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Asbestos at landfill gets OK

‘They thought we were being too restrictive,’ official says

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

MORRISON – Asbestos may be on its way to Whiteside County’s landfill – at least from Prophetstown.

On Tuesday, the County Board agreed to ask the state to allow asbestos at the landfill. This effort was prompted by Prophetstown’s need to dispose of asbestos from the rubble of a downtown fire in July. 

Last month, county officials called the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and were told it would take a long time to get approval for asbestos.

Then they got political help.

County Board Chairman Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, contacted Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, who represents Whiteside County. Smiddy later got top IEPA officials on a conference call. And the state promised to fast-track the county’s request.

When the county started the landfill in the early 1990s, it banned asbestos as a way to alleviate neighbors’ concerns.

Houston-based Waste Management, which runs the landfill, is helping the county with its request. 

Mike Wiersema, the landfill’s manager, said asbestos is a human health issue, not an environmental risk. It would be buried under other trash so that it doesn’t go airborne, he said.

“Prophetstown has done a good job of separating it. They have loads standing by,” Wiersema said. 

Officials expect the IEPA to respond to the request within 3 weeks. If it’s approved, then the county wouldn’t have to go back to the agency. It could then develop rules for acceptance of asbestos, “so there isn’t a free-for-all,” Wiersema said.

Duffy said the fast-tracking of the permit change wouldn’t have been possible without Smiddy’s help. The state officials, he said, wondered why the landfill didn’t accept more special waste than it does.

“That rather surprised me,” he said. “They thought we were being too restrictive.”

Whiteside County’s landfill is one of the few that doesn’t accept asbestos. Lee County’s is among those that do.

Peat mining sails through

MORRISON – Over the summer, a proposal for peat mining west of Morrison drew heated opposition from neighbors.

Whiteside County's planning and zoning commission rejected it in June, but a large County Board majority reversed that decision a month later.

For decades, companies have mined for peat in the western portion of the county. Residents have generally been fine with it.

But the operation under consideration over the summer was the first one north of Garden Plain Road – near houses. 

On Tuesday, the County Board took up another peat mining proposal – from the same partners as before, Mark Stichter and Jeff Hanson. Planning and zoning signed off on it.

The land in question is south of Garden Plain Road – in other words, no opposition.

County Board member Eugene Jacoby, D-Rock Falls, said some zoning commission members are upset the County Board is overruling its decisions. He said the thought was that the commission voted for the latest peat mining because it didn't want to contradict the board.

Board Chairman Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, said the zoning commission members should vote the way they feel is best. And member Bill Milby, D-Rock Falls, said the commission should state in its documentation why it rejects proposals.

"They never say why," Milby said. "Is it a personal thing?"

The board voted to approve the latest peat mining operation.

Jacoby tried to abstain.

"You can't, according to our board rules," Duffy said.

Jacoby then voted no.

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