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Congressional District # 04


EPA ID# ILD984809228
Last Updated: March, 2012

Site Description

The South Plant former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) site ("South Plant site") is located in an industrial/commercial area of Waukegan, Illinois, on Pershing Road in Section 22, Township 45 North, Range 12 East (Lake County).  The approximately 1.9 acre site is bounded to the north by the Waukegan Metra Train Station parking lot, to the west by the Union Pacific Railroad yard, and to the south and east by the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern (EJ&E) Railway line.  Immediately east of the EJ&E Railway line are properties owned by the Waukegan Port District and Akzo Nobel.  The South Plant site is owned by North Shore Gas (except for Pershing Road, which traverses the middle of the site and which is owned and maintained by the city of Waukegan), and is currently vacant, with sparse vegetation and remnants of former buildings covering the surface.

MGPs were industrial facilities that produced gas from coal, oil, and other feedstocks. MGPs started operating in the U.S. in the early 1800s, typically in urban areas where gas was needed for lighting, cooking, and heating. The processes used to produce the gas also produced waste and by-products such as tars, purifier waste, oils, sludges, and acidic waste. Disposal of waste and spills and leaks often resulted in contaminated soil and groundwater. MGPs were often located near waterbodies and sediment contamination is also common.

The South Plant facility was constructed in 1897 by the Waukegan Pipeline Service Company and purchased by North Shore Gas in 1900. The plant was operational from 1898 to 1946 except for a stoppage from 1927 to 1935, and was razed in 1951. On-site features included a coal gas condensing building, a purifying building, a generator building and a laboratory. Four tar wells and five storage tanks, three for gas and two for oil, were also located on-site.

Site Responsibility

The site is being addressed through potentially responsible party (PRP) actions under federal and state oversight.

Threats and Contaminants

Soil, groundwater and sediment at former MGPs are often contaminated.  Public water in the area is obtained from Lake Michigan (the water intakes for the city of Waukegan are approximately 5,000 feet southeast of the site) and no private potable wells are located within the vicinity of the site. Groundwater samples collected at the site from 2001 to 2003 and on adjacent properties from 2003 to 2005 contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs), consisting mostly of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX), semi-VOCs [primarily polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)], cyanide, and metals. Visible hydrocarbons were observed at or below the water table both on-site and on the adjacent Waukegan Port District and Akzo Nobel properties to the east.  Free-phase tar has been measured at thicknesses up to 1.5 feet in wells on the site and at thicknesses of more than 5 feet in wells 560 feet downgradient of the site on the Waukegan Port District property and within 160 feet of Waukegan Harbor. Tar is being recovered from monitoring and recovery wells located on-site and on the Port District property.

Numerous on-site borings have encountered visible soil impacts from former site operations.  Strong odors, a visible sheen, and soils saturated or coated with tar or dense non-aqeuous phase liquids (DNAPL) have been observed both on-site and on the adjacent Waukegan Port District and Akzo Nobel properties to the east.  BTEX, SVOCs, cyanide, and metals have been detected in soils on the site and the adjacent properties.

Information regarding current sediment characteristics is limited.

Cleanup Progress

North Shore Gas (NSG) was merged into Integrys Energy Group, LLC (Integrys). In 2007, EPA was approached by Integrys, the site owner and potentially responsible party, with a request to address thirteen former MGP sites in Illinois including the South Plant site in Waukegan. EPA agreed and entered into an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) with Integrys to conduct a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) at all the sites. (Conditions and contaminants at the South Plant site are sufficiently similar to those of the twelve other Illinois MGP sites, plus seven more in Wisconsin; thus, since Integrys is a PRP for all twenty MGP sites, the AOC covers all twenty sites.) The 2007 AOC allows for a streamlined approach to site investigation and remedy development. Some benefits of the agreement include the use of multi-site documents, a mechanism to review the adequacy of past work, and flexible scheduling and prioritization of resources to address the worst contaminant problems first. By the end of 2008, all of the multi-site documents had been approved, and site-specific work had begun at the sites.  On October 31, 2008 EPA and Integrys entered into an AOC which converted the EE/CA AOC for the 11 Chicago former MGP sites to an RI/FS AOC.

Investigations and Remediation Previously Performed

Numerous site investigation reports have been produced for the site and/or for the surrounding properties dating from 1991 through 2005. These investigations included a CERCLA Screening Site Inspection (SSI) performed by the Illinois EPA (IEPA).  Limited soil remediation was conducted at the site in December 2003 through February 2004 which included the excavation and off-site disposal of impacted soils located above the water table.  Approximately 19,250 tons of impacted soils were removed from the site and backfill was imported to replace the excavated soil.  A plastic liner was placed at the water table elevation to protect the imported backfill from potential contamination. This remediation effort did not address impacted soils located beneath the water table and did not include excavation of all impacted soils identified above the water table, but rather focused on those soils exhibiting the greatest degree of impacts.  No soil remediation activities have been conducted at the adjacent Port District and Akzo Nobel properties. Recovery of free-phase tar is currently being conducted at the site and on the Port District property.  Additional investigation of the remaining contamination will take place under the RI/FS.  The RI/FS work plan preparation began in February 2008 and was approved in 2009.  

As of September 2011, 8 rounds of quarterly groundwater sampling have been completed at the site.  Supplemental sediment and near-shore soil borings were collected in December 2011.  Vapor intrusion sampling in or near area buildings is scheduled for the spring of 2012. 


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
Ross Del Rosario (delrosario.rosauro@epa.gov)
(312) 886-6195



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