The old adage “out of sight is out of mind” can lead to the silent poisoning of people and spread disease for miles around when it comes to illegal dumping.
Along a rural railroad access road near South Pekin is a stretch of wooded area littered with old couches and chairs, car parts, a gas tank, old cars, hundreds of tires and much more. But new to that stretch of road this week was a mile-long stretch that looks like someone drove through the road while someone on the back of the truck dumped bags of raw garbage, collectable figurines and plate ware, garden hoses, a car generator and gas tank, food, composition books, children’s books, just to name a few items.
Mounds of tires are filled with water and television sets with open cases liter the landscape.
Illegal dumping is not new to Tazewell County, just as it is not new across the nation and around the world. People drive out into the rural areas to rid themselves of the plunder and items that will cost them to dispose of.
The city of Pekin found approximately 60 tires dumped overnight on VFW Road near the Federal Correctional Institution-Pekin about one week ago.
Tazewell County Health Department Communications Manager Sara Sparkman said the practice creates issues miles away from the site.
“We do know that there’s a problem, that there are people who are dumping,” said Sparkman. “And the materials do pose a hazard to the environment and to the residents.
“You talk about the gas tank — that’s an explosion hazard. If there is any fumes, it could explode. If there’s still gas in the tank it could leak into the groundwater. We all need the groundwater. Most of Tazewell County sits on an aquifer. That’s why groundwater is so important and making sure things are properly disposed of. TVs are not allowed in landfills at all. When TVs are disposed of the materials that are dangerous need to be taken out. There are heavy metals inside the TVs. There’s glass that has lead in it that needs to be removed before it is disposed of.”
“We all rely on our groundwater for drinking and if our groundwater is contaminated, you aren’t able to drink it,” said Sparkman. “Sometimes you aren’t even able to bathe in it.
“For example, think about Flint, (Michigan). You think about the lead in the water in Flint. That’s been a public health crisis because they can’t use the water. They can’t use that water for much of anything. Water is for life. You have to have water to live. Making sure it’s safe and not contaminated is very important.”
Lead poisoning causes learning disabilities in children and other problems, Sparkman said.
She said the tires along the side of the road hold water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus. .
“West Nile Virus has been in Tazewell County for several years,” said Sparkman. “Controlling the mosquito population is important and tires are one of the problems with stagnant water and mosquito breeding.”
The area is covered in old railroad ties that a man tried to sell there. They are rotting and were treated with creosote.
Cincinnati Township Road Commissioner Ron Hawkins said the tires are coming from a tire company or mechanics shop. The tires have chalk marks on them like a tire service center would place on them.
“Last year the township paid almost $3,000 to have tires hauled off,” said Hawkins. “This isn’t counting our man hours it takes to pick up these tires, keep the tires covered up and then when the guy comes in to collect them, put them where he can haul them out.”
South Pekin Police Chief Mark Morger said dumping in the rural areas is “quite frequent, especially tires. A lot of people get the tires with rims on them, take the rims to junk them and then throw the tires away because it costs to dispose of them and they don’t want to pay for it. It ends up getting more costly than what they get for scrap. They just find a ditch along the road, vacant property or something like that.”
South Pekin Police Officer Al Abels searched through the bags of garbage for sales receipts and other paperwork that could lead to some of the perpetrators. His efforts paid off. In one of the garbage bags was a was a temporary Illinois license plate, which can be traced.
“I would love to catch the person responsible,” said Abels. “The law of averages will catch up with them. It’s just a matter of time.”
Sparkman said law enforcement needs citizens’ help to determine who the people are in the county dumping illegally.
“It’s dangerous and it’s costly,” said Sparkman.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Tazewell County Health Department are working together on the disposal site south of South Pekin.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin
The ISSUE: Illegal dumping is on the rise in Tazewell County.
LOCAL IMPACT: Illegal dumping of various items releases toxins into the environment that cause ailments in humans.