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Illinois Frac Sand Plant Construction Faces Community Concerns

According to the Times, Ottawa, Ill., more than 25 area residents crowded into the Utica Village Board meeting to express their concerns over the initial construction stage of a new frac sand mine in rural Utica, Ill.

“We're here to ask that you (trustees) help us out,” said Phil Gassman, who lives close to the controversial quarry site northeast of the village. “It is your responsibility to see that they (sand company contractors) are doing exactly what they should be doing.”

In January, Utica village trustees ignored the recommendation of its own planning commission and granted all zoning requests to Illinois Sand – a division of Illinois Cement and a partner with a Texas-based corporation – to build an open pit sand processing plant on 562 acres in Utica Township near the Osage Curves off U.S. 6.

Although most residents in the immediate area knew equipment would one day be coming, most were still surprised when more than a dozen earth-moving machines began to strip away tons of top soil from the site.

Gassman said no one in his neighborhood was informed of the startup and were “more than annoyed” by the closing of adjacent East 11th Road for more than a week. Gassman also claimed neither ambulance services nor school buses were notified of the road closing “which (to him and neighbors) brought up safety concerns.”

Utica Mayor Fred Esmond apologized to the group for the lack of notice for the road closure. “It should have been done,” he admitted. “We have spoken to the contractors about giving us 24-hour notice before the road is closed again, so we can contact the media about publicizing the closure.”

Also speaking before the board Wednesday was Utica Township attorney Jim Peters, of Zukowski Law Office in Peru, who relayed the many concerns voiced by many of the same residents at a previous township meeting.

Peters said the neighbors' main concerns were equipment noise at the seven-day-a week operation, thick mud tracked on East 11th Road and road barricades appearing with no notice.