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Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society - Asbestos Exposure Risks

Protecting the Nation's First State Dedicated Nature Preserve

Exposure Risks

Why is Asbestos on the Illinois Shoreline?
The Illinois shoreline and Illinois Beach State Park have a long history of asbestos contamination.

The Johns Manville Asbestos Superfund Site is adjacent to the south end of the park; it contains one million tons of asbestos waste and other contaminants. Water from this Superfund site is periodically released into Lake Michigan, spewing as much as 22 million asbestos fibers per liter of water into Lake Michigan (documented by the USEPA in May 2002). Lake currents move the fibers southward, washing up on the beaches at least as far south as Chicago’s Oak Street beach.

The neighboring Fishing Pier leased to the Park has been closed since 2003 due to extensive asbestos contamination and protests from Dunesland.

Old homes that once stood on the northern end of the park were demolished or buried on the site; some of the demolition debris has washed into the lake.

Dredging operations immediately offshore disturb settled asbestos found in the sediment of the lake bottom causing asbestos to wash ashore. Some of the dredged asbestos-contaminated lake sediment was dumped by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on the park’s shoreline to replenish the beaches’ erosion that was accelerated when North Point Marina was built.

The Army Corps of Engineers has dumped asbestos-contaminated sand from Waukegan Harbor onto the IBSP shoreline. In the last year, they have started to dump off the beaches of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

Visible asbestos continues to appear along the public beaches even though several tons of asbestos have been removed since 1998. In a report dated July 12, 2004, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) asbestos consultant described the asbestos found on the beach as “commonly discovered during weekly surveys.” Efforts need to take place to clean up the cancer and disease-causing microscopic asbestos on the Illinois Shoreline and also to prevent further contamination at the sources.

Army Corps Dumps Asbestos-Contaminated Dredge Material for Beach “Nourishment” at IBSP Beach Violating Water Quality Standards, 2000

Lake Michigan Shoreline Asbestos Contamination Continues,
Now Known As The New “Libby East”
By Jeffery C. Camplin, CSP, CPEA

Links on this page were provided from the archives of Illinois Dunesland

Public officials who are charged to regulate asbestos violations have knowingly allowed illegal asbestos dumping into Lake Michigan, polluting the Illinois beaches. They have also participated in the actual dumping of asbestos-contaminated dredgings into Lake Michigan, knowing that the material was contaminated with asbestos. They then used federal and state tax dollars to rig tests in an attempt to cover-up their egregious behavior. Evidence points toward possible criminal violations for these illegal acts.Most illegal polluters willfully lie, they misrepresent the facts, they manipulate data, and they try to cover-up their actions. The state and federal agencies are guilty of these same shameful traits in an attempt to cover-up the asbestos pollution they have helped to create on our shoreline. Most egregiously, they attempt to hide behind their legal teams, just like the polluters. Epidemiological studies show that Illinois counties along Lake Michigan have an elevated presence of asbestos-related diseases and cancers. Lake County has a mesothelioma rate seven times the national average and Cook County has one of the highest asbestos disease rates in the country.

Dunesland Reveals Lies and Distortions as State and Feds Claim Asbestos is “Safe”

Is chronic exposure to toxic asbestos fibers ever considered safe? How can chunks of friable asbestos debris be removed each and every week from public areas while families are present? How can elevated levels of the more deadly asbestos fibers that originate in South Africa be found in Waukegan Harbor’s approach channel ever be safely dredged and dumped on the shoreline of Illinois’s most visited state park? Where else in Illinois would asbestos polluters be allowed to fraudulently conclude that their asbestos pollution does not cause cancer and disease based upon their own secret studies? The answer is at Illinois Beach State Park and on the Illinois shoreline, at least as far south as Chicago’s Oak Street beach. The state and federal agencies and officials claim that the asbestos pollution they caused on our shoreline is safe because:

Friable Asbestos at IBSP: Note Weathered Edges

It is non-friable or substantially intact. This is a false statement. The broken pieces of Johns-Manville debris have been exposed to extreme weathering and have tumbled in the surf zone for decades. Toxic asbestos fibers are released from the exposed, abraded surfaces of this waste. Some of the weathered edges have exposed fibers which are released when the friable edges are touched or tumbled on the shoreline.

