Barrington Hills Village President Robert Abboud was so concerned about an auto auction business moving into neighboring East Dundee and polluting the local groundwater, that he took matters into his own hands.
Last week, he drove to the business' Wheeling location, where he took photographs and videos of what he called serious pollution issues, forwarding his findings to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
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Wheeling, after Abboud's visit, wrote up Insurance Auto Auctions only for pumping water to an off-site location -- a violation a Wheeling official said was "relatively minor."
Jeanene O'Brien, an IAA spokeswoman, said the company used the pump because significant rainfalls have sometimes caused stormwater buildup that has the potential to damage inventory and other equipment. IAA is now working with Wheeling to find alternative measures for flood mitigation that will be implemented soon, she said.
The action once again stirred up the political hornet's nest between Barrington Hills and East Dundee over IAA's plans to sell totaled vehicles to the highest bidder from a 12,000-square-foot building and 34 acres of outdoor storage north of Route 72 at Commonwealth Drive in a reclaimed gravel pit.
The site is not far from a Barrington Hills subdivision, where residents fear leaking fluids from the vehicles will contaminate local groundwater. East Dundee has approved the concept of the plan but has yet to take a vote on its redevelopment agreement.
Meanwhile, East Dundee Village President Jerald Bartels, who wants IAA in the village, said Abboud's latest action is more evidence of him doing whatever is necessary to support his narrative that IAA is a heartless polluter.
"Mr. Abboud is throwing everything at the wall that he can to try and make it stick," Bartels said. "I'm not going to engage in his political theater."
Abboud visited the Wheeling site last Friday, and by the next day, he had filed a complaint with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and notified Wheeling officials over what he called "an appalling lack of care for the environment."
Abboud and one of the Barrington Hills village attorneys spent about an hour walking around IAA's site in Wheeling. Abboud said IAA never gave him permission to visit the property and that he made his observations and shot footage from behind a fence.
Abboud also said the Barrington Hills village board was aware he was going to the site and said the village attorney's presence in Wheeling will likely cost a few hundred dollars.
During the visit, Abboud saw an "apparently contaminated pond" on site, several burned-out vehicles, and vehicles he said were leaking poisonous chemicals, according to his complaint.
But most disturbing of all, according to Abboud, was the large-scale pumping of what he said was polluted stormwater from an open stormwater drain to an off-site location, Abboud wrote.
Abboud says his visit confirmed his fears that IAA would put the same practices in place in East Dundee, and he urges leaders there to kill the project.
"I find it hard to believe that, as much as I respect my municipal brethren in East Dundee, I cannot imagine that they're going to have the technical capability to alter the management behaviors of IAA," Abboud said. "I think East Dundee has a very serious problem on their hands."
Mark Janeck, Wheeling's director of community development, confirmed IAA is in violation of dispersing water onto an adjacent property -- but of nothing else.
"It just seems there's a huge furor about something that's relatively small," Janeck said, adding that IAA will have two weeks to fix the water problem, which has a simple solution. "It's solved by them not pumping water to the property -- that's it."
Janeck also said that the body of water Abboud refers to as a pond is actually a man-made detention basin that's designed to collect water from parking lots.
Newer technology will be used to address flooding issues in East Dundee, O'Brien said.
"IAA has been compliant with the village's rules and regulations with respect to our operations there," O'Brien said.
Meanwhile, Abboud said he's not surprised IAA received a notice of violation and insists the problem is worse than what Wheeling cited. So he'll wait to see what the IEPA has to say.
"When you look at that water, it's clear that it's been contaminated," Abboud said. "It's intuitively obvious to the casual observer who's looking at it."
But Bartels accuses Abboud of not trusting Wheeling to get it right.
"If you have the facts, you pound on the facts, and if you don't have the facts, you pound on the table, and Mr. Abboud's doing a lot of pounding on the table right now," Bartels said. "If the folks in Wheeling have made their determination, once again, it's President Abboud trying to dictate what goes on in other communities."