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Burning tornado debris irks northern Ill. village

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

COAL CITY (AP) – A northern Illinois village has temporarily stopped burning debris from a November tornado after receiving complaints from a neighboring town about thick, black smoke drifting over homes.

The Grundy County village of Diamond hired a contractor to burn tree limbs, shingles, furniture and other debris because it was less expensive than having it hauled to a landfill. But the burn site was in an unincorporated part of the county just north of the nearby village of Coal City.

Coal City Administrator Matt Fritz told The (Joliet) Herald-News that some residents complained to village officials and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“Whatever was being burnt was causing some good, significant black smoke,” Fritz said, adding that some residents worried about polluted runoff getting into underground water supplies.

The contractor, John Trotter, said he received a special permit from the IEPA to burn the debris, which it allows to be done in designated disaster areas. He said the agency also inspected the site and made sure he removed any hazardous materials.

Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc said she postponed the burning after about a week, and is working with the IEPA to find a burn site closer to Diamond’s village limits.

Kernc said debris removal has been a “major issue” and could become a bigger problem this spring when more demolition is carried out. About 120 homes and businesses sustained moderate to major damage from the tornado, and it’s unclear how many buildings will have to be torn down.

“It’s up to those homeowners and their contractors to decide how they will get rid of their debris,” Kernc said. “Some of them may want to burn it as well. I just don’t know.”

The village will hold a special meeting April 9 for homeowners and contractors, and will have experts available to answer questions.

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