Tag Archives: Tales From the Pit

The Legend of Spanish Needle Creek and the Fight for Clean Water


Contributed by Traci Barkley, Prairie Rivers Network

The dense grey fog permeated the frigid October morning around Spanish Needle Creek. No longer do deer, wild turkeys, or foxes drink from the clear, babbling brook. And the days of children splashing in the water and gleefully fishing are long gone.

In past years, the Extractors systemically destroyed everything that stood in their path while working day and night to exhume what they thought was black gold out of the ground, calling the site Monterey Mine 1. They only wanted the pure black coal to sell for a profit, but their rough, greedy and careless work brought up much more, like releasing angry spirits that can never be subdued again. They brought millions of tons of course gob and tried with all their might to wash the impurities from the coal, but only created filthy polluted sludge.

The Extractors dumped it on Spanish Needle Creek, perhaps with hopes that something so fresh, clear and clean could cleanse the evil they had exposed. A life sentence was imposed then on Spanish Needle Creek and all that relied upon its life forces. Today, millions of tons of toxic coal slurry sit at the headwaters, impounded precariously behind walls of piled rock. If these walls were to fail, Lake Carlinville, the drinking water supply for thousands, will forever be poisoned and miles of farmland, homes and wilderness will be buried.

If you dare, there is an even more sinister twist to this tale. The Extractors got out of the coal business after getting caught nearly eternally poisoning the drinking water supply at their other mine, Monterey Mine 2, near Germantown and Albers and didn’t want to wait around to see what their maniacal work might unleash at the Monterey Mine 1. Enter the next wave of villains, the Desecrators, who wanted their opportunity to extract wealth from the mine. By this time, it was clear that the piles of coal waste were degrading and releasing their pollutants such as salts and heavy metals into the underlying water.  Buried for life and now seeping pollution was more than the groundwater source and stream could bear.  Cattle downstream were getting sick, wildlife were walking further and further from their drinking holes and families started moving away and warning their children not to go into the water. After some smoke and mirrors to the residents and regulators, the desecrators thought the problem would go away and that they could escape the Coal Curse. But state regulators at the Illinois EPA issued a violation notice for the groundwater pollution and have now referred the case to the Illinois Attorney General. Residents and clean water advocates alike are working for justice in this case, challenging the permit continuing use of these looming, seeping toxic pits that continue to poison and threaten downstream and area residents. Perhaps an exorcism of the evil that the extractors and desecrators unearthed is in order…

Tell Governor Quinn to Protect the Prairie State from mining horror stories!

Tell Governor Quinn to Protect the Prairie State from mining horror stories!


Sierra Club Releases “Tales from the Pit,” A Collection of Firsthand Accounts of Illinois’ Resource Extraction Rush

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Contact: Terri Treacy, terri.treacy@sierraclub.org

CHICAGO, IL—It’s the scary season, but some horror stories are no fun at all.  This month Sierra Club launched a spooky series of stories, ‘Tales from the Pit,’ about resource extraction threats casting shadows across the Illinois countryside. The stories are submitted by citizens who live near these sites and have experienced firsthand the horrors of damaging resource extraction.

“The rush to mine coal and fracking sand in Illinois is a nightmare for those of us living near mines that threaten our drinking water, pollute our air, destroy communities and wreak havoc on farmland,” said Peggy Enquist of Ottawa.  “To save our communities from these threats we need mining reform in Illinois. ”

Coal use is on the decline nationally. But here in Illinois a growing international export market and the relatively low cost to mine coal has led to a surge of new mine proposals. The increased demand combined with inadequate regulation and enforcement have locals concerned about drinking water pollution, loss of farmland and quality of life.  Also, increasing demand for sand used in “fracking” operations has led to new proposals for open pit frack sand mines, including adjacent to Starved Rock State Park.

Some of the stories highlighted at “Tales From the Pit” focus on new industry dangers like the frack sand mine stalking Starved Rock State Park. Then there are half-dead threats like the North Canton coal strip mine that, if built, will pollute the drinking water supply of half the population of Fulton County. Others are environmental nightmares like the mine with over 600 documented violations of the Clean Water Act.

Sierra Club and local residents are calling on Illinois DNR and Governor Pat Quinn to strengthen protections against mining pollution and damage, and to crack down on mining companies that repeatedly violate environmental laws.

“If this movie is going to end well for communities in rural Illinois, it’s going to take more than silver stakes and cloves of garlic to save the day,” says Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club,  Illinois Chapter.  “We need real protections for people and their drinking water, and strong enforcement of those laws.”

“Across Illinois, big industry is mining and digging up the Prairie State in pursuit of dirty fossil fuels, and it’s time for the state to step up its efforts to protect people, wildlife, drinking water, and prime farmland,” said Terri Treacy, Conservation Field Representative for the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.

The Tales from the Pit stories can be found at http://illinois.sierraclub.org/pit_tales.html, and new horror stories will be added in the days ahead.

Beware: A Scary Tale Forewarned

halloween catIt’s Halloween and North Canton Mine is up and running at last.
Everything the old hags, old folks and CACEI predicted has come to pass.
The animals are gone and the trees too.
The goblins can’t hide and scare you with a “boo.”

The eagles fly high with no place to perch.
Their nests are all gone, sending them on a search.
The coyotes have left with their nightly howling noise.
Now it’s blasting and lights to keep you annoyed.

Meanwhile back on the once beautiful land that had a story to tell,
The devil and his witches have destroyed our lake and wells.
The cemetery was moved, it’s gone and so went the dead.
This what the environmentalist foretold, with dread.

The underground railroad that saved many lives,
Was part of our history and now is gone forever instead.
Instead of “hoot, hoot, hoot”, the owls say “boo hoo”.
And the poor little Turtles Doves no longer coo.

Where once stood a deer so proud and tall,
Now he turns tail and runs as the trees fall.
The fertile farm fields are now in ruin, times are darkest,
There are no longer large crops for the farmers to harvest.

The beautiful streams that once flowed freely,
Are full of dead critters and fish on their bellies.
All by himself, stands a lonely scarecrow,
‘cause in the barren farmland, nothing will grow.

We rush to the faucet to get a drink, we try,
No water comes out, the well has gone dry.
Instead of clean vapors arising from the lake,
Now it’s just toxic gasses, to save the lake it’s too late.

The above-mentioned area is surely now a ghostly site,
A few temporary jobs will never set things right.
There go the monstrous trucks running down the highway,
Look out, get over or you’ll be squashed and left by the byway.

Witches around their Pot of Gold, cackling “hee, hee, hee”.
Just wait, time will tell, but it will be too late when the truth you see.
A coal mine with many skeletons in the closet,
To the Citizens of Canton, they really have “socked it.”

Thanks to CACEI (Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues) for their scary tale
Tell Governor Quinn to Protect the Prairie State from Mining Horror Stories!

Tell Governor Quinn to Protect the Prairie State from Mining Horror Stories!