October 10, 2012
Complaint alleges air and water violations, seeks penalties and withdrawal of permits
Newman, Il., – Residents living near the Murdock Mine near Newman, IL in Douglas County were joined by Prairie Rivers Network for a press conference regarding years of pollution complaints at the Murdock Mine. On Thursday October 4th, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint against Alpena Vision Resources before the Illinois Pollution Control Board, seeking fines and for the Board to withdraw the mine’s waste disposal permits (click here for the complaint).
“The agencies and Alpena Vision Resources allowed for human sewage waste to be dumped in our neighborhood – causing odor, flies, and pollution of our water for years to come,” said farmer and nearby resident Zala Swigart. “It sickens me.”
Alpena Vision Resources purchased the mine in 2004 from Old Ben Coal Company. Since then, Alpena has been slow to conduct the required reclamation activities, and air and water pollution have resulted from poor reclamation, as well as the mixing of various municipal and industrial wastes that Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) have approved for disposal at the site. These include coal ash, water filtration sludge, grain processing waste, and municipal sewage solids.
“Really what we have here is an old slurry impoundment at an un-reclaimed coal mine being used as a landfill, but without the pollution controls that legally operated landfills are required to adhere to,” explained Traci Barkley, Water Resources Scientist with Prairie Rivers Network. “As a result, the neighbors have been forced to deal with the coal ash dust, the sickening odors and pollution of their water.”
Barkley added that the mine permitting groups within the respective agencies should not have authority to permit the use of non-mine waste products such as sewage solids and other industrial wastes at mine sites because mine sites, like the one at Murdock, are not designed to meet landfill performance standards.
“It is frustrating that the waste being dumped here isn’t from our community or even this county,” said Jeri Luth, who farms with her husband Michael Luth directly to the south of the mine. “After this waste is trucked from these other communities it is long forgotten. But now we have to deal with the long-term consequences.”
Over the years the dumping of coal ash, sewage sludge and other wastes has resulted in complaints of excessive dust, noxious odors, and sludge and algae choked waters downstream. Several of the mine’s neighbors shared how they have asked for help from IDNR and IEPA for years, but that the agencies charged with inspecting the mine and enforcing the regulations have failed to take appropriate enforcement action.
“Local residents have filed over a dozen complaints to the state agencies about pollution problems from this site in the last several years but neither IDNR nor IEPA referred this case to the Attorney General’s office for enforcement,” said Traci Barkley. “Attorney General Lisa Madigan is pursuing this case solely in response to citizen complaints, and we thank her office for stepping in to protect this community from pollution.”
Several local residents echoed the sentiment of appreciation for the Attorney General’s office, and added that they never imagined the coal mine would be turned into a waste dump.
“It is one thing to have an operating coal mine outside your window. You kind of accept the problems that it causes,” added Jeri Luth. “But once the mine is closed and the land is being used in a manner in which it was not intended for, the fear of the unknown is overwhelming. We wonder what is seeping into our soil and what long-term affects it will bring.”
Prairie Rivers Network is a not-for-profit clean water advocacy group that works to protect Illinois’ rivers and streams for people, fish and wildlife. www.prairierivers.org
- Traci Barkley, Prairie Rivers Network, tbarkley @ prairierivers.org, 217/344-2371, (click here for statement)
- Zala Swigart, farmer and downwind resident, 217/808-1142
- Jeri and Michael Luth, farming family and downstream resident, 217/837-2250