On the feet of IDNR’s asking for 62 modifications to the Bulldog Mine permit application, Illinois EPA has announced that the NPDES permit for Sunrise Coal, LLC is available for public review. The notice can be found here:http://www.epa.illinois.gov/Assets/iepa/public-notices/2015/sunrise-coal-llc/public-notice.pdf.
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits outline the type and amount of pollution that Sunrise Coal can discharge, where it will be discharged, and how often discharges will be monitored.
The three discharge points (“outfalls”) proposed will all drain into the unnamed tributary to the Olive Branch.
What’s next: the next 30 days (until April 27) provides an opportunity to review the permit, gather initial concerns, and prepare for the public hearing (likely a couple months out).
Throughout the public comment period (which will extend 10 days past the public hearing), we can submit information on water quality, the recreational values/uses of the waterway(s) receiving pollutant discharges, and other studies and surveys that would be relevant.
It is also worth recognizing how many water-related questions are still up in the air with the IDNR permit. For example, the modification letter included questions about the company’s legal right and ability to use existing tile drains as a primary discharge points, as well as concerns about poor documentation of springs and other water resources. –these are some concerns we might raise, as this is important information (that has not yet been submitted) that IEPA should be using in their consideration of the permit.
How is this different from the IDNR process: in this case, there will only be one hearing (where IDNR had an informal conference and a public hearing). It will be very similar in terms of the “panel” format, and resemble the IDNR’s public hearing in that way, but IEPA will have already done a thorough review of permit materials, and should be prepared to answer questions.
The other difference is that the IEPA will provide responses to written and oral comments in a “Responsiveness Summary” if the final permit is issued — this resembles a much more direct “Q & A”-type document, as compared to IDNR’s process.