The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed it is investigating former Marion City Commissioner Lannie Gribble’s property after allegations he buried a large quantity of steel drums in a large pit near Carriage Hills in southeastern Marion.
Gribble was elected to the city council in 2005. He did not seek re-election in 2011.
The investigation stems from a court action filed against the IEPA in Williamson County on July 29, 2011, by Marion resident Wayne Stanley and his attorney, Richard Whitney.
Gribble flatly denies wrongdoing and said the IEPA can investigate all it wants.
The lawsuit allegations say Stanley, who shares a property line with Gribble, was told by neighbors that Gribble had been observed in the early- to mid-1990s with two other people unloading two semitrailers full of 55-gallon steel drums into a large pit, which was located in what was then a pasture owned by Gribble. The property is between Carriage Hills Lane and Rae Alan Lane in the Carriage Hills subdivision.
The suit says neighbors witnessed Gribble and the two helpers lowering each drum into the pit and layering the drums with gravel.
The court action alleges Gribble at the time worked for Interstate Landscaping, which had a contract with the state to remove lead-based paint from bridges in Illinois. The plaintiff said the buried drums could contain lead paint waste.
The property is near a lake and other waterways, as well as homes. Since the alleged incident, the suit states that Gribble has subdivided the pasture and began selling lots for home construction. The suit states Gribble’s actions violate the environmental safety provisions of the Environmental Protection Act.
Lead-based paint waste is classified as a special waste and hazardous waste and must be disposed of in a permitted landfill or sent to a permitted to accept it for storage or treatment.
Stanley declined to comment on the IEPA investigation; his attorney Richard Whitney said he is not at liberty to divulge details other than to say the IEPA appears to be looking into the matter.
“We filed the suit because we felt that the Illinois EPA was not taking the matter seriously,” he said. “And since filing the suit it appears they are taking it more seriously.”
Whitney said the seriousness of the allegations is evident.
“There was toxic material that was improperly disposed of that poses a health risk,” Whitney said. “That’s always a serious matter and that’s really what motivated the suit.”
The suit requesting an investigation isn’t the first run-in Stanley has had with Gribble. The two men went to small claims court in 2009 over trees Stanley removed from the property line the men share. After the case was dismissed in Stanley’s favor, it was appealed and later overturned in favor of Gribble in the amount of $2,710.
Gribble said he believes the writ, or order to the IEPA that is prompting the investigation, is due to Stanley’s displeasure with the outcome of the small claims suit.
Gribble said he was aware of the writ, but he was not aware he was under investigation.
“My attorney was aware what they had done, and he talked to the EPA, and they told him they were not going to move forward on it,” said Gribble.
Gribble denied ever being employed by Interstate Landscaping, and said he has not been interviewed by the IEPA. As to what neighbors have claimed to witness, Gribble said the claims are completely false, and there never was a large pit on his property.
“There’s absolutely no truth in the matter,” he said. “I don’t have anything to worry about. They can investigate all they want to, there’s not going to be anything like that found on this property.”
The Illinois EPA is requested by the attorney general’s office in this instance.
Thomas Davis of the attorney general’s Office is supervising the investigation, and in a statement said he could not disclose how the IEPA has gone about determining whether or not anything is buried in the ground near Carriage Hills.
The IEPA has not conducted a site excavation or used ground penetrating radar to determine what might be there. Davis said generally speaking, such activities often require a court order or warrant.
Davis did say the allegations toward Gribble are serious and legitimate allegations which warrant investigation.
With the investigation continuing, Davis said he could only say investigators are gathering information from people who might have “observed the suspicious activity years ago.”