Aggregate Producers Respond to “Attorney General Cites McHenry County Pits for Possible Groundwater Contamination” Article

A  communication from Dan Eichholz, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers:

Response from Aggregate Producers to Pollution Claims by Attorney General

This information is in response to your 7/24/18 blog post titled ”Attorney General Cites McHenry County Pits for Possible Groundwater Contamination” regarding notices of alleged “violations” issued to permitted clean construction or demolition debris (CCDD) facilities.

The overwhelming majority of notices sent by the Illinois EPA were for the detection of naturally occurring elements such as iron and manganese that are found at these concentrations in uncontaminated soils throughout Illinois and have since been resolved.

The naturally occurring elements cited in these notices DO NOT constitute a risk to the environment.

Pits cited by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

By law, CCDD is limited to uncontaminated materials which may ONLY include broken concrete, bricks, rock, stone, reclaimed asphalt pavement or clean soil generated from construction activities.

The CCDD program is an environmentally sound, common sense management tool that benefits Illinois taxpayers by holding down construction costs and preventing needless filling of landfills.

The program saves taxpayers millions in additional costs for public works projects while it decreases the number of heavy trucks on congested roadways.

In 2010, when the Illinois legislature passed the current law related to CCDD, the legislature charged the Illinois Pollution Control Board with the responsibility of adopting rules that were protective of the environment.

The Board adopted strong front-end requirements such as environmental and engineering review, soil analytical testing and on-site screening of every CCDD load – making Illinois’ regulations the most stringent in the country.

As part of this process the Board TWICE conducted thorough hearings, accepted testimony and received documentation on the issue of mandating groundwater monitoring at these facilities.

Based on the evidence the Board twice rejected mandating such monitoring and the Illinois Appellate Court recently confirmed their decision.

The operators I represent are committed to the responsible placement of CCDD in accordance with their permits and the rules adopted by the Board.

The addition of costly groundwater monitoring mandates for these facilities has been determined unwarranted and should not be further legislated.

The attached presentation provides more detailed information on the issue with the charts on slides 10-12 showing how the IEPA tests found the levels of naturally occurring elements to be at normal background for uncontaminated soil like you would expect to find in any backyard in Illinois.

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There is an extensive report on the subject that can be found here.

The guts of the report follows:

Clean Construction & Demolition Debris Benefits

Illinois’ communities, economy and environment all benefit from CCDD activities.

​According to Illinois law, “Clean construction or demolition debris (CCDD) is uncontaminated broken concrete without protruding metal bars, bricks, rock, stone, or reclaimed asphalt pavement generated from construction or demolition activities.”

Regulations Ensure Safe Operation

    • Accepting CCDD is a highly regulated activity: CCDD operations are permitted and regulated by the State of Illinois and require considerable oversight by operators to ensure that only allowable CCDD materials are accepted. The only practical alternatives for disposing of excess construction and demolition materials is landfill disposal or placement of these materials in unregulated sites such as other construction project locations or agricultural properties. None of the safeguards required of CCDD operations exist at unregulated construction sites and farm fields.

CCDD Sites vs. Landfills

  • Preservation of existing landfill capacity: One of the original reasons for the development of CCDD regulations in Illinois, which is still fulfilled today.
  • Slowing the need for expansion of existing landfills and creation of new ones: CCDD facilities in former mines, pits, and quarries make use of land from which mineral reserves have been extracted. Therefore, the CCDD is deposited in an area that already exists and there is no need to create new facilities for CCDD.
  • CCDD facilities accept materials that are not harmful to either human health and safety or the environment: Unlike landfills, CCDD facilities do not accept “waste” materials that are inherently harmful to human health and safety or the environment. Landfills have an increased potential to produce harmful leachates, and liner failures have been documented, greatly increasing the potential for substantial harm to groundwater resources.

Environmental Benefits

  • CCDD sites are contained: Weather events can cause catastrophic landslides in sanitary landfills due to the enormous man-made mountain of garbage covered only by soils and vegetation. Such events can cause harm to human health and the environment due to the potentially enormous release of waste materials. CCDD materials are placed below the level of surrounding land in former pits or quarries. Therefore, any sliding materials will be contained within the footprint of the pit or quarry.
  • Reduced air pollution: CCDD facilities are typically located closer to where the majority of construction projects take place, often in industrial or urban areas. Therefore, transportation time and subsequently air pollution are minimized.
  • Quarries and CCDD sites complete the construction material loop: Not only do active mines produce beneficial aggregate products for the construction industry, they serve as a location for the deposition of CCDD materials when their useful purpose has been exhausted.

Economic and Sustainability Benefits

  • Lower cost for commercial, private and public works construction projects: Tipping fees for a semi-truck load of material at a landfill can be more than five times greater than a load of material at a CCDD facility.
  • Reduced transportation costs: CCDD facilities located adjacent to an active mine commonly offer aggregate products for sale.  Trucks delivering CCDD can also haul back such products. This not only saves on cartage costs, but also reduces fuel consumption and air emissions over trips to separate locations for material disposal at a landfill and product pick up at an aggregate mine.
  • Reduced wear and tear on roadways: Extensive trips to distant landfills can increase road degradation along these routes resulting in increased maintenance costs.
  • Tax revenue savings: A large portion of CCDD material comes from public projects such as utilities (sewer or water main) and road construction. Local governments realize substantial savings from utilizing CCDD facilities rather than sanitary landfills.

Community Benefits

  • Mined land reclamation: Most CCDD operations are located at quarries or sand and gravel pits and thus CCDD material is utilized to help stabilize and contour the mined land and return it to useful purposes like wildlife habitat or housing and industrial development.
  • In comparison to landfills, CCDD facilities are more compatible with industrial and urban environments: CCDD materials do not decompose or produce common byproducts of decomposition such as Carbon Dioxide and flammable Methane, nor do they release other chemical liquid byproducts that can be very harmful to human health and safety or the environment. Additionally, CCDD materials do not create offensive odors or attract vermin.

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