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Rotting waste stops upgrade of Marengo water project

MARENGO – City officials have halted a $12 million upgrade of Marengo’s wastewater treatment plant because crews discovered the expansion site is an old landfill with 12 feet of rotting waste below the surface.

The City Council met in special session Monday to decide what to do with what a private engineer called the decaying, nonhazardous waste.

After more than 90 minutes behind closed doors, City Manager Gary Boden made about a one-minute statement that the council will meet Monday on “the potential of litigation” and for city staff to try to answer aldermen’s concerns about the property and the upgrade.

Boden did not take questions and did not detail aldermen’s concerns or say who might be the target of litigation.

He did announce a temporary reduction in the city’s wastewater rates for the next three months, but did not say how much the reduction would be.

Last summer, the council opted to keep wastewater fees at nearly double the rate of two years ago, when officials raised rates to finance the upgrade of the more than 30-year-old treatment plant.

The council then went back into a closed meeting for an undisclosed collective-bargaining issue.

Ed Coggin, an engineer from HR Green, the company contracted to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant, said work crews found a high metallic content in soil tests and determined that the site had been an unregulated landfill until 1975, when the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency told Marengo to close and cap the landfill.

Coggin said the buried waste is not hazardous and runs 12 feet deep. It was not clear how far beneath the surface it is. Coggin said much of it consists of old bottles, refrigerators and other appliances, wood and construction debris.

“You can build on a landfill,” Coggin said. “It’s just going to cost more to manage that material. It’s a hiccup to the project and something that wasn’t planned for or included in the original bid.”

City officials broke ground on the plant upgrade in summer.

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