Illegal Landfill, 15,000 tons, Dangerous that No One Cares About

Dead Fish Due to a Nearly Constant Oil Film on the Water

Roughly 4,000 Tons of Decomposing Asphalt Pavement and More

landfill northern view, Thorn Creek, 2010
A view toward the north of my house of the 15,000 ton (illegal 1980s) landfill (this 25% scale photo was taken in 2010), showing some of the hundreds of huge concrete scrap blocks which keep coming loose as the landfill washes away in rain, where a few dozen of those blocks had already slid down into Thorn Creek, a 40-foot-wide 'navigable waterway'. As more of those large blocks slide down into the Creek and further block the water flow, both the water flow and the navigability will eventually cease.

Even worse, roughly 4,000 tons of the landfill were scraps of broken asphalt pavement, which decompose in the rain and the resulting released oil film constantly flows down into the Creek. Photos do not easily show the nearly permanent oil film that covers Thorn Creek in recent years, certainly for more than the past 12 years, which has eliminated oxygen getting down into the water and therefore has killed off nearly all of the plentiful fish that used to live in the Creek. Many of the plants in Thorn Creek have now also died off due to that oil film. Thorn Creek figures to continue to degrade for at least another forty years as the illegal landfill continues to decompose and wash away (INTO Thorn Creek). This photo is actually about ten times larger than is displayed in the web page, which you can see full size by clicking on the photo and then requesting 'view image' or 'actual size', depending on the browser you use, and then if you carefully look at the areas of the water of Thorn Creek which were illuminated by sunlight, you might be able to see some of the colorful 'interference patterns' which occur due to an oil film.

landfill southern view, Thorn Creek, 2010
A view toward the south of my house of the 15,000 ton (illegal 1980s) landfill (this 25% scale photo taken in 2010), showing some of the thousands of pieces of broken concrete sidewalk scraps which keep coming out of the landfill, and then sliding down into Thorn Creek (to the left in this photo).

landfill western view, 2010
A view toward the west of the 15,000 ton (illegal 1980s) landfill (this 25% scale photo taken in 2010) (toward the backyard of my house 40 feet away), showing chunks of decomposing broken asphalt among the many hundreds of pieces of the assorted larger debris from the Diekelman Asphalt Paving Company. The yard adjacent to my back door and backyard used to be very pretty when the Forest Preserve District used to own and control it, before Barry Diekelman decided that he had a way to dispose of a thousand dump truck loads of his company's debris, rather than having to pay a legal Landfill to accept it.


I grew up in Thornton, Illinois, immediately on the west bank of Thorn Creek, a major contributor to the Calumet River system. When I was little, I often climbed down the hill in our back yard to play on the flood plain of the Creek, and to wade around in the water. There was something I put great effort into doing! When I was about six, I was intrigued by the two concrete stelas down on the flood plain of the Creek. They were each about six feet tall and maybe a foot square, and they had the letters FPD on each of them. One was right behind our house, and the other was behind a house a block to the north. There are two such FPD stelas still prominent on the east side of the Creek.

It took me about two months of trying to climb up to sit on top of the stela behind our house. I kept falling down, as I guess my arms were not strong enough to fully climb up it. I never got hurt, but I kept trying, and eventually I sat on top of it. Like Edmund Hillary and Mount Everest! Once I was able to sit on top of it, I asked my father what the letters FPD stood for, and he told me that it meant Forest Preserve District, as they owned the land adjacent to the Creek.

I do not remember if other kids went down by the Creek very often, or even if anyone else but me and my older brother rode our snow sleds down the 'race course' he created from our back yard down to zooming north right along the edge of the Creek. I fell in once! As I got a little older, up to a dozen other kids, nearly all boys, regularly came down to play by the Creek and to explore for Indian Arrowheads on the Flood Plain. It was a wonderful "secret hideout" for us kids.

In any case, for several years, I have been trying to confirm that the Forest Preserve District actually owned that property, and that the flood plain was about 17 feet below the top surface today. I get the impression that if someone is rich enough and powerful enough, they can "revise history" as they wish!

