Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get help if my operation receives a violation notice?

If you have questions or need help due to a violation notice, please contact the Illinois EPA’s Agricultural Advisor at (217) 558-6818.

Do I need a permit?

Environmental Laws Affecting Illinois Agriculture contains a quick reference guide to permits that may be necessary for agricultural operations. The reference guide is a project of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Research Foundation.

Open Burning

What can you burn on a farm?

The definition of “agricultural waste” includes: any refuse, except garbage and dead animals, generated on a farm or ranch by crop and livestock production practices including such items as bags, cartons, dry bedding, structural materials and crop residues but excluding landscape waste. (35 Ill. Adm. Code 237.101)

Agricultural waste may be burned if five criteria are met.

  • First, the open burning of agricultural waste is restricted to the site where the waste is generated. 35 Ill. Admin. Code 237.120 (a)(1).
  • Second, the open burning of agricultural waste is not permitted in restricted areas. A restricted area is defined as: the area within the boundaries of an “municipality” as defined in the Illinois Municipal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 24, par. 1-1-2), plus a zone extending one mile beyond the boundaries of any such municipality having a population of 1,000 or more according to the latest federal census.(35 Ill. Adm. Code 237.101
  • Third, the open burning of agricultural waste is also prohibited if it creates a visibility hazard on roadways, railroad tracks or airfields.
  • Fourth, Open burning must be more than 1,000 feet from residential or other populated areas.
  • Finally, the owner or operator must affirmatively demonstrate that no economically reasonable alternative method of disposal is available. 35 Ill. Adm. Code 237.120(a)(6).

Can I burn my old unused barn?

No, the agricultural exemption on open burning is limited to structural materials not whole buildings.

Are there permits, fees, notifications or reporting requirements for burning?

No. Agricultural, domicile, and landscape waste, may be burned without notifying the Illinois EPA, paying a fee, obtaining a permit, or reporting. However, landscape waste that is also a trade waste may only be burned with the aid of an air curtain destructor (ACD). As discussed above, if the owner or operator is using an ACD, they must obtain a permit(s) from the Illinois EPA.

Who are the people, offices, and agencies involved in regulating open burning?

The Illinois EPA regulates open burning, and local governments, including towns and counties may also regulate this type of activity.

What are the most frequently reported open burning violations, as well as the fines and penalties associated with these violations?

The burning of non-agricultural waste materials including tires, dead animals and asphalt roofing materials or siding are the most frequently reported open burning violations. Fines vary according to the severity of the offense and the suing jurisdiction.

What can be burned outside an incorporated area?

As discussed above, landscape waste may be burned both in and outside of incorporated areas. Domestic and agricultural waste may be burned outside of incorporated areas, so long as the other requirements are met. However, local areas may adopt more stringent open burning prohibitions that regulate different types of waste in unincorporated areas. These more stringent restrictions must also be complied with. Please see “What Can You Burn on a Farm?” above for further information.

When may tires be burned?

Under Illinois law, tires may never be burned, except at a permitted incinerator. Illinois is recognized nationally as a leader in the management of used and waste tires. Disposal of used and waste tires is regulated by the IEPA's Used Tire Program.

When may construction/demolition debris be burned?

Pursuant to Section 9(c) of the Act, construction/demolition debris is a trade waste and may not be disposed of through open burning. Trade waste must be disposed of by taking it to an incinerator or landfill that is permitted to accept this type of waste.

How can smoke be minimized from open burning?

To burn with reduced smoke, the fire must be hot. Dry fuel, high temperatures, and plenty of oxygen help reduce the amount of smoke generated during burning. The recommended elapsed time between cutting and burning should be 3 to 6 weeks for vegetative material smaller than 6 inches in diameter and 6 weeks for vegetative material greater than 6 inches in diameter. Stumps greater than 12 inches in diameter should be split and dried for at least 6 weeks prior to burning. We recommend using an air curtain destructor.

What are the alternatives to open burning?

Consider the following alternatives to the open burning of agricultural or landscape waste: chipping, shredding, mulching and composting waste. Composting waste and using leaves and grass clippings for mulch are alternatives. Composting agricultural waste produces soil fertilizer through decomposition. Compost piles are simple to begin and maintain. Branches and trunks larger than 3 inches can be used for firewood.

Well Water and Septic Tanks

How do I test and protect my private drinking well?

Answers to well water protection and testing questions can be found at The USEPA's Private Drinking Water Wells FAQ page.

Where can I find out about septic tanks?

The Illinois Department of Public Health produces a number of fact sheets about private sewage systems. U.S. EPA’s Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems provides information about septic system maintenance.

Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

Where can I find more information about Leaking Underground Storage Tanks?

There is a Frequently Asked Questions page about leaking underground storage tanks on the IEPA website. 

Reporting Open Dumping and Other Complaints

How do I report open dumping?

Citizens can report open dumping complaints by completing the online Pollution Complaint Form.

How and where are alleged violations reported?

Alleged violations may be reported to the Illinois EPA’s field offices, the State’s Attorney Office, and the Pollution Control Board (citizen complaint), as well as local town and county officials.