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Congressional District # 15


EPA ID# ILN000508134
Last Updated: August, 2013

Site Description

The 100-acre Hegeler Zinc Site is located immediately west of the Village of Hegeler and 3.5 miles south of the City of Danville in Vermilion County, Illinois. The site is in a rural area, bordered by farmland on the west and north. An automobile salvage yard is located about 1,000 feet northeast of the site. Approximately 1,700 people live within 1 mile of the site and the nearest residential area is directly east of the site.

Hegeler Zinc began smelting zinc in 1907 under the name of Hegeler Brothers and became known as Hegeler Zinc in 1913. The zinc smelting facility operated from 1906 until approximately 1955. Hegeler Zinc produced various grades of zinc slab and rolled zinc products, and also produced sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid was produced from sulfur gas that was collected from the zinc ore prior to smelting. The smelting operation resulted in large amounts of slag, which was stored in piles on the site. Slag is waste residue produced by the smelting process and contains unburned residues and metals such as lead, arsenic and zinc.

In 1942, during World War II, the Defense Plant Corporation, a U.S. government agency, added a cadmium-scavenging process to the zinc smelters to collect cadmium dust, which was then transported off-site to a cadmium smelter. Zinc smelting operations were shut down in November 1947 due to a lack of demand after the war. Zinc rolling and sulfuric acid production continued until 1955.

In 1954, Hegeler Zinc dissolved and deeded the operations to National Distillers and Chemical Corporation. The following year, National Distillers sold the zinc rolling mill operations to Peterson Filling and Packaging. The facility was then used to package insecticides, shaving products, and other items. In 1956, Illinois Fireworks Company purchased the remaining National Distillers property for the manufacturing of fireworks. Temporary small wooden huts and inoperable tractor trailers were utilized to store fireworks and positioned throughout the site. Many of these buildings and trailers remain at the site.

In 2001, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency collected soil, waste (slag), sediment and groundwater samples from the site and surrounding residential areas and waterways. Slag materials appear to have been used to cover roads in the Village of Hegeler and later as road base for black-top roadways, which have since been repaved with asphalt.

In May 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) installed a six-foot-high chain link fence around the site, including signage, to prevent trespassers from coming into contact with the contaminated soil and waste material. EPA proposed the site to the National Priorities List (NPL) in September 2004, and finalized the site on the NPL in April 2005, making it eligible for cleanup under EPA’s Superfund program.

Complex cleanup sites are often divided into smaller, more manageable sections called Operable Units or OUs. EPA has divided the Hegeler Zinc Site into three OUs:

• OU #1: Former Hegeler Zinc property, including areas of soil, surface water, sediment, and groundwater contamination.
• OU #2: Affected areas of surface water and sediment outside the EPA-constructed fence.
• OU #3: Residential area located in the Hegeler neighborhood east of the former Hegeler Zinc property, from West Hegeler Lane east to and including Third Street.

EPA has identified several potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the Hegeler Zinc Superfund Site. PRPs are entities that may bear legal and financial responsibilities for a Superfund cleanup. EPA negotiated two separate administrative orders with the PRPs at the site, one order for OU2 and another order for OU1 and OU3, but as discussed below, only the order for OU2 was finalized.

Site Responsibility

The Hegeler Zinc Site is being addressed through federal and potentially responsible parties' actions.

Threats and Contaminants

The primary sources of contamination at the Hegeler Zinc Site are from areas related to the former smelting operations. The contaminants of concern associated with the slag pile and site property are metals, primarily lead, arsenic, cadmium, and zinc. The highest metals concentrations in on-site soils were noted near the former process building in the north-central portion of the site and within the slag pile. A significant amount of the slag within the facility is stored in a waste pile that occupies approximately 5.9 acres and rises 53.4 feet above grade. The slag pile is not contained and appears to continue to impact surface water in the area due to its proximity to the unnamed waterway flowing through the facility and into Grape Creek, which ultimately connects to the Vermilion River.

Contaminants of concern in the surface waters of the unnamed creek include pesticides, volatile organic compounds and several metals including arsenic, cadmium, and lead. In addition, pesticides and metals levels are elevated in waterway sediments of the unnamed creek, in comparison to sediments in areas that have not been impacted by industrial activity. Some fishing activity occurs within this unnamed creek. The low pH in site waters is attributed to the effects of mixing of rain water runoff with the slag waste pile. Grape Creek flows through small sections of forested wetlands and supports small wildlife commonly found in and around healthy creeks in central Illinois.

Elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, and lead were noted in the residential yards and roadway samples adjacent to the Hegeler Zinc facility.

Cleanup Progress

Following its listing on the NPL, EPA conducted Remedial Investigation (RI) sampling at the Hegeler Zinc Site in 2006, and then analyzed the data and summarized it in an RI Report dated April 18, 2007. The 2007 RI Report included a baseline human health risk assessment and a screening level ecological risk assessment. The objectives of an RI Report are to adequately characterize the nature and extent of contamination at a site and to assess the risks to human health and the environment. The next steps in the Superfund process for this site are to complete a Supplemental RI, a baseline ecological risk assessment (BERA), and a Feasibility Study (FS). The FS will look at the ways that a site cleanup can be conducted safely, effectively, and compatibly with state and federal laws.

EPA conducted negotiations with the PRPs for completion of the next steps in the Superfund process. In July 2009, an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) was signed by EPA, KIK Custom Products Inc., General Services Administration (GSA), and the site property owner for the preparation and performance of a BERA and FS at Operable Unit 2. The OU2 AOC addresses site-impacted streams (surface water and sediments) exiting the fenced former Hegeler Zinc property, including Grape Creek and an unnamed tributary to Grape Creek, and any site- and stream-related pesticide contaminant source and/or impact areas.