There is background asbestos in many places. Studies claim asbestos above 5 microns in size is toxic to human health. Most background asbestos fibers in urban areas are well below 2 microns in size. All of the asbestos fibers measured in testing conducted by State of Illinois and Federal Agencies on Illinois’s Lake Michigan shoreline were above 5 microns. All the fibers that were identified at Illinois Beach State Park are toxic, unlike the majority of small fibers found elsewhere in Illinois and mentioned in urban studies as background asbestos. Toxic microscopic asbestos fibers are ELEVATED in areas the state and federal government agencies dredged; they then dumped the dredged asbestos-contaminated lake-bottom sediments as beach “nourishment.”

Asbestos fibers are naturally occurring or are from water pipes or car brake pads that contain asbestos. Some asbestos fibers on our shoreline, as found in a state asbestos study, originated from South Africa. They are not used in waterlines or car brake pads. They are not naturally occurring in the Midwest. However, these rare South African asbestos fibers were used by the Johns-Manville manufacturing plant for decades.

Elevated exposures to asbestos was claimed to be safe by an Illinois Attorney General/University of Illinois at Chicago Task Force study. This is the biggest fallacy. Their study deceitfully claimed that there was no elevated risk for asbestos disease from exposure to airborne asbestos at Illinois Beach State Park without taking one air sample! Even the USEPA and Centers for Disease Control admitted that this flawed conclusion by the state contained “uncertainties” that required actually taking air samples. The polluters at the state and federal agencies have tried to hide behind this scientifically corrupt report.

Attorney General Protects State Polluters Instead of Public

Attorney General Lisa Madigan formed a sham “asbestos task force” to look into the serious asbestos issues created by state and federal officials that were uncovered in my June, 2003 “Camplin Report.” Lisa Madigan controlled this secret group (her state agency clients and their close allies) of local, state, and federal “polluters” that were allowed to operate and manipulate taxpayer-financed “asbestos” studies under a veil of secrecy while being conveniently exempt from the Open Meetings Act They then “rigged” studies to try to assure the public that the beaches are safe in order to cover-up their own apparent scientific fraud and criminal behavior.

Lisa Madigan’s office ruled her own Task Force meetings were exempt from the “Sunshine Laws” they are charged to enforce for other public bodies when Dunesland asked to be involved, or at least observe, these meetings. However, truth has a funny way of leaking out. Not only have we identified some of the sources of the chronic asbestos pollution that has plagued our shorelines, we have verified that state and federal regulators who participated in writing the Asbestos Task Force report are among the major polluters responsible for actual shoreline contamination or facilitating it. These Task Force participants tried to palm it off as an “independent” report, but they were only covering up their own actions. Now it is time for them to acknowledge, rather than hide, their misdeeds and correct them to protect the public’s health and safety.

State and Feds Involved in Hiding Fact that Source is Manville Asbestos Debris

Identifying the main source of asbestos pollution was quite easy since there was a mountain of asbestos debris situated at the south end of Illinois Beach State Park at the current Johns-Manville (JM) Asbestos Superfund site. JM manufactured asbestos products from around 1920 to 1985, producing a waste pile nearly 40 feet high that covered 130 acres, containing over a million cubic yards of asbestos debris, some of it strewn along the Lake Michigan shoreline. A lot of the asbestos debris has left this site through decades of discharges directly into the lake through the “white ditch,” and also through unfiltered, microscopic asbestos discharges from polluted lagoons and settling basins within the JM Superfund site in Waukegan, IL. The ditch was finally sealed off in the early 1970’s. Visible asbestos was also moved into Lake Michigan through spreading the chunks of JM asbestos debris to fill in the lakefront shoreline as beach “nourishment," line the warm water discharge channel at Midwest Generation, pave miles of roads adjacent to the JM property, build berms for the U.S Army, and build the 1959 Pan Am Games’ rifle ranges. Various dredging project over the years further contaminated the Illinois shoreline with asbestos debris.

Invisible Asbestos Pollution Continues with State Approval

To this day, the same state and federal regulators continue to allow the permitted discharge pipe shown at the top of this page to spew trillions of unfiltered, microscopic asbestos fibers a day into Lake Michigan, where the currents carry them southward to wash up on public and private beaches at least as far south as Chicago’s Oak Street beach. These toxic asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye, yet dry on the shoreline, become airborne, and are inhaled by an unsuspecting public. State tests indicated sands on and off the Lake Michigan shoreline from North Point Marina, to Illinois Beach State Park, to Waukegan Harbor Approach Channel, and down to Chicago’s Oak Street beach contain statistically elevated levels of the most toxic forms of asbestos fibers. Their studies have concluded that these contaminated sands emit airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers at much higher levels than would be expected from typical shoreline locations. Some of the asbestos is tremolite and amosite; rare, but very deadly types of asbestos. Tremolite is already killing innocent citizens exposed to elevated background levels of airborne microscopic asbestos fibers in the Libby, Montana asbestos epidemic.