When Barry Diekelman built his house down at the south end of Hunter Street, in the early 1980s, he decided that he would make a driveway, beginning at our dead-end gravel Maria Street and then going along the Creek a block to the south to get to his property from behind. He did not ASK my mother but TOLD her that he was going to do that. She was always very irritated at the constant traffic of Diekelman's big and noisy dump trucks going up and down our otherwise unused (and still unpaved) dead-end Maria street. Being rich and powerful enabled Diekelman to be immune to Thornton Village Ordinances, such as driving those thousand 20-ton dump trucks up and down Hunter Street for those three years, which is marked as having a load limit of 6 tons. And of driving those same heavy dump trucks up and down the UNPAVED gravel Maria Street, which certainly has an even lower Load Limit.

Diekelman's Asphalt Paving Company has always had huge costs of having to dispose of the pavement and construction debris to (legal) landfills, and he clearly dreamed up that he could dump his industrial debris down onto the Western Flood Plain along the Creek. It must be great to be so rich and powerful, and he never considered the FACT that the property BELONGED TO THE FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT, and no one in Cook County Government seems to have any records of ever AUTHORIZING such a landfill. The Forest Preserve District makes it very clear that they would NEVER authorize such a landfill!

According to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, that property clearly belonged to the Forest Preserve District up until October 28, 1986, according to Official Plat Maps which existed up to that time. Later Plat Maps show a brand new property that apparently came into existence on that property, which now shows a new PIN number of 29-34-136-017-0000 which is (allegedly) owned by Barry Diekelman and is now associated with the adjacent property he obtained in 1986 on South Hunter Street.

I wish that my mother or either of the Ehlers neighbors across Maria Street were still alive, as they were very annoyed by the big and noisy trucks that kept going up and down Maria Street for about three years during 1983 through 1986. But Diekelman seems too powerful for any Laws or Ordinances to apply to him. He also extended his (illegal) landfill nearly to Margaret Street (to the north), which created around two new acres of parking lot for a related Zenere's Excavation business.

By the way, how in the world did NO ONE in Thornton government in the 1980s ever notice around a THOUSAND VIOLATIONS of the street loading for both Hunter and Maria Streets, while he disposed of approximately 1,000 truckloads of his debris, each of which carried around 15 tons, far in excess of residential streets load limits?

Once Barry Diekelman had dumped the 15,000 tons of landfill, he had raised the land surface of the Creek Flood Plain to be about 17 feet higher, essentially the same as my yard and the rest of Thornton. He covered over his illegal landfill with a thin layer of black dirt, most of which has washed away over the intervening years. It appears that about this time, Diekelman used his infinite Lawyer power to get maps of the Village changed! Older maps such as the big map on the wall of the Village Hall, show the FPD ownership of that land, which agrees with the FPD stelas I used to play on in the early 1950s. The FPD stelas still exist on the east side of the Creek. But if you look at any newer maps, they show "revisionist history" and they describe Diekelman (and Zenere) owning those properties.

And now that the land surface is comparable to the rest of the Village, and the maps show Diekelman owning the property, no one in Cook County questions his claim! Cook County's many Agencies are ignorant to the fact that the land surface used to be the flood plain 17 feet lower.

In fact, around 40 Agencies I have tried to talk to all seem to believe that I am stupid, as THEY ALL KNOW that Diekelman's facts are true! But they are not!

Diekelman did not realize in the 1980s that what he was doing was a total catastrophe. He dumped black dirt on top to hide his landfill, and no one cares any more.

But over 30 years, rain has washed away most of his black dirt cover (as is obvious in the photos above). Worse, about 4,000 tons of the 15,000 tons of his landfill was chunks of old broken asphalt. It turns out that asphalt decomposes over time, in the presence of rain or water. During 2011 and 2012, I had arranged a demonstration of that effect, where a white drywall compound pail was filled with pure water, and I would drop a single piece of the broken asphalt into the water, where 15 minutes later, an oil film always formed on the top of the water, just like naturally happens every day in Thorn Creek due to the decomposing asphalt in the landfill. NONE of many government Agencies ever sent anyone to look at the facts or at my little demo of how fast the oil film develops on water from decomposing asphalt chunks. This is probably the worst of several terrible consequences of his landfill, where a constant flow of petroleum flows down out of his landfill and into Thorn Creek. Around 2002, I first noticed that a nearly permanent and continuous oil film was, and is, on Thorn Creek, beginning approximately adjacent to Diekelman's house and continuing at least downstream through Margaret Street. Probably much farther.

