William Charles’ agent lobbied EPA

n Attorney described himself as a ‘disinterested facilitator’ in multi-million dollar project

John Holmstrom III, agent for companies held by William Charles, Ltd., including Environmental Contractors of Illinois, Inc., Rockford Blacktop Construction Co., and Winnebago Reclamation Service, Inc., said his characterization of himself as a “disinterested facilitator” in the southeast Rockford Superfund project is an “accurate description” despite his admission that William Charles has been awarded contracts for groundwater sampling in the Superfund area. Holmstrom said he could not remember if any other contracts were awarded to the company.

Holmstrom described his role as a “disinterested facilitator” in an Aug. 3, 1993, letter to Karen Vendl, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator. The letter also indicates Holmstrom met with EPA officials earlier in the southeastern Superfund project, in an effort to influence the outcome.

He said in that letter, “We believe that such a project would adversely affect property values, business retention and expansion, and our efforts to attract new businesses to the City.”

Holmstrom is and was also an agent for Environmental Contractors of Illinois, whose business specializes in environmental drilling and Superfund remediation and other services, such as groundwater sampling.

Holmstrom’s 1993 letter reads: “The city [Rockford] proposes to establish a Groundwater Protection District or Districts. …It [the Groundwater Protection District] would probably require state enabling legislation to establish this District as a legal entity or as a part of the City’s water department, because the District will have taxing powers or the power to collect a water surcharge or fee. If state legislation is not necessary, the District could simply be a part of the City’s governmental structure. We will work with our local legislators to obtain passage of any necessary legislation,” Holmstrom wrote.

Vendl said she couldn’t remember Holmstrom, the correspondences, or meetings. Vendl said she got out of Superfund remediation issues in 1994.

However, Vendl responded to Holmstrom’s correspondence on Nov. 23, 1993, with a six-page letter containing a series of questions that indicates federal and state EPA officials “continue to review and discuss the proposal you submitted on August 3, 1993.” Vendl’s letter also notes EPA officials met again Sept. 14, 1993, to discuss another Superfund site in Wichita, Kan., which Holmstrom said would be used as a model for Rockford’s southeast Superfund site.

Holmstrom asserted that at the time he met with Vendl and subsequently wrote his letter, he “couldn’t tell at that time if we were going to be awarded any contracts” concerning Rockford’s southeast Superfund site. However, Environmental Contractors of Illinois was established in 1980.

Holmstrom argues Environmental Contractors’ primary business is capping landfills and removal of underground storage tanks. However, the company’s Web site also indicates they cap Superfund clean-up sites, manage contaminated soils, drill and manage waste.

According to the state’s campaign disclosure Web site, William Charles, Rockford Blacktop and Holmstrom combined to contribute at least $152,278 to local and state elected officials since 1994. The contributions were given to both Democrats and Republicans, including Rockford Mayor Doug Scott.

Rockford enacted a 9 percent rate restructuring for industrial and commercial business water bills in 1999 to pay for Superfund remediation, according to Rockford Legal Director Ron Schultz.

Rockford Mayor Doug Scott was state representative from the 67th District from 1995-2001. Scott was one of six sponsers of a bill in 1999 [HB1409] that amended the Public Utilities Act.

The bill “authorizes water and sewer utilities to impose surcharges for costs of purchased water, cost of purchased sewage treatment, other costs difficult to predict, and infrastructure costs independent of the utilities’ revenue requirements,” the bill reads.

The bill went into effect on Aug. 20, 1999, as Public Act 91-0638.

However, HB1409 was the only bill Scott sponsored during his tenure as state legislator that amended the Public Utilities Act. Scott was unavailable for comment before deadline to explain how he became one of the six sponsors of the legislation.

Schultz said Scott’s bill wasn’t needed to implement the rate restructuring.

In 2000, William Charles, Inc. filed a lawsuit charging that Dean Ekberg made false statements on the WNTA 1330-AM radio Suzanne Lee Show concerning Rockford Blacktop. The lawsuit remains unresolved.

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