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IEPA seeks court order for Waste Management

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 3:29 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 11:57 p.m. CDT
Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com Cortland firefighters are seen outside Cortland Elementary School in Cortland, Ill., on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Gas released from the nearby landfill got caught in the school's ventilation system making staff and students nauseous. Emergency personnel from fire departments including Cortland, DeKalb, Sycamore, Maple Park-Countryside, Elburn, Burlington, Hinckley and Genoa-Kingston were seen at the school.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency wants a judge to order Waste Management to cover the costs of Tuesday’s air pollution incident at Cortland Elementary School and take steps to prevent any future problems.

However, the agency still is uncertain of the chemicals to which students and staff might have been exposed when drilling work to replace the landfill’s odor control system led to a release of gas that winds carried toward Cortland Elementary.

In a release from the IEPA sent Friday afternoon, agency officials said they have asked the Illinois Attorney General’s office to seek a court order immediately. Waste Management already has said it would cover medical expenses for roughly 70 people who sought medical treatment after Tuesday’s incident and plans to prevent future odor releases.

The costs of the emergency response could be substantial: Ambulance crews responded to Cortland from fire departments from Cortland, DeKalb, Sycamore, Genoa-Kingston, Elburn and as far away as Rochelle on Tuesday to help shuttle about 45 people to Kishwaukee Community Hospital.

An IEPA inspector visited the landfill at 18370 Somonauk Road near Cortland on Wednesday and found that there were no more odors and tested the air and found it clean, the release said.

The agency will try to obtain a sample of the landfill gas from the area that was affected by the drilling and analyze it to determine what chemicals people at Cortland Elementary might have been exposed to, according to the release.

Carbon Monoxide likely was not the problem gas, the IEPA said. A company spokesman told the DeKalb County Board that the gas came from an area where burned trash from the 1950s was mixed with soil. The company described the smell released as a “heavy, sour odor.”

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