March 22, 2011 Illinois EPA hearing update

Many thanks to everyone who attended the IL EPA hearing on March 22nd and spoke out against the increasing pollution levels at Countryside Landfill and Countryside Genco, and the request by both parties for an amended emission permit, including: IL Rep. Sandy Cole, Lake County Board members Melinda Bush and Pat Carey, Grayslake Village Trustees Ron Jarvis and Jeff Werfel, and members of the Sierra Club Woods and Wetland Group, and many local citizens of Grayslake, Vernon Hills, Third Lake, Wildwood and Zion, and even a Prairie Crossing Charter school student, who bravely put the IL EPA and Countryside Landfill on the spot and rendered them speechless with her pointed questions.
There was a large crowd at the hearing and much was revealed:

• Countryside Landfill is currently in non-compliance with its operating permit and has been since Dec. 2008.
• Countryside Landfill has been acutely aware that they have exceeded their permit since 2008, but has chosen not to implement adequate measures to achieve compliance.
• It’s likely that the IL EPA will grant the permit request, but expressed concern that it might soon be exceeded. Indeed, sulfur dioxide emission levels at the landfill continue to rise dramatically, and either exceed or will soon exceed the requested new permit limits. According to our data received from an IL EPA FOIA request, they have already exceeded their requested permit amount of 97.5 percent.
• It’s our understanding that many other landfills around the country have had similar problems with hydrogen sulfide gas from landfilling gypsum (the product Countryside Landfill took in which creates the hydrogen sulfide gas during decomposition). We have a textbook published by McGraw-Hill from 2002 on waste management practices which clearly states that hydrogen sulfide gas is one of the serious consequences of landfilling gypsum. Nevertheless, at the hearing Countryside Landfill manager Mike Hey said that they are in “uncharted territory.” Instead, the landfill hopes that hydrogen sulfide emissions from the landfill will decrease spontaneously, and that they can avoid the expense of a scrubber.
• Mr. Hey stated that they believe this is a spike in emissions, however information obtained in the FOIA request, shows that hydrogen sulfide levels have been steadily rising since 2008, and many experts working with us believe they have not yet peaked.
• Countryside Landfill continues to accept smaller deliveries of gypsum in other forms, but says they will not accept loads of ground gypsum.
• IL EPA was unsure whether a scrubber is required for existing sources that exceed the 100 ton/year of sulfur dioxide emissions.
• According to our consulting engineer, a properly designed scrubber can address both emissions and odor problems. An estimate from a document received from the county shows the top-line scrubber system is approximately $300,000 capital cost and $277,000 in annual operating expenses.
• Countryside Landfill is considering installing smaller, individual scrubbers at various gas wells, but has not installed them, yet, according to Mr. Hey.
• Installing individual scrubbers on various wells is considered a “penny-ante” measure and is known to be ineffective, according to our consulting engineer.
• Grayslake relies on the Landfill for a portion of its operating revenue. Two village trustees (Ron Jarvis and Jeff Werfel) appeared at the hearing and spoke against the permit request.
• The Landfill might challenge legal decisions that do not support their business strategy, specifically if their permit request is denied, according to Mr. Hey.

Here’s what you can do to help:
Written comments, considered with the same weight as verbal comments at the hearing, may be sent to: Illinois EPA, Dean Studer, Hearing Officer, Re: Countryside Landfill, 1021 N. Grand Ave. E., P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, IL 62794-9276; 217/558-8280 by April 21, midnight.

In your comments, please ask the Illinois EPA to require Countryside/Genco to keep its sulfur dioxide emissions at or under its current permitted levels or face stiff fines; install a “scrubber” to clean up hydrogen sulfide gas; agree to not accept construction materials containing gypsum; install a backup generator ensuring existing flare operates at all times.

The draft permits are accessible at http://www.epa.gov/reg5air/permits/ilonline.html.

The IL EPA will respond to all relevant concerns and questions in a formal responsiveness document (required by federal NEPA law).

A decision whether to grant a new air pollution permit is anticipated by June 20, 2011.

In addition, it’s come to our attention that we have other avenues that we can pursue to ensure Countryside Landfill installs a comprehensive scrubber system, whether or not this permit is issued. If you would to participate, please contact us.

Incinerator Free Lake County
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