GLEN ELLYN – Over the years, Shirley Bloom loved to entertain guests in her backyard.
She doesn't do much entertaining in her backyard these days as it looks more like a dirt patch. And she is not alone.
Bloom, who lives in the Butterfield West subdivision adjacent to Route 53 near Glen Ellyn, is among several residents in that area who want to know why their lawns didn't grow back this spring. They feel the damage to their lawns may be the direct result of Illinois Department of Transportation workers last year cutting down invasive Buckthorn trees along Route 53 near their homes.
"We all started noticing yard damage when the snow started melting," said Bloom, who has lived in her home for 25 years.
As she wrote in a letter to IDOT in May, "the flowering bushes that were well established when I moved into my home 25 years ago did not come back and the rainwater runoff into my backyard and down along the property line between homes has killed the grass. It also has severely damaged the daylilies in the back of my yard that have flourished for nearly 20 years."
Bloom lives along the east side of Route 53, but residents living on the west side of Route 53 also saw their lawns damaged. All the homes are between Huntington Road and 22nd Street, she said.
Bloom and her neighbors still don't know what killed their grass. But IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said soil samples were conducted in May on the Route 53 right-of-way where evasive Buckthorn was removed several months prior.
"The results of the sampling found no evidence of any herbicide or pesticide in the soil," Tridgell said in an email to Suburban Life Media.
Mike Gallichio, who lives in the Lincoln Hill subdivision west of Route 53, is seeking answers as well. His backyard, which also looks more like a dirt patch these days, abuts Route 53.
"Only where they worked is where everybody's lawns have been destroyed," said Gallichio, who has lived in his house for more than 22 years with his wife, Phyllis. "My backyard was beautiful and so was everybody else's on this block. I cannot prove that they put a chemical down and did this because I didn't see anybody do it. But something happened. What, I don't know."
In an attempt to get answers about the situation, the homeowners have turned to the offices of state Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, and state Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst. A staff member from Breen's office asked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to review the findings of the soil test and make an independent determination of the source of the dead grass.
Laura Fitzpatrick, chief of staff for Nybo, sent Bloom and Gallichio a copy of the IEPA's reply.
"We were unable to determine any cause for the grass to die off," the reply stated. "However, by the time the complaint came to our attention (this was at the end of June), weeks had passed since the occurrence. So staff believes that whatever it was likely to cause the dead grass washed away long before we were notified. We then contacted IDOT and ComEd to determine if any of these entities conducted herbicide application or had a spill in this area. Both reported back to us that they did not conduct herbicide application or have a spill in this vicinity. IDOT went as far as to have a soil test conducted. The test came back negative."
Gallichio said he just wants his lawn back.
"No one is looking for anything except for what we had," he said. "We had nice grass."