wilmington and Channahon, officials say.

Will County has the most fill operations in the state, according to written comments local environmental group Citizens Against Ruining the Environment (CARE) submitted to the pollution control board.

The group was concerned that even if loads of material that were “uncontaminated” by the state rules ended up in the quarries, dumping thousands of loads of that material could eventually contaminate the water supply anyway.

Contaminated material could also inadvertently find its way into the quarries despite the regulations, Moustis and other county officials say.

There should be quarterly or at least biannual groundwater monitoring required, county officials said.

Contributing: Jon Seidel

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