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Construction Companies, Quarries Face Tougher Testing, Argue ‘Undue Financial Burden’

Companies in the construction business in Illinois are arguing against tougher monitoring of porous rock quarries that are being reclaimed by being filled with “clean construction-demolition debris” (CCDD). Road builders, engineers and the like say Illinois has enough quarry regulations and that additional monitoring would place an undue financial burden on companies. But lawmakers and environmentalists in parts of the state want stricter regulations in order to ensure drinking water remains free of associated toxins that could be released by the construction materials, writes the Illinois State Journal-Register.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is attempting to revive previously dismissed groundwater monitoring on the quarries, saying that underground testing is necessary to ensure that unsafe materials do not go directly into the water table.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency defines CCDD as the following uncontaminated materials:

  • Broken concrete without protruding metal bars
  • Bricks
  • Rock
  • Stone
  • Reclaimed asphalt pavement;
  • Uncontaminated soil (mixed with other clean construction-demolition debris) generated from construction or demolition activities

Eighteen organizations are against the measure to require stricter testing. Illinois already has the toughest rules for quarry reclamation in the country, and the Illinois Pollution Control Board, a panel of gubernatorial appointees who oversee environmental regulation, sided with these organizations in 2012, arguing against mandatory groundwater monitoring. In 2015, the board voted against revisiting that decision, prompting the Attorney General’s lawsuit

But in this state, contamination concerns at quarries have largely been brushed aside. The Illinois Pollution Control Board, a five-member panel of politically connected gubernatorial appointees who oversee environmental regulation, sided with quarry operators and against public health in 2012. The board agreed to some regulations at quarries but not mandatory groundwater monitoring. Quarry owners argued it would be too expensive. The board in 2015 declined to revisit that decision.

The board’s actions prompted a lawsuit from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Will County officials who argue that the board was wrong to let quarry operators off the hook. Not only has random soil testing at some quarries shown levels of contaminants in so-called clean debris that exceed standards, there also was no required soil testing before new rules were put into place in about 2005. Before then, just about anything in a dump truck could have been unloaded into an unlined quarry.

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