That continuous oil film stops any oxygen from being able to get down into the Creek water. Nearly all the fish that used to be in Thorn Creek are now dead and gone, and so are many plants and other organisms in the Creek.

Both the EPA and the Illinois EPA seem to totally buy Diekelman's story, and none have even ever even LOOKED at the situation! None have even ever sent anyone to SEE my compelling asphalt demonstration! Diekelman's chain link fences eliminates any such investigator from ever even seeing the landfill, much less the oil film or the Creek water, so apparently Diekelman is "home scot free". With only ONE "troublemaker" (me) making such claims, and his Lawyers denying absolutely everything. Thorn Creek is destined to be a DEAD CREEK for at least 30 and possible another 50 years.

Also inside the landfill are the many hundreds of very large blocks of concrete. Many are broken pavement from his job debris, but others are thicker blocks of concrete, from 1000 to 2000 pounds each.

Another consequence of his landfill degrading is that hundreds of those large concrete blocks have already come loose from the landfill and slid down the slope to land in the Creek water. The last I saw, as shown in the first photo shown above from 2010, about seven years ago (explained below) at least 1/3 of the width of Thorn Creek was already (permanently) blocked off by those stacks of giant concrete blocks. At the time, several years ago, some organizations hoped to set up "canoeing" and "rowing" clubs on Thorn Creek, but such ideas are simply impossible with the Creek being constantly more and more blocked by all the concrete blocks.

Several years ago, I would go down there and try to improve the situations, both for Creek Water flow and regarding the oil film on top of it. I took a number of photos (some shown above) of the concrete blocks, but the oil film did not seem to appear very obvious in the photos. I DID occasionally try to use a drywall bucket to move a few pounds of EXISTING Diekelman debris in the Creek, a few feet one way or another in the Creek, to improve water flow and to try to lessen oil films. Diekelman decided to use his money and power to try to intimidate me, and he used some more revisionist history to try to turn the entire situation around. He got a government agency to believe that "I" (an elderly Retired Christian Minister) was responsible for EVERYTHING, rather than the reality that HE was the cause of all the bad. His Lawyers must have been really persuasive, as I received a bizarre letter in the postal mail! As a Retired Christian Minister (with no Pension) I survived on $381 per month from Social Security. The amazing letter that Diekelman got sent to me was a DEMAND that I PAY $50,000 each DAY PLUS another $32,500 EACH DAY! All the catastrophe that Diekelman caused, and all the environmental damage, was now somehow MY doings!

With Barry Diekelman making up his own version of history, it seems certain that nothing will ever change (although I DID get the $50,000 per day and $32,500 per day threats to eventually go away!)

But at some time in the future, the Village of Thornton, Illinois WILL confront the fact that Thorn Creek is permanently polluted by effects of Barry Diekelman's illegal landfill, and SOMEONE is eventually bound to notice that no water will be able to flow down Thorn Creek! At THAT time, SOMEONE will NEED the facts described in this letter.

In 2012, Diekelman learned that I was taking photos of his landfill, and uploading those photos to the Internet, that he did not want anyone to ever witness. And so he had his Lawyer issue a Court Judgment regarding me (allegedly) Trespassing (on property which is not even actually his, which I know for a fact belongs to the Forest Preserve District. No one (meaning Diekelman) has EVER mowed the weeds and grass on that property between my backyard and the Creek, and about 2006, when those weeds were generally getting to eight to twelve feet tall by the end of each Summer, I requested and obtained permission from a Forest Preserve District Officer for me to MOW THE GRASS back there. Not only could I not SEE the Creek, but massive numbers of mosquitoes invaded my yard and house. After I began mowing it, it was nearly pretty, and mosquitoes were far fewer.

