EPA targets troublesome illegal dump site in southern Illinois

Eric Fodor

Carrier Mills Township and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency officials are now cleaning a private dump site that has been a major problem area in the township for years.

"From what they've said, it has been cleaned up a time or two, but they just keep dumping here," said Diane K. Shasteen, IEPA environmental specialist.

The dump site on Duncan Road, roughly behind the old Will Scarlet Mine, consisted of old tires for heavy equipment, large oil canisters and just plain junk. Most of the dump site was situated between two "no dumping" signs placed by the township. Last week, Mott Excavating began hauling out the debris under a contract with the IEPA.

The dump site has been there off and on for 30 or 40 years, Shasteen said. She does not know who is responsible for the dumping.

The dump site is being cleaned up under the IEPA's I-RID -- Illinois Removes Illegal Dumps -- program. Shasteen has been busy with the I-RID program -- 55 dumps have been cleaned in the 22 southernmost counties of Illinois. About 125 sites have been cleaned statewide.

"So we've gotten a good portion of the money down here," Shasteen said.

Unfortunately, a lot of the problem with illegal dumping in rural areas is found in southern Illinois. It is easier to get away with illegal dumping in southern Illinois than in other parts of the state since so much of our land is forested and hilly. Activity can be seen for miles in some parts of central Illinois because of the flat prairie.

"They like the deep ravines," Shasteen said, pointing to the ravine on Duncan Road that could have hidden a smaller dump from view altogether.

Fines can be high for illegal dumping. Fines for sites like the one found on Duncan Road can start at $1,500, Shasteen said.

"That's about 10 years of trash service," Shasteen said.

While it is hard to catch illegal dumpers, who may work stealthily in the middle of the night or dump in the middle of nowhere, the IEPA is not without weapons. Sometimes the IEPA uses surveillance cameras at persistent problem sites to catch offenders, Shasteen said.

The site on Duncan Road has been frustrating for township officials. It seems most townships in the region have some sort of problem with pollution or illegal dumping. Often, rural townships like Carrier Mills Township operate on a shoestring budget -- cleaning up a dump is relatively expensive.

"We've been doing a lot of these for townships and counties," Shasteen said.

At one time, town trash dumps or rural dumping areas were commonplace -- people started impromptu landfills and didn't think much about it. Now there is less tolerance for such sites and some of the old dump sites are posing environmental problems, Shasteen said.

Carrier Mills Township officials plan to prosecute illegal dumpers in the future, Township Supervisor John Pankey said.

"We've got the cooperation of Saline County Sheriff Keith Brown and the Egyptian Health Department," Pankey said.

The Daily Register