Local Water Resources Saved Upstream of Public Water Supply Lake
IDNR Stream Protection Errors Exposed
CANTON, Ill. – The court case contesting the North Canton coal strip mine permit was officially ended January 16th, winning an eight-year battle by citizens of Fulton County to protect Canton Lake and its watershed that supplies drinking water to over 20,000 residents. Capital Resources Development Company LLC, an affiliate of Springfield Coal Company LLC, asked to terminate its Permit No. 385 before citizens reached a full court hearing where they had challenged the mine and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) regarding errors in the permit approval.
“For the residents of Canton and Orion townships this is wonderful news for our water supply and for our land,” said Brenda Dilts, Leader of the Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, Canton Lake and Its Watershed (CACEI). “We did not want an arm of Springfield Coal, the company that had racked up over 600 water permit violations at the Industry Mine, discharging polluted water into our public water supply lake. The strip mine would destroy much of the natural drainage and be harmful to the environment, the watershed and to the people in the community.”
In February 2013, Sierra Club and members of CACEI won a state administrative level permit appeal in part and saved a major stream corridor proposed for strip mining about one mile upstream of Canton Lake. Sierra Club and a member of CACEI then filed in Fulton County Circuit Court in an effort to protect the five other streams in the strip mine permit. Most of the streams feed into the main tributary of Canton Lake, a public drinking water supply source.
During the permit challenge brought by the citizens, IDNR admitted on the witness stand, and the Department’s Hearing Officer found, that IDNR had an unwritten policy to ignore a part of its own regulatory definition of “intermittent stream,” thereby circumventing greater stream protections in the permit approval process.
“My farm and home would have been directly across from this mine if it had proceeded,” said Joe Cooper, member of CACEI. “I am so grateful to CACEI, Sierra Club, and all the local Canton people who helped raise alarms about how this could ruin our lake watershed. The state mine permit should never have been approved for this mine. The state mining agency simply was not doing its job to enforce the laws on the books. We proved that.”
“Planning a coal strip mine in the watershed that feeds the drinking water lake that supplies water to over half the population of Fulton County was never a good idea,” said Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It took years of community pressure and legal action for this coal company to realizethat. We’re looking to the IDNR to make the institutional changes necessary to protect the integrity of vital water resources like Canton Lake in its permitting decisions, in line with the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.”
Citizens raised funds to hire an attorney and an expert hydro-geologist through bake sales, garage sales, and a wide range of fund-raisers over the years. Springfield Coal Company owns other mines and also makes revenue back-hauling coal ash from power plants for dumping at old mines.
“The significance of Springfield Coal Company’s permit withdrawal cannot be overstated. This coal company – with sites all over the state and all kinds of coal reserves – was defeated by the dedication, caring and hard work of local citizens,“ said Joyce Blumenshine, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club Chair. ”Our attorney, David Wentworth, with the Hasselberg Grebe Snodgrass Urban Wentworth firm in Peoria, had a tremendous case to stop this mine. We fought hard in the community and in court to protect the lake and streams. The fact the mine decided to give up on the eve of our court hearing says a lot.”
Brenda Dilts, Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, 309-338-9748
Joyce Blumenshine, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club, 309-678-1011
Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Illinois Chapter Sierra Club, 312-251-1680 x110