Monday, April 24, 2006

Landfills: More Facts

Our household is one of the approximately 25% of households in Peoria County that does recycle paper, cans, bottles cardboard, ect. As an environmentalist, I supported the county board vote to not allow yard waste to be mixed with organic garbage in the Peoria City/County Landfill. The majority of us felt that yard waste should not be buried but stay on the surface and used to recycle in such ways as composting. Better Earth, a succeesful company here in Peoria County sells refined compost thru most of the compost outlets through out the area and even out of state and the many households that do composting, all offer proof of what can be accomplished thru re-use of disposables. You can also get compost from the City/County Landfill near Edwards,in larger bulk quantities at no charge. This material has not been, screened, weed seed is intermixed and no manure is used to make it the type of compost you want to enrich your soil. Call ahead for more information before going out to pick up.

This country made great strides in re-use of wastes and is making greater gains daily. However to believe that we are going to immediately find a use for all waste is unrealistic. In an ideal world we would change many things and environmentalists have in many cases helped in the progress.

At the C/C landfill the organic garbage buried is very volatile. It produces methane gas in quantities that has been profitably mined, but some gas unfortunately does escape into the air.. Mining is still being done at C/C but in recent years, the out of the area owned company(RTC) that has the mining contract with the C/C, went into bankruptcy causing innumerable problems. Dealing with a big city company and their lawyers and the bankruptcy court, have created a near stalemate. Expert testimony suggests that one day mining may take place at the PDC Landfill and the difference will be that PDC is a private enterprise and locally owned.

As a member of the City/County Landfill Committee, (located out near Edwards), I have more than a passing knowledge about the difference between the City/County owned organic landfill operated by Waste Management, and the PDC locally owned and operated solid hazardous waste landfill.

There is hardly any comparison between the C/C landfill and Peoria Disposal Landfill that PDC is currently seeking to expand. (Read my past blogs for the proper description of handling toxic waste at PDC before it is encased in Portland concrete and buried for the safety of all concerned.)

Expert testimony states that PDC hazardous waste gives off small amounts of emissions, far below Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Expert testimony says PDC legally emits few pounds of lead into the air per year and these few pounds are absorbed in the 300 acre expanse of the landfill. By comparison Keystone emitted 4600 pounds in 2003, still below legal limits. PDC emits no lead or mercury into any water stream as PDC does not accept mercury or arsenic waste.

I respect Dr. Sandra Steingraber when she says that mixtures of lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic can affect children’s development. However, she doesn’t state that PDC does not take mercury and arsenic and it buries the hazardous waste it receives after treatment in a safe disposal place. She also states that “since 1987 we’ve learned a lot about the ability of heavy metals to outlast liners designed to permit these kinds of things, and we no longer permit these kinds of sitings.” By insinuation, she links this “dry tomb” (expert testimony says it takes about 8-10 years for the buried material to turn into caked dry waste) to regular landfills which contradict common sense and expert testimony.

Her statement should also help answer the question of why PDC accepts wastes from other states. Over zealous environmentalists protest any new site in any state costing any private company more to open and maintain that there would be profit. Don’t expect other states local government to pay for new waste disposal sites when ones are already in existence.

Other toxic wastes created by companies and hospitals in Illinois, are exported to states that have hazardous waste landfills that do accept wastes that are not accepted by PDC. This information was omitted by the vote no environmentalists. Thank goodness the NIMBY group can’t stop interstate commerce. (Toxics flow thru Peoria every day in tankers or trucks heading for other states for treatment and safe burial, you just don’t notice them.)

Dr. Steingraber evidently has been led to believe that PDC is burying “toxic” waste above an aquiver. Expert testimony and the IEPA say that is not correct. Since Dr. Steingraber is from Pekin and came here to speak against the PDC application, surely she visited PDC to see EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE DOING TO PROTECT THE LONG TERM HEALTH OF THIS COMMUNITY. I hear she did not and has never visited this PDC. In fact the only doctor that visited this site was Dr.Stephen Smart, who urged the County Board to make a good decision, not a popular one. Retired Dr. McLean, who urged the medical society to vote “no”, is the father of Kim Converse was strongly against expansion. Dr. McLean visited with the Sierra Club.

