- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

SIDELL, Ill. (AP) - Some central Illinois residents are voicing their concerns about an Indiana company’s request for a permit to allow runoff from a coal mine to go into area waterways.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing Wednesday as it decides whether to grant Sunrise Coal the permit. The company wants to build the Bulldog mine in southwest Vermillion County.

About 75 people attended the meeting and almost half of them spoke on the record. A majority of those speakers expressed concern over plans for the mine and asked state officials questions.

Keith Rohl, who farms near the proposed site, is worried about the company’s plan to use existing field tiles in its underground coal mine operation.

“I want to make sure everything is done properly,” he said. “My neighbors and I depend on that tile to drain our land.”

Bob Jennings, president of the village board in Oakwood, sought assurance at the hearing that the mine wouldn’t taint the drinking water the village gets from the Salt Fork River, The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1NsEcEi ) reported.

Officials with Sunrise Coal and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said the mine will be designed to discharge runoff into a tributary to the river only in the event of excessive rainfall. They also said the mine must meet limitations for the amount of contaminants released into the waterway when it does discharge.

But Jennings argued that there have been numerous heavy rains in recent years, and he asked how Oakwood and its residents would be effected by discharges should those “100-year rains” continue, including the potential for additional testing or costs of other safeguards.

“These concerns are not only worrisome for our citizens, but could increase costs and economic harm to our village,” Jennings said. “We need your assurance that our drinking water will remain safe.”

Other residents said they were worried that the slurry pits at the mine could leak through their clay liners and contaminate underground water resources and that the mine’s design could negatively affect the field tile system in the area.

Company spokeswoman Suzanne Jaworowski said Sunrise Coal takes safety and environmental stewardship seriously.

Until Sept. 11, the public is able to submit written comments to the agency for considering as it decides whether to issue or deny the permit, or ask Sunrise Coal to modify its request.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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