Monterey Coal Mine

Fact Sheet #1
October 2002

Albers, Illinois

Introduction

This fact sheet has been prepared by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA). This fact sheet is intended to address concerns about Lead, Cadmium, Beryllium, Chromium, Arsenic, Mercury and Nickel originating from the coal waste piles at the Monterey No. 2 Mine, near Albers. In addition, the clean up activities being undertaken by Monterey Coal Company (Monterey) and its parent company Exxon- Mobil, to protect the environment will be discussed.

Background

Monterey Coal Company (Monterey) operated the No. 2 Mine in Clinton County, near Albers, Illinois, from April 1977 until August 1996. The operations included coal extraction, coal processing and coal slurry and refuse (mine waste) disposal. The entire No. 2. Mine site occupies approximately 1,400 acres of land, with the waste piles comprising about 300 acres of the total. The No. 2 mine was operated as an underground coal mining facility under permits issued by the Office of Mines and Minerals of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Do the metals listed above occur in the Monterey No. 2 mine coal waste?

Two samples of coal waste were collected by the Illinois EPA. The analytical results from these samples confirmed that all of the metals listed above do occur in the coal waste.

Do the metals listed above occur naturally?

Natural occurrence of these metals at low concentrations is very common. In 1994 the Illinois EPA summarized data from 275 sites in the state in a document entitled “A Summary of Selected Background Conditions for Inorganics in Soil” (IEPA/ENV/94- 161). At least one site from every county was used. All of the metals listed above were included in the assessment. Because there are also anthropogenic (man made) sources for these metals, such as smelters and leaded gasoline, the results of the assessment represent current conditions, or the background, at a site. Unknown sources of these contaminants may have increased the concentrations of these metals at some sites. However, known sources, other than deposits from the air, have not affected the soils’ metal concentrations at the sites assessed. Of the seven metals listed above, arsenic and lead were present in the soil at every site where testing was done for those two metals. Cadmium, beryllium, chromium, mercury and nickel had variable Illinois Office of Community Relations October 2002 Environmental P.O. Box 19276 Protection Agency Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276 2 Printed on Recycled Paper concentrations, with some sites having no detectable concentrations. In the soil samples taken from the mine waste, all seven of the metals listed above had concentrations within the range of the background samples from the assessment. That means the concentrations of these metals in the coal waste are similar to what could be found in any soil in the state.

Are the concentrations of these metals in the coal waste dangerous to human health?

The analyses conducted by the Illinois EPA did not detect any of the seven metals at concentrations exceeding residential soil clean up levels. The residential soils clean up levels are established at concentrations that would protect people from harm as they carry on day-to-day activities in their homes or yards. Therefore, the coal waste should not cause negative health effects from the above listed metals.

What are the environmental concerns at the No.2 Mine?

The environmental concerns at the No.2 Mine currently exist in two forms. There is sometimes dust which blows from the uncovered top of the coal waste. Also, infiltration of water through the coal waste dissolves minerals from the waste, which enter the groundwater. These concerns will be addressed separately below.

What steps has Monterey taken to address the dust problem?

Several different methods have been used to reduce dust problems. First, it must be pointed out that the coal waste looks like a mound from the outside, but there is currently a basin in the middle. In the September and October of 2001, Synthetic spray-on dust suppressants were applied to the flat areas to keep the fine-grained dust from blowing. In October 2001, silt curtains were installed around the edge of the basin to prevent more fine-grained material from washing off the inside walls of the basin, and onto the sprayed area. If the fine-grained material enters the basin area, it is more likely to blow. Also during October 2001, straw bales were placed to reduce erosion into the flatter, more open areas prone to blowing. From October to December of 2001 reed grass test plots were planted in an effort to vegetate the basin. Nearly 600 bales of straw were spread during May and June of 2002. Where possible the straw was partially incorporated into the surface of the waste to create a more irregular surface, which reduces wind speed and the amount of blowing dust. Also in the spring of 2002, Monterey reduced the pumping of water out of the waste piles, to decrease the amount of dry exposed waste. Water was formerly being pumped out of the waste to reduce the amount contaminants entering the groundwater. In an effort to vegetate drier portions of the basin, 100 loads of dairy bedding were spread in July and August of 2002, with test plots of grass in two areas. In September of 2002 another 200 bales of straw were spread to reduce the amount of exposed waste.

