News Local/State

Sanitary Officials Hold Meeting on Selling Wastewater to Fertilizer Company


There is a public meeting Wednesday night on a proposal for the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District to sell millions of gallons of treated wastewater to Cronus Chemical LLC, a company that is thinking about building a fertilizer plant in Tuscola.

Illinois is in a bidding war over Cronus Chemical’s $1.2 billion facility. The company overseeing the plant is mulling over whether to build it in Illinois or Iowa. The Cronus facility is expected to create 2,000 construction jobs and 150 full-time jobs.

The Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District said it was approached by economic development officials in Tuscola about selling 6.3 million gallons of waste water a day to the company to help operate the fertilizer plant. If that happens, less water would flow to the Copper Slough and Saline Branch streams in the Champaign-Urbana area.

Attorney Kim Knowles is with Prairie Rivers Network, a group in Champaign that advocates for clean water and healthy rivers. She said there needs to be more time spent looking at what impact diverting the water would have on the ecosystem.

“We tend to talk about aquatic life like it's just fish, but there are other forms of aquatic life that are affected differently when you change flows," Knowles said.

"So, typically those are macroinvertebrates or you might want to call them bugs, water bugs," she added. "There’s other wildlife that lives on the land, but is dependent on the streams that could be affected, and then there are people.”

Rick Manner heads the sanitary district. He said he is still looking for community input about the wastewater proposal, and that no final plans have been set.

“There is a real concern in regards to the volumes that are available, and make sure that we have some going to all of those needs," Manner said. "We think we have that covered.”

Manner said his department would generate about a million dollars a year in revenue through the sale.

“One of the things that my board has agreed to is that we would invest some fraction of the money that we would be getting from any income in attempting to work on habitat recreation and repair to the water bodies in the district,” he said.

Wednesday's public meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the sanitary district at 1100 E. University Ave. in Urbana.

The Illinois legislature is considering a bill to offer tax breaks to Cronus Chemical as a way to encourage it to build the fertilizer plant in Tuscola.