Illinois EPA 0110300003
Total Acreage: 950
Lead Agency: Illinois EPA
The DePue/New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Corporation site is located along the north side of the Village of DePue and constitutes roughly one half of the village land mass. Initial plans for investigation and cleanup of the site were organized by unit, e.g., plant site soils, Interim Water Treatment Plant, Phosphogypsum Stack, Zinc Slag Pile, Lithipone Ridges and South Ditch. As the cleanup plans for the South Ditch progressed, this organization was found to be inappropriate for the complex site and the site was divided into five operable units (OUs) for investigation and remediation:
The South Ditch, OU 1, is a drainage canal that feeds into Lake DePue and received discharges of contaminated groundwater and surface water from the site. The northern 120 to 150 feet of the ditch is incised into fill consisting of placed soil and slag material. The remainder of the ditch traverses marshy lowlands adjacent to Lake DePue. These discharges resulted in unnatural sediment containing total metals in concentrations up to 200,000 mg/kg each of copper and zinc. Pursuant to a 2003 Record of Decision, removal of contaminated sediment from the South Ditch was accomplished in 2005. The ditch and its immediate vicinity is included in the Lake DePue investigation.
The Phosphogypsum Stack, OU 2, is a large waste pile of phosphogypsum (resulting from conversion of phosphate rock into diammonium phosphate fertilizer), and its associated water control structures including drainage swales, clearwater dam, and constructed treatment wetland. The stack has been partly covered with native prairie vegetation and partly covered with fescue grass. A groundwater investigation is ongoing.
The FPSA, OU 3, includes the plant site property and adjacent bluffs. The Interim Water Treatment Plant, which treats and discharges treated surface and groundwater, is located in one of the former plant buildings. Soil and groundwater investigations are ongoing.
Off –site soils within the surrounding community, OU 4, have yet to be investigated systematically, though some select properties have been sampled. This investigation is to begin in 2012.
Lake, DePue a 524-acre backwater lake and the floodplain, OU 5, have been the focus of intense study in recent years. Recreational use of the lake has been degraded by accumulation of sediment from the Illinois River. (see http://www.isws.illinois.edu/pubdoc/CR/ISWSCR-176.pdf)
The remedial investigation has been recently completed and risk assessments (human health and ecological) are currently under review. The next step will be a Feasibility Study.
Mineral Point Zinc Company originally developed the site in 1905 as a primary zinc smelter producing slab zinc for use in the automobile and appliance industries. In addition, the site has at various times been the location of sulfuric acid manufacturing, paint pigment production, ammonium phosphate fertilizer manufacturing, refining and recovery of secondary metals from zinc ore (e.g., cadmium), secondary zinc smelting and zinc dust production. Between 1905 and 1989, portions of the site were owned and operated by New Jersey Zinc Company, Mobil Oil Corporation, Gulf & Western Industries, Horsehead Industries, and the Zinc Corporation of America. In 1990, the facility ceased operation and shortly after that, New Jersey Zinc demolished most of the remaining structures. Through various corporate mergers, acquisitions and the bankruptcy of Horsehead, responsibility for the site has fallen to Viacom International Incorporated/CBS and the ExxonMobil Corporation. These two companies have formed an entity known as "The DePue Group," which collectively represents the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the site. In 1995, the DePue Group entered into an interim consent order with Illinois EPA and the Illinois Attorney General's Office (IAGO) for investigation of the site and evaluation of possible remedial actions.
Environmental concerns were created by waste disposal activities and discharges from the former smelter, sulfuric acid plant, paint pigment plant and the diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant. These activities produced a primary zinc smelter slag pile in excess of 702,000 cubic yards or 570,000 tons; several ridges of paint pigment plant waste, sometimes referred to as the lithipone ridges, containing in excess of 64,000 tons; a veneer of industrial waste varying from 6 inches to several feet over the entire 195-acre former plant site; a more than 140-acre Phosphogypsum Stack; discharges of wastewater and sediment to DePue Lake; and many other impoundments and waste piles. Significant discharges of metals to groundwater and surface water have occurred. All sources were found to contain elevated levels of metals including zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and copper. In addition to metals contamination, there are elevated concentrations of sulfate, ammonia, and other compounds in the groundwater and surface water. The following investigations and actions have taken place.
