Over 350 concerned residents signed a petition at the Old Settler’s Celebration to request that Mayor John Downs have air monitors placed at the hospital and nursing home which are in close proximity to the coal processing plant at Deer Run Mine.
By monitoring the air for particulate matter, the quality of the ambient air can be determined with respect to two criteria pollutants, PM10 and PM2.5. Both of these along with other pollutants are monitored across the U S with Illinois having several sites, but none located in Hillsboro.
The World Health Organization has published a report on the health damage resulting from particulate matter. The smaller particle of 2.5 micrometers size is more harmful than the 10 micrometer, but all dust particles should be controlled and monitored to protect children, the elderly, and residents with existing health issues.
There are no air monitors on or off the mine site, but there are particulate matter limitations in the lifetime air permit provided by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Residents have concerns about the coal dust and fumes emanating from Deer Run. They want to know what is in the air they are breathing.
The response to the air monitor petition to Mayor Downs can be summed up by these 3 possible outcomes: 1) Petitioners are ignored. 2) The City of Hillsboro covers the cost of the monitor installation. 3) Hillsboro Energy LLC accepts the responsibility and expense of the air monitoring. Regrettably, Number 1 is the outcome that has happened since the petition was presented to the Mayor on October 8, 2013.
The quality of air in Hillsboro is an important issue to discuss at the 5 year renewal of Deer Run Mine’s Permit 399. This Public Hearing will be held on February 19, 2014, 6 pm, at the Historic Courthouse in the County Board Room. Citizens can and must protect their community and health. Contact Mayor Downs at City Hall at 217-532-6615 and let him know your concerns.
For more information download this article by Sue Bradbury, THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF BREATHING THE AIR NEAR COAL MINES.
Where: Montgomery County Historic Courthouse, No. 1 Courthouse Square, Hillsboro, IL
second floor county board room.
When: February 19, 2014, 6 PM
Deer Run Mine has been operating since 2011. Subsequent to its approval in 2009, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources / Office of Mines and Minerals allowed the construction of an 80-foot tall, one square-mile coal slurry impoundment instead of the in-ground facility proposed during the permit application review and public hearing process. This facility, which contains highly toxic, carcinogenic chemicals and organic compounds that cannot be recycled or reused, is located in the City of Hillsboro, next to a hospital; school; nursing home; and day care center. It is rated as a high hazard dam, which means that if the coal slurry impoundment were to fail, it would result in loss of life and property in Hillsboro and Schram City, and could send pollution downstream into the watershed of Lake Hillsboro.
Now a second high-hazard coal slurry impoundment will be constructed next to the first, since the first impoundment was designed to last just five years. It will be twice the size as the first, covering an area 1/2 miles by two miles. It, too, will be located in the City of Hillsboro.
Since 2009, Citizens Against Longwall Mining and the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club have been petitioning the IDNR / OMM for an administrative review hearing regarding the approval of #399 that was incomplete, invalid, and misleading. The incised waste refuse area approved in Permit #399 was changed through “insignificant revisions” to become an enclosed impoundment with a synthetic liner. Hillsoboro Energy then applied for a Significant Revision to Permit #399 to raise the already constructed base of the impoundment to a height of 80 feet. There have been 4 permit applications to OMM by Hillsboro Energy:
- The original Permit #399.
- Significant Revision 1 of Permit# 399 for impoundment 1.
- Permit #424 for the 2nd impoundment.
- Renewal of Permit #399.
On October 31, 2013, a new IDNR Hearing Officer dismissed CALM’s petition to challenge Permit #399. See Administrative Review Testimony on Deer Run Mine Not Allowed by Office of Mines and Minerals. Citizens are greatly concerned about the power of IDNR / OMM to make changes they deem acceptable to coal mining permits as “Insignificant Revisions,” which are not placed on public notice and have no comment opportunity. See more at Citizens Against Longwall Mining.
On February 19, 2014, the IDNR/OSM will be holding a public hearing to review the 5-year Permit #399 that includes the now-functioning coal slurry impoundment. The hearing will take place at Montgomery County’s Historic Courthouse at 6pm.