Feds Find “Uncertainties” with Conclusions of Madigan’s Asbestos Report

Asbestos is hazardous when microscopic fibers become airborne and are inhaled by families visiting the Illinois shoreline. Amazingly, the “polluters” at the state and federal level have tried to fraudulently conclude that our beaches are safe in an apparent attempt to cover-up the deadly truth. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) both had to admit that the state’s conclusions contain “uncertainties” that required additional, more credible testing that still has not occurred. The beaches remain open to families, exposing an unsuspecting public to airborne microscopic and chunks of friable asbestos (RACM) as they’re relaxing on hot summer days.

Incredibly, the Illinois Attorney General tried to get the public to believe that the airborne asbestos problem was no longer an issue when their $250,000+ taxpayer-financed, secret study fraudulently claimed there is no risk from airborne asbestos at the beach without even taking one air sample! The “polluters” at the state and federal government agencies assume a trusting public will listen to the false propaganda strategically promoted by their lawyers and the Attorney General’s office. Their goal is to cover-up the fact that state agencies and the Army Corps willfully dumped asbestos-contaminated dredged sand and that they knowingly facilitated other polluters in the dumping of asbestos contaminants on the Illinois shoreline.

We Can See Chunks; However, What We Can’t See is More Dangerous

JM asbestos debris has been discharged and placed in and around our park for many decades. The state says they pick up some of the “chunks” of asbestos debris periodically from the park’s shoreline, but they don’t pick up asbestos on the rest of the Illinois beaches. Children can’t tell an asbestos chunk from a rock and have been seen playing with them. They can’t see the invisible fibers when they inhale them. Furthermore, have you ever heard that the State has removed the more dangerous MICROSCOPIC fibers that are present in elevated concentrations in the sand? The answer is NO. The microscopic asbestos fibers cause disease [See Internet Links on News Room Page] and should also be removed from public areas. Why are our children allowed to play in sand that contains elevated levels of toxic asbestos fibers? The answer is because the polluters at the state and federal government refuse to accept responsibility for the pollution they have created. They then “rig” studies to try to assure the public that the beaches are safe in order to cover-up their own apparent scientific fraud and criminal behavior.

400 tons of asbestos were released when the World Trade Centers collapsed on 9/11 and the EPA said it was safe. Only six years later, many workers and first responders at this site are dead from their exposures; countless others are very ill. How many Illinois citizens will get asbestos diseases or die before state and federal officials will stop the cover-up and look out for the safety of the people they are charged to protect?

State Bungles Debris Clean-up & Ignores Elevated Levels of Asbestos Fibers at Shoreline

If asbestos debris was found on the steps of the State Capital, precautionary steps would be taken. Yet, citizens step over chunks of friable asbestos debris (RACM) or potentially inhale invisible, but deadly, fibers each day from as far north as North Point Marina (near the Wisconsin state line), south past Illinois Beach State Park to Waukegan’s shoreline beaches and harbor, then southward through North Shore communities, continuing at least as far as Chicago’s Oak Street beach where it has been documented. The chronic appearance of crumbling and weathered asbestos waste is somehow explained away by the state and federal “polluters” as safe for exposure to the public.

Contractors hired by the “polluters” quietly walk amongst the Illinois Beach beachgoers, picking up the toxic debris (some of it friable) as people unwittingly sit, walk, and play in asbestos-contaminated sand. This same type of visible asbestos debris in much smaller quantities results in hefty fines and potential jail time for the responsible polluters who do not work for state and federal agencies, but are average citizens or corporations. Why is illegally dumped, friable asbestos debris on public land called “safe” only on state and federal property where state and federal government “polluters” have allowed this illegal dumping or have allowed their sister state and federal agencies to dump and violate asbestos regulations? Better yet, why does the public accept the obvious airborne exposures and potential health hazards that are clumsily explained away by state and federal “polluters” with deceptive and rigged taxpayer-financed tests? It is time that the public wakes up to the obvious truth that there is a serious, chronic asbestos problem along the Illinois shoreline. It is time for the public to hold the polluters accountable for this pollution.

