EPA says cleanup complete at dump site in Markham

June 24, 2011 4:25:21 PM PDT
On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency said that a major environmental contamination in the south suburbs is finally cleaned up.

While some trash is still there, after more than $1 million of emergency work, an uncontrolled dump in the City of Markham is much less dangerous.

"An open dump this close to a residential neighborhood, it was a shocker to see it this way," said EPA Project Manager Steve Faryan. "There was a number of things that were dumped back here, trucks would back in and just push things off the back, detergent bottles, pool chemicals, so there was just an odd assortment of chemicals dumped here."

Before the cleanup, the dump is Markham was lot filled with old mobile homes, tires and trash.

After a tire fire smoldered for days last spring, the state EPA stepped in and hauled away 10,000 tons of waste.

This spring, U.S. EPA officials found these chemicals illegally dumped on the site for years.

"It's definitely something that we had to get out of here quickly so that the public did not come into contact with it," said Faryan said. "We've removed all the chemicals that would cause some direct harm to somebody. Now there's some further studies that need to be done."

Now, they're testing the soil for lead to make sure there's no groundwater contamination.

"There was nothing I could do about it except complain," said Juanita Whitaker, who lives just down the street from the old dump site. The Illinois EPA is testing her well water, but to be safe, she doesn't use it to drink or cook. She says the area just got out of control.

"It's like one little pile is put down there, and then someone sees that, and then they put their pile there and it just spirals up from there," Whitaker said.

"It's a long time coming so that's good," said Markham resident Steve Drew. From his driveway, he cheered on the crews hard at work clearing out the mess.

"Whenever they come to clean up something like that, something's big's going to happen and I've heard they're talking about cleaning up the whole area and try to bring it back up, that would be good for the whole neighborhood," Drew said.

Officials from the Illinois Attorney General's office are investigating the site to see if they can find out who is responsible for dumping all that waste. While all the debris will eventually be removed from the site, so far, the total cleanup has cost $1.7 million.

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