What contaminants are being found in the groundwater at the No. 2 Mine?

The metals listed above are not typically associated with coal mine waste. As with the soil, it is not uncommon to find these metals in groundwater, but the concentrations are typically below concentrations that are harmful to human health. The monitoring history from the Monterey monitoring wells confirms that the above listed metals do occur in groundwater, but not at levels that are a concern to human health. The contaminants typically associated with mine waste are sulfate, chloride, total dissolved solids, iron and manganese. There is a long history of groundwater monitoring results at the No. 2 Mine. The groundwater near the waste piles contains high concentrations of sulfate, chloride, total dissolved solids, iron and manganese. The typical coal mine contaminants also occur naturally. Potable wells sampled by the Illinois EPA contained concentrations of the typical coal mine contaminants, but the concentrations were much lower than levels near the piles. With the exception of manganese, none of the typical coal mine contaminants were detected in private wells at concentrations of concern to human health. The geographic distribution of manganese suggests that manganese is sometimes present naturally, at relatively high concentrations.

What steps has Monterey taken to address the groundwater problem?

Monterey has installed a line of groundwater extraction wells along the west and south sides, down gradient, or “down slope” of the coal waste piles. The extraction wells pump large amounts of contaminated groundwater out of the ground, so the contaminated groundwater is captured by this line of wells. The groundwater is then treated and discharged into the Grassy Branch. Monterey has an Illinois EPA permit to discharge the water into Grassy Branch. Therefore, the water pumped into Grassy Branch is regularly tested to assure that contaminant concentrations do not exceed permitted amounts. This water has also been tested for the metals listed above. None of the metals listed above exceeded water quality standards in the water entering Grassy Branch.

What steps will Monterey take as the permanent cover for the coal waste is being designed?

The reshaping and final cover of the coal waste will end dust problems. In addition to preventing dust problems, the shape of the waste disposal areas will be recontoured to promote runoff, and minimize infiltration. An underground Slurry wall, made of clay, will be installed to the south of the waste piles. The slurry wall will prevent the flow of groundwater to the south, and divert the flow to the west. Groundwater extraction wells to the west of the waste pile will continue to pump out contaminated groundwater. The contaminated groundwater will be pumped by a pipeline to the Kaskaskia River. As with the water that is currently being pumped into Grassy Branch, the water that is pumped into the Kaskaskia, will be regularly tested to insure it meets all of the permit requirements. 4 Printed on Recycled Paper Monitoring wells will continue to be tested to assure that the groundwater extraction wells and slurry wall are controlling the contaminated groundwater as they are designed to do.

Were other clean up options considered?Were other clean up options considered?

The Illinois EPA reviewed several different options for the final waste cover, as well as the groundwater clean up. In the final analysis, only those options that provided the best environmental protection were considered.

When will a permanent cover be placed over the coal waste?

The scheduled start date for beginning work on a final cover is Mid-2004. Work on the final cover is expected to take approximately two years. However, the final cover is only a part of the clean up activities that will be taking place. In preparation for placing the final cover, lakes and ditches on the site will be cleaned out, and the material added to the waste piles in preparation of final cover placement. Placement of the slurry wall and construction of the pipeline from the extraction wells to the Kaskaskia River could begin sooner. The slurry wall and pipeline construction activities could begin in late 2003.

Why are things taking so long?

