Earthrise legal clinic victorious in case of concrete dumping in Illinois
October 07, 2016
Lewis & Clark’s Earthrise Law Center, one of the school’s environmental legal clinics, won a precedent setting case recently in Illinois.
In the case, United States District Judge Sara Darrow, of the Central District of Illinois, ruled on September 29 that maintenance of an otherwise unpermitted levee is not exempt from the federal Clean Water Act.
The defendants, Ballegeer Excavation, Ballegeer Trucking, and David and Francis Ballegeer violated the Clean Water Act by dumping tons of concrete waste into and on the banks of more than a mile of the Green River in Illinois without a permit. The Green River is a major tributary of the Rock River in the Upper Mississippi River Watershed near the Quad Cities. The concrete waste was generated from the defendants’ trucking and excavation businesses. In some places the chunks of concrete and rebar were piled more than five feet deep.
The plaintiffs, Quad Cities Waterkeeper and Prairie Rivers Network, were represented by Earthrise attorneys Kevin Cassidy and Lia Comerford, and Illinois attorney Albert Ettinger. “No other case that we are aware of has interpreted this particular exemption of the Clean Water Act in the context of levee maintenance,” Cassidy said. “Our clients have never been against necessary and appropriate maintenance of levees, especially to prevent flooding, but if such maintenance results in discharges into waters of the United States, it must be done in compliance with the Clean Water Act. We look forward to the next stage of litigation, which will address how the defendants will have to restore this important public resource and hopefully return it to a condition the people of Illinois can be proud of.”
The Green River is a popular recreation site and home to several species of fresh water mussels, including at least one species listed as threatened by the state of Illinois.
“This case has taken several years and a huge amount of resources to stop the destructive actions of some rogue players. It’s unfortunate the state of Illinois and the Army Corps of Engineers did not step in and enforce our pollution laws,” said Kim Knowles with Prairie Rivers Network. “We’re hopeful the ruling will deter other would be polluters while encouraging our public agencies to uphold the Clean Water Act. We’ll also be glad to see the Green River restored.”