Illinois Removed 22,000 Tons of Illegally Dumped Waste in 2007

In the last year, 120 cleanups of illegal dump sites across the state have been conducted as part of the Illinois EPAs I-RID (Illinois Removes Illegal Dumps) Program, agency officials announced.

Illinois EPA has removed nearly 22,000 tons of illegally dumped waste, which has been collected and sent to regulated landfills for disposal. Adding to those numbers, nearly 445 tons recyclable metal waste has been sent to salvage and recycling facilities and approximately 275 tons of tires have been collected and recycled.

"Since the Illinois EPA's I-RID Program was launched in late 2006, we have removed thousands of tons of waste that have not only become environmental hazards for the environment, but they have also become unsightly eyesores in Illinois' communities and in some of the state's most scenic areas," said Illinois EPA Director Scott. "This program has done an excellent job of protecting the environment and preserving it for all to enjoy."

Over the last year, the Illinois EPA has worked with local and county officials to remove illegally dumped waste throughout the state, in both rural and urban areas, from sites ranging from the tip of Southern Illinois near Cave-in-Rock to rural central and eastern Illinois, and urban locations in both the East St. Louis and Chicago metro areas. The cleanups have removed a variety of waste and junk from the land including fiberglass boats, abandoned vehicles, household appliances, mattresses, random furniture and tires.

All illegally dumped waste is of concern to the Illinois EPA, but illegally dumped tires pose an even greater concern. Tires that are inappropriately disposed of serve as habitat for disease-carrying mosquitoes and can lead to tire fires that can contaminate the air, land and water. Because whole tires have been banned from landfills, they often end up in unmanaged and illegal tire dumps. The tires in these dumps accumulate stagnant water that serves as an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes that can potentially carry harmful diseases. The primary carrier of the West Nile virus is the Northern House mosquito, whose presence is highly observed at illegal waste tire dumps.

Another dangerous and environmentally hazardous aspect of tire dumps is the risk of fire. Tire fires burn very hot and are extremely difficult to extinguish. Also, when surrounded by the extreme heat of the fire, the tires can melt into an oily substance that, when drenched with water, can form a harmful run-off that can contaminate nearby surface water.

The I-RID Program became law in 2005 to give the Illinois EPA additional authority to combat open dumping and clean up existing dumps. The program uses part of existing landfill fee revenues to cover costs of additional Illinois EPA inspection staff and cleanups. With the funding, the Illinois EPA can hire contractors to clean up open dumps where responsible parties cannot be located or where various specific imminent threats, such as fire, are present.

The law also provides for permitting and regulation of the disposal of clean construction or demolition debris, such as in former quarries, and gives the Illinois EPA Director additional authority to seal sites where there is a potential risk for harm to human health or the environment.

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