Monday, September 3, 2007

The Evidence Against the Pit

Tomorrow the fate of Cary will be decided. The board is expected to vote on the Meyer petition. The meeting will be held at 7 pm at the Holiday Inn in Crystal Lake again.

Here is some of the accumulated evidence against the pit (all of which is public record):
  • At the last meeting, definitive evidence was present to the board regarding property taxes. An employee of Meyer petitioned McHenry County to have his property taxes lowered because his proximity to a gravel pit lowered the value of his house. The board agreed. His taxes were lowered.
Not only are we going to contend with lower property values. The new pit is a "potential" for contamination of Cary's drinking water. This affects not just Fox Trails, but all of Cary.

The Village engineer stated in testimony on July 12 that a gravel pit located in the recharge area of the well can be an avenue for contamination of our water.

Richard Cobb, Deputy Director of Ground Water for the Illinois EPA concurs. In a letter dated August 24, 2007, he writes:

"Sand and gravel operations represent a potential threat of groundwater contamination. In 1987, Governor Thompson signed legislation for protection of Illinois groundwater from contamination. The Illinois Groundwater Protection Act (IGPA) defined any excavation for the discovery sand or gravel as a Potential Route of Groundwater Contamination (415 ILCS 5/3.350). In addition, the IGPA required the Illinois EPA to develop and the Illinois Pollution Control Board (Board) to adopt comprehensive groundwater quality standards (35 Ill. Adm. Code 620) including non-degradation requirements. These regulations include contaminants such as total dissolved solids (TDS) and chlorides which can be increased when excavating sand or gravel." (Proposed Gravel Pit. Letter. Richard Cobb. August 24, 2007)

The IEPA recommends that the Village of Cary extend the setback zone around well #10 in order to lessen the possibility of contamination.

But it is the evidence from Valley View Elementary School in McHenry that provides us with a glimpse of what is in store for homeowners in Cary. There are three gravel pits near the school. The school district did some independent evaluations of the situation to determine if the gravel pits owned and operated by Meyer Material Company had a negative effect on the school. Here is what they discovered:

"These results indicate that the quarry operations produce considerable particulate levels that can be carried on the prevailing winds onto school property. Additionally, the EPA prohibits the emission of visible particulate matter across property lines. Therefore, the quarry operations appear to be outside compliance parameters for particulate matter based on the results of this study." (Air Sampling Survey Report. McHenry Community Consolidated School District 15, McHenry Illinois. Valley View School. September 3 through 8, 1997. CIH Professional Services. Yorkville, Illinois)

Furthermore, Jack Barnette, EPA Chief for Radiation and Indoor Air, visited the school in the Spring of 1999. This is what he told the city:

"One obvious problem was the amount of dust and sand that had accumulated near the doors and windows of the school. the principle source of dust was the gravel pit that was adjacent to the school property. This gravel pit surrounded the building on three sides. The maintenance staff told me that they cleaned up the dust and sand everyday. They also indicated that dust from the pit impacted the school or the playground on a regular basis. Though the indoor conditions of the school suggested a well maintained facility, the outdoor source, that is, the gravel pit, was definitely having a negative impact on the building and grounds of this institution." (Valley View School, McHenry County. Letter. Jack Barnette. September 17, 2002)

Furthermore, it was revealed that Meyer was not "a good neighbor" on several occasions:
  • October 15, 2003. In a meeting before the IEPA about Meyer Material Company, the IPEA admitted that they don't inspect gravel pits more than once every three or four years, barring any complaints. Instead, they rely on the company to report any noncompliance to IEPA rules and regulations. (Transcript. Before the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Hearing involving the issuance of a new construction permit by Meyer Material Co. McHenry, Illinois. October 15, 2007 p. 30)
  • At this meeting, it was discovered that Meyer had added "21 conveyors" to their operations without notifying the IEPA and had been in violation for some time with no inspections or consequences. (Transcript. Before the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Hearing involving the issuance of a new construction permit by Meyer Material Co. McHenry, Illinois. October 15, 2007 p. 48)
  • May 22, 2002. The IEPA concluded that due to the amount of fugitive dust coming from the pit onto school property, that Meyer Material Company could be "cited for nuisance violation." And "their sand stockpile...emits fugitive dust during strong wind current that could cause nuisance and affect the health of school children of Valley View School." (IEPA. Tier 1 Inspection. May 22, 2002. Complaint# 02051404)
  • 1994. Meyer cited for "insufficient spray bar capacity." The inspectors noticed "visible fugitive dust emission on the top of the conveyor." Also, "visible emissions were observed off the conveyors." (IEPA. May 25, 1994)
  • 1986. Lack of operating permit violation. (IEPA. July 24, 1986)
It must be noted again that most violations that are found in gravel pit operations are not discovered by the IEPA or the EPA during routine inspections, but after residents file complaints. Meyer will be expected to do much of the monitoring itself.

That's like having the fox guard the hen house, so to speak.

In summation, the gravel pit proposal by Meyer Material Company will adversely affect the residents of Cary, Illinois. Lower property values will be the first reality. Next, gravel pits will negatively affect the standard of living in Cary, especially to those residents nearest the pit. Fugitive dust will be another daily reality. This dust will not just be a nuisance, but could have negative health impacts as well. Meyer has shown itself not to be the "good neighbor" it claims, but has violated regulations several times. Lastly, the "potential for contamination" of Cary's groundwater should be enough to vote this pit down. If the groundwater does become contaminated, this could bring costly ramifications on the Village of Cary, Illinois.

A copy of this brief has been sent to the Village Board and the area newspapers. If you would like a .pdf version of the complete paper, click here.