In order to assure that all parts of the overall clean up plan are constructed and operated properly, there are a number of permits that must be obtained by Monterey. To change the place where contaminated groundwater pumped from the Pearl Aquifer is discharged, a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit must be issued by the Illinois EPA. Before a NPDES permit can be issued the discharge point on the Kaskaskia River must be known. The discharge point cannot be known until easements have been obtained by Monterey. Once the pipeline route is established, Monterey must complete a wetlands review and field survey and an archeological field survey. Both of those must be reviewed and approved by the Army Corp of Engineers. The USEPA also has the opportunity to review the NPDES permit. Issuance of an NPDES permit includes a public comment period and may include a public hearing. While the NPDES permit is being reviewed, Monterey must have a dam permit review by the Office of Water Resources. The waste piles are considered dams under state regulations. Finally, all of the above permits and reviews must be included in a final site reclamation plan that is submitted to the Office of Mines and Minerals (OMM). Another public hearing may be required before OMM can issue a permit. If the reviews or public hearings require changes to the permits to address inadequacies or public concerns, then additional time may be required. Once a permit is issued by OMM, work on the final cover can begin. In summary, the site is moving through a process that requires detail and planning, but also some time to complete.

What is the status of the water main extension project for residents near the mine who are using the Pearl Aquifer?

In addition to addressing the on site groundwater contamination issue, Monterey has entered into an agreement with Illinois EPA to provide $1 million to Clinton County for the purpose of providing a community water system to residents near the mine which are using the Pearl Aquifer. Clinton County has been working with community water supplies in the area to see that access to a community water supply for residents is provided. The work for completing the water main extensions will be completed in two contracts. One contract has been finalized. The remaining contract is expected to be finalized by November 30, 2002. It is expected that the water line work for the community water system will be completed by October of 2003.

Leach Test Samples from Coal Waste Piles and Comparison Values for Protection of Potable Groundwater
(all values – mg/l)

ChemicalConcentrationComparison Value
 Sample #201Sample #202 
Antimony< 0.006<0.0060.006
Arsenic<0.01<0.010.05
Barium0.0180.0212.0
Beryllium<0.0010.0030.004
Cadmium0.0200.0150.005
Chromium<0.0050.0050.1
Lead<0.0050.0050.0075
Nickel0.220.0810.1
Selenium0.015<0.010.05
Thallium<0.01<0.010.002
Vanadium<0.005<0.0050.049
Zinc2.91.25.0
Samples from Coal Waste Piles and Comparison Values for Residential Exposures
(all values – mg/kg)
ChemicalConcentrationComparison Value
 Sample #201Sample #202IngestionInhalation
Aluminum1600140078000aNA
Antimony< 0.742.331NA
Arsenic4.81113750
Barium38445500690000
Beryllium0.370.321601300
Boron59347000NA
Cadmium2.1<0.63781800
Calcium8400056000NCNC
Chromium9.54.2230270
Cobalt4.27.74700NA
Copper28282900NA
Cyanide<0.01<0.011600NA
Iron610005600023000aNA
Lead4347400NA
Magnesium380160325000NA
Manganese140130370069000
Mercury0.120.132310
Nickel2227160013000
Phenols2661NANA
Potassium10001100NCNC
Selenium7.32.0390NA
Silver<0.62<0.63390NA
Sodium5200140NCNC
Strontium15055NDND
Thallium1.21.26.3NA
Vanadium1211550NA
Zinc31025023000NA
  • NA = Not Available; no toxicity studies available to determine comparison values.
  • NC = No Concern; essential nutrients for which there is no human health concern for any soil concentration.
  • a = Provisional Value; toxicity studies available for determining comparison values are insufficient for determining final value.
  • ND = Not Determined; comparison values have not yet been determined by the Toxicity Assessment Unit.

For more information, please contact:

Mark Britton
Office of Community Relations
Illinois EPA
(217) 524-7342
(217) 785-7725 (fax)
Dennis McMurray
Office Public Information
Illinois EPA
(217) 785-1871
(217) 782-9039 (fax)
Lynn Dunaway
Project Manager
Illinois EPA
Public Water Supplies
Groundwater Section
(217) 785-4787