PDC has been asked how much they make in profits. They are a private company using market rates to allow them to make enough profit to maintain and close all landfills at that site by year 2024. Adding 15 more years of expansion and 15 more years of closure and maintenance keeps the Coulter Family as responsible guardians of this entire landfill thru 2054. The perpetual maintenance fund created and funded by PDC, will be held in a county irrevocable trust, forever.

Questions have been raised about the old closed barrel trenches. Expert testimony states that PDC was allowed by law in 1979 to start a hazrdous waste landfill. NO expansion is planned above the barrel trenches which were created before stringent IPEA laws were enacted. The opponents against expansion own hired expert, Charles Norris of Denver, said “perhaps the landfill expansion should be approved if the county required perpetual care for the site and the expansion fee assessments provide funds to clean up the old closed section of the facility.” That statement was based on his speculation that this barrel trench site may someday need to be “cleaned up”. If the expansion is approved, and PDC remains in the community, this trench remains their responsibility.

Dr. Norris said “any organic contaminants LIKELY are coming from the older closed section of the landfill and not from the operating landfill” where the new application would be located. Other expert testimony listed many places outside the landfill property including approximately 30 abandoned wells, pesticides and road way wash off such as salt that could be the source of contamination. (No opponent mentioned the abandoned ammunition dump not owned by PDC.)

Approximately 30 “Special Criteria” were added to PDC’s application by the siting committee, staff and from input by concerned environmentalists such as a greatly increased perpetual maintenance fund, air monitoring, ect. (See my blog title “Nine Criteria”, ect., published on 4/12/06).

As a “yes” voter, I see the County Board has only two practical choices. One is to continue to vote no and have PDC close the landfill in 2009 leaving NO perpetual maintenance fund, in fact the county would lose all the “Special Criteria” agreed upon by PDC counsel according to county staff. PDC has said they would appeal a no vote and if they win before the State Pollution Board; the county again loses all 30 special criteria including millions of dollars in the perpetual maintenance fund and the county would not have the right to stop them from selling to anyone. You do not want one major company to monopolize all the waste handling in this community. The responsible leadership of this community does not want to see PDC leave. Think about it.

PDC is a family run local business. They cannot sell without county board approval under the added “Special Criteria”. PDC has an outstanding record and expert testimony supports all nine criteria they have to meet to expand the facility. The “yes” voters believe they have met the criteria. And 30 more special criteria have been added and, according to county staff, have been approved by PDC.

A yes vote is not an easy vote to make. I am not afraid to make this hard “yes” vote when I believe it is in the best interests of all of the community.

Since I blogged last I understand that PDC has agree not to expand over trench C-1. If so, the site would be further away from residences (375 yards) and the expansion, I am told by staff, would be far less noticeable, if at all, to people living in that area.

1 comment:

B. Ridley Critz, III said...

"Over zealous environmentalists protest any new site in any state costing any private company more to open and maintain that there would be profit. Don’t expect other states local government to pay for new waste disposal sites when ones are already in existence."

Did you REALLY mean this statement, Merle? Yes, my friend, I DO expect the local governments of other states to pay for their own waste disposal sites, as I expect Peoria City and County to pay for sites to dispose of ours, whether the waste is toxic, hazardous, trash or yard. I do not expect other states to take ANY of ours and do not think we should allow the NIMBY element of other states to send theirs to us.

If each area disposed of its own, maybe we would produce less, so as to have less to bury!

In any event, like the result or not, YOU, as a member of the County Board, are bound to cast your vote based on the application satisfying (or not) the conditions of the STATUTE. You still refuse to cite any EVIDENCE presented by PDC to show the expansion is to meet the needs of "the area." THAT is one of the STATUTORY requirements.

Simply put, Merle, if there is no evidence of that need, your "yes" vote would be contrary to the law. If you don't like it, don't violate the law -- ask the legislature to change it. And, if after all this hoo-rah, you cite no such evidence, then I believe there must have been none presented.

The emperor still wears no clothes, Merle.