Violations but no contamination, says IEPA

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said last week that the City of Monticello’s dumping of ‘clean’ construction debris in a former gravel pit did not include any contaminated material, and fines would not be issued.

The city’s practice of bringing items such as sand, soil, brush and concrete and placing it in the former 53-acre Mid-America Sand & Gravel Company site on the north side of town resulted in 29 IEPA violations in 2011. Disposal of clean construction fill. The practice of dumping clean construction fill in gravel pits was legal until a 2010 law change. Those changes included the requirement of an IEPA permit to dump clean construction or demolition debris (CCDD) in areas such as the gravel pit. Prior to the change no permit was needed.

IEPA official Paul M. Purseglove said there would be no monetary penalty to the city, and that test wells would not be required.

“In general, clean soil must be placed over the (CCDD) fill (at Monticello) and vegetation established,” said Purseglove in a Jan. 16 letter to the city. “Following that, the site must be monitored for a year to assure that the vegetation has taken hold and if necessary repairs are made.”

He confirmed that all 29 violations came as a result of the new 2010 regulations.

Monticello could have continued the practice with an approved permit, but Monticello Superintendent of City Services Floyd Allsop said it was too costly. Besides the yearly permit cost, he said it would require the purchase of testing equipment, which he pegged at around $10,000.

“Every load we bring in would have to be tested by a certified individual,” said Allsop.

“It’s not like we do this every day. We just have one small dump truck load periodically. We just felt it wasn’t worth it (a permit).”

Instead, the site is now being closed under landfill regulations.

Foth Engineering conducted a required site assessment that included tests at six areas at the former gravel pit to make sure there was no contamination. Engineer Mike Streff said the city now needs to submit a plan to the IEPA on how they will close the site, which is basically the addition of topsoil and vegetation to the dumping area, which took up a small are of the 53-acre site.

City attorney Derke Price said the new CCDD regulations caught several cities by surprise, and that it is still “a highly evolving area of the law. They’re still making rules of what can go in a quarry.”

Local resident Maureen Holtz expressed concern regarding the violations at the Jan. 14 Monticello Council meeting, and addressed the issue again at this past Monday's session. She was "thankful" no contamination was found, but disturbed the public was not notified of the violations.

"I am troubled at your attempt to control the message, and releasing this only when challenged," Holtz stated at the Jan. 28 city council meeting.

History
In December of 1998, Mid-America Sand & Gravel donated the spent quarry to the Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation, who in turn gifted the site to the City of Monticello for use as a recreation area.

The clean construction fill was an effort to make the banks of the former gravel pit less steep.

After new laws CCDD laws were approved by the Illinois General Assembly in 2010, the IEPA found the city in violation due to the lack of a permit. A letter informing them of the violation was sent Jan. 27 of 2011. The certified letter was received by the city but city officials say it never got to Allsop or Mayor Chris Corrie.

After another violation letter went out in October, the city meet with state officials about the gravel pit. Terms of a compliance agreement were accepted by the EPA in December of 2011. They included the site assessment.

The site had been mined for native sand and gravels for about 25 years prior to being donated to the city.

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