September 30, 2008

IEPA Acts on Mallard Lake

By Marni Pyke

[email protected]

The agency that came under criticism for its handling of gas leaks from a DuPage County landfill is now rapping the knuckles of the dump's operators.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued a violation notice to BFI Waste Systems, which runs the Mallard Lake landfill, noting the company failed to report problems including high methane levels.

Methane is a colorless, odorless gas that's produced as garbage decomposes. It's one of the main components of natural gas and can explode when trapped in confined spaces. Usually landfills have a system that collects methane - and in some cases, the gas is converted to electricity.

The U.S. EPA began investigating homes adjacent to the landfill, which is near Hanover Park, for the presence of methane in November.

The gas is seeping from the landfill and has been detected underground, but not in any homes, officials said.

The landfill, owned by the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, has a history of pollution. In the 1970s, the state's attorney general filed a lawsuit seeking to halt illegal dumping of hazardous waste.

The state EPA is requiring BFI to modify its gas collection system. State regulators asked BFI to submit a plan within 45 days outlining how it aims to fix it.

The agency contended Mallard Lake's gas collection system is inadequate and criticized BFI for failing to notify them. No homes or residents are at risk, officials stated.

An environmental attorney representing residents living by Mallard Lake who are suing the forest preserve and BFI called the state's actions far overdue.

"The enduring disappointment is how nonexistent the government's response has been," Naperville attorney Shawn Collins said.

The IEPA was aware of methane leaks above safe levels around Mallard Lake in 1994 and 2000 and has taken heat from homeowners for that reason.

IEPA officials stated they had taken enforcement actions against the landfill operators in the past.

BFI and the U.S. EPA have already entered into an agreed order requiring the waste hauler to investigate the methane migration and correct it.

BFI spokeswoman Megan Hake said the company is complying with the federal order and will work with the state also. So far, 240 homes have been tested in the neighborhoods near the landfill and six wells installed near the perimeter to draw back the escaped gas.

Forest preserve representatives referred comments to BFI.

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