TILTON — A recent White House announcement has earmarked $800 million of federal money to be put into a trust fund to help pay for the cleanup of closed General Motors sites, including the former GM Powertrain Foundry landfill in Tilton.
There were 90 different closed sites pinpointed in the Environmental Response Trust, which included a variety of property remnants — vacant lots, complexes, assembly plants, residences, landfills, warehouses, and more, spread out across 14 states.
The money is being set aside to clean up or rehabilitate the sites. The trust agenda must be approved by each state before it becomes a part of GM’s bankruptcy plan.
Most on the list were left barren after the General Motors government-led bankruptcy last year. However, the landfill site in Tilton, which made the list, was closed long before and has been maintained since that time.
When GM filed bankruptcy, Motors Liquidation Corporation was essentially created as a holder for old assets being abandoned. All of GM that remained stayed with MLC, including the Tilton landfill.
That landfill operated between 1940 and 1995 and was officially closed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on August 31, 2000.
The Vermilion County Health Department inspects the land area of the landfill annually or upon complaint, while the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency oversees the groundwater issues there.
Doug Toole, environmental health protection specialist with the Vermilion County Health Department, said the landfill accepted scrap metal and sand blasting waste from the facility until its closure in 1995.
Toole said in the mid-1990s landfill materials were out in the open and not buried, but since that time it has been re-contoured and submerged. Now, it is grassy and covered.
On the groundwater inspection side of the landfill, the IEPA oversees those inspections. According to them, things stand to be improved.
IEPA Environmental Protection Geologist Stephen Williamson said their concerns with FLUORIDE in the groundwater there extend back to 2004. A violation notice was given to landfill owners then and fluoride levels have been above Illinois standard limits each year since. This fluoride runs off into the Vermilion River.
Landfill design standards of today are dramatically different than what was required when the Tilton dump was first installed.
“We’re still dealing with the consequences of how those old ones were operated,” said Maggie Carson, IEPA spokesperson.
Williamson said annual monitoring of the fluoride levels occurs, and the contractor overseeing the Tilton landfill has been issued a laundry list of requests to respond to by mid-August, which requires more information, data and actual inspections to be done and submitted to them.
“The groundwater element is the critical concern,” said Williamson.
Williamson said of the 52 projects he is working on, the Tilton GM landfill site is his most complex, not because of violations there, but due to the switch of ownership and bankruptcy situation.
Tim Yost, Motors Liquidation Co. spokesperson, said GM properties will continue to work with state EPAs on master plans, ensuring everyone is satisfied over the long haul.
“Motors Liquidation Company supports the formation of a trust to complete environmental remediation and administration activities at sites under our control,” said Yost. “MLC worked very closely with federal and state governments and local communities to develop extensive cost estimates for this task, and we believe the proposed funds are adequate to fulfill environmental obligations at sites across the country.”
The federal government, which owns nearly 61 percent of the newly formed General Motors Co. sometimes uses this “trust fund” method to close military bases and other government holdings when needed. The trust in the GM case also is sometimes termed post (bankruptcy)-confirmation entity or a PCE.
Ideally, the trust, rather than the former, now bankrupt, owner, will eventually oversee the assets it contains.