The 5 year renewal of Permit 399 for Deer Run Mine is under consideration by Office of Mines and Minerals (OMM) in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). For over 4 years, Citizens Against Longwall Mining (CALM) and Sierra Club petitioners never got to present their experts or present their full case against this permit. The petitioners against Permit 399 were dismissed on Halloween 2013 by a new IDNR Hearing Officer. It was fitting that the dismissal occurred during IDNR’s Halloween costume parade since the petitioners had already experienced several years of horror and disbelief on the Permit 399 challenge.
The reality of the 4-year battle to challenge Permit 399 with IDNR/OMM involved: an adversarial relationship, dismissal of petitioners on questionable basis, prolonged delays, and stonewalled and unfulfilled FOIA requests. The most threatening action of IDNR/OMM was its request to Hearing Officer (H. O.) Michael O’Hara to sanction the petitioners and our lawyer after a Summary Judgment filing was submitted in July, 2010. After this filing, eight motions were left unanswered by Mr. O’Hara and our case remained on a hiatus for over 2 years. A new IDNR Hearing Officer was assigned to the case and began issuing a response to motions in 2013.
In September 2013 the sanctioning threat motion to our first lawyer was answered and it acknowledged the entry filing made in February 2011 of David L. Wentworth II, the lawyer filing to represent the petitioners. The second IDNR Hearing Officer did not dismiss the sanctioning threat to the petitioners. Without answering other pending motions, the petitioners were dismissed with the stated reason that their attorney had not met a filing deadline. Subsequently, attorney Wentworth, acting for the petitioners, filed an appeal on the Halloween dismissal with IDNR and also filed a Complaint for Administrative Review with the Circuit Court of Sangamon County.
There have been 4 permit applications to OMM by the Deer Run Mine company Hillsboro Energy LLC (HEL): original 399 Permit, Significant Revision 1 of Permit 399 for impoundment 1, Permit 424 for the 2nd impoundment, and renewal of Permit 399. Citizens are greatly concerned about the power of OMM to make changes that it deems acceptable to coal mining permits as “Insignificant Revisions” which are not placed on public notice and have no comment opportunity. At Deer Run Mine, as of January 2014, there are 12 Insignificant Permit Revisions and 6 Insignificant Boundary Revisions for Permit 399.
Citizens feel that OMM delayed and impaired their public participation as established by state and federal mining laws. The administrative review process should have been handled in a timely manner, accepting of concerned citizens’ involvement, and open to freedom of information requests. It is the responsibility of IDNR to hire an appropriate hearing officer to conduct the Administrative Review, but there were delays and a 2 year hiatus of the first hearing officer.
Many issues and inadequacies of Permit 399 exist. These include additional safety and environmental threats resulting from coal production and Deer Run Mine expansion to a proposed 2nd high hazard dam coal slurry impoundment. OMM never addressed the inadequate cumulative hydrologic impact area and unlisted stream tributaries that HEL presented in the Permit 399 application. The drainage problem of subsided farmland and the permeation of coal dust in the atmosphere are still facing the community.
The potential for groundwater and surface water contamination, including Old Hillsboro Lake, is increased by ignoring hydrologic issues and location of impoundments. The likelihood of failure and leakage will only multiply over time, which is a permanent problem for the community since the impoundments plus coal slurry will remain in place covered with soil in perpetuity. Failure of the impoundments would inundate portions of Hillsboro, Schram City and surrounding area with millions of gallons of noxious coal slurry according to the maps presented by the coal company in their permit applications.
If justice were the issue; it did not occur. The opponents to 399 had no idea of the coming intimidating legal ramifications and the resulting economic and personal stresses that included “sanctioning” by the state. Sadly, intimidation by IDNR/OMM is employed as an effective approach in squelching individual objections to Deer Run Mine. The community, health of residents and the environment are still at risk; so once again IDNR/OMM’s “unique” application of state and federal mining laws enhanced coal profits on the backs of citizens.