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Congressional District # 12


EPA ID# IL0000034355
Last Updated: September, 2011

Site Description

The Old American Zinc Plant Site is a 132-acre inactive industrial facility in Fairmont City, Illinois, located along Kingshighway, just north of East St. Louis. Areas near the site are industrial and residential. Except for a few large slag piles, a soil stockpile, and a creek, most of the on-site property is flat. Crushed limestone has been placed over the slag (a waste product of smelting furnaces previously operating on-site) in many locations to construct roadways and parking areas. Sparse vegetation over most of the property consists mainly of moss patches, but wetland plants grow along the course of a creek and in a poorly drained, low-lying area in the southeast corner of the property.

From 1913 until 1967, American Zinc operated a zinc smelter facility on the site. In 1967, American Zinc moved to Sauget, Illinois. At that time, all structures were either moved or torn down and disposed off-site. The site remained vacant until 1976, when XTRA Intermodal, Inc. leased the site from American Zinc to use it for a truck semi-trailer leasing and storage operation. XTRA then purchased the site property in 1979. In 2003, the company discontinued its operations. The site is currently vacant. 

In 1994, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) tasked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IL EPA) to conduct an Integrated Site Assessment (ISA). Groundwater migration was not thought to be a concern because most drinking water wells are located more than three miles from the contamination and are upgradient. Site surface water flows through small drainageways into a large wetland area. No contaminant airborne release was observed during the ISA, although residents complained of particulates blowing off-site. IL EPA collected and analyzed numerous soil samples from residential and other surrounding areas. Many of the samples showed arsenic, cadmium, lead, and zinc at elevated levels. IL EPA also collected waste samples from on-site locations and sediment samples from on-site and nearby locations. The on-site waste samples indicated methylene chloride, semi-volatile, inorganic, and pesticide contamination. Sediment samples from creeks and wetlands indicated mostly inorganic contamination.

The Old American Zinc site is not on the National Priorities List but is being addressed under the Superfund Alternative Approach.

Site Responsibility

U.S. EPA successfully negotiated with the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for them to perform a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS). The RI determines the nature and extent of site contamination, and the FS evaluates various cleanup alternatives to address the risks posed by the contamination at the site.

Threats and Contaminants

Soil and slag within the 132-acre site contain lead, arsenic, cadmium, and zinc at elevated levels, as do nearby alleyways. Nearby surface water bodies have elevated levels of lead, zinc, and cadmium. Sediments from on-site and nearby surface water bodies have elevated levels of arsenic, lead, zinc, cadmium, and copper. IL EPA Class 1 exceedances exist for arsenic, cadmium, and zinc in site groundwater. Nearby residential properties, vacant lots, and commercial properties have elevated levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic from slag material that was transported from the site to those areas. 

Cleanup Progress

At the end of 1998, U.S. EPA agreed to accept cleanup authority for the site from IL EPA. In November 1999, U.S. EPA and its removal contractor took on-site slag samples, creek sediment samples, and nearby residential soil samples. The sediment sampling results showed high levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and zinc. The on-site slag sampling results showed high levels of arsenic, zinc, cadmium, and lead. A residential soil sampling result showed high levels of cadmium and lead.

On March 22, 2002 , U.S. EPA and a PRP agreed to an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) for the PRP to perform a non-time-critical removal action of contaminated soils from residential, commercial, and industrial properties near the 132-acre property. The PRP contractor mobilized to the site in June 2002 and completed the removal activities by June 2004. The contractor sampled soils from 462 properties near the 132-acre site, of which 339 were residential properties. The contractor excavated contaminated soil from 152 properties, backfilled the properties with clean soil, and revegetated the properties. The contractor placed the contaminated soils onto a soil stockpile within the 132-acre site, and stabilized and vegetated the pile to eliminate human health risks due to dermal contact, ingestion, and inhalation.

U.S. EPA and some of the PRPs entered into an AOC on June 6, 2005, for the PRPs to perform an RI/FS of the site and surrounding areas. On the same day that U.S. EPA issued the AOC, U.S. EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) to another PRP to perform and/or finance the RI/FS. The PRP who received the UAO has allowed access for site work and is negotiating with other PRPs to finance the work. 

A PRP under the AOC completed the RI field sampling work in January 2008 and submitted the draft RI Report in August 2008. The RI Report included risk assessments to identify exposure pathways and evaluate human health and ecological risks from site contamination. U.S. EPA approved the RI Report with modifications in April 2009. The RI Report concluded that there is current and future risk to human health from site contamination. It also concluded that site contamination may be adversely affecting the aquatic ecosystem in a very limited area and is adversely affecting wetland plants in localized areas downgradient of the site. The FS will evaluate alternatives to clean up the 132 acres (including the soil stockpile) and surrounding areas that are contaminated. U.S. EPA expects to receive the PRP's final FS in October 2011. 

Community Involvement

On January 26, 2010, U.S. EPA and IL EPA provided an update on site activities at a community meeting held at the Fairmont City Community Center at 6:30 p.m. The Illinois Department of Public Health also attended the meeting. On the following two days, U.S. EPA conducted community interviews to discuss concerns of nearby property owners and to discuss metals contamination in the soils of some of the nearby properties. 

Congressional Interest

U.S. EPA has been working with Congressman Costello's office and the Village of Fairmont City to keep communication open between the Village and U.S. EPA, and to address concerns expressed by the Village about cleanup activities to date. 


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
sheila desai (desai.sheila@epa.gov)
(312) 353-4150



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