MARENGO – The proposed development within one of Marengo’s more controversial annexation deals raises a “huge concern” over groundwater contamination, a newly released environmental report found.
The McHenry-Lake Soil and Water Conservation District released the Natural Resources Information report earlier this month to city officials, after the two spent much of March disagreeing on whether the report was even needed.
“I hope they will at least look at what’s in the report and allow land uses that don’t have the land pollution potential,” District Manager Ed Weskerna said.
In the 59-page report, the district details the highly permeable, gravel-laden soils that make up most of the 340 acres west of Route 23 owned by A.R. Land Co. that has been a part of Marengo’s initial effort to extend its southern borders to Interstate 90.
Since last summer, the city has been trying to add nearly 2,400 acres along Route 23 to reach the interstate and begin formal negotiations with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority on constructing an interchange intended to spur residential and commercial development in the area.
The proposed annexation agreement with A.R. Land has drawn concerns from neighboring Riley Township officials, who have argued that the environment could not support some of the company’s proposed land-use changes.
The penetrable soils revealed in the report’s findings makes it nearly impossible to support heavy, pollutive industries without contaminating the groundwater in the area, Weskerna said.
Two-thirds of A.R. Land’s site that is slated to be rezoned general business is “unbuildable” given the soil restrictions, the report found. A proposed 40-acre compost facility on the property also would need to be carefully executed and not disturb the groundwater in the area.
But the report didn’t reveal new information for Marengo, City Manager Gary Boden said. The city’s contracted engineers from H.R. Green knew about the soil conditions when developing the city’s comprehensive plan late last year, he said.
The environmental issues raised in the report also don’t require immediate attention since A.R. Land has yet to execute its future development plans, Boden said.
County and state agencies, such as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, will fully vet and regulate A.R. Land’s proposed land-use changes once the proposals actually happen, Boden said.
“I think there are a lot of belt and suspenders out there for protecting the environment,” Boden said. “I hate the fact that some of us are casting us as not being sensitive to that ... I don’t think we have a bad environmental record. The bottom line here is that the zoning is not the overriding issue.”
Engineers from H.R. Green still will evaluate the district’s environmental report to see whether the findings would require any City Council action. They will give a report during the council’s May 28 meeting, where aldermen also are expected to vote on the A.R. Land annexation, Boden said.
Riley Supervisor Karen Schnable said the report’s findings reaffirmed her belief that A.R. Land’s property was susceptible to groundwater contamination. Schnable initially turned the conservation district’s attention to the issue.
“To me, it needs to be researched more before they change the zoning,” Schnable said. “They need to look into it and study it to make sure the zoning is proper for the land.”