Unending Presence of Microscopic Asbestos at Beaches Poses Continued Health Risks

Chronic exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers will increase the potential for you and your family to develop asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. The longer and higher your exposure, the greater the health risks from microscopic asbestos fibers found on our shores. Recent studies from communities contaminated with tremolite asbestos found that even low level exposures to this virulent fiber cause disease and death. Tremolite fibers are now found at Chicago’s Oak Street beach, too. We already know that there are elevated levels of these deadly asbestos fibers in our beach sands. Yet, the state and feds will not properly educate the public that these heath risks are present. According to the state and feds, asbestos is dangerous everywhere but Illinois Beach State Park and the Illinois shoreline. Does this make sense? Do you believe the state and federal agency polluters when they attempt to explain that chronic exposure to elevated levels of deadly asbestos fibers are safe for our families to be exposed to during a day at the beach? Do you think any of them take their families to the Illinois shoreline to build sand castles and “bury” themselves, literally and perhaps figuratively?

Barge Dumps Contaminated Dredgings While Family Enjoys the Beach

Manville’s Past and Present Asbestos Pollution of Lake Appearing on Shorelines Today

It appears that the state and federal agency polluters have a lot to hide. The Johns Manville property has been a massive source of microscopic asbestos; for decades, trillions and trillions of deadly asbestos fibers flowed daily from the JM plant into Lake Michigan. The Waukegan News Sun documented environmental concerns of commercial fisherman in the 1920’s, as detailed in the University of Wisconsin White Fish Study. They complained that the white slurry discharged from JM into the lake was so thick that it was clogging the gills of white fish and killing their livelihood. Even after the “white ditch” was sealed from discharging into Lake Michigan fifty years later in the early 1970’s, microscopic asbestos discharges still occurred when the USEPA and state of Illinois allowed unfiltered asbestos-polluted water to discharge directly into Lake Michigan through a permitted discharge pipe. The JM plant also was allowed to leak/overflow into the Park’s nature preserve for decades through breaches in inferior berms of the Manville lagoon, contaminating the adjacent state-dedicated nature preserve and the Dead River, (as shown in the photo at the top of this page) or discharging the contaminants into Lake Michigan.

Unfortunately, these discharges still occur. I calculated that in one month in June 2005 alone, over 50 trillion asbestos fibers left the JM Asbestos Superfund site through an NPDES state and federally regulated pipe, polluting the waters, lake-bottom sediments, and adjacent public shorelines, where the lake’s currents carry the fibers southward to North Shore and Chicago beaches. A 2006 state of Illinois report documented elevated levels of tremolite or amphibole asbestos pollution as far south as Chicago’s popular Oak Street beach. This same study found “statistically significant” elevated levels of microscopic asbestos fibers in IBSP shoreline sand that are released into the air daily.

How the State and Feds Spread Asbestos to Our Beach

One of the most significant sources of Manville asbestos debris movement occurred when the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the asbestos-polluted Waukegan Harbor approach channel and deposited the regulated asbestos waste on the shoreline south of North Point Marina. This annual practice was further complicated when Midwest Generation (then Commonwealth Edison) dredged the asbestos-polluted lake-bottom sediment near their Lake Michigan water intake. Decades of discharges from the adjacent JM site along with asbestos debris pushed by the high volume, warm water discharge currents of the Midwest Generation asbestos-lined channel apparently polluted these offshore lake-bottom sediments with visible chucks of asbestos and trillions upon trillions of deadly asbestos fibers.

The dredged asbestos-contaminated material was then trucked seven miles to the north and dumped directly onto the beaches of Illinois Beach State Park. Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Midwest Generation (formerly Commonwealth Edison), and the Army Corps of Engineers dumped this regulated asbestos-polluted sand dredgings onto our beaches and shoreline with the blessings of state and federal officials, including the Attorney General’s office.

Asbestos Pollution is Spreading – State Wants to Continue to Pollute!

Asbestos debris is now documented on the Waukegan shoreline, too. The Sanitary District solicited contractors to pick up asbestos debris litter along the Waukegan shoreline in 2007. Now IDNR wants ten year permits to once again spread asbestos pollution by dredging and dumping contaminated dredgings from these same areas starting in 2007. Because Dunesland has protested the dumping of all this contaminated material at Illinois Beach State Park which occurs even when children are present, it is our understanding that the Army Corps dumped contaminated dredge material off of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff beaches in fall 2006 and winter 2007 with the approval of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).

Citizens must rise up and say enough is enough! Let the IDNR know we do not want any more asbestos dumped on our beaches and shoreline! The free sand used by the State to replenish our beaches comes with a huge price: our health and that of future generations!

