(CBS) — Garbage was dumped in the DuPage River for years, yet nothing was done to stop it.
Then CBS 2 Investigative Reporter Dave Savini got involved.
Chris Jenkins, whose house sits next to the river, is in a fight to expose dumping he believes is damaging the environment.
“From what I’ve seen: tires, asphalt, roofing shingles, plastic bags full of God knows what,” Jenkins says of the debris that’s potentially creating a hazard. “You would see birds, blue herring, ducks, geese. They don’t come around anymore.”
He also worries the waste could contaminate the drinking water in wells of homes near the river. It crosses Route 59 in Plainfield along with nearby Joliet.
“I’m very worried about that,” Jenkins says.
He has documented the problem from his back porch and began to see a pattern. Garbage gets dumped, then concrete is dumped on top of that and then it’s all covered with dirt.
Much of the concrete debris has already fallen into the river. The real question is: What else is underneath the rubble?
Just last week, the 2 Investigators caught illegal nighttime dumping along the river.
Several public agencies have known about the dump for a year and half, Jenkins said. He said he’s disgusted that officials did not respond.
Formal complaints he made in 2013 were about the dumping taking place on land owned by Herman Fritz.
Fritz has operated his family farm for decades. He says when times got tough, he started taking in loads of waste dating back to the 1980s, even dumping around gas pipe line warning signs.
When asked whether he was paid, Fritz said he charged $75 a load. Fritz also said he did the dumping to shore up the river bank.
Jenkins said he is also disturbed by burning taking place on the farmer’s land each day.
“Who knows what he’s burning?” he said.
Fritz conceded he should not be operating an outlaw dump.
The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office on Thursday filed a case against Herman Fritz to stop the dumping. Prosecutors say he created a substantial public health danger and can face stiff fines for violating environmental laws.
Prosecutors also launched an internal investigation to find out why this action was not taken sooner.