Bill to protect central Illinois' Mahomet Aquifer from toxic waste moves closer to passage

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — An Illinois Senate committee has approved a measure that would give added protection to the Mahomet Aquifer spanning central Illinois.

The bill previously received approval from the Illinois House and comes after DeWitt County approved a settlement with a landfill company stemming from a dispute over failed plans to store toxic PCBs in a facility over the aquifer. The measure moved to the passage stage Thursday after receiving unanimous approval from the Senate Environment Committee, The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1FamOV5 ) reported.

The bill seeks to ban the disposal of manufactured gas plant wastes at any municipal landfill in Illinois. Under the measure, which was sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett, the manufactured gas plant waste would have to be tested for toxicity before it could be buried.

The first version of the bill, which sought to ban the disposal of PCB waste from any landfill over the large underground water storage system that provides water to about 800,000 people, wasn't initially so well received. But the need for legislation banning PCBs at landfills was no longer necessary following recent agreement between DeWitt County and the owners of the Clinton landfill, where there had been a move to dump PCBs.

"We've come a long way," Bennett said. "A lot of it had to do with the fact that more controversial issues were addressed by the agreements between the attorney general's office and DeWitt County and the landfill."

Follow-up legislation still will be needed, according to both Bennett and Sen. Chapin Rose.

"I don't know whether that will be controversial or not," Bennett said. "But we need a bill protecting a sole source (of water). I talked to some landfill companies earlier this week and told them we're working on some language that we're hoping to introduce later this session.

"I think everybody recognizes that the bill that we're hopeful to pass in the Senate doesn't do everything we need to do. But it does solve today's problems."

Federal law allows manufactured gas plant waste to be stored at any residential landfill, Rose said.

"The goal here, first and foremost, is to stop the immediate collection of these substances at the Clinton landfill. That is proceeding nicely," he said. "But this sole source (designation) idea at the state level is so new. There are all sorts of implications, and we have to think through those implications.

"There are very few in the entire nation. It's one of these developing areas of law, so I think we need a thorough review of that."


Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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