Marengo contamination lawsuit continued

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

The entrance on 300 West In Marengo for the Arnold Magnetics Engineering, Inc. plant. (Courtesy of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office)

A March 1 filing prompted by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office in its civil litigation against Marengo-based 300 West LLC and Arnold Engineering, Inc. netted the submission of a 1,339-page report pertaining to site contamination and its scope of mitigation.

The Comprehensive Site Investigation and Remedial Objectives Report, filed by the defendants, encompasses data regarding on- and off-site testing well locations, boring depths, and potential contaminant spread.

The civil litigation was filed in 2013 by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to force compliance with required on- and off-site testing of groundwater at the plant site. They are also seeking corrective measures for groundwater contamination caused from production chemicals that leeched into the water table contaminating 17 private and commercial wells in a one-mile proximity of the plant site.

A motion to compel order, issued by McHenry County Circuit Judge Michael Chmiel, was slated to be heard at a Feb. 23 hearing, as the two defendants had requested an extension of time to file the report, after failing to meet a Feb. 16 deadline. A continuation to March 2, ahead of the March 8 trial start date, was granted.

“The defendants entered the document, ahead of the trial date,” said Annie Thompson, press secretary for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. “As a result, the next court appearance has been re-set for April 4. This will allow time for the office to review the documents and make determinations regarding compliance or moving forward on litigation.

A plat map depicting the contamination flow field and the approximate boundaries of the plant site. (Courtesy of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office)

“We recognize and understand the frustration of the impacted residents and continue to ask the court to hold the defendants accountable for completing the work,” she said. “Under the judge’s consent order, the defendants are required to continue providing bottled water until the hook-up project requirements have been met.”

The issue surfaced when Marengo crews attempted to install a well on Ritz Road and discovered the condition. In May 2010, Arnold retained a consultant group with monitoring wells to produce on-site samples. The subsequent findings detected concentrations of the vinyl chloride, PCE, TCE, and other carcinogens. The plume is migrating toward residences and businesses along Railroad Street, and potentially reaching the Kishwaukee River basin.

The initial sections of the report, show the majority of the testing data was completed nearly one year ago, with laboratory results compiled by Geneva-based Suburban Laboratories, Inc. on groundwater samples. The integrity of the samples was attested and conveyed under quality control conditions and chain of custody guidelines as stipulated by the environmental protection agency. Carcinogenic agents that revealed composition elements included Vinyl Chloride, Xylenes, and Trichlorofluoromethane among others.

They also depicted flow models that correlated to the movement of the contaminant plume in the groundwater by stating that “models showed significant change in head basin and capture zones for the flow and movement within the supply aquifer occurred only when recharge dropped 30 percent and pumping increased 30 percent within the aquifer supplying McHenry County wells.” The Kishwaukee River Valley was highlighted as the major supply source for the area.

In a “Summary and Results Discussion” section, the sampling noted that the groundwater flow model “can be an appropriate tool in assessing the impacts of high-capacity irrigation wells in local unconfined aquifers of McHenry County … . The groundwater flow model was developed to understand the singular and cumulative effect of high-capacity irrigation wells located in the Kishwaukee River Valley, specifically wells screened and withdrawing from the surficial drift aquifer.

“Given the period and data available, the conditions modeled were considered appropriate. However, the simulations are not a perfect representation of actual conditions, specifically in regards to those simulating drought and increased pumping. Typically, drought conditions show a decrease in precipitation, which in turn is assumed to lead to an increase in pumping. This respective increase is difficult to quantify and therefore may not be modeled in a manner most representative of actual conditions.

“Lastly, this simulation provides results for steady-state conditions. It is difficult to determine then what the effects of extended drought and increased pumping over longer time-steps will have on the shallow aquifer system.”

The remainder of the report supplies plats and exhibits meeting IEPA compliance measures, from 2015-17, attached to wells, testing regimens, along with groundwater and soil samples analysis. The contamination plume is being monitored, with contingency mitigation scenarios.

Arnold Magnetics Engineering, Inc., and its property holder, 300 West LLC did strike an accord with the city of Marengo in February 2016 to pay for a water main connecting the municipal water system with the plant site, Railroad Street and Ritz Road. A major unresolved issue is the timetable for hook-up to the impacted residences and businesses.

“The water main is in, and they are proceeding with the acquisition of easements that will allow the piping … so that aspect needs to be addressed before piping goes to the residences,” said Marengo City Manager Joshua Blakemore. “The city’s agreement with Arnold and 300 West is outdated, and we’re also in negotiations to bring those contract stipulations into current terms. There is no timetable for the completion of the updates, due to their efforts to obtain the necessary easements.”

Additionally, the agreement covered piping locations through an engineering contract with McHenry-based HR Green, also the city’s engineering firm. “There was a contract for engineering services, and it was basically for observation services on the city’s behalf,” he said.

“There was a deposit on file, from Arnold and 300 West, which covered the costs of the service contract. The final cost amount was $37,000.”

Effectively, the entire project is estimated at more than $3 million, with no cost to the municipality. Hook-ups to the water main were similarly to be completed, at no cost, to impacted homeowners, and the applicable usage rates are to be assessed at the “in-town” rate, while waiving the requirement for annexation into the city proper.



Marengo contamination lawsuit continued–