The Illinois EPA has confirmed Guardian Tax, a Nebraska-based company specializing in buying tax-delinquent properties, was issued a violation notice March 28.
The notice was given for its failure to update the site permit originally issued to Branko Vardijan of Sheridan Land Development for the clean construction demolition debris facility at 2679 N. 4201st Road.
To complicate matters, Illinois EPA Public Information Officer Kim Bigg verified that Guardian’s attorney told the agency April 6 the company was in litigation to have the tax sale vacated so the property would go back to Sheridan Land Development through an agreement.
In January, Guardian Tax posted a tax delinquency notice at the front gate of the property. It’s one of the Vardijan-operated CCDD sites in Sheridan. He also operates a second CCDD site at 105 S. Weinsland.
Vardijan failed to pay a delinquent amount of $12,119, making Guardian the new owners. Guardian took ownership in March after a deed was filed with the court.
Vardijan opened the facilities in 2005 after public hearings by Sheridan’s Zoning Board of Appeals, obtaining a special use permit. By the end of 2017, Vardijan was delinquent for taxes owed from 2015 and 2016.
County records indicated Vardijan was delinquent for two years of taxes on the 260-acre facility.
The amount was $6,962.88 for 2015, and Vardijan has until May 5, 2019, to pay them. Delinquent taxes totaled $5,156.52 from 2016; he has until May 14, 2020, to pay those.
The Illinois EPA has said the sale of the property for past taxes has no bearing on liability for what has been cited. The liability stays with the owner/operator of the facility when violations occurred.
Four Sheridan residents requested earlier this month a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to discuss an amendment to the 2008 ordinance regarding the properties.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will conduct the meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 30, at the American Legion, 300 W. Si Johnson Ave.
Wendy and Terry Greenrod, Don McNelis and Mission Township Road Commissioner Kenny Thompson presented a petition to Mayor Shelly Figgins and the village about the special use ordinance approved in 2008, allowing the two CCDD sites.
The group had strongly suggested the Village Board create a strict CCDD ordinance, one that would make Vardijan and his facilities become and stay Illinois EPA compliant. They had talked about the need for a stricter ordinance since at least 2008. Vardijan’s facilities have received Illinois EPA violations for sending inaccurate reports and not sending required required paperwork to the agency.
Dissatisfied with the Village Board’s reaction, the four-member group decided to file their complaint.
Chemicals found on site
On Jan. 4 and 9 of this year, 22 chemicals were found in two truckloads of contaminated soil allowed to enter the CCDD site at 2679 N. 4201st Road.
The contaminated loads, found dumped on the ground, had been accepted by the facility. When the federal EPA inspectors went back to the site to reinspect how the loads had been handled, they had disappeared. While Vardijan had no proof, he told inspectors the loads had been removed to “an appropriate place in Chicago.”
According to Biggs at the Illinois EPA, the 4201st Road site was inspected and a violation notice was issued to Vardijan based on the results of the two inspections and samplings. Vardijan has 45 days from the day he received the notices to respond.
Illinois EPA permits for both facilities are up for renewal this year — the 4201st Road site in June and the Weinsland site in November. The renewal application was completed and submitted Tuesday, April 10, by IngenAE LLC of South Bend, Ind.
“Because of additional chemicals found in these two loads,” Sheridan resident McNelis said during last month’s Village Board meeting, “I’m requesting the water testing at Sheridan Grade School and Jennings Lyon Daycare Learning Center include additional testing for these 22 chemicals. I’m also asking that water testing results include parts per billion, not just an OK after each chemical.”
McNelis asked the village to include its storage building near the Weinsland CCDD facility so residential wells could be protected.
In February 2014, McNelis requested, and the Village Board approved, well testing at the grade school and learning center be paid by Vardijan on an annual basis. The village has since paid for quarterly tests, roughly $600.
“We need to now safeguard our wells more than ever,” McNelis said. “Once again, I’m requesting an immediate locking of the gates at both the 4201st and Weinsland facilities. Someone needs to step up and do this now. The few thousands of dollars this will cost is nothing compared to the money it will cost if the Maquoketa Aquifer becomes polluted with even one of these chemicals. It will cost millions of dollars to drill into the deep Prairie DuChien Aquifer well. This aquifer supplies each home in Sheridan and surrounding wells. Lock the gates now and protect the people of Sheridan and surrounding communities.”
Vardijan has Illinois EPA permits to process CCDD. His facilities dispose of old bricks, like those found in old mining pits in the area. The company’s permits allow the handling of any type of CCDD that includes uncontaminated broken concrete without protruding metal bars, bricks, rocks, stones or reclaimed asphalt.
That has raised questions on how these 22 chemicals were found in two trucks.
Since 2008, 31,000 truckloads of CCDD materials have entered the 4201st Road site, and not one of those loads was rejected by either the Illinois EPA or the village. During the January federal EPA inspections, five trucks were inspected, and that’s when the two contaminated loads were discovered.
One of the concerns for the Sheridan group is the possibility of water pollution.
The CCDD sites are adjacent to residential areas of the village with private wells. Another concern is the 4201st Road property includes wetlands and Roots Creek.
McNelis noted in 2005, residents reported trash and debris were dumped into a water-filled portion of the pit and quickly covered with dirt.
On Dec. 27, 2005, then-village engineer Paul W. Clinebell, P.E., of Zurheide-Herrmann Inc., sent a letter to the state EPA. Clinebell expressed concerns about potential hazards of CCDD being dumped into the sand pit.
Since at least 2009, McNelis has questioned the board about everything from wood dyes, material storage, village noise levels monitoring, reports, property values and how village water has been affected by the two CCDD sites.
He suggested the village enact and collect tipping fees on CCDD loads. He asked the board to keep all EPA reports on file and maintain all state EPA-required yearly reports from Vardijan that include all truck loads that were accepted and rejected.
None of McNelis’s suggestions have been acted on, he said.
The resident suggested forming a committee to draft a CCDD ordinance that would force Vardijan to become EPA compliant.