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Aggregate mining tour 2012

Local Officials Learn About Sand and Gravel Mining

(Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers' Update newsletter, June 2012) Sand and gravel companies in McHenry County are taking a proactive approach to educating elected officials about mining and the aggregates industry.  On June 5th, McHenry County Board members, city, township and county officials boarded a motor coach for an educational tour of five sites including a sand and gravel mine, asphalt plant, concrete plant, clean construction and demolition debris fill site and a housing development built on reclaimed mine land.  The tour was organized by members of the McHenry County Gravel Advisory Council.

“This tour was an excellent opportunity for our local government officials to visit and learn first hand the many aspects of our county's number one natural resource in order to help them make better informed decisions for the future of our county,” said Steven Weskerna, Marengo Township Supervisor. 

The McHenry County Gravel Advisory Council was formed in 2003 to provide a forum for the County, townships, and municipalities to discuss mine-related issues impacting their communities.  The Council is comprised of the chief elected official of each unit of local government and the chief corporate official of each company producing aggregates within McHenry County.

Mike Leopardo, McGuire Aggregates and Curran Contracting, explained how the company’s high-tech asphalt plant in Crystal Lake combines recycled and virgin materials to produce a mix which was being laid at Route 47 and Ware Road that day.  While operating in an environmentally friendly manner using a large amount of recycled materials, the plant’s bag house captures 99% of the dust and the flame heating the mix is separated from the liquid asphalt reducing odor emissions making the whole operation very clean. 

Hanson Material Service’s Jack Luchetti welcomed participants to his Algonquin sand & gravel pit for the opportunity to experience the whole operation up close.  While everyone ate a boxed lunch, just a couple hundred feet away miners were extracting sand and gravel with a loader and conveying it to the plant while others were removing overburden for the operation which can produce 400 tons per hour with seventeen hourly employees represented by four unions.  Officials learned that mined materials are washed using water from settling ponds in a closed loop requiring no water to be drawn from other sources.

Dan Plote and Mike Fanella noted their Plote Construction concrete plant can be moved onto or near the job site making it very cost effective by delivering final product with fewer trucking miles and a higher quality mix.  The plant, currently located inside the Algonquin pit, benefits from having rock ready to use on-site which is mixed with cement, water and fly ash, a recycled product resulting from burned coal.

Clean construction and demolition debris are accepted at the Prairie Materials site in Dundee as Annick Maenhout explained.  State of Illinois regulations dictate what can be accepted but the company has its own rules which ensure even tighter controls.  Materials are then sorted into piles so that broken concrete and asphalt can be recycled.  Remaining CCDD materials are then used for ongoing reclamation at the site. 

Meyer Material Company’s Randi Wille explained that continuous land reclamation is required as a condition of most mining permits as the tour bus drove through the Silverstone Lakes and Algonquin Lakes developments. Both of these residential subdivisions were once sand and gravel pits mined by Meyer Material Company.  

“Each site presented a unique opportunity to learn about all aspects of mining operations in McHenry County,” according to Steve Thelen, president of Thelen Sand & Gravel and a Gravel Advisory Council member.
The roles played by many government agencies concerning safety, health, environmental protection, land reclamation and other regulatory issues were also discussed at length.  Patti Nomm, McHenry County Public Health Director, told participants a County ordinance began requiring mining companies to monitor ground water in the 1990’s.  The data collected since then has shown no groundwater contamination beyond a few instances of elevated chlorides from adjacent roads.

Throughout the tour, Kate Kramer, a professor of geology from McHenry County College, spoke about the geological history of the County and why sand and gravel deposits have shaped its unique topography.  She noted the rugged landscape of McHenry County with its moraines and valleys is due largely as a result of glacial ice that once stood thousands of feet deep.  The sand and gravel deposits found within  McHenry County were created over the years as the glacier pushed earth and rock materials southward or left them behind in outwash as the glacier melted.