Smith-Douglass Fertilizer Site

Fact Sheet #1
March 1993

Small map of Smith-Douglass site

S. Streator, Livingston County

Background

The Smith-Douglass site is located in Newtown Township, Livingston County, South Streator, Illinois.

The property referred to as the Smith-Douglass site is 124 acres in size. (See map.) Within the site is an approximately 300 acres space which contains about a dozen dilapidated, semi-attached buildings, tanks and other equipment used for fertilizer manufacturing. Elsewhere on the site are three large ponds, a six acre landfill and a gypsum pile which covers approximately 25-40 acres. Phillips Creek flows westward through the site before entering the Vermilion River.

From 1940's until 1985 a succession of owners operated a fertilizer plant at the site. Smith-Douglass Inc. filed for bankruptcy in 1983 and their successor, SECO, filed for bankruptcy in 1985. Manufacturing ceased in 1985 and the site was abandoned.

A United States Bankruptcy Court in North Carolina issued an order which allowed Smith-Douglass Inc. to unconditionally abandon the property. This order was appealed by the State of Illinois and Borden, Inc., a former owner. However, the order was affirmed by a U.S. District Court in 1987 and the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1988.

Investigations by the IEPA revealed the presence of a large quantity of unsecured hazardous material on site and on September 29, 1988, the site was sealed based on Section 34 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. Signs were posted around the site warning the public of the Seal Order.

Between April and December 1989, an Immediate Removal Action was conducted by IEPA, during which thousands of gallons of hazardous materials were inventoried, overpacked and removed for proper disposal. Several drums of vanadium pentoxide were secured in a building on site due to problems with their disposal. Almost $500,000 in state funds were spent on the Immediate Removal Action.

(The special appropriation which provided money to perform cleanups at numerous sites around the state, including Smith-Douglass, has not been renewed by the legislature since 1989. There are currently 105 sites in Illinois that need emergency environmental action.)

The next logical step after the Immediate Removal of the unsecured waste should have been a Remedial Investigation (RI) to determine whether the landfill contains hazardous waste and whether soils and groundwater under the site and surface water in the ponds are contaminated.

The RI should include: installation of monitoring wells, sampling of soils, investigation of the landfill, ponds and nearby private wells. However, without funding, the IEPA could not proceed with the RI.

Numerous physical risks remained on site, including the gypsum pile which is a popular site for all-terrain vehicles, the ponds, and the abandoned buildings and overhead suspended conveyor system all of which attract trespassers.

In June 1992, the Reading Township supervisor, Catherine Kudrik, contacted the Agency due to her concerns that a child might become injured on the site.

During an Agency site inspection in June 1992 it was discovered that the door to the building in which the vanadium pentoxide was stored had been broken and one drum had been opened and spilled by vandals. The Agency returned the vanadium pentoxide to the manufacturer in July 1992.

In July 1992 the Agency obtained an estimate of almost $200,000 to fence the site. Due to the aggressive vandalism offences, gates and locks and to limited funds, it was decided not to fence the site, but to concentrate on informing the public about the physical risks on the site.

Ms. Kudrik had previously agreed to ask the local school to discuss risks at the site with children and their parents. The Agency posted new Seal Order signs at every entrance to the site and received assurances that the sheriff would arrest trespassers and that the Livingston County State's attorney would prosecute them.

In September 1992, IEPA, USEPA, and Borden held a meeting to discuss concerns about the site. Borden has prepared a draft Work Plan for the Remedial Investigation to be performed by their contractor at the site. This RI, funded by Borden, would supply the necessary information about possible contamination remaining in the site soils and water systems. Borden does not think it is necessary to demolish the buildings to accomplish the work. Furthermore, Borden takes the position that the buildings only pose a physical hazard not a environmental hazard.

USEPA representatives at the meeting emphasized that the areas of greatest concern to them are the landfill and ponds. The Agency has reviewed the Work Plan and, as of March 1993, we are close to agreement with Borden, on the scope of the investigation.

Current Situation

On February 17, 1993 a conference call was held which included the following people: the Livingston County States Attorney, the supervisors of Reading and Newtown Township, Terry Glynn a demolition contractor, representatives of IEPA, the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the lllinois Department of Nuclear Safety. The purpose of the call was to discuss the possible demolition of the dilapidated buildings by Livingston County.

Mr. Glynn has submitted a proposal under which he would demolish the buildings for the value of the scrap. During the conference call, all parties agreed that demolition of the buildings would reduce the risk to vandals at the site, but it should be handled in such a way that additional problems are not created.

The IEPA is not the owner of the property. Furthermore, the Agency has no authority to demolish building which pose only a physical, or safety, risk, but not a environmental risk such as the presence of hazardous substances. The !EPA and the Attorney General's Office see the role of the Agency as assisting the County, by assuring that Mr. Glynn is made aware of any environmental risks that might be encountered.

The Seal Order for the site should remain in place until a Remedial Investigation has been conducted to determine whether contaminated soil, groundwater and/or surface water remain on site. The Agency can coordinate with the County by amending the Seal to provide access to the site and by providing advice on environmental concerns such as the presence of asbestos and waste fertilizer in the buildings.

An additional environmental concern is the presence of detectable radiation on the metal beams in some of the buildings. The lllinois Department of Nuclear Safety does not consider the levels to be an acute health hazard, but removal of the metal for salvage will need to be coordinated with IDNS. All radiation issues are under the jurisdiction of the IDNS not IEPA.

The demolition plan should include a 24 hour guard to assure that vandals do not enter the site to sort through the rubble. The guard should remain until the attractive nuisance has been alleviated to the County's satisfaction.

For more information, please feel free to call or write the following personnel:

Jennifer Seul or Sue Doubet
IEPA Project Management
217-524-3300

Bill Hammel
IEPA Community Relations
(217) 785-3924

Patti Thompson
IDNS Communications
(217) 785-0229

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
2200 Churchill Road, Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276