Now that Diekelman has ordered me never to Trespass, in other words, to never mow the lawn back there, the weeds are already 4 to 6 feet tall, and mosquitoes are again almost everywhere. The News dangers of West Nile Virus being spread by mosquitos terrifies me.

Thornton claims to have an Ordinance regarding mowing lawns where 8" is the maximum height of any vegetation allowed. IF Diekelman actually CLAIMS that property, shouldn't he be required to mow it or be in violation? But he is "Diekelman" and he could never be subject to that.

Alternately, if YOU or any other Thornton Resident is old enough to have ever played down on the FPD flood plain before the landfill, or anyone happens to remember that the FPD actually owns that property, then his Trespassing order cannot exist, and I would then be able to mow and maintain that area (again)?

Primarily, I just want to be less susceptible to the dangerous diseases that mosquitoes now cause, which is really the ONLY part of this entire letter that actually has anything to do with me!

The other matters seem to be important things that Thornton should care about, an enormous 15,000-ton illegal landfill, overloading village streets, seriously polluting a navigable stream, blocking a navigable stream, etc.

However, I caution you. Barry Diekelman is amazingly vindictive, and he seems to have absolutely limitless power. If Diekelman ever thinks that YOU, or anyone in Thornton, is challenging his infinite authority, he WILL try to squish you like a bug! Think about how crazy someone must be to decide to THREATEN a Retired Minister with $82,500 PER DAY Fines! He also stopped by several years ago and threatened to "get out of my truck and beat the hell out of you!" He also threatened to use his bulldozers to "pile up so much material in front of my garage that no one will ever see it again!"

So I would suggest EXTREME CAUTION before anyone actually considers doing anything that might irritate him. By the way, if I could ever have gotten the EPA to care, I wondered how expensive it would be for Diekelman to have to REMOVE 15,000 tons of his illegal landfill, along with the cost of DUMPING it all somewhere in a LEGAL landfill!

There are a variety of Organizations that preserve the history of American Indian cultures and artifacts. They all claim to impose masssive vindication against anyone who might ever damage or take any Indian Arrowheads or other artifacts. But NONE of those Organizations have ever even driven to Thornton to see Diekelman's massive illegal landfill, which is piled right on top of a region that was a center of Indian culture in the 1700s and 1800s. Of all the dozens of governmental and private Organizations that CLAIM to caare about illegal landfills, it is sure hard to see why NONE of them have ever even sent anyone to Thornton, Illinois to see a really OBVIOUS massive illegal landfill, which Thornton now seems to even consider to now be part of their Village. Teenager boys (and others) have torn away part of the traffic gate at the east end of Maria Street, so any authorities would now simply have to slightly bend over to get past that gate, where then a leisurely walk could get anyone (with a camera) down to the Thorn Creek itself. Even a blind person would probably be aware of the many thousand broken chunks of concrete which are already laying in the water of the Creek and seeing the other thousands of pieces which are still in the illegal landfill, waiting for a rainstorm to erode away some material of the landfill such that more blocks of that broken concrete roll down the steep hill to fall into Thorn Creek itself. Anyone who actually witnesses that, can immediately see that it is only a matter of time before Diedkelman's illegal landfill will entirely block off the flow of the "navigable" Thorn Creek, possibly forever. While down there, any viewer can see that the opposite side of Thorn Creek is entirely different, as it never had any illegal landfill dumped on its Eastern Flood Plain. That side of the Creek does NOT have thousands of blocks of concrete laying in the water and the Flood Plain is still just a few feet above the water flow of the Creek, as the Western Flood Plain used to be prior to 1983 when Barry Diekelman decided that he was free to dump his 15,000 tons of illegal landfill on it.

Related web-pages:

A Minister Threatened with $82,500 PER DAY Fines
Amazingly Bad Behavior of the Village of Thornton, Illinois
Amazing Bad Behavior of the Village of Thornton, Illinois, Part 2
Amazing Bad Behavior of the Village of Thornton, Illinois, Part 3
Illegal Landfill, Dangerous that No One Cares About


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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago