Smith-Douglass Fertilizer Site

Fact Sheet #2
August 1996

S. Streator, Livingston County

Background

The site is 124 acres in size (see map), of which 30 acres had been used for fertilizer manufacturing. The site also contains three large ponds, a six-acre landfill, and a 25-40 acre gypsum pile. Phillips Creek flows westward through the site before entering the Vermilion River.

From 1945 until 1985, a succession of owners operated a fertilizer plant at the site. In 1945, the site was owned and operated by Smith-Douglass Company, Inc. In 1965, Borden, Inc., purchased the facility and operated it as Smith-Douglass, a division of Borden Chemical Company. In 1981, Borden sold the property to Garrett Acquisition Corporation (GAC). GAC was renamed Smith-Douglass, Inc., and filed for bankruptcy in 1983. In December of 1983, part of the property was leased to SECO, Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in 1985. Manufacturing ceased in 1985 and the site was abandoned.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) inspections revealed the presence of a large quantity of unsecured hazardous material on the 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 informing the public of the Seal Order and warning against trespassing.

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 the site and were removed in August of 1992. Approximately $500,000 in state funds were spent on the Immediate Removal Actions.

The Livingston County Board contracted with T. G. Salvage on May 26, 1993, to demolish all the buildings on the site because they posed physical and safety risks. The IEPA amended the Seal Order to allow the contractor access from June 1993, to September 1994. T.G. Salvage did not complete the job as contracted, leaving structures still to be demolished and the demolition debris.

In 1995, the IEPA and Borden reached an agreement under which Borden reimbursed the IEPA $216,435.75 in past costs and agreed to conduct an investigation at the site. Borden will perform the field work and the IEPA and Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety (IDNS) laboratories will perform the analytical work.

Radiation

Smith-Douglass produced Pelleform and Sacco fertilizers. They also produced sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid. The phosphoric acid was produced using a process called "Wet Process Phosphoric Acid"; raw phosphate rock was combined with sulfuric acid to create phosphoric acid and a waste-product of gypsum. The phosphate rock from Florida that was used at Smith-Douglass contained an impurity, Radium-226. Radium-226 is radioactive. This impurity makes the product and any other waste-product radioactive. This type of radioactivity is called naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM).

All soils and rocks are known to contain some amounts of NORM. The major radionuclides are uranium, thorium, and their respective decay products, one of which is Radium-226. Certain processes tend to reconcentrate or enrich the radioactivity to higher levels in the resulting product, waste, or by-product, as in the superphosphate and gypsum that was produced at Smith-Douglass. This is why IDNS is assisting IEPA and Borden with the investigation.

Current Situation

IEPA has approved the Borden Preliminary Remedial Investigation Work Plan for assessing the extent and severity of the site's contamination. This investigation will begin in mid-August 1996, and will include:

  • installing monitoring wells to obtain groundwater samples;
  • sampling private wells near the site;
  • taking soil samples from the landfill, manufacturing area, and gypsum pile; and
  • collecting sediment" and surface water samples from the creek and ponds.

The investigation will take approximately two months, after which Borden will compile the results into a report. The report will be submitted to the IEPA by spring of 1997. After the IEPA and IDNS reviews the report and any necessary revisions, it will be added to the repository.

A repository of information about the site including the Preliminary Remedial Investigation Work Plan is available for review at Haley Heating & Cooling, 124 S. Vermillion, Streator, IL 61364. If you wish to be added to a mailing list to receive future fact sheets please contact Bradley Frost.

Some questions that we have been asked about the project are:

What did !EPA remove from the site in 1989? When the IEPA conducted an immediate removal at the Smith-Douglass site, we removed three underground storage tanks, 3,200 linear feet of asbestos pipewrap, 1,000 small containers of chemicals from the laboratory, 72,800 gallons of acidic liquids, 6,200 gallons of flammable liquids, 340 gallons of PCB liquid, 60 cubic yards of petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated·soil, inorganic lab paks, 30 drums of vanadium pentoxide, 1,160 cubic yards of neutralized phosphoric acid, and returned 14 drums of water treatment chemicals to the manufacturer.

What is the danger from radiation at this site? There is very little danger from the radiation at this site. People are exposed to more radiation when they get an X-ray from a doctor.

Why doesn't the !EPA cleanup all of the mess at the site? The IEPA can only cleanup hazardous substance as defined by the Environmental Protection Act. Funding is not available ·to cleanup or remove physically dangerous situations nor to cleanup random dumping that occurs all over the state.

Can interested citizens come to the site and watch the work? No, the site has signs stating that trespassing is illegail. The work on site could be physically dangerous, and demolition debris on the site could make walking around hazardous. The site remains sealed by order of the IEPA and trespassers will be prosecuted by the Livingston County State's Attorney.

For more information, call or write the following personnel:

Bradley Frost
IEPA Community Relations
(217) 782-7027

Bill Hammel
IEPA Community Relations
(217) 785-3924

Patti Thompson
IDNS Communications
(217) 785-0229

Jennifer Seul
IEPA Project Manager
(217) 782-6760

Sue Doubet
IEPA Project Manager
(217) 782-6760

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

lllinois Department of Nuclear Safety
1301 Knotts Street
Springfield, lllinois 62703