Open Dumps

Abandoned piles of household garbage, bags of yard waste, appliances, old barrels, used tires and demolition debris such as lumber, shingles, pipes and asbestos can threaten the health of humans, wildlife and the environment. Known as open dumps, these sites can be found throughout Illinois – heaped at the bottom of ravines, in empty lots and pastures and along roadsides. An open dump is an illegal waste disposal site and should not be confused with a permitted municipal solid waste landfill or a recycling facility. If allowed to remain, open dumps often grow large and may attract the dumping of both solid and hazardous wastes.

Information on permitted landfills can be found at:

Open dumps pose the following health, safety and environmental threats:

  • Fire and explosion
  • Inhalation of toxic gases
  • Injury to children playing on or around the dump site
  • Disease carried by mosquitoes, flies and rodents
  • Contamination of streams, rivers, and lakes
  • Contamination of soil and groundwater
  • Contamination of drinking water
  • Damage to plant and wildlife habitats
  • Decrease in the quality of life to nearby residents and the local community

Open dumps create a public nuisance, divert land from more productive uses and depress the value of surrounding land.

Open Dumping Is Prohibited by Law

Causing or allowing open dumping is illegal, and may result in substantial penalties. Any of the following seven conditions at a dump site can result in the issuance of an Administrative Citation:

  • Littering
  • Scavenging
  • Open burning
  • Placement of waste in standing or flowing water
  • Promoting an increase of disease-carrying organisms
  • Standing or flowing liquid discharge from the dump site
  • Depositing of construction or demolition debris

Any Administrative Citation carries a $1,500 penalty for a first offense and a $3,000 penalty for a subsequent offense. A citation can be issued for any condition observed during every Illinois EPA inspection until the violation is resolved. In addition to an Administrative Citation, the state can pursue criminal charges and confiscate profits and vehicles that result from, or are used to carry out, open dumping.

Report Open Dumping to Your Local Authorities

Local law enforcement and public health officials have a duty to enforce open dumping laws. Counties and municipalities may impose additional penalties for open dumping.

Local authorities have the advantage of being close to the crime scene and can:

  • Immediately respond to complaints
  • Investigate to find evidence of the persons responsible for the open dumping
  • Require an immediate cleanup of the area
  • Levy their own local fines for open dumping
  • Issue citations or notices to appear in court
  • Report the incident to the Illinois EPA or the Attorney General’s Office
  • Refer the case to the local State’s Attorney for criminal and civil charges
  • Patrol the problem area


Delegation Agreements

The Illinois has established delegation agreements with several Illinois counties. These units of local government have agreed to conduct inspections and issue Administrative Citations. To find out if you live in a delegated area, contact the Illinois EPA’s Field Operations Section at (217) 785-8604.

Individuals living in non-delegated counties are encouraged to first seek help from their local law enforcement and public health officials. In these non-delegated counties, the local State’s Attorney also has the authority to pursue enforcement. Another alternative is to call the Illinois EPA regional field office serving your area.

What if I discover open dumping on my property?

Report open dumping to local law enforcement authorities or the local health department immediately.

Protect yourself against future open dumping:

  • Put up barriers (locked cables and gates) to prevent physical access to the property.
  • Post warning signs such as “Np Dumping” or “;No Trespassing.”
  • Clean up dump sites immediately so as not to encourage others to dump.
  • Notify local law enforcement and health departments as well as keep a log book. Record the date, time, a description of what is dumped and which authorities you notified each time you found signs of dumping.
  • Ask local law enforcement officials to patrol the problem area more frequently.
  • Alert adjoining property owners of the open dumping problem and enlist their help in a neighborhood watch program.

The land owner is responsible for all open dumping that occurs on their property – even if the landowner is neither the dumper nor has any knowledge of the dump site. The language of the law, “no person shall cause or allow the open dumping of any waste,” means that the landowner did not post “No Dumping” signs, failed to put up barriers to access and failed to clean up any open dumped waste. Essentially, the land owner has a duty to prevent open dumping and to clean up any pollution on their property. The dumper is also liable for open dumping and is subject to enforcement action. The generator of the waste that is illegally dumped is also responsible.


