All 50 states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency soon may have the authority to levy fines and penalties against federal agencies whose facilities violate hazardous waste laws.

By Gus Bode

Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, introduced the legislation to the Senate panel Tuesday.

Currently, no penalties can be levied by a government agency against a federal agency, but penalties can be levied by a judge if a case is brought against the agency, said Bruce Rodman, legislative liaison for the Illinois EPA.

He said Illinois does not have as many federal facilities or problems with the facilities as other states such as Ohio, Colorado and Washington.


Rodman said the problems generally occur with the U.S. Department of Energy facilities.

He said Illinois does have the Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi Lab, but both focus primarily on research so there is not much danger of soil or water contamination by the facilities.

But Rodman said a former Army ammunition plant south of Joliet has had some contamination problems.

Greg Michaud, manager of community relations at IEPA, said the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, leaked contaminants into the soil and possibly the ground water.

The U.S. EPA, the state EPA and the Defense Department will do a remedial investigation and a feasibility study, he said.

He said the remedial investigation already is underway and will identify and determine the extent of the contamination.

Michaud said the main contaminant at the sight is TNT, an explosive.

He said unconfirmed reports by local farmers indicate that there is a reddish color in the nearby creek, a characteristic of TNT contamination.

Other contaminants include lead and toluene.

Michaud said the investigation is a standard procedure at hazardous waste sights as a part of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act.

The act is a federal law that is the blueprint for the Super Fund program, which is a national program for responding to threats of abandoned or closed hazardous waste sights.

Michaud said the plant area has scored high enough on the hazard ranking system to be included in the Super Fund program.

He said Illinois is one of the few states that has a program, called Clean Illinois Program, which helps clean up hazardous waste sights that do not score high enough to be included in the Super Fund program but score high enough to be a concern.

Tom Erdman, Joliet plant engineer for the federal government, said the U.S. Army Toxic and Hazardous Materials Agency has completed some of the initial soil samples and well drillings, but the extent of the contamination has not yet been determined.

The Army Toxic and Hazardous Material Agency is taking soil samples at 18 locations on the manufacturing portion of the plant and on 11 other locations which housed the assembly lines and the demilitarized zone.

Erdman said the manufacturing area covers 14 square miles and the LAP area covers 22 square miles.

The investigation will be completed by December and a feasibility study will follow. This study will come up with options for dealing with the contamination.

Rodman said the IEPA supports the states having the authority to levy penalties, but fortunately Illinois does not have much of a problem with the federal agencies.

UPI contributed to this report