EPA had also negotiated a second AOC with GSA and Millennium (a subsidiary of Lyondell) for a Supplemental RI and an FS at OUs 1 and 3, but Millennium filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in January 2009, before the AOC could be finalized. Therefore, in August 2009, EPA initiated a fund-lead study to conduct the work that Millennium would have performed at OUs 1 and 3.

A bankruptcy settlement with Lyondell was approved in April 2010. As part of the bankruptcy settlement, the United States received partial payment by Millennium for claims relating to a portion of the cleanup costs for this site.

Operable Unit 1: Former Hegeler Zinc Property

In March 2010, EPA finalized the site-specific plans for the Supplemental RI at OU1, including the collection and analysis of soil, surface water and sediment samples and additional investigation activities for groundwater. The investigation activities have been broken up into four phases:

Phase I: During March-April 2010, EPA contractors collected surface and subsurface soil samples on-site, and surface water and sediment samples from an unnamed stream on the property and from Grape Creek, a mile north of the site. Seven new groundwater monitoring wells were installed: six mid-depth wells and one well installed in the slag pile. These new wells brought the total number of groundwater monitoring wells at the site to 17, adding to the 10 shallow groundwater monitoring wells that had been installed in 2006. During Phase I, the 10 existing shallow wells and the 7 newly-installed mid-depth groundwater monitoring wells were sampled for metals and perchlorate. Perchlorate is a chemical found in commercial fireworks, and this chemical was sampled because commercial fireworks have, at times, been stored in trailers at the site.

Phase II: The Phase I groundwater sampling results showed elevated metals concentrations, and percholorate was not detected. Three deep groundwater monitoring wells were installed and sampled during May-June 2010 to determine the nature and extent of metals contamination. All site monitoring wells (20) were sampled only for metals during this sampling event.

Phase III: The Phase II groundwater sampling results from the deep monitoring wells contained elevated metals concentrations. During August-September 2010, EPA contractors installed 7 additional monitoring wells at the site: 4 mid-depth wells and 3 deep wells. In September-October 2010, all 27 groundwater monitoring wells at the site were sampled for metals. 

Phase IV: After reviewing previous groundwater sampling results, EPA determined that additional mid-depth groundwater investigations are required at the site to properly determine the nature and extent of contamination beyond the site boundary. In January 2013, EPA installed 3 off-site, mid-depth wells and collected water level measurements and groundwater samples from all existing onsite and off-site wells.

In February 2012, EPA finalized the BERA Report for OU1. The BERA Report assesses potential risks to both land and water receptors (plants, animals, and fish) from site-related contaminants.

Operable Unit 2: Surface water and sediment outside EPA-constructed fence

In May 2009, KIK submitted a revised BERA work plan, which was approved by EPA, to begin an investigation into waterway sediments. The objectives of the work plan include the following: 1) identifying the types and quantity of pesticides- or metals-impacted sediments, 2) assessing the ecological risk associated with the detected pesticides and/or metals, and 3) attempting to identify sources of the pesticides and/or metals in the waterway sediments. KIK collected sediment and interstitial water samples in the OU2 waterways in July and October 2009.

EPA approved a BERA work plan addendum to conduct additional field activities at OU2. In early May 2011, KIK collected supplemental sediment samples to further assess conditions within the OU2 waterways. In September 2012, EPA approved the OU2 BERA Report submitted by KIK.

In February 2013, KIK submitted a Human Health Risk Assessment work plan for EPA review and approval.  

Operable Unit 3: Residential Area generally east of the Hegeler Zinc Site

EPA collected samples in December 2007 from 77 residential and 30 vacant properties in the neighborhood east of the site. One soil sample was collected from each property and analyzed for lead. According to EPA health guidelines, residential yards generally should contain no more than 400 parts per million (ppm) of lead. All residents who participated in the sampling event were provided with their results.

EPA collected additional soil samples from the residential yards in July 2009 during a more complex sampling project. At each property where EPA obtained a signed access agreement, five small surface soil samples were collected from across the front yard and composited into a single soil sample, and the same was done for the back yard. The samples were analyzed for arsenic and other metals, including lead. In late June 2010, EPA provided property owners who participated in the July 2009 residential sampling event both their front yard and back yard arsenic and lead sampling results.

In mid-October 2010, EPA conducted supplemental residential soil sampling activities in two neighborhoods near the site. Only residents who signed access agreements granting EPA permission to sample their yards had their properties tested for lead and other metals; 45 residential properties were sampled in Tilton and 31 residential properties were sampled east of Hegeler and Georgetown Road.

All the residential sampling data collected at OU3 was evaluated in a human health risk assessment report. In addition, EPA conducted a Screening Level Ecological Risk Assessment, which assessed the potential impact to the ecological receptors (plants and animals) at OU3. The results of both of these reports were incorporated into the Supplemental RI Report for OU3 finalized in January 2013.

The next steps in the Superfund process at OU3 include developing a feasibility study which will evaluate cleanup options for contaminated residential properties. EPA will then issue a Proposed Plan that describes EPA's recommended cleanup option as well as the other options under consideration. The public will be able to comment on the Proposed Plan before a final cleanup plan is selected.

Community Involvement

Site photos, presentation slides, the April 2007 RI Report, and other site-related documents can be found at the EPA website: http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/hegelerzinc/index.htm. In addition, site documents can be read at either the Danville or Westville Public Libraries, EPA's information repositories for the site. EPA will hold future public meetings as work progresses at the site.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
colleen moynihan (moynihan.colleen@epa.gov)
(312) 353-8196

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
teresa jones
(312) 886-0725

Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.


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