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IEPA investigating possible Saline River pollution

  • Water in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.

    Water in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • Water in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.

    Water in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTOWater in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.

    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTOWater in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.

  • TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTOWater in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.

    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTOWater in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.

  • Water in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.

    Water in the middle fork of the Saline River appears a deep, rusty red color on March 29, 2021.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 4/7/2021 4:00 PM

HARRISBURG -- The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is investigating possible water pollution that may have come from American Coal Co. property near Galatia.

Heavy rains last week appear to have resulted in a deep, rusty red color to the middle fork of the Saline River, which crosses Illinois 34 north of Harrisburg and Illinois 13 east of Harrisburg.

On Tuesday, March 30, IEPA public information officer Kim Biggs confirmed that IEPA staff was investigating possible water pollution.

"IEPA staff were on site yesterday (March 29) and collected water samples for analysis," Biggs said in an email response from the Harrisburg Register/Eldorado Journal inquiring about possible water contamination. "From the initial investigation it appears the source is the American Coal Company -- Galatia Mine. The Department of Natural Resources is further assessing any downstream impacts, but there was no fish kill noted at this time. Illinois EPA staff are inspecting the area and the mine today and will conduct additional water sampling as necessary."

Though continued testing will reveal whether American Coal Co. is the source of the deep red coloring in the river, it's wouldn't be the first time the company, which no longer produces coal, has had an incident resulting in water pollution.

Robert Wilson, one of the city of Harrisburg's attorneys, said he had been in contact with IEPA regarding the matter.

In 2016, a slurry line failure resulted in the result of an unknown amount of coal slurry being discharged into Bethel Creek. A nearby Saline County resident had some of the coal slurry seep into the crawl space of his house.

In addition, at that time, IEPA noted the water of Bethel Creek appeared dark black due to discoloration from the slurry. About 3.8 miles of Bethel Creek were affected by the slurry.

IEPA asked the Illinois Attorney General at that time to require American Coal to take compliance measures in response.