Matthiessen And Hegeler Zinc

Fact Sheet #2
September 2003

LaSalle, Illinois

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has announced that the former Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc property has been finalized on the National Priorities List (NPL), which is sometimes called the Superfund list. Matthiessen and Hegeler is the site of a former zinc smelter located in LaSalle, Illinois.

What does listing on the NPL mean?

The NPL is a list of some of the nation's most serious sites that have a release or a substantial threat of a release of hazardous substances. Listing on the NPL does not automatically mean that government funds will be spent on the site. Listing, however, does serve as a notification to the public that according to the U.S. EPA, more investigation should be conducted and that the site may be eligible for these funds.

What are the next steps for Matthiessen and Hegeler?

The state of Illinois has entered into negotiations with potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the site. If negotiations are unsuccessful, then money from the Superfund, if it is available, could be used to conduct a remedial investigation. The purpose of this investigation would be to determine the nature and extent of contamination and any risks that contamination might pose to human health and the environment.

Who are the potentially responsible parties for the site?

Under the Superfund law, PRPs include past and present owners and operators of the site. Since Matthiessen and Hegeler declared bankruptcy in 1978, the only viable PRPs currently identified by the state are the present landowners of the former Matthiessen and Hegeler property.

Why is the site considered hazardous?

In 1993, the Illinois EPA collected soil and sediment samples from the site and the Little Vermilion River, which is the site's eastern boundary. These samples were significantly higher in metals than background samples. The background samples were collected in areas not affected by past operations of the Matthiessen and Hegeler facility. Zinc was elevated significantly in all samples, and cadmium and lead were significantly elevated in all but one sample. Other metals were also found at elevated levels. On-site samples also showed low levels of a variety of other contaminants including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), solvents and chemicals found in oil and coal. Because of these chemicals and because of physical hazards found on the site, residents are strongly urged against trespassing on the site, which is private property. The landowners have constructed a fence around the site to limit access

A special concern is a large slag pile located on the steep west bank of the Little Vermilion River. Water draining through the slag pile, runoff from the slag pile and slag potentially slumping directly into the river are major environmental concerns.

What about off-site soils?

The off-site soil samples collected by the Illinois EPA in 1993 showed elevated levels of metals. The Illinois EPA at that time determined that concentrations found did not pose a health risk from short-term exposure but that more information needed to be gathered to determine if there may be a risk from long-term exposure. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) collected additional off-site soil samples from different locations in 1999. According to IDPH, levels of metals in these samples did not pose a health risk from long-term or short-term exposure. Concentrations of some chemicals in the IDPH samples, however, did exceed screening levels set by the Illinois EPA and warrant further investigation of off-site soils.

Why did it take so long to list the site on the NPL?

Limited state and federal resources restricted the number of Illinois sites that could be assessed each year for the NPL. This site also had to compete with other sites across the country for placement on the NPL.

Contacts:

The Illinois EPA will be the lead agency for this site, so for more information contact Kurt Neibergall, Illinois EPA Office of Community Relations, at 217-785-3819 or Tom Williams, Illinois EPA project manager, at 815-223-1714. Mailing address for both is Illinois EPA, 1021 North Grand Ave., East, P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, Il 62794-9276.

For more information:

Within the next two weeks, the Illinois EPA will place the 1995 screening site inspection report and other project material in the LaSalle Public Library at 305 Marquette Street.