BY CARA ANTHONY
EAST ST. LOUIS --State crews on Tuesday began cleaning up areas in the city that have been used as illegal dumps.
The workers are concentrating on the 5500 block of Summit Ave. Crews will be in that area until June 29.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency initiated the cleanup that targets trustee property, alleys and ditches. Areas used as illegal dumping sites often contain household garbage, abandoned vehicles and tires.
"The cleanups happen all across the state of Illinois," said Jill Watson, a spokeswoman for the IEPA.
A recent state cleanup in nearby Venice collected 1,306 tons of waste and nearly 67 tons of abandoned tires. Improperly managed used tires provide a breeding ground for mosquitos, which carry the West Nile virus.
"We are making the effort to turn East St. Louis around and make it a cleaner town," said Joe Zappa, a project manager for the Illinois Removes Illegal Dumps program. Washington Park also will be included in the I-RID program's cleanup efforts.
The state hires local contractors to clean up the illegal dump sites after the responsible parties cannot be located or areas that present imminent threats, such as fires or hazardous waste, are identified.
"Illegal open dumping around Illinois can potentially pose health and safety hazards to both people and the environment, but the I-RID program has begun to tackle those environmental eyesores," IEPA Director Doug Scott said.
The I-RID program became law in 2005 and gives the IEPA additional authority to combat open dumping and clean up existing dumps.