MT. VERNON — A panel of appellate judges has ruled state environmental regulators have the authority to force landfill operators to continue monitoring a landfill for pollution, perhaps indefinitely, despite agreements between the companies and the state supposedly setting terms for the monitoring period.

The decision was issued by Justice Thomas M. Welch and published on Sept. 19 by the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court. Justices James R. Moore and David K. Overstreet concurred.

The case centered around D&L Landfill Inc.'s plan to close a landfill in downstate Greenville in 1991. Part of the plan stipulated D&L would be responsible for 15 years of post-closure care at the site. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) approved the plan in 1997, and said the 15-year period started on Aug. 31, 1996.

In 2012, D&L Landfill Inc. applied to end its post-closure care at the site because the "15-year post-closure care period had been completed," Welch noted in the decision.  

The IEPA, however, inspected the site the following year and denied the company's request because ground water tested positive for chemicals that "would result in violations of the [Illinois Environmental Protection Act]."

The company then went before the Illinois Pollution Control Board, arguing that Section 22.17(a) of the act established that it only was responsible for 15 years of post-closure care. The board, however, disagreed, and the company appealed.

“The IEPA argued that Section 22.17(a) of the act provides a minimum period for post-closure care, and that it specifies that applying other board regulations may result in a longer period," according to Welch in the appellate court opinion.

The panel of judges, however, affirmed the board’s decision in the end.

“It appears that the board intended that groundwater monitoring be a requirement of the permit, and that if exceedances of groundwater quality standards occurred, it was a violation of the act," Welch said in the decision. "Therefore, the unaddressed groundwater exceedances in this case provided a sufficient basis for the IEPA’s denial of post-closure certification and the board’s affirmation of that decision.”

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