McDermed voices concern over quarries, water supply
State Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Frankfort) says water crises like those that hit Flint, Michigan, and Crestwood, Illinois, aren't going to happen in Will County community if she can stand in the way.
“I would like to see more protections for Will County residents,” McDermed told the Will County Gazette. “We need to have monitoring around sites to make sure contamination is not migrating off site.”
McDermed contends that many of the area's quarries have long been used for dumping and worries that the industry is largely allowed to police itself, putting the community at risk.
“We don’t allow that in any other area where there are such environmental regulations,” she said. “At least 70 percent of Will County residents rely on groundwater for drinking, but in this area it seems like anything goes.”
A Chicago Tribune editorial said the quarries in question are not built to protect groundwater and aren’t regulated as heavily as landfills that accept garbage.
Despite widespread health concerns voiced by McDermed and fellow Will County residents, the Illinois Pollution Board, which oversees such matters, declined to impose mandatory monitoring as recently as 2015.
At the time, quarry owners argued that the entire process would be too expensive. McDermed counters that the Flint and Crestwood episodes demonstrate that no price is too high.
In Flint, more than 100,000 residents were exposed to high levels of lead in their undertreated drinking water. In Crestwood, village officials reached a $15 million settlement with 341 residents who were shown to have ingested drinking water tainted with chemicals linked to cancer.
“You would think with those episodes still so fresh, Democrats would seem more concerned,” McDermed said. “My constituents are furious.”
McDermed has sponsored a bill that would impose stricter regulations, including a requirement that all loads be tested for contaminants before they can be dumped into any quarry, but the bill remains stuck in a subcommittee.
“If you know anything about the way things work around here, that’s usually the kiss of death for this being called this year,” she said. “But I’ll be bringing it back. I won’t be intimidated.”
In the meantime, she said the Illinois EPA plans to look into ways it might be able to beef up regulation and enforcement.
“They were already doing this, and after I introduced my bill they reached out to me,” she said. “Right now, we’re encouraging each other to keep up the fight.”