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Joliet Army Ammunition Plant


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The Joliet Army Ammunition Plant is a 23,000 acre site that is located at Wilmington, Illinois, ten miles south of Joliet. The facility was built in 1940 and was a major center for the manufacture of ammunition for World War II, the Korean War, and the war in Viet-Nam. The facility was substantially closed during 1978, although some minor manufacturing occurred until September 1999. The plant was declared excess by the Army in 1993 and a land use plan for the property was developed by a local citizen's committee. The primary use for the site will be the 19,000 acre Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service (USDA-FS). The land use plan also included a national veterans cemetery, a sanitary landfill for Will County, and two industrial parks. Special legislation, the Illinois Land Conservation Act of 1995, was enacted in order to implement the land use plan. Shortly after the legislation was passed, approximately 15,000 acres were transferred to the USDA-FS and 980 acres were transferred to the Veterans Administration for the cemetery. These were buffer areas and areas of the plant where no contamination had been found.

The site has been placed on the National Priorities List in order to facilitate the cleanup of the contamination caused by the munitions manufacturing and assembly activities. Two NPL sites have been established, one for the Manufacturing (MFG) Area where TNT, tetryl, and other explosives were manufactured and one for the Load-Assembly-Packing (LAP) Area where the explosives were placed in shells and final manufacture and packaging of ammunition was completed.

From the early 1940s through 1977 more than four billion pounds of explosives, primarily trinitrotoluene (TNT) and tetryl, were made in the MFG Area. The production facilities are located on the northern half of the MFG Area. The southern half of the MFG Area is occupied by extensive explosives storage facilities. The MFG Area includes: the former TNT and tetryl production lines; the TNT ditch complex, where process wash and waste waters (red water) were discharged or transported for treatment; the red water area which consisted of storage tanks, incinerators, evaporators, and a lined lagoon; the Flashing Grounds, used for flash burning material to remove explosive residues; two large incinerator ash piles covering approximately 15 acres; two landfills covering approximately 90 acres; an area formerly used for the production of lead azide; and a number of groundwater plumes contaminated with explosives, volatile organic compounds, and/or metals. The area contains 139,500 cubic yards of soil contaminated with explosives, primarily TNT, tetryl, and dinitrotoluene (DNT). There are also 13,500 cubic yards of soil contaminated with metals, primarily lead, and 15,700 cubic yards of soil contaminated with explosives and metals.

In the LAP Area from the early 1940s through 1977 high explosive artillery shells, bombs, mines, and small arms ammunition were loaded, assembled, and packaged. Other activities in the LAP Area included testing of ammunition, washout and renovation of shells, and burning and demolition of explosives. There are 12,400 cubic yards of soils contaminated with explosives, primarily TNT, Royal Demolition Explosive (RDX), and octogen (HMX), 9,400 cubic yards of soils contaminated with metals, primarily lead and arsenic, and 17,500 cubic yards of soils contaminated with both metals and explosives in the LAP Area. There are also two landfills, each containing approximately 36,000 cubic yards of waste. In addition, there is relatively minor soil contamination by oils and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and several small areas containing unexploded ordnance. Four separate groundwater plumes contaminated with explosives have been identified.

In November 1998 a Record of Decision (ROD) was signed for the entire Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. The ROD presented both final and interim response actions for contaminated soil and final response actions for contaminated groundwater. Final actions include: excavation and on-site treatment for explosives contaminated soil; excavation and on-site or off-site treatment for other contaminated soil; excavation and off-site disposal for the two ash piles and one landfill; capping three landfills; and natural attenuation with deed restrictions for the groundwater plumes.

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Current Status of Remedial Activities

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Composting was chosen to bioremediate explosives-contaminated soil. The biotreatment facility was built in the Fall of 1999, and consists of three 25,200 square-foot buildings, where batches of soil are mixed with organic material, an 80,000 cubic yard stockpile area, and a one million-gallon stormwater basin. As July 1993, approximately 110,000 cubic yards of explosives contamined soil have been excavated and successfully bioremediated.

Remedial activities conducted in the Fall of 1999 resulted in the excavation and off-site disposal of 3,950 cubic yards of soil contaminated with PCBs from the LAP Area.

Semiannual groundwater monitoring has been conducted since Spring 1999 to support the monitored natural attenuation remedy.

The cleanup of the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant is expected to continue until at least 2010.

