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UI scientists to review toxic waste alternatives

Published: Sunday, May 4, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

CHAMPAIGN – University of Illinois scientists are wading into the dispute over a plan to store toxic waste at a landfill located above an aquifer supplying drinking water to more than half a million people in central Illinois.

Scientists at the Prairie Research Institute will explore alternatives to the plan by the Clinton Landfill to dispose of cancer-causing PCBs at the site, about 40 miles west of Champaign. Options could include incineration, and chemical and biological methods, The News-Gazette reported.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the plan, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has taken action to try to stop it. The company that owns the landfill has said it would install a liner to protect the Mahomet Aquifer. Several Chicago suburbs are searching for places to dispose of PCBs, man-made chemical compounds used in a wide range of industrial and commercial products that were outlawed in the U.S. in 1979.

“We owe it to every citizen of Illinois to find a constructive alternative that’s environmentally sustainable, that helps our neighbors to the north but also doesn’t pollute and otherwise jeopardize our water supply in the process,” state Sen. Chapin Rose told reporters Friday at a news conference announcing the research.

Gary Miller, associate executive director of the research institute, promised a thorough look at other options.

“Part of the problem now is that landfills are generally the cheapest and easiest alternatives,” he said.

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