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Extend oversight period for landfill
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 7/26/2010 6:28 PM

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When Land and Lakes Co. received permission 29 years ago to operate a landfill west of Milwaukee Avenue south of Aptakisic Road in what is now Buffalo Grove, there were concerns about flooding and the potential for groundwater contamination.

Today, as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency considers whether to free Land and Lakes from restrictions to monitor the environmental impact of the facility, there is no evidence that the groundwater is contaminated, according to the state EPA.

But that doesn't mean there aren't questions.

There are lots of questions.

Among them, how well can the public trust that the state EPA itself has been performing its due diligence to protect the public health?

We believe the questions are serious enough that the agency should extend the monitoring period for the former landfill, which still is home to a composting facility and a landscape waste transfer station.

As Staff Writer Marni Pyke reported Monday, recently uncovered documents expressed concern about contaminants previously found in the groundwater and about other deficiencies at the site.

Environmental attorney Shawn Collins, who specializes in groundwater contamination, warned that, "Any landfill operated in the 1980s is a potential threat to the environment."

Krishna Reddy, director of the Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago, agreed that "more investigation is needed to find out exactly what is happening in the landfill."

Collins said recently uncovered documents show the state has been lax in regulating the landfill, and he describes the threat in frightening clarity:

"It doesn't matter that not all of the chemicals detected in the groundwater are known to be dangerous, or that the known-to-be-dangerous chemicals that were detected in groundwater were not detected at high concentrations," he said. "The point is that the detection in groundwater of any landfill chemicals means that chemicals are leaking out of the landfill and therefore, that any chemical ever dumped there can leak out - potentially in dangerous concentrations."

As for reassurance, officials at Land and Lakes and company president James Cowhey, also the mayor of Lake Forest, chose not to respond to repeated requests for comment.

There is a potential for problems at this site, serious problems. And there are too many questions about how seriously that potential has been taken.

Now is not the time to end the oversight. If anything, now is the time to strengthen it.

If the IEPA cares about the public health, it will extend the monitoring period.