What's in the leachate at the Atkinson Landfill? That's the question Atkinson Village Board members want answered.
After a lengthy discussion at the Sept. 3 meeting, the board approved trying to test the leachate at the landfill, to determine if it is safe to be dumped into the village sewer system.
"We have a company that can do the testing if we can obtain samples of the leachate at the landfill," mayor Ken Taber said, and asked board member Ray Elliott to get the samples of the leachate."
Mayor Taber said he hopes the results of testing the leachate can be reported at the next board meeting on Sept. 16.
Even though the contract between the village and the Atkinson Landfill Co. (ALC), owned by Branko Vardijan, Chicago, expired in November of 2012, there is an agreement between the ALC and the village regarding the leachate that has not expired "and will not expire until 30 years after the landfill is closed permanently," the mayor said. "We have to get the leachate out of there now, and the area cleaned up. We do not have to take it, but we just need to get rid of it because it is overflowing at the site.
"We are hoping that after the testing is done, we can figure out how to alleviate the leachate problem, whether it be by us accepting it into our treatment plant or having him (Vardijan) take it elsewhere" he said. "It just needs to be cleaned up."
The landfill was closed to dumping on Aug. 19 because of the elevation of the landfill,
Prior to the board's decision about testing the leachate, Jake VanHerzeele of Atkinson, who was hired in Dec. 2012, by the village to work as an attendant to monitor tonnage and fees at the Atkinson Landfill, voiced his concern about the condition of the waste and leachate at the site.
"I felt it was time to come forward with this information because it directly affects the quality of life and real estate value of the citizens of Atkinson, in addition to the surrounding communities," VanHerzeele said. "Our publicly-elected officials have a moral obligation to act in the best interests of their constituents, and I want to ensure that the people of Atkinson are well-informed about what's going on in their own backyard."
VanHerzeele said Vardijan "has repeatedly violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, has intentionally withheld information from the village pertaining to these violations and blamed everyone but himself in the process."
"One thing that people need to realize is that almost 90 percent of the waste that is deposited in the landfill comes from Vardijan's other facilities located in LaSalle County and Chicago," VanHerzeele said.
He said there were 27 total violations from a May 7 inspection by the IEPA.
Page 2 of 2 - "It is common for landfill operations to have some violations, with a heavy emphasis on 'some,' but repeated violations committed by the ALC are above and beyond what you would see at other facilities. The most disconcerting part is that this has been going on for some time now," said VanHerzeele.
He listed the violations including "causing, threatening or allowing water pollution in Illinois by creating a water pollution hazard; disposing, treating, storing or abandoning waste or transporting any waste into the state at or to sites; not meeting requirements of the IEPA ACT and regulations groundwater monitoring program requirements; and failure to submit annual reports and water sample results to the Illinois EPA."
"Contaminated leachate water flowing directly off of his property on to adjacent land is completely unacceptable," VanHerzeele said. "It is time for this topic to be discussed in an open forum before any final decisions are made going forward with the Atkinson Landfill Co. and Vardijan."
VanHerzeele said he knew his comments would anger a lot of people, "and it should."
"It is not an easy thing to do, but this needed to happen, regardless of the consequences. Whistleblowers aren't the most popular people nowadays," he said.
Atkinson originally owned and operated the landfill, but sold it in the mid-1990s to Vardijan rather than incur the expenses for upgrades required under new environmental regulations or closing costs. It had been closed to dumping since 1997.
The Atkinson Landfill Co. was sued by the attorney general's office and the IEPA after it was discovered that the company was using the northern portion of the site without proper authorization.
In Aug. 1999, the village approved the company's request to "site" a new landfill on 140 acres of ground adjacent to the original landfill. State permit authorization for that site had been tied up in the legal wrangling over the improper dumping allegations. In the spring of 2004, Vardijan received the "significant modification" permit.
The elevation of the landfill has been in question this year.
In other business, the board:
•Approved a bid of $1,898 from Puentes Construction of Geneseo, for repairs to bathroom window and walls in a village-owned apartment caused by water damage.
• Accepted a bid of $1,200 from 2 Brothers Tree Service of Geneseo to remove two trees at Chad Hultman's residence. Hultman previously asked the board to look into removing the two trees on village property which caused upheaval to his sidewalk. Hultman said he would pay for stump removal and the to repair his sidewalk.
• The board voted to renew a one-year contract with Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors and agent LuAnn Lavine, to continue to list the lots in WestView Estates.