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Land Transfer

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Approximately 15,000 acres were transferred to the USDA in November 1996 for the establishment of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Midewin is part of the Prairie Parkland, an area of approximately 40,000 acres that includes the Illinois Department of Conservation's Des Plaines Conservation Area, Goose Lake Prairie State Park, Heidecke Lake Fish and Wildlife Area and portions of corporate lands owned by Commonwealth Edison, General Electric, Mobile Corporation, Amoco Corporation, Stephan, Dow Chemical, and other important tracts. The Prairie Parkland provides a unique opportunity to protect, restore, and manage the largest prairie ecosystem east of the Mississippi River. Midewin is the largest, contiguous unit of land within the Prairie Parkland. The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is in its infancy of development and currently has little to no established uses other than agricultural leases and some hunting opportunities. For more information about the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, visit its web site at www.fs.fed.us/mntp.

Approximately 980 acres were accepted by the Veterans Administration in January 1997 for the establishment of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. An opening dedication ceremony for the cemetery was held in October 1999. As of September 2002, almost 4,800 people, including spouses of veterans, have been buried in the cemetery. Eventually, 400,000 veterans could rest there. It will be the country's second largest veterans cemetery and the most expensive ever built.

No further remedial actions were required for a portion of the MFG Area to become an industrial park. EPA concurred with the Army's Finding of Suitability to Transfer (FOST) for this parcel in March 1999. In August 2000, 1,300 acres were transferred to CenterPoint Properties to build the $2 to $3 billion industrial park, with a transportation hub and 17 million square feet for light industry. The construction of the industrial park, estimated to take 10-12 years, began immediately. CenterPoint estimates that 20,000 construction jobs will be created and that 8,000 to 12,500 permanent jobs will be available afterward. Another 218 acres were transferred in May 2001 after being cleaned up by the Army. The intermodal rail facility opened in September 2002, and construction on the first million square feet of commercial/industrial space was completed on November 2002.

Additionally in August 2000, 700 acres of the LAP Area were transferred to the Joliet Arsenal Development Authority, a State agency created to oversee the conversion of the former munitions plant, for the development of an industrial park. The balance of the acre for this industrial park is scheduled to be transferred in 2003. Currently, plans are to construct a training.

The Army released a FOST for the Will County landfill property in May 1999 for public comment. No further remedial actions are required for this property. The land was transfered to Will County in March 2002, and the landfill is expected to open in 1995.

Ongoing Discussions to Finalize Interim Components of ROD

At the time the interim ROD was finalized, there was disagreement between the USDA and the Army, EPA, and Illinois EPA as to whether the Remediation Goals (RGs) were sufficiently protective of workers and ecological resources of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. As a result, the RGs and the ROD were designated "interim" for the acreage that had been transferred, would be transferred, or could be transferred to the USDA by the Army.

To address the concerns that the initial cleanup levels were not protective, the interim RGs in the ROD were subject to reevaluation by a management team, comprised of representatives from EPA, Illinois EPA, Army, USDA, USDA-FS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Management Group was formed in March 1999 to achieve the following goals:

• Develop and maintain working relationships to provide for respectful dialogue in resolving clean up of Joliet Army Ammunition Plant for USDA lands.

• Agree on alternatives that will be taken through detailed analysis in the Draft Feasibility Study.

• Agree on other elements that may be relevant to the selected preliminary remediation goals.

The first task of the Management Group was to assemble a team of experts to review the existing human health and ecological risk assessments that had been prepared by the Army before the designation of the site as a prairie. The Management Group appointed two separate groups for these tasks: an Ecological Risk Assessment Review Team and a Human Health Risk Assessment Review Team. Both groups, set up to function under strict consensus rules where all members must support and/or accept a decision for it to pass, were to perform their work and make their recommendation to the Management Group by April 26, 2000. The Management Team charged the Ecological Risk Assessment Review Team to achieve the following goals:

• By consensus, identify appropriate and scientifically supportable ecological receptors; and

• By consensus, recommend the soil clean up levels for each contaminant of concern which are protective of the environment and "compatible with development of a tallgrass prairie."

• Additional potential goals: Identify important habitats, recommend remedial/restoration options and recommend ways to evaluate the suitability of the remediation goals in a five-year review.

Similarly, the Management Group charged the Human Health Risk Assessment Review Team to achieve the following:

• By consensus, identify and assess exposure pathways and appropriate exposure coefficients for the prairie worker and then recommend appropriate soil Preliminary Remediation Goals (PRGs) for each contaminant of concern under different exposure scenarios.

• Suggest potential remedial actions (if appropriate).

Both teams completed their work in September 2000 and delivered their reports to the Management Group. These reports form the basis of the remediation goals being developed by the Management Group under the same requirement of consensus applied to the risk assessment review teams.

As of July 2003, the Management Group continues to work on reaching consensus on the theoretical approaches to address contaminated sites and on establishing the first cut ecological and human health numbers. Final remedial alternatives for the interim component of the soil remedy will be developed and presented in a Proposed Plan. A final ROD is scheduled for September 2004.


See also:

Joliet Army Ammunition Plant NPL Facts Sheet

OSWER's page for this site


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