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Congressional District # 11


EPA ID# IL0000064782
Last Updated: May, 2015

Site Description

The Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Co. occupies approximately 160 acres where an inactive primary zinc smelting and rolling facility are located in the City of La Salle, La Salle County, Illinois (population 9,646). The southern portion of the property contains one active business, Carus Chemical Company. The Carus Chemical Company is a manufacturer of potassium permanganate and other specialty chemicals and employs approximately 100 people. The site itself is surrounded by the Little Vermillion River on the north and east sides and by private residences on the south and west sides. North and east of the site across the river lay farmland and a limestone quarry, respectively. Operation at the Matthiessen and the Hegeler Zinc Co. began in 1858 with all operations ceasing in 1978. The rolling mills were constructed in 1866 and incorporated into the business in 1871. The site also had an ammonium sulfate fertilizer plant which utilized some of the sulfuric acid that was generated; however, it only operated for a few years in the early 1950s. Matthiessen and Hegeler quit mining coal onsite in 1937, and in 1961 stopped the zinc smelting process. The manufacture of sulfuric acid was discontinued in 1968. From 1968 until the facility closed in 1978 only the rolling mills were in operation.

The rolling mills were purchased in 1979 by new owners and became the La Salle Rolling Mills, with operations at this location beginning in 1980. The rolling mills operated until the company went bankrupt in 2001. Large piles of slag material from past smelting operations are located on the property adjacent to the Little Vermillion River.

Drinking water for the city is obtained from several municipal wells. The closest well is located approximately 3,700 feet south of the site.

A CERCLA Screening Site Inspection conducted by the Illinois EPA (IEPA) in 1991 indicated that the slag piles contained elevated levels of heavy metals, which led to the listing of the site on the National Priorities List (NPL). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the site to the NPL on June 14, 2001, and finalized the site on the NPL on September 29, 2003.

Site Responsibility

This site is being addressed through federal, state, and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.

Threats and Contaminants

Samples collected from the two large slag piles located along the Little Vermillion River found that the material has elevated concentrations of several metals that include cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, nickel, and zinc. Samples collected from the sediment within the river were also found to contain high levels of the same metals found in the slag piles, indicating that the river had likely been impacted by the site. The surface water pathway was the primary pathway used to score this site for the NPL. Other samples collected on-site show low levels of a variety of contaminants that include pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and solvents and chemicals found in oil and coal. In September 1999, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a public health statement, stating that the site was a public health hazard due to the presence of cadmium and lead found in soil in the adjacent residential area.

Cleanup Progress

In September 2003 an Administrative Order by Consent (AOC) was signed by EPA and the PRPs to address several areas of concern in an emergency removal action at the La Salle Rolling Mills, including oil-contaminated waste piles, asbestos, and numerous storage tanks. The cyanide-contaminated waste material that was removed is being stored onsite and awaiting disposal at a licensed facility.

The long-term cleanup of the site is being addressed under Superfund's remedial process. On September 26, 2006, an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was signed by EPA and Carus Chemical Company. In the 2006 order, the Carus Chemical Company agreed to perform the RI/FS for the portion of the facility that they currently own and for the Little Vermilion River, with EPA concurrently conducting the RI/FS on the remainder of the facility and in the residential area adjacent to the facility.

Many residences surrounding the site agreed to have their yards sampled and screened for various metals contamination in summer 2006. While initial data did not show very high levels of metals contamination in the residential area, supplemental sampling performed at additional properties in late 2008 showed elevated levels of metals at some properties.

Phase I of the remedial investigation began during the summer of 2007 and Phase II began in the summer of 2008. EPA completed all of its investigation activities in the spring of 2010.

In September 2009, EPA conducted a time-critical removal action to demolish an old laboratory building situated adjacent to the rolling mill that was heavily contaminated with metals dust/debris. The time-critical removal action also removed friable asbestos located on the outside of the rolling mill and on the ground outside of the rolling mill.

The final RI Report summarizing the nature and extent of contamination was finalized in June 2012, and EPA approved the Feasibility Study in October 2014. The anticipated remedies for the site were presented to EPA's National Remedy Review Board in March 2014 and the Board made advisory recommendations in June 2014. EPA is currently drafting the Proposed Plan and addressing the Board's recommendations. EPA expects to issue the Proposed Plan for public comment in the summer of 2015 and to select a final remedy for the site in late 2015. 


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
demaree collier (collier.demaree@epa.gov)
(312) 886-0214

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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