Village of Big Bend — Residents are once again voicing concerns about water quality after heavy rains revealed runoff problems from the Kaishian property on National Avenue and Highway 164. The concerns took the spotlight at a recent public hearing as property owner John Kaishian worked to gain approval for the planned second phase of the fill project.
The property was annexed into the Village of Big Bend in 2007, but neighboring properties remain in the Town of Vernon.
The West Allis Training Kennel Club (WATKC) presented their concerns formally at the Jan. 16 Town Board meeting. At that meeting Steve Gence, who chairs the membership committee, presented the board with complaints and photos described as "disturbing" to the club.
According to Gence, in the spring of 2013 the club began getting complaints that after a good rain their training ponds would turn brown.
"Also disturbing was the fact that the sedimentation was coming from a protected cold-water species stream called Mill Brook that feeds our ponds and then exits our property and winds through the Town of Vernon and eventually dumps into the Fox River," Gence explained to town supervisors.
The WATKC documented the items in formal complaints and submitted photos to show the alleged sedimentation problems from the site throughout the summer. After a Nov. 17 rainstorm the state Department of Natural Resources completed an inspection of the property, and in its report lists several modifications that must be brought into compliance.
The DNR noted that the site does not meet conditions for erosion control and storm management requirements. The report also includes confirmation that runoff was entering Mill Brook and eventually ponds on the WATKC property.
Big Bend Village President James Soneberg said the village was made aware of the issues and has always worked "hand-in-hand" with the DNR to monitor the property.
"When the runoff problem started this year, we started to get this addressed and concerned. We were working closely with the DNR to be sure everything's done right," he said. "Right now our concern is to control the runoff and make sure that everything is in compliance with where the property needs to be."
Residents in the Heather Ridge and Maple Hills subdivisions were made aware of the water issues and raised their own concerns regarding their groundwater.
Jennifer Langbauer, president of the Heather Ridge Home Owners Association, presented a proposal at the Feb. 6 Town of Vernon meeting in which more than 20 residents of the two subdivisions agreed to have their wells tested for contaminants, such as volatile organic compound BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes) and heavy metals, including arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury. Langbauer presented the same information informally to the Soneberg after the village's Feb. 6 meeting.
The residents have also begun to circulate a petition requesting the "immediate cease and desist of the dumping as well as water, air and noise pollution." As of Feb. 7, the petition had more than 150 signatures; it is expected to be presented at an upcoming public hearing on the site.
After the presentation to the full Town Board, Langbauer planned to work with the Town of Vernon Water Committee to come up with a plan on which homes to test and for what.
Vernon Town Chairman Jim Slawny said the board will have to balance fairness with the concern of potential contamination.
"(The concern is) more from what nobody knows. Nobody knows if there's any real contamination, nobody knows if the (safety) measures are being taken; it's the unknown that's the biggest issue on the table, so we're just trying to represent our residents best interest and balance that with the best interest of the entire town," Slawny said.
Slawny also added that the concern over the water may always exist with the property.
"If the subdivision goes out and has their wells tested, they may not find anything right now, but it might take longer before contamination would show up in their wells, so what's the long-term process?" Slawny added.
According to James Delwiche, a hydrogeologist from the Department of Natural Resources who is familiar with the project, the DNR monitors two wells on the property on a regular basis. Delwiche said that while he understands there are problems with the surface water turning brown, groundwater has likely remained unaffected.
"Groundwater issues are separate. Just because (Kaishian) is not in compliance with surface filling, you can't automatically say the drinking water is not safe," Delwiche said. "Surface level water is a different issue than drinking water."
For his part, John Kaishian said there is no problem at all with the water and that the property continues to be tested.
"We're always good over here," Kaishian said. "We have no groundwater problem. We have nothing that would cause contamination to the drinking water."
When asked about the violations at the property, Kaishian responded, "Those violations are immaterial. It's like mud on the roads, which we took care of, and anything that needed to be corrected has been corrected."
Soneberg said the village will ensure that runoff issues are controlled and corrected before moving forward with Phase 2 of the project, which would be a change in the conditional-use permit.
Kaishian has applied to move forward with Phase 2 of the filling, which would carry the operation farther to the west. A well-attended Jan. 23 public hearing resulted in the discussion on that permit being tabled. The property is on the agenda for the 7 p.m. Plan Commission meeting immediately after the hearing.
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