Individuals typically dump garbage from their own households or businesses. This practice carries both environmental and legal risks. The responsible alternative is to hire a company to haul away the garbage. But be careful. Although most garbage disposal and hauling companies comply with environmental laws, not all haulers are reputable. Household garbage is often found in open dumps. Disreputable haulers find that they can make a bigger profit by illegally dumping the garbage rather than paying the disposal fees to the landfills. Regardless of whether the garbage generator has contracted with the hauler, the producer can be held responsible for the garbage if it is illegally disposed.
As a waste generator, take action to reduce your liability:
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle as much of your daily garbage as possible.
    For more information, see the brochure entitled “Guide to Household Recycling”
  • Choose durable, long-lasting goods over less expensive, disposable goods.
  • Contract with a licensed and reputable waste hauler.
  • Always ask for a receipt.
Landscape Waste
Landscape waste has been banned from landfills since July 1, 1990. There are many landscape waste disposal options:
  • Leave grass clippings and leaves on the lawn as a nutrient.
  • Mulch grass clippings, leaves and wood chips for lawn and garden application.
  • Take landscape waste to a permitted compost facility.
  • Participate in community landscape waste collections.
  • Construct an on-site, well-maintained household composte bin. Use the compost as a soil amendment.
Used Tires
Tires were banned from landfills on July 1, 1994. More than 12 million used tires are generated each year in Illinois. Used tire dumps become havens for disease-carrying mosquitos, and open burning of tires causes air and water pollution. In addition to its authority to administer citations, the Illinois EPA has the authority to require removal and proper disposal of used waste tires pursuant to Section 55.3(d) of the Environmental Protection Act. If the recipient of a Section 55.3(d) Notice fails to remove and properly dispose of the used waste tires, the Illinois EPA can perform the cleanup and then recover the cost of the cleanup plus a fine equal to double the cost of the cleanup in punitive damages.
To reduce the risk of used tire dumping:
  • Allow your tire retailer to dispose of your used tires for you. Retailers are required by law to accept your old tires. However, they typically charge you a small fee to offset the tire disposal costs.
  • Participate in a used tire collection program, if eligible. This program is available to private property owners and farmers on a one time basis. For more information, contact the Illinois EPA’s Used Tire Program at (217) 785-8604.
White Goods
Items that fall under the classification of “white goods” include refrigerators, freezers, ranges, water heaters, air conditioners, humidifiers, and other similar domestic and commercial large appliances. White goods that have not had their hazardous components removed were banned from landfills on July 1, 1994. These components are mercury switches, chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerant gass (Freon), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The only landfills permitted to receive white goods are those that:
  • Participate in the Illinois EPA’s Industrial Material Exchange Service
  • Remove the white goods components prior to landfilling
  • Have an Illinois EPA approved operating plan and permit for white goods disposal.
Rather than landfilling the appliance after the white good components are removed, you can arrange to have the appliance hauled to a scrap yard where the metal can be reclaimed.
Lead Acid Batteries
Lead acid motor vehicle batteries were banned from landfills on September 1, 1990.
  • Exchange old motor vehicle batteries for new when purchasing a battery.
  • Sell used motor vehicle batteries to a salvage yard or recycling center.
Motor Oil
Motor oil was banned from landfills on July 1, 1996.
  • Save the used oil in a leak-proof container. Some service stations and recycling centers accept used oil.
  • Have your oil changed at a service station or a lube center that recycles and properly disposes of used oil.
  • Take the used oil to a local Household Hazardous Waste collection.
Do not dump used oil in the street, alleyway, on the ground, down the sewer or use it for dust control. Doing so may pollute waterways and subject you to substantial penalties.
Household Hazardous Waste
Illinois EPA Household Hazardous Waste collections give people an opportunity to safely rid their homes of unwanted hazardous waste for free. If not disposed of properly, these materials are potentially harmful to the environment:
  • weed killer
  • antifreeze
  • pesticides
  • paint
  • drain cleaner
  • paint thinners
  • motor oil
  • cleaning products
  • pool chemicals
  • gasoline
  • rodent poisons
  • asbestos insulation
  • batteries
  • kerosene
  • tarnish & rust removers
  • fluorescent light bulbs
  • high-intensity discharge light bulbs
  • thermostats
  • oil base paints
The Household Hazardous Waste program is open only to individuals, not industry, business, or agricultural operations. For more information, contact the Illinois EPA’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program at (217) 785-8604.