Aerial View of Army Corps Barge Spreading Asbestos-Contaminated Dredgings at IBSP in Violation of Water Quality Standards, 2000

Actions of State Reveal “Cover-up” of Pollution

The visible asbestos pollution caused by state and federal agencies dumping contaminated dredgings was so vast, that the park’s beaches were closed in 1997 and 1998 to perform an asbestos clean-up. Unfortunately, the facts I have gathered over the years reveal more of a “cover-up” than a clean-up by state and federal officials. This can be verified by reading the state press releases that mysteriously and fraudulently claim that they cannot find sources for the massive asbestos pollution that continues to this day on the Park’s shoreline. If they admitted to the sources, they would have to enforce the violations; since they’re involved, how can the regulators enforce violations against themselves? Would the Illinois Attorney General prosecute her own clients, the state agencies, or the attorneys in her own office who may be involved? We have “evidence” that is being investigated on a state and federal level. Illinois citizens probably won’t be surprised if another independent probe uncovers state and federal officials protecting their own apparently illegal actions at the public’s expense. Unfortunately, the public is not only paying for this cover-up with tax dollars, but also with the health of their families.

The Cover-up by the State and Feds Continues; So Does Our Work

Every single skewed report generated by the state and federal government “polluters” tries to claim that the IBSP beaches are safe; the rest of the Illinois shoreline is ignored. The agency polluters have actually co-authored most of these reports themselves, while trying to palm them off and cite them as “independent.” The evidence in our critiques has totally discredited their reports. Once discredited, they remain silent because they no longer have a defense. Their so-called science doesn’t support the conclusions they draw. The apparent scientific fraud, “rigging,” and cover-up of asbestos pollution dumped and/or facilitated by state and federal officials appears to be the criminal activity of polluters. Several independent investigations are taking place on the state and federal level to flush out these agency polluters and hold them accountable, civilly and criminally.

Some may wonder why we continue this fight against powerful entities such as the Army Corps, the Illinois Attorney General, the USEPA, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Centers for Disease Control, and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The answer is simple. In Illinois, the polluters pay for the pollution they cause. State and federal agencies and officials have contributed to the contamination of the park, its state-dedicated Nature Preserve, and the Illinois shoreline with visible and deadly microscopic asbestos fibers. Millions of unsuspecting visitors to the Illinois shoreline, including park staff, breathe the asbestos-polluted air and carry microscopic asbestos fibers home with them on their clothing and belongings. Elevated levels of asbestos fibers were found on Chicago’s Oak Street beach in 2005 in a state study. We believe this is unacceptable and will continue to hold our government officials accountable for their actions.

Illinois Attorney General’s Office Should Protect the Public; Not Her Agency Polluters

The state and federal “polluters,” their unscrupulous legal teams, and the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office have tried to dupe a trusting public in an apparent effort to avoid responsibility for the asbestos pollution they have created on our state’s shoreline. Madigan previously issued a press release at an asbestos-contaminated site elsewhere in Illinois stating “there is no safe level of asbestos exposure” when she was indicting asbestos polluters. Yet now, the Attorney General’s report falsely states that asbestos is “safe” when even her own “rigged” study shows elevated levels of microscopic asbestos fibers continue to wash up on our beaches every day, then dry, and are released into the air. State and federal agencies attempt to cover-up the pollution to which they have contributed by trying to tell the public it’s safe with “rigged” data they deceptively created.

It is time for these state “polluters” to end their sham, stop any new contamination, and pay for their environmental pollution just as other polluters have been made to pay by the hypocrites at the state and federal agencies. They have committed the ultimate violation of public trust, aside from the apparent criminal behavior by allowing families and children to be unwittingly exposed to friable asbestos pieces and the inhalation of toxic, airborne fibers. Such contamination jeopardizes public health and is the epitome of moral decrepitude. Let these agencies understand we do not want any more asbestos-contaminated dredgings dumped on our shoreline! We want the asbestos cleaned up from the Illinois shoreline and we want the polluters to be held accountable.

Article by Jeffery C. Camplin, CSP, CPEA
Jeffery C. Camplin, CSP, CPEA, is an environmental/health and safety engineer. He is active in the American Society of Safety Engineers, serving a second term as the administrator of their 2,000 member Environmental Practice Specialty. In 2005, he received the Society’s Outstanding Volunteer Service Award. He is a nationally known asbestos expert and has authored many scientific papers. He is President of the Northern Illinois University Engineering and Technology Alumni Society. Mr. Camplin has served as a consultant for the Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society since 2002. He authored Dunesland’s 2003 Camplin Report, exposing the asbestos dangers on the Illinois shoreline. The release of that detailed report forced the creation of the Illinois Attorney General’s Asbestos Task Force Report. He is a prolific author and is currently co-authoring a book entitled Asbestos Beach, Illinois’s Deadly Shoreline: Officials Corrupt Science and Steal Lives

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