Human health risks from the site have been formally evaluated at OUs 1 and 5 to date. For both OUs, metals are responsible for human health risks. Metals will likely be significant contributors to any potential risks from OUs 3 and 4.
The sediments in the South Ditch were determined to exceed the U.S. EPA's acceptable risk range for soil ingestion and dust inhalation for both child trespassers and on-site construction workers under current and potential future exposures. These sediments were removed from the South Ditch in 2005.. The risk assessment for OU5 is currently under review and its conclusions are not yet finalized.
Ecological risks from the site have been formally evaluated at OUs 1 and 5 to date. For both OUs, metals are primarily responsible for ecological risks. Lake DePue has a fish advisory for carp, white bass, and channel catfish due to detections of PCBs in fish tissue samples. In addition, there is a state-wide fish advisory for methyl mercury in predator fish. The site is not thought to be a significant contributor to the lake of PCBs and methyl mercury.
Results of the benthic organism testing indicated acute toxicity of South Ditch sediments to the test organisms. Numerous fish species, great blue herons, egrets and certain other waterfowl rely on these benthic organisms as food sources. In addition, some waterfowl, (e.g., mallard ducks) are dabblers and could ingest the contaminated sediments. These sediments were removed from the South Ditch in 2005.
The Lake DePue ecological risk assessment is currently under review and its conclusions are not yet finalized.
The major sources of contamination from the New Jersey Zinc site have been intercepted and prevented from entering DePue Lake. The following remedial activities have been completed:
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The Village of DePue was awarded a grant of services in July 2002 by the U. S. EPA. The purpose of the grant was to assist the community in developing a set of future land use recommendations for the DePue/New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Superfund site. The consultant team guiding this process was E2 Inc. who, after meeting twice with Village officials and residents, released a project report in August 2004 with the following recommendations:
The report outlines challenges to site reuse and resources that can help DePue reach its redevelopment goals.
Illinois EPA provided a $50,000 Brownfields Grant to the Village of DePue to hire a contractor.
In August 2006, the Village posted Notices to Abate Nuisance at the site. The notices ordered Exxon to remove the materials and clean the site of all contaminants to the satisfaction of the Village within ten days. If Exxon failed to comply within ten days, the notices required Exxon to pay a nuisance fine of $ 750 per day until the site cleanup was complete and the site was removed from the NPL. The notices did not define the terms "materials" or "contaminant". In 2007, the Village of DePue filed a complaint against Exxon in Illinois state court, asserting that Exxon had violated and continued to be in violation of the Village's nuisance ordinance. It sought three forms of relief: a judgment declaring that Exxon had violated the ordinance, daily fines of up to $ 750 for that alleged violation and injunctive relief requiring Exxon immediately to clean the site and have it removed from the NPL. Exxon moved the case to U.S. District Court and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint because the causes of action stated in the complaint were preempted by federal and state law. The district court agreed. In 2008, the Village of DePue appealed the District Court's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit and the District Court's verdict was affirmed because the Village's claims are preempted by Illinois law.
On September 8, 2008, the Village of DePue enacted a new ordinance against hazardous waste, and on November 4, 2008, the Village became a home-rule municipality under the Illinois constitution. The Village filed a new suit in Illinois circuit court, making claims against the PRPs based on the new ordinance. The PRPs moved the case to U.S. District Court, which dismissed the Village's claims because the new ordinance was an invalid exercise of home-rule authority under the Illinois constitution. The Court also dismissed the Village's common law trespass and nuisance claims. The Village filed an amended complaint on July 27, 2009, re-alleging its trespass and nuisance claims under Illinois law. The District Court dismissed this complaint on May 12, 2010. The Village is currently pursuing an appeal.
Illinois EPA restored the information repository at the Selby Township Library by providing the documents on compact disc. The Illinois EPA's site file has been digitized in order to facilitate future responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. Draft documents are being provided to the Village of DePue and the CAG for their review and comment.
Illinois EPA has engaged the Hispanic community of DePue through meetings at St. Mary's Church. Beginning in June 2012, the DePue Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) began holding some of their meetings in the evening. The new meeting time has resulted in more public participation.
Illinois EPA is working with U.S. EPA and the DePue Group to develop remediation processes, including presumptive remedies, for OU3 (Former Plant Site Area) and OU4 (off-site soils) that meet the requirements of the interim consent order, the National Contingency Plan and U.S. EPA guidance.