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Congressional District # 11


EPA ID# ILD980606750
Last Updated: February, 2012

Site Description

The Ottawa Radiation Areas, located in LaSalle County, Illinois, consists of 16 areas, contaminated by radioactive materials. The 16 areas are scattered throughout the city of Ottawa as well as locales outside the city. They've been added to the National Priorities List (NPL) as one site, because they are contaminated by the same wastes, involve the same potentially responsible parties (PRPs), and require cleanup activities for the same media. It's believed that the contamination originated from the processing of wastes and demolition debris from the Radium Dial Co. from 1918 to 1936 and Luminous Processes, Inc. from 1937 to 1978. These businesses produced luminous dials for clocks and watches, using radium-based paint. It was discovered that radioactive waste from the two companies had been used as filler materials in the Ottawa area. Fourteen contaminated areas in and near Ottawa, Illinois, were identified by radiation surveys performed by the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety (IDNS), the United States Department of Energy (DOE), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Many of the 14 areas are residential sections and include some buildings. The homes of approximately 50 people were built on soil contaminated by radioactive materials. Approximately 24,207 people live in Ottawa.

Site Responsibility

This site is being addressed through federal and state actions.

Threats and Contaminants

Surface and subsurface soils in various areas of Ottawa have been contaminated with radioactive wastes. Some buildings in the Ottawa area are contaminated with radon. Soil samples, collected from the landfilled areas, were found to have elevated levels of the radioactive contaminant radium-226. Site access for some areas is unrestricted, and individuals could be at risk from direct contact with, or accidental ingestion of, contaminated soils. 

Cleanup Progress

In 1986, IDNS removed contaminated soils, located near homes in one of the contaminated areas and purchased one home in another area. Radon reduction systems were installed in two homes and a business in 1988 by U.S. EPA. In 1990, U.S. EPA moved a home to uncontaminated property, owned by the resident. Late in 1994, U.S. EPA, working with the IDNS, began removing radium-contaminated soil from the radiation areas. The material that was removed was shipped to a low-level radioactive hazardous waste disposal facility in Utah. To date removal activities for the most part have been completed at nine of the areas. Approximately 32,000 cubic yards of radioactive soils and debris have been removed.

Two additional areas were discovered after the removal activities.  The seven remaining areas are being addressed through the Superfund remedial program. As part of the remedial process, additional characterization, including sampling of soils, groundwater, sediments, and surface water, has been conducted at the remaining areas. Characterization or remedial investigation reports have been developed for each of the areas. From this information risk assessments, engineering evaluation/cost analyses, and feasibility studies were produced. Records of decision were signed in September 2000 and September 2003, recommending complete removal of radium-contaminated soil from five of the areas where future residential use is likely and removal to 10 feet below ground surface at one area where future recreational and commercial/industrial use is planned. Costs for the cleanup at the areas are estimated at $56 million. To date all activities have been conducted with Superfund resources. The remedial design activities have been completed for NPL-1, 4, 8, 9, 11, and Illinois Power Building. The cleanup activities for NPL-1, 9, 11 and Illinois Power Building were started in November 2006 but not all of the tasks were completed as planned. The cleanup was completed at NPL-9 and the Illinois Power Building.  Approximately 4840 tons and 23 tons of soil were excavated from the areas, respectively.  Approximately 11,416 tons of soil was excavated from NPL-1 but an investigation to further delineate contamination is warranted before continuing cleanup activities.  Due to time and budgetary constraints, cleanup activities at NPL-11 were never started.  In August 2010, U.S. EPA issued a Record of Decision Amendment for institutional controls for NPL-11.

In 2006, U.S. EPA began to conduct a remedial investigation of the property adjacent to the former Luminious Processes, Inc.  An Explanation of Significant Differences was signed in March 2007.  U.S. EPA has determined that the area meets the criteria of the Presumptive Remedy “Plug-in” Record of Decision for the Ottawa Radiation Areas that was issued on September 2003 for residential use.  The remedial design for the property adjacent to the former Luminious Processes, Inc. was completed in December 2007 and the cleanup was completed in the fall of 2009.  A total of 420 cubic yards of radioactive contaminated material was tranported from the Luminious Processes, Inc. Adjacent site to the U.S. Ecology Idaho waste facility.

EPA completed the site-wide five-year review to determine if the remedy remains protective of human health and the environment on November 7, 2011.  EPA has detemined that the remedies at NPL-9, NPL-11, Illinois Power, and Luminous Processes, Inc. Adjacent subareas are protective.  The remedies at NPL-1, NPL-4, and NPL-8 have yet to be fully implemented, however, once implemented the remedies are expected to be protective.

Property Reuse

The Illinois Power Building is currently being rented out as a law office.  A restrictive convenant was issued September 2008 for the Illinois Power Building.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
nabil fayoumi (fayoumi.nabil@epa.gov)
(312) 886-6840

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
cheryl allen
(312) 353-6196


SITE 16/17
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Site Profile Information

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


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