October 10, 2008

Dump’s Latest Bad News Now Traces of Chemicals Have Been Found Inside Home By Mallard Lake

By Marni Pyke

[email protected]@dailyherald.com

Living in the shadow of a garbage dump that is oozing methane gas is troubling enough for Karen Perez.

But recently the suburban mom was given additional cause to worry. Traces of dangerous chemicals were detected inside and outside her home near the Mallard Lake landfill.

Tests at Perez's home uncovered low levels of 31 volatile organic chemicals, some often associated with landfills.

"I'm more alarmed than before because they found something in the house," Perez said. "It's not good news."

As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to go door-to-door in neighborhoods next to Mallard Lake near Hanover Park to check for any toxins in the air.

It's a familiar routine for the agency, which last fall began testing homes around Mallard Lake for methane after the gas was found leaking from the dump. Methane is a byproduct of decomposing garbage and can be explosive in high concentrations.

The latest finding "tells me we need to do more sampling," EPA on- scene coordinator Steve Faryan said.

Fortunately, the amount of chemical gases detected were low enough that they don't pose an immediate health threat, officials said.

Some of the toxins found in Perez's residence included vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene, said environmental attorney Shawn Collins, who represents Perez and other families in a lawsuit against BFI.

"There is a strong correlation between the chemicals found in her home and with chemicals found at the landfill," he said. "These volatile organic chemicals, if found in high-enough concentrations, can cause people to become ill."

But BFI spokeswoman Megan Hake said the environmental tests were done as a result of the lawsuit. She pointed to a statement by a toxicologist hired by BFI's lawyers noting that methane findings at the Perez home could be a result of errors by the laboratory and weren't connected to the landfill.

The toxicologist also suggested that the chemicals are typical of those found in homes and could come from sources such as dry cleaning, new furniture or carpets.

"I defy them to show me any homes that naturally have 31 volatile organic chemicals in them," Collins scoffed.

The closed landfill, owned by the DuPage County Forest Preserve District and operated by BFI Waste Systems, has a history of environmental problems.

Records show a legacy of illegal dumping there dating back to the 1970s that included industrial chemicals.

EPA officials said Mallard Lake could be the source of the chemical pollution but they need to investigate further. Forest preserve officials could not be reached but previously have deferred comment to BFI.

BFI is expected to complete a plan to fix the methane leaks in June. In the meantime, Faryan asked residents to be aware inspectors could be coming though their neighborhoods.

For information, contact EPA officials at [email protected]@epa.gov or (312)353-5546, or [email protected]@epa.gov or (312) 353-9351.

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