First of a two-part series looking at mining operations in McHenry County
Activity that occurred 20,000 years ago is still having a huge impact on McHenry County today.
“Three glacial episodes all ended at McHenry County,” said Jason Thomason, principal research scientist for the Illinois State Geological Survey.
Those glacial episodes left the county with a geologic makeup that includes surface terrain rich with glacial sands and gravels. Mining some of those deposits provides a source of construction aggregates and jobs for numerous communities and rural areas of the county.
Mike Smith has been the operations manager of the Ozinga plant on Route 23 in Marengo for 24 years.
“There are 35 employees here … Ozinga has 17 sites,” Smith said. “You don’t think about the number of families who benefit from mining on a daily basis.”
Ozinga leases the site from Holcim Marengo, conducting sand and gravel mining, and creating ready-mix concrete.
“I am thankful to have this relationship,” Smith said.
During an Oct. 12 tour of mining operations for McHenry County Board members, township and municipal officials, legislators representing McHenry County, and members of the McHenry County Gravel Advisory Committee, mining leaders highlighted benefits to the operations.
Too often, they said, officials only hear complaints of dust and noise from mining neighbors.
Dan Plote of Plote Construction noted that his family has been operating a concrete plant in McHenry since 1978. They also operate clean-fill dumps.
“We have our own engineer on staff. We say ‘no’ to loads initially before they even get to the gate,” Plote said. “We will engage trucks at the gate, and we do say ‘no’ at times.
“We are not all bad. We are not the Boogeyman.”
Ron Rupp, co-chair of the Advisory Committee, has been in mining in McHenry County for 43 years.
He said mining operations frequently get blamed for others’ noise. He noted that one time police came to the mine operation he was at, saying neighbors were complaining about early morning noise. It turned out the noise was from trucks backing up at a nearby department store, Rupp said.
Jack Pease owns the 510 acres mined by Super Aggregates in Marengo. He said he has tried to be a good neighbor by providing landscaping berms and having extraction and processing operations set back from neighbors.
He said his site has a paved, dust-free truck route and wet processing to keep dust down. All extracting and processing is electric-powered so there are no diesel exhaust emissions, according to Pease.
The landowner noted that the lake being created at the Marengo site is one of the clearest in McHenry County.
He said that he always keeps residents in mind when making operations decisions.
“Our entrance is more like the entrance to a country club than a gravel pit,” Pease said.
Peter Baker & Son’s asphalt plant in Marengo is a fourth-generation business.
“It’s not a high-production plant. It’s a mid-production plant out in a rural area,” Rob Baker said. “It still fits our needs here.”
Baker said the facility can produce 2,000 tons of asphalt per day. He said between 10 and 40 percent of the asphalt created is recycled material.
Rupp said asphalt created at the local mines must meet strict criteria.
“We have (Illinois Department of Transportation) specs to meet,” Rupp said. “We all want longer lasting pavement. IDOT wants to be assured that taxpayers are getting what they paid for. We don’t just throw a mix out there and say, ‘That’s good.’”