Many residents in Montgomery County have now experienced the harm from the operations at Deer Run Mine for the last 5 years. If residents are unhappy with the first 5 years of Deer Run Mine operation, they will pretty much experience the same daily interactions, with perhaps more intensity. Illinois Department of Natural Resources/Office of Mines and Minerals recently renewed Permit 399 for another 5 years and the Illinois EPA will also be extending the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System water permit. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency lifetime air permit still has no monitoring of particulate matter in the community and still requires only calculations of dust at the mine site.
Permit 424 was just approved, so the 2nd high rise coal slurry impoundment will soon start to be constructed after the water permits are approved. The public hearings for the 2 water permits will be held June 4, 2014 at Hillsboro High School by the IEPA. The NPDES Permit for the 2nd impoundment will be held at 5:00 P.M. The water quality 401 Certification public hearing for the 2nd impoundment and its impact on our economy will be held at 7:30 P.M.
Coal processing does not have to result in a coal slurry impoundment, but IDNR/OMM as we all know approves whatever Hillsboro Energy LLC (HEL) requests. Lessons learned from the impoundment problems at Shay 1 in Carlinville, Illinois, Monterey 2 in Germantown, Illinois and the many impoundments in West Virginia show that Illinois citizens will pay a high cost in the long term.
The many concerns about coal dust, noise, water contamination, health issues, property values, and traffic delays, will continue and will be enhanced with construction of the 2nd impoundment. There will be no additional monitoring or testing of chemicals in the air or water resources even with the expansion.
All of the discharges from the 9 mine outfalls pass through an unlined water reservoir called Shoal Creek Watershed Structure Five, overflow into Central Park Creek, continued through Hillsboro, and finally empty into Middle Fork Shoal Creek. The discharges from the mine interact with surface waters in the county, but no monitoring of the most harmful components of coal is required. HEL does not acknowledge that harmful metals like arsenic, chromium, lead, selenium, etc or any organic toxic compounds like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons exist in coal and as a result it is not required to analyze for these toxic substances in surface water samples. At least that is what was submitted by HEL to the IEPA on the application for the NPDES water permit for Deer Run. See 3 pages of the NPDES application submitted by HEL for Permit IL0078727 that denies the presence of harmful metals other than mercury and denies the toxic hydrocarbons in coal.
The development of Deer Run Mine was encouraged by Roger Dennison, the President of HEL, who emphasized economic growth in this area. He still works for Chris Cline/Foresight Energy, but mainly at Shay 1 Mine in Carlinville. The tragedy of Deer Run Mine is the lack of protections from coal contamination in the community; IDNR/OMM and IEPA have failed to require adequate testing and monitoring.
The mine has been here for 5 years, and we still seem to have the same economic issues. Looking back at the financial relationship among Deer Run Mine, Montgomery County and the City of Hillsboro, there are reasons to believe that economic benefit did come, but not to the city or county. The city and county officials tried to enhance and better the community by promoting the mine, but some negotiations were not in the best interests of the citizens. The mineral rights to 120,000 acres in Montgomery County that sold to the Chris Cline Group for 7.2 million were resold later for approximately a quarter of a billion dollars. Hillsboro airport was sold as undeveloped land with devalued buildings not appraised as a licensed, functional airport. During the construction of Deer Run Mine, the bills were paid by the city and later reimbursed by the Chris Cline Group without any compensation to the city. The taxpayer is covering the security and emergency management training costs for Deer Run Mine. Over 20 homes have been torn down and subsidence of land and roads are happening. Coal dust, noise, 2 high rise dam impoundments, and traffic delays will further devalue property values and quality of life.
Politics has played a detrimental role in life and death decisions related to coal mining. Chris Cline/Foresight Energy Group moved into the Illinois coal basin with the same determination it used in West Virginia. According to public records, large sums of money were contributed to campaigns of Illinois officials by this corporate interest prior to and during pending coal permit applications. IDNR/OMM has failed to fulfill its mission to the citizens of Illinois. Read more at these links:
The mine has been considered as an economic boom to Montgomery County by some, but a health hazard and unacceptable environmental concern to others. It seems that the monetary gain of coal royalty payments would be valued more if HEL were required to confine the fugitive coal dust to the mine site and have air monitors in the community to establish that it is in compliance. If Central Park Creek and Middle Fork Shoal Creek would be monitored for all of the harmful chemicals in coal, the community would surely appreciate the knowledge that its surface waters are not being contaminated.
Will citizens demand the environment they deserve and the support from regulatory agencies they should have?