Tall trees shield the sprawling garbage mounds, but this dump has never been a secret. Not for the hundreds of illegal dumpers who have created the state’s biggest illegal garbage pile, not for the county that abandoned cleanup efforts, not for the residents who live beyond the dumpers’ roads.
Tucked inside a wooded area near Interstate 294 and 159th Street in Markham, the debris of half a century lies piled – tires, broken battered mobile homes, boat hulls by the dozens, drum after drum after drum of chemical waste, toilets, sinks, old children’s toys, glass, auto parts and a laundry list of other identifiable – and not identifiable – waste.
“It’s absolutely huge and unprecedented, in both how long the dumping took place and the size of the dump,” said Charles Grigalauski, regional manager with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which began surface cleanup at the site June 15.
“This area’s been ignored for half a century and has suffered the environmental effects as a result of that.”
It took a four-day, four-alarm tire fire in April at the nearly 12-acre site to draw serious attention to the gigantic garbage pit for the first time in at least a decade, and the huge volume of waste has state environmentalists vowing to shut down the dumping.
Now, with the cleanup price tag inching toward $1 million, county and state officials each are attempting to paint the other as the responsible party that ignored the solid waste pile up and public health threat for decades.
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