The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on Friday closed the book on the Land and Lakes Landfill in Buffalo Grove, ruling there are no lingering environmental hazards that require monitoring.
The ruling also clears the way for Buffalo Grove to pursue redeveloping the land.
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October 1981: Permit issued for disposal of demolition waste, landscape waste and commercial and industrial trash, excluding liquid and special wastes, on 32 acres
October 1991: Stopped accepting all but demolition debris, which continued until October 1993
April 1994: Landfill ceases operation; post-closure care begins in May 1995
April 2010: Owner applies to end post-closure care
January 2011: Ruling on end of post-closure care delayed so Land and Lakes can install additional monitoring wells and collect supplementary field data from locations adjacent to the landfill to address deficiencies identified by the IEPA
Jan. 13, 2012: After several more delays for Land and Lakes to conduct field activities and for the IEPA to review the data, IEPA rules that post-closure care can end
Since the landfill closed in 1995, its operators have been required to monitor the groundwater, maintain the landfill's final cover system, and provide financial assurance for post-closure care -- ordinary procedures for any closed landfill.
"They have met their regulatory obligation for this property for the Illinois EPA under this permit," said Maggie Carson, IEPA spokeswoman.
The ruling was met with rejoicing by village officials, who look forward to working with the landfill owners to redevelop the site so that it produces additional tax revenue for the village. It was met with skepticism by former village trustee Lisa Stone, who has questioned the condition of the landfill both before and after she left office in 2011.
Land and Lakes, which stopped burying construction waste at the site at 1300 Milwaukee Ave. in 1995, first applied for IEPA certification on April 29, 2010, as the mandatory 15-year observation period ended.
But in the light of concerns about phenol detected in groundwater monitoring wells, as well as other issues raised by Stone, the IEPA held a public hearing on Nov. 9, 2010, in Buffalo Grove, and delayed the certificate of completion until further review and water testing was done.
According to a document released Friday by the IEPA, "The agency's technical staff have determined that Land and Lakes Wheeling Landfill has met the criteria for certifying completion of post-closure care and once all questions from agency technical staff had been resolved, the landfill's groundwater monitoring wells, piezometers, leachate collection wells and gas vents were properly plugged and abandoned."
The decision also states that the compost facility at the landfill can continue to operate until Nov. 1, 2012.
In a news release issued Friday, Stone said she still has grave concerns about the property and how it affects the health and safety of nearby residents.
"If the questions are not answered now, and necessary steps are not taken now to make sure that the landfill and watershed are safe for residents, when will these things happen?" the release says.
"We can't let this potential time bomb sit there. We need to make sure that the area is clean, that there are no toxic substances polluting the ground and water of current residents and future generations," it adds.
She said more than 5,000 people rely on nearby community wells as their sole source for drinking, bathing and food preparation, as well as swimming.
"Have they been tested for phenol or other possible leachates from the landfill?" she asked.
The IEPA report said that "phenol has been detected only sporadically at the facility and at low concentrations." At those levels, it's often due to laboratory contamination, or to decomposition of wood or other organic materials naturally occurring in groundwater, the IEPA said. There were no indications of rising levels or related contaminants that would implicate the landfill, it said.
"It was determined, the bottom line on it, that there really was no significant concern for human health and the environment," said Steve Nightingale, manager of the permit section in the IEPA's Bureau of Land.
"I'm glad it is finally resolved," Buffalo Grove President Jeffrey Braiman said. "It doesn't surprise me that this eventually happened. During the course of this whole time period, we had gotten information from Lake County and others that the testing was fine and that there was no overt problem, and this was just consistent with that.
Braiman said that about a year and a half ago, a preliminary plan was proposed by Land and Lakes for redevelopment of the site, but nothing could be done until the IEPA ruled.
"Now we can move forward, and hopefully it can get developed and will be an asset to the community," he said. "Much of the financial future of the village is based on sales-tax generation, and this is an important corridor for increasing our sales tax."
Village Manager Dane Bragg said it has been more than a decade-long process for the village to get the site annexed and prepared to be developed.
"Obviously, this clears the path for that to occur," he said.
The village already has a conceptual plan for the property, said Deputy Village Manager Ghida Neukirch, and a number of different retailers have expressed an interest in the property.
During the controversy, James J. Cowhey Jr., mayor of Lake Forest and president of Park Ridge-based Land and Lakes Co., has declined to comment.
The family-owned company did issue a statement Friday welcoming the decision and saying it "reaffirms our commitment to providing a safe and healthy environment for the residents of Buffalo Grove, Ill., and the surrounding communities."