Senate weighs measure to let quarry owners off hook for groundwater monitoring
A measure that appears to undermine efforts to establish groundwater monitoring rules for construction debris fill operations at unlined quarries has sailed through the House and now awaits Senate approval.
House Bill 2880 would “release from permitting requirements a quarry-waste operator who transfers part of a quarry-disposal site to someone else,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
The bill was to be debated on the Senate floor on Friday after passing the House of Representatives on a vote of 110-2. Rep. Daniel Beiser (D-Alton), chairman of the House Environment Committee, introduced the bill earlier this session.
The measure is in almost direct opposition to HB3056, which was introduced by Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) and which would reinstate the requirements for quarry operators to monitor groundwater for potential contamination.
Also in McDermed's quarter is Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is suing in state court over existing regulations that are not being enforced. The lack of oversight is what prompted McDermed to submit her bill.
Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) is chief sponsor of HB2880, which amends the state Environmental Protection Act to eventually allow owners of unlined quarries to transfer a portion of their property to another individual and thus be released from the permitting requirements.
McDermed was one of the two members of the House to vote against HB2880. Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) was the other.
HB3056 has more than 28 cosponsors from both political parties.
Proponents of groundwater monitoring include many environmental groups, including the Sierra Club of Illinois.
“Sierra Club has worked for many years to either oppose quarry disposal of demolition debris or other wastes, and also to require better groundwater monitoring, materials testing, and other safeguards in cases where it is, unfortunately, happening," Jack Darin, the director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter, said.
The Illinois Environmental Council, one of the only environmental groups to have commented on the issue prior to McDermed’s bill, called her legislation an exceptional approach to the problem.
“Contaminated debris that is sent to quarries in Illinois poses a risk to the groundwater of local people,” Jen Walling, executive director of the council, said. “In Will County, large populations live near these quarries and use groundwater from local aquifers as drinking water. At a minimum, the law should be changed to require groundwater monitoring to protect people near these sites."
Neither Illinois State Senator Steven Landek (D-Illinois) nor Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (D) responded to requests for comment for this story.