Quad Cities Waterkeeper suing over riverbank materials

Originally Posted Online: July 25, 2012, 7:19 pm
Last Updated: July 25, 2012, 9:18 pm
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By Rachel Warmke, rwarmke@qconline.com

The non-profit conservation organization Quad Cities Waterkeeper has filed a federal law suit against Ballegeer Excavating Inc., alleging the Geneseo corporation has been illegally dumping and excavating materials from the Green River near Colona for the last five years.

The suit, filed July 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, lists the defendants as Ballegeer Excavating Inc., Ballegeer Trucking Inc., the companies' owner David G. Ballegeer and Francis Ballegeer, who owns property near the Green River.

The suit claims that, since at least March 2007, the excavation company, located at 8901 N. 1800 Ave., Geneseo, and its owner, David G. Ballegeer, have been using a one-mile stretch of land near the mouth of the Green River in Colona to deposit concrete, dirt, rocks, sand, metal rebars and other construction materials to avoid paying disposal and dumping fees.

Additional wastes, such as oil, grease, pesticides, herbicides and paints, also were dumped in the river, polluting the water and deterring the public and natural wildlife from enjoying the area, the suit claims.

The suit further claims that Francis Ballegeer, who it said owns hundreds of acres of property near the Green River, and David Ballegeer both allowed these activities to take place on the land and that the company profited from the sales of the excavated drudge and not having to pay a fee to properly dump their waste. It further states that the defendants made no attempt to obtain a permit under the Clean Water Act.

"You can't necessarily do everything you might want to do on your own property," said attorney Albert Ettinger, who is based out of Chicago, and is serving as legal representation for the Waterkeeper organization. He said permits often are required for dredging and other such activities.

The defendants were notified of the QC Waterkeeper's intent to sue on Feb. 29. The notification stated the company had been seen and photographed since December 2011 "dumping concrete, dirt and other pollutants onto the banks of the Green River and into the waters."

Ballegeer did not respond to the letter or offer alternative solutions within the allotted 60 days, said Quad City Waterkeeper Art Norris.

"They didn't want to talk about it. They feel like they've done nothing wrong and we feel differently," he said. "We hope the public rallies behind us and stands with us and we intent to fight."

Ron Fournier, public information officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District, said the Corp investigated the claims at the Green River and said that all aspects under their jurisdiction were in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

"We found nothing that showed Mr. Ballegeer to be in violation of any corps of engineers requirements," said Mr. Fournier, who said he notified both parties of the findings on March 9. "And although it may not be very attractive, the law is the law."

A representative from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was unable to comment about the case on Wednesday.

The suit requests that the defendants be ordered to cease the allegedly improper activity, according to the suit. The company also is being asked to pay civil penalties for their actions as well as the cost of any legal expenses acquired during the lawsuit.

David and Francis Ballegeer did not return requests for comment on Wednesday.


Local events heading

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1914 -- 100 years ago: Nate Hultgren pitched the Augustana College baseball team to a 10-3 victory over Carthage, striking out 11 men and allowing only four hits.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Marvel Leonhardi, a Rock Island High School senior, was the winner of an essay contest on advertising sponsored by The Argus and Advertising Age, a national advertising publication.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Augustana College band drew a crowd of 1,200 people for its annual home concert in Centennial Hall. The size of the crowd was indicative of the fact the band is rapidly approaching the stature of the Augustana Choir.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A benefit to raise money for extracurricular activities in the Rock Island Milan School District will be April 27 at the Quad City Downs harness race track. People buying $17.50 tickets to the second annual "Night at the Quad City Downs" will be entitled to an evening of harness racing and dinner.

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