Universal Wastes

Universal wastes are widely categorized as generated hazardous wastes. This category of wastes includes:

  • batteries
  • pesticides
  • thermostats
  • fluorescent light bulbs
  • high intensity discharge light bulbs

Although the universal waste management standards are not applicable to household generated wastes, even small quantities of these wastes are a potential threat to the environment if they are not managed properly. To reduce the impact of these wastes on the environment, consider these options:

  • Use long-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs. The use of energy efficient fluorescent lighting is still a good environmental and economic choice.
  • Use organic gardening and integrated pest management methods to control lawn, garden and crop pests whenever possible.
  • Buy pesticides in only the quantities needed for immediate application.
  • Take your household generated hazardous wastes to a local Household Hazardous Waste Collection.

Household Paint and Paint Products

Follow these guidelines when using paint or paint products:

  • Use water soluble latex paint.
  • Carefully estimate the amount of paint you will need to complete a project.
  • Donate usable leftover paint to local churches, housing authorities or service organizations.
  • Drop off unwanted oil-base paint, especially those containing lead, mercury or cadmium, at an Illinois EPA Household Hazardous Waste Collection. For the nearest Paint Partner Store or Illinois EPA Hazardous Waste Collection event call (217) 785-8604.

Oil-based paint thinners, turpentine, mineral spirits and other solvents must not be poured down the drain. Instead, consider these alternatives:

  • Place used turpentine or mineral spirits in a closed container until paint particles settle. Then, pour off the clear liquid into another container for reuse.
  • Mix paint residue with unused cat litter, let dray in a well ventilated area and dispose with your household waste at an Illinois EPA permitted landfill.
  • Take the unsoluble solvents to an Illinois EPA Household Hazardous Waste Collection.

For more information, see the brochure entitled “Household Paint Disposal”

Construction and Demolition Debris

Landfills accept both clean and general construction and demolition debris. It is illegal to open dump either clean or general construction or demolition debris.

Clean construction or demolition debris
Uncontaminated, broken concrete without protruding metal bars, bricks, rock, stone, reclaimed asphalt pavement, dirt or sand generated from construction or demolition activities.
Clean construction debris can be recycled, buried below grade provided it is outside of a groundwater well setback zone or disposed of in a landfill. If the material is recycled, make sure the recycler is appropriately certified. Otherwise, the generator, hauler and property owner where the material is placed may be subject to substantial penalties.
If buried below grade outside of a groundwater well setback zone, the construction and demolition debris must be covered with sufficient uncontaminated soil to support vegetation within 30 days of the completion of the burial. Broken concrete without protruding metal bars may be used for erosion control.
General construction or demolition debris
Non-hazardous, uncontaminated materials resulting from the construction, remodeling, repair and demolition of utilities, structures and roads, limited to the following:
  • reclaimed asphalt pavement
  • non-hazardous painted wood
  • non-hazardous treated wood
  • non-hazardous coated wood
  • non-asbestos insulation
  • soil
  • rock
  • glass
  • drywall
  • plastics
  • plaster
  • wall coverings
  • plumbing fixtures
  • electrical wiring
  • bricks
  • wood products
  • roofing shingles
  • concrete
  • general roof coverings
If recycling general construction or demolition debris, make sure the material is taken only to a recycling facility in compliance with the Environmental Protection Act and regulations; otherwise, the generator, hauler, and property owner where the material is placed may be subject to substantial penalties.

For more information on the recycling of construction and demolition debris, refer to the Illinois Construction and Demolition Site Recycling Guidebook created by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA). To obtain a copy of the guidebook contact DCCA at (217) 785-2800.

If you choose to dispose of construction or demolition debris in a landfill, make sure the cost of proper disposal is specified in the contractor’s bid. As a precaution, get receipts from your contractor.

For more information about construction and demolition debris disposal management, contact the Illinois EPA’s Permit Section at (217) 524-3300 or your Illinois EPA Regional Field Office.

To find more information on open dumps or other citizen involvement, see the IEPA website at

Report Open Dumping!