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06/16/89 Greater Peoria Sanitary v. the Pollution Control

June 16, 1989





540 N.E.2d 934, 185 Ill. App. 3d 9, 133 Ill. Dec. 68 1989.IL.910

Petition for review of order of Pollution Control Board.


JUSTICE SCOTT delivered the opinion of the court. WOMBACHER, P.J., and STOUDER, J., concur.


This is a direct appeal from an opinion and order dated October 6, 1988, of the Illinois Pollution Control Board (the Board) pursuant to section 41(a) of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 111 1/2, par. 1041(a)). In its order, the Board denied appellant's, the Greater Peoria Sanitary and Sewage Disposal District's (the District's), request for site-specific relief from an ammonia-nitrogen effluent standard set forth at 35 Ill. Adm. Code § 304.122 (1985) of the Board's water pollution regulations.

The District is a municipal corporation organized to collect industrial and domestic wastewaters within its service area and provide treatment of those wastewaters before discharge into the Peoria Pool of the Illinois River. The District has a service area of 58.4 square miles, serves a population of approximately 135,000 and has a total annual operating budget of $5.5 million. The District's treatment process includes screening and grit removal, primary sedimentation, activated sludge treatment, rotating biological contactors (RBCs), tertiary clarification, tertiary ponds and chlorination.

Following promulgation of the current ammonia-nitrogen effluent limitations, the District received a State grant of $48.5 million in 1975 for upgrading its plant. As part of the project, the District installed a nitrification process consisting of 12 reinforced concrete tanks with seven RBCs per tank for a total of 84 RBCs. The cost of this particular project was $4.7 million and it became operational in 1979. The estimated useful life of these units is 20 years, or roughly a little less than 11 more years.

The nitrification process was designed to meet the ammonia-nitrogen limitation of 35 Ill. Adm. Code § 304.122(a) (1985), which states:

"a) No effluent from any source which discharges to the Illinois River, the Des Plaines River downstream of its confluence with the Chicago River System or the Calumet River System, and whose untreated waste load is 50,000 or more population equivalents shall contain more that 2.5 mg/1 of ammonia nitrogen as N during the months of April through October, or 4 mg/1 at other times."

This particular subsection is applicable to only three municipal corporations: The District, the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, and the City of Joliet. There are no other specific ammonia-nitrogen effluent standards applicable to other municipal discharges into the Illinois River.

Annual costs of the District's nitrification process include operation and maintenance costs and replacement costs. O & M costs for the past four fiscal years have averaged $81,960, 89% of which is for electrical power. Approximately $192,000 per year has also been budgeted, although not expended, for replacement costs of the RBCs. Part of the District's electrical power cost, however, will be alleviated in future years because of a recently completed project allowing the District to produce its own electrical power.

The District's rulemaking petition, filed pursuant to section 28 of the Environmental Protection Act, proposed to totally exempt the District from the effluent standards for ammonia-nitrogen of 35 Ill. Adm. Code 304.122(a) (1985). The District also submitted in its petition that no economic impact study need be prepared by the Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources pursuant to section 4 of "An Act in relation to natural resources . . ." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 96 1/2, par. 7404(d)). By letter, dated July 7, 1988, the DENR recorded its determination that a formal economic impact study would not be done in regard to the District's petition because "[the] cost of making a formal study is economically unreasonable in relation to the value of the study to the Board in determining the adverse economic impact of the regulation."

In its petition, the District claims that exemption from the above-named effluent standard is justified at this time, because even without the ammonia-nitrogen removal process, the District's effluents will not adversely affect downstream dissolved-oxygen levels in that it will still be required to meet other general water quality standards. As support, the District submitted several Illinois State Water Survey reports conducted partially by some of the same authors who conducted the original ...

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