New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical

New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Site

Sample Results

Fact Sheet #1
October 1992

DePue, Illinois

Background

In March 1992, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) collected samples in DePue including samples of soil, sediment, and surface water. The information from these samples will be used in making a preliminary evaluation of possible environmental effects of past New Jersey Zinc and Mobil Mining and Minerals operations.

Twenty soil samples were collected from residential yards. Three sediment and three surface water samples were collected from Lake DePue and the ditch leading to the lake. Samples were taken as background from Turner Lake and Tiskilwa for comparison. Ten samples were collected from the New Jersey Zinc and Mobil Mining and Minerals site.

What Are The Sample Results?

All residential soil samples showed elevated levels of cadmium when compared to samples taken in Tiskilwa. All but two samples showed elevated levels of zinc. Thirteen samples showed elevated levels of barium. Other samples showed elevated levels of arsenic, lead, copper, mercury, and selenium.

The sediment samples from the ditch leading to Lake DePue, when compared to sediment samples from Turner lake, showed elevated levels of cobalt, cadmium, copper, mercury, selenium and zinc. These same metals, with the exception of cobalt, were also found at elevated levels in sediment samples taken from Lake DePue. Surface water samples from Lake DePue and the ditch leading to the lake, when compared to Turner Lake water, had elevated levels of cadmium, copper, zinc and ammonia.

Similar contaminants were found on the New Jersey Zinc and Mobil Mining and Minerals properties.

Is there a health risk associated with exposure to the contaminants found in residential yards?

The levels of metals found in soil do not pose a concern from short term exposure. Since there are no standards for metals in residential soil it is difficult to assess whether the metals pose a possible long term health risk to people who live near the site. A long term health risk is a risk from exposure over many years. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will be collecting additional samples to help evaluate possible long term health risks.

Many of the contaminants are naturally occurring in soil at lower concentrations. Based on this first round of sampling, cadmium appears to be the main contaminant of concern. Since cadmium and the other metals are found in the soil, the IDPH recommends several steps to reduce one's exposure to soil until more information is gathered. These steps are listed on the last page of this fact sheet.

Why are these metals of possible concern?

While the levels of metals found in the environmental samples do not pose a concern for immediate (acute) health effects, constant exposure over years to even relatively low levels of many metals can increase the risk of long?term (chronic) health problems. Metals can build?up in the body and tend to remain there for many years. Their effects can be very hard to detect and/or not show up for many years. Children and the unborn are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead and mercury exposures. Cadmium attacks the kidneys and may result in kidney disease later in life. Arsenic also affects the nervous system, but is also a cancer causing agent. People may be exposed to these substances through ingestion (swallowing dust or dirt, consuming contaminated food, etc.) or inhalation (breathing dust). Additional sampling is necessary to determine the degree of hazard which might exist.

What additional information will be collected?

The IDPH intends to collect the following samples:

  1. Additional soil samples from the area.
  2. Blood samples from children. These samples will be collected to evaluate whether or not children (ages 6 months to 6 years) have been exposed to the cadmium or lead in the soil.
  3. Paint from inside and outside of houses. These chips will be analyzed for lead. Although not necessarily connected to New Jersey Zinc or Mobil Mining and Minerals, paint is another possible source of lead exposure.
  4. Dust from inside of houses. The dust will be tested for cadmium and lead.
  5. Areas where slag from New Jersey Zinc or Mobil Mining and Minerals was used for surfacing alleys and driveways. The IEPA has received reports that slag was used for alleys and driveways. The IDPH will test this slag for metals such as cadmium and lead. If you know where slag has been used for such a purpose, please contact one of the people listed at the bottom of this fact sheet.
  6. Fish samples from Lake DePue. Fish will be analyzed for cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, and zinc.

When will this sampling take place?

IDPH will begin environmental sampling within the next four weeks. Biological sampling is still being arranged. Times and dates for collecting blood samples will be announced ahead of time.

Will the IEPA do further work at the site?

The IEPA will send the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) a package of information which will include the results from the March samples. The U. S. EPA will evaluate the package and consider whether or not the New Jersey Zinc and Mobil Mining and Minerals site should be placed on the National Priorities List (sometimes called the Superfund List). If the site is placed on the Superfund list, responsible parties (including past and present owners and operators of the site) will be asked to conduct a thorough environmental investigation of the site and (if necessary) to cleanup or contain the contaminants associated with the site. If responsible parties are unable or unwilling to conduct this work, placement on the Superfund list would allow federal funds to be?used for these purposes.

Interim steps to reduce exposure to dust and soil.

  1. Discourage children from placing non-food items and fingers in their mouths, especially when outside.
  2. Keep children's hands and face regularly washed. Clean hands and face prior to eating and nap or bedtime.
  3. Do not allow children to eat outdoors or on the floor.
  4. Discourage children from digging or playing in soil; providing a sandbox with clean sand can reduce exposure.
  5. Adults should wear gloves when working in the yard or garden. Wash hands and face before eating, drinking or smoking.
  6. Prevent tracking of dirt and dust into the home. Work clothes should be washed separately.
  7. Keep the home free of dust by regular and vigorous cleaning, using damp mopping and wiping as well as vacuuming. Pay special attention to areas where children regularly play, eat, and sleep.
  8. During windy days, keep windows shut. Regularly clean window wells with a damp sponge.
  9. If you have a garden, thoroughly wash or peel produce before eating. Some plants (usually leafy vegetables) may absorb metals (especially cadmium). Adding lime to the soil or growing plants which are less likely to absorb metals can reduce exposure.
  10. Bare soil should be re-seeded or covered, particularly if wind erosion is a problem.

For Additional Information

Repository and future administrative record file location: The project repository, which contains the Phase 1 investigation work plan and other project documents, is located in the Selby Township Library in DePue. The local location for the administrative record file will also be at the Selby Township Library. The administrative record is a file of documents upon which site decisions about remedies will be based.

Contacts:

If you have questions about the project you may contact:

Kurt Neibergall
Office of Community Relations
Illinois EPA
1021 N. Grand Ave. E.
Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
Phone: (217) 785-3819
Richard Lange
Project Manager
Illinois EPA
1021 N. Grand Ave. E.
Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
Phone: 815/223-6836