Chicago – Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) Director Renee Cipriano today announced that a Herrin man with a nearly 30-year history of blatant open dumping was found guilty on two felony counts during a trial this week in Williamson County.
Madigan and Cipriano said William Baize dumped tons of shingles, siding and wood into an abandoned strip mine on his private property, creating a giant graveyard of old, demolished housing materials. In addition to public health and environmental risks caused by the open dumping, disposing of and burying the debris himself gave Baize a substantial competitive advantage over other contractors who pay to dump their debris legally.
Williamson County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Palmer convicted Baize of two felony counts of criminal disposal of waste, a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. His conviction follows a lengthy investigation by the Attorney General’s office and the IEPA, with assistance from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.
“Mr. Baize has put the public health and the environment at risk for nearly three decades,” Madigan said. “While his operation may have been sophisticated, nothing can change the fact that it was illegal. I commend the hard work of the investigative and legal team that made this week’s conviction a certainty.”
“Open dumping is a threat to the environment and public health,” Cipriano said. “This criminal conviction sends a strong message of deterrence.”
Baize, who owns and operates a Herrin demolition company, originally was charged in October 2001 for disposing of a variety of waste materials on his property located just north of a closed landfill in Herrin. The IEPA investigation revealed evidence of more than 8,000 cubic yards of demolition debris buried in a large pit at the site.
According to the IEPA, dumping at Baize’s property dates back to 1974. The criminal charges brought against Baize followed a series of complaints and observations at his property in 2000, aerial reconnaissance and a criminal search warrant executed in late 2001.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 31 before Judge Palmer where further testimony is expected from IEPA investigators.
Assistant Attorney General Jack Bailey handled this case for Madigan’s Environmental Crimes Bureau. Kent Johnson of the IEPA Marion Regional Office was the chief investigator and assisted in the preparation of the case.