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Quinn: Landfill's PCB approval may be withdrawn

Published: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:54 p.m. CDT
(AP file photo)
Construction is seen going on June 20, 2012, at the Clinton Landfill near Clinton. Gov. Pat Quinn believes approvals the central Illinois county gave to the landfill did not include the potential storage of toxic PCBs the facility's owner now wants to store.

CHAMPAIGN – Gov. Pat Quinn believes the state of Illinois may be able to withdraw its approval of a plan to store toxic waste in a central Illinois landfill because local officials may never have signed off on the proposal.

A subsidiary of Area Disposal in Peoria owns the Clinton Landfill and wants to store PCBs dredged from toxic cleanup sites in the region. But the landfill sits over the Mahomet Aquifer, a drinking water source for 750,000 people.

At this point the plan needs only U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval to proceed after winning state approval. But elected officials and others from across central Illinois have objected to the proposal over worries that it might pollute the aquifer, and have pressured Quinn and other state officials.

A spokesman for Quinn said Tuesday that state law may allow the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to rescind its approval if DeWitt County officials never agreed to allow PCBs at the landfill when they approved its permit in 2002.

"We feel we have something here which will keep this from happening," spokesman Dave Blanchette said.

The company has maintained that a thick liner at the landfill would keep PCBs out of the aquifer. Neither the company nor its attorney returned calls seeking comment.

Calls to DeWitt County officials also were not immediately returned.

PCBs – or polychlorinated biphenyls – are chemical compounds once used in industrial and commercial products such as oil-based paints and fluorescent light ballasts. They were outlawed in the United States in 1979 because they cause cancer and can damage human and animal immune, reproductive and nervous systems. But the chemicals remain in the environment at many industrial sites.

The landfill owner hopes to store PBC-contaminated soil dredged out of Great Lakes harbors and places like the Fox River in Wisconsin.

But when DeWitt County officials approved the landfill's operation in 2002, the company indicated that it didn't intend to store PCBs in levels that require federal regulation, state EPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs said Tuesday. The agency didn't know that until recently, and that information wasn't part of the company's later applications to store PCBs, she said.

In a letter to DeWitt County officials on Tuesday, the state EPA asked for information on the details of the county board's 2002 approval.

If the state EPA withdrew the permit, the company would need to restart the permitting process, beginning with DeWitt County, Biggs said.

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