Champaign County Board Approves Clinton Landfill Consent Decree

September 30, 2015
Champaign County seal, displayed in the Champaign County Boardroom.

Seal of Champaign County, displayed in the County Boardroom at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The Champaign County Board has become the 12th local government to approve an agreement with the Clinton Landfill, to restrict its acceptance of hazardous waste.

County Board members approved a consent decree with the landfill Tuesday night, on a vote of 15 to 5 with one abstention.

County Board member Josh Hartke (D-Champaign-Dis. 6) says the consent decree should be seen as just one in a series of steps to keep hazardous waste out of the landfill --- and the Mahomet Aquifer below it.

“We have to accept that this is a victory,” said Hartke. “It is an imperfect victory. But we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But this is a victory that leads to further battles we’re going to have to fight to protect the aquifer.”

Hartke says one of the “further battles” he has in mind is an effort to get legislation passed that would bar landfills like the Clinton Landfill from accepting coal ash, the byproduct of burning coal in power plants. Coal ash is not classified as hazardous waste by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, but many environmental groups say it should be.

Under terms of the consent decree , the Clinton Landfill promises to give up efforts to take in toxic PCB waste and manufactured gas plant waste at its current facility, and any future facility in DeWitt County that lies over the Mahomet Aquifer. But the landfill would be allowed to keep the gas plant waste it already has. And the Mahomet Aquifer Coalition (which includes the Champaign County Board and 13 other local governments) would give up its legal battle against the landfill.

That stipulation drew criticism from those county board members. who voted against the consent decree. John Jay (R- Mahomet-Dis. 1) shared the worry of many critics, that the hazardous waste stored in the Mahomet Aquifer would eventually find its way into the Mahomet Aquifer, which is the water supply for much of east-central Illinois. “Eventually, it will leak,” said Jay, and added a concern that the consent decree was tantamount to “putting a Band-Aid on a bigger hole”.

A fear that leakage from the landfill is inevitable was also shared by Bill Spencer, president of the group W.A.T.C.H. Clinton Landfill.  Following the meeting, Spencer said his group was going ahead with plans to mount its own lawsuit against the Clinton Landfill. He said the suit would be aimed at forcing the landfill to remove the manufactured gas plant waste it currently holds, and at blocking its efforts to accept other types of hazardous waste not covered by the consent decree.

Tuesday night’s Champaign County Board vote leaves just two members of the Mahomet Aquifer Coalition that have not voted on the Clinton Landfill consent decree. The Macon County Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal on October 8th, and the Mahomet Valley Water Authority has put the consent decree on the agenda for its October 16th meeting.

Story source: WILL