Researchers from two University of Illinois campuses have joined the fight against disposing of hazardous waste at Clinton Landfill, which sits above the Mahomet Aquifer.

The discussion about siting a hazardous waste cell at the landfill has been ongoing for several years. Landfill owner Area Disposal of Peoria acknowledges that no one wants hazardous waste dumped in their neighborhood, but also points out the reality that it has to be disposed of somewhere.

Changes to the landfill require permission of the DeWitt County Board, then the state and federal environmental protection agencies; the request currently rests with the federal agency.

The aquifer — a deep, underground lake situated beneath most of Central Illinois — provides drinking water for 14 area counties and an estimated 750,000 residents.

The concern — and it is spread among not only environmental groups but many of those residents, local governments and state and federal lawmakers — is that hazardous waste, specifically carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), can seep through the cell liner and subsurface clay and rock, eventually making its way to the water.

At a meeting last week in Champaign, Lee News Service reported that university researchers have pledged to review and evaluate various options to address what alternatives might be available to placing PCBs in landfills. The PCBs destined for Clinton likely would come from a Great Lakes clean-up project.

The research has the support of several state and federal legislators, including Illinois' two senators, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican  Mark Kirk.

We have stood firm in the belief that federal EPA should say "no" to the request. Only 10 other sites in the country are permitted to accept high-level PCBs and the location of the Clinton Landfill makes it a poor choice to become No. 11.

Water is a precious, necessary resource — and one that is not infinite. The Mahomet Aquifer is filled with 4 trillion gallons of some of the purest water on the planet, and Central Illinois benefits from that every day.

We don’t need to invite trouble, particularly when the stakes are so high.

Public comments on this issue will be accepted through June 12 by writing William Spaulding, U.S. EPA (WG-15J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590 or at spaulding.william@epa.gov.

Public hearings will be 7:30 p.m. May 13 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign and at the same time May 14 at Freedom Hall in Morton.


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