Investigation at Markham Illegal Dumping Site
Fact Sheet #1
Markham, Cook County, Illinois
Illinois EPA was alerted by the City of Markham to a tire fire that began on
April 1, 2010 at an illegal dump site in/near Markham in Cook County. The
12-acre-plus dumping areas within the site are bounded by 159th Street
on the north, Dixie Highway on the east, the Calumet-Union Drainage
Canal on the south, and Western Avenue on the west (see map). It
appears that various dumping activities have been going on there for
many years. Recent inspections by Illinois EPA revealed discarded mobile
homes, automobile parts, boats, tires, drums and totes of unknown liquids
and solids, other containers with residue of construction materials,
unidentified gas cylinders, unknown liquid and solid spills on the ground,
swimming pool chemicals and various construction and demolition debris.
The site is located in a mixed industrial, commercial and residential area located in what was previously
an unincorporated area. It is not clear whether it is now part of Markham or Harvey. Illinois EPA is
working with the Illinois Office of the Attorney General (IOAG) and local officials to determine
ownership. Currently, public water supply mains are available to properties on the west side of the site
in the Coral Gables subdivision. Some homes in the area immediately north of the site, however,
continue to use private wells for their water source. Illinois EPA recently identified seven private wells in
that area and obtained permission to test three of the wells. Based on information available to the
Agency at this time, however, groundwater flow direction near the site appears to be toward the south,
away from the wells.
In addition, evaluation of standing water in tires and other sources
at the site revealed mosquito species capable of carrying a type of
encephalitis, which primarily affects children, and the West Nile
Virus, which primarily affects older citizens.
Contamination in standing pools of water or in surface soil at the
site poses a threat to off-site surface waters via the drainage ditch
to the Calumet-Union Drainage Canal. Initial soil evaluation by
Xray fluorescence (XRF) and through focused soil sample analysis
shows some metals contamination and other chemicals.
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Message to parents of
children in the area of the
dump site: please do not let
children play at this site. While
the chemical hazards have not
been completely defined, there
are many physical hazards as
well as the potential for
that present a danger to
Fact Sheet #1 - Investigation at Markham Illegal Dumping Site Page 1 of 3
posed by the site. It is possible that further testing of site soils or waste
materials will be necessary to characterize site hazards.
What was found in
from private wells?
Laboratory results from the private well tests revealed groundwater
contamination from naturally-occurring metals and minerals, which do not
appear to be site-related. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)
reviewed the findings and issued letters to the three well owners. Only
sodium levels were present at levels that would be considered a potential
hazard to the health of persons with high blood pressure or on a sodium-restricted
The wells tested are not in the direction of groundwater flow from the site,
which is to the south. Mainly industrial businesses are located in this
direction, and they are served by a community water supply.
Illinois EPA is interested in sampling a few more private wells close to the
site. If you have a well within a few blocks of the site, please contact
Charlene Thigpen at (847) 294-4122.
How will residents be
informed about site
potential hazards at
Illinois EPA has developed a mailing list of residents nearest the site, with
the help of the Village of Markham, to whom we will send this fact sheet
and other updates. Contact Carol Fuller (information below) if you or
someone you know wants to be added to the mailing list for the site.
What are the next
steps to make the site
Illinois EPA requested assistance from the IOAG, who negotiated an
agreement with the City of Markham to provide 24-hour police surveillance
of the site so that no more waste will be deposited there. The City will
maintain barriers to restrict access and has provided signs at locations
around the perimeter of the site to deter individuals from entering the site
and potentially being exposed to hazards.
Tests of mosquito larvae found in standing water at the site revealed the
subspecies of mosquito that carries a type of encephalitis which affects
mainly children. There were also mosquito species that carry the West Nile
Virus. Illinois EPA purchased a mosquito treatment and arranged for the
South Cook County Mosquito Abatement District to apply it to reduce the
number of mosquito larvae. The treatment, which was conducted on May
18, 2010, will be effective for three to four months. Illinois Department of
Conservation police are attempting to find responsible parties for
approximately 43 abandoned boat hulls that are also a source of stagnate
Additionally, Illinois EPA will conduct a removal of between 10,000 and
15,000 waste tires at the site and properly dispose of them. The work
should be complete by the week of May 23, 2010.
Who owns the site? It is reported that the City of Markham purchased liens against a number
of parcels within the six-block “site” in a transaction related to unpaid real
estate taxes. It is not clear, however, that any titles have been
transferred. It is also reported that annexation of the properties may be a
subject of dispute between the cities of Markham and Harvey.
My family uses a
private well, but we
have never had it
tested. Does Illinois
Illinois EPA and IDPH recommend that anyone who lives in an area with
current or former commercial or industrial facilities, and uses a well for
their source of drinking water, have their well tested for possible chemical
When you receive the results of your water tests, you may ask a
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For more information, please contact:
toxicologist with IDPH to review these results with you for possible health
implications. You may also talk with them about the types of chemicals to
test for. The phone number for the IDPH West Chicago Regional Office is
Who do I talk to
about testing my
Commercial labs that are certified to analyze samples for organic
chemicals and inorganic metals can be found on the List of Accredited Labs
page. Discuss the cost of testing with the laboratory. Other information
about private well safety is available in the Safe Water Well Initiative 2009
Illinois EPA intends to pursue legal action through referral to the IOAG
against any viable party involved in this matter. If any citizen has
information about who is responsible for illegal dumping activities at this
site, please contact Charlene Thigpen (see below).
Illinois EPA has discussed with U.S. EPA the possibility that they might
conduct a removal of the most toxic substances at the surface (drums,
totes, other containers of chemicals or wastes), depending on the outcome
of sampling results.
Carol L. Fuller
Community Relations Coord.
Office of Community Relations
DesPlaines Regional Office
IDPH W. Chicago Regional
245 W. Roosevelt Rd., Bldg. 5
Chicago, Illinois 60185
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