Southern Illinois community concerned about proposal to dump waste water in Big Muddy River

Proposal to dump waste water into Big Muddy River

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - A Southern Illinois community is upset and concerned over a proposal to dump wastewater from the Pond Creek Mine in Williamson County into the Big Muddy River .

The proposal is from a St Louis-based company, Williamson Energy, LLC and its parent company Foresight Energy.

According to Foresight, they need to dispose of the water for the safety of the miners who work underground. In the Hydrogeologic Information, they state it “poses a serious safety risk. A serious environmental risk holding back water properly, and a serious risk of property damage.”

However, not everyone who uses the river is on board. Galen Thomas is a part of the Southern Illinois Kayak and Canoe Club and he is very concerned about the potential waste water being “dumped” as he say in the Big Muddy River. “What are you going to do if you tip your kayak over an it’s polluted?” Thomas questioned.

Williamson Energy, LLC submitted an application on July 18, 2018 Illinois Department of Natural Resources for a permit to be able to run a pipeline from Pond Creek Mine to the river.

Thomas said, “It’s alarming to think that a private company would be permitted to use public waterway to dispose of their waste...rather than treating it themselves."

According to the Illinois EPA Public Information Officer Kim Biggs, the company will have to meet the standards in order to get the permit. Biggs said, “Concentrations of chlorides and sulfates in the Big Muddy River are well below water quality standards. Illinois EPA will only issue a water discharge permit that ensures the river continues to meet existing water quality standards. Illinois does not expect any impact to aquatic life, plant life or related issues as a result of the proposed discharge.”

Williamson Energy, LLC says the water to be pumped out of the mine is approximately 2.7 to 3.5 millions of gallons per day. This is equivalent to approximately 175 pools of water a day.

Thomas attended the public comment hearing on Oct. 23, 22018 and gave his testimony. He said, “As far as trying to contact the EPA, I did give my testimony that night. And it was pretty clear, they didn’t really seem to be too interested considering whether or not to grant the permit. In fact it was made clear to us that the company did not have to issue an environmental impact statement before they could consider to grant the permit or not.”

Foresight Energy’s media spokesperson Cody Nett says they are considering the community in their proposal. He said, “The Pond Creek Mine is working closely together with IDNR and IEPA in the permitting process to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the environment. Any permit issued will be in compliance with all water quality standards and other laws and regulations and no adverse impact is anticipated.”

Thomas says he believes they need to reconsider their priorities. “No one is trying to shut down a mine or reduce employee opportunities, it’s just we are trying to prevent the bottom line from being a higher priority than the environment.”

Biggs says that the application process takes two to six months depending on the information provided by the applicant. In addition, the application is still under review. She said once ready, a draft permit will be published for public notice.

IDNR’s Public Information Officer Ed Cross did not comment.

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