OTTAWA, Ill. (CN) – An Illinois appellate court refused to grant a wastewater permit to the Village of New Lenox, ruling that the town and a state agency failed to prove that increased sewage water release would not harm Hickory Creek.
The Third District of the Appellate Court of Illinois agreed with the state’s pollution control board that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and New Lenox failed to identify and quantify increased phosphorus and nitrogen releases, or consider standards for acidity, copper and dissolved oxygen.
An environmental coalition – consisting of the Des Plaines River Watershed Alliance, the Livable Communities Alliance, Prairie Rivers Network, and the Sierra Club – challenged the Illinois EPA’s tentative approval of a 2002 permit application that would have nearly doubled effluent release from one of New Lenox’s sewage plants.
At a public hearing, witnesses testified about the diverse fish species in Hickory Creek and expressed concerns about existing algae blooms near current effluent release sites. While environmental groups provided additional documentation during the comment period, the Illinois EPA and New Lenox remained mum.
After the Illinois Pollution Control Board remanded the permit, the Illinois EPA and New Lenox appealed to state court, requesting an additional discovery period. The court held that the hearing would be based on the record, denying the call for discovery along with a summary judgment motion from environmental groups.
The appellate court stated that the town and agency violated state law by failing to provide sufficient assessments for the effluent increase. Based on data provided, no evidence of local economic or social development justified lowering the creek’s water quality, while proposed release was seen to jeopardize current creek uses.
Justice Wright wrote that permit proponents failed to provide facts supporting their claim that increased effluent release wouldn’t exacerbate “excessive and offensive” algae blooms, and relied too heavily on an internally criticized study of invertebrates.
New Lenox is a town of more than 23,000, about 30 miles southwest of Chicago.