County investigating dumping at Crown mines

County investigating dumping at Crown mines

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Concerns about the fly ash being dumped at the Crown II and III mines in northern Macoupin County have become a major topic of conversation for the Macoupin County Environmental and Health Committee. At the committee’s last meeting on March 1, Shielda Lewis, the committee’s chair, read a letter State’s Attorney Jennifer Watson received from Assistant Attorney General Eric L. Lohrenz of the Environmental Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office.

Regarding an investigation into the alleged dumping going on at the Crown mines, Lohrenz wrote, “I am available to review these matters on behalf of the attorney General’s Office, discuss my findings with you and consider what further actions may be needed.”

The letter went on to ask that the county provide Lohrenz with “any documents and other information relating to the activities of concern at Crown Mines II and III, so that I may start investigating these matters.” Lohrenz also requested a copy of the county’s landfill ordinance, which was referenced in the Feb. 6 meeting. He closed by making himself available to meet in person.

Members of the committee expressed an interest in taking Lohrenz up on his offer to meet in person. Lewis said she would like to get the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) involved since and County Board President Mark Dragovich had previously met with Scott Ballard of IDNR to discuss the matter.

Board Member Mike Tranter pointed out  a coal sales contract was struck with Freeman United Coal Company, then owner of the mines, stating Freeman would be required to dispose of varying amounts of ash from the combustion of the coal. Since Crown II closed in 2007 and Crown III closed in 2013, committee members were unsure whether or not the contract was still in effect. It was noted that the mines are currently owned by Springfield Coal Company, which raised questions about whether the contract was still in effect after the sale.

Information provided by the committee also states that, currently, fly ash is being brought in and stored at the Crown mines from four other states. It’s estimated that Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is hauling in and dumping 100,000 tons per year.

“They had a permit to close that mine. Part of that permit says they can bring in materials supposedly for fill, to fill up the grade at that mine. That fill, that material they are getting from the scrubbers or from that sludge has excess lime in there and they’re figuring that material is good to neutralize the soil and help build it up. Our concern is that material also contains other things — heavy metals and everything else– that are going to leach out at some point,” said Dragovich, who also expressed concern over whether or not the dumping is in compliance with the county’s landfill ordinance, which contains several safety measures.

There was some question of whether or not a permit was issued allowing the dumping and, if so, was it issued by the IDNR.

Board Member Todd Armour expressed a desire to have an open public meeting with representatives from Springfield Coal, IDNR division of Mines and Minerals, IEPA and the Attorney General’s Office to discuss the matter.

The question was raised of why the state would issue permits for dumping fly ash and then turn around and fund mine reclamation grants to later clean the area.

The committee decided to invite representatives from all four entities to the next Environmental and Health Committee meeting to discuss the fly ash issue.

Another matter under consideration was setting fees for food inspections at recreational facilities, such as country clubs and swimming pools. The committee agreed to recommend the board approve fees of $100, $125 and $150 relative to the degree of potential contamination.