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Outboard Marine Corporation

Site Information
Contact Information

Community Involvement Coordinator
Heriberto León (leon.heriberto@epa.gov)
312-886-6163 or 800-621-8431, ext. 66163

Remedial Project Managers
Timothy Drexler
or 800-621-8431, ext. 34367


(where to view written records)

Waukegan Public Library
128 N. County St.
Waukegan, IL

en español


The Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) Superfund site is located in the northern section of Waukegan Harbor in Waukegan, Illinois. The 100-acre site along the shore of Lake Michigan is the former location of a large outboard-boat-motor manufacturing plant and a former railroad tie, coal gasification, and coke plant facility.

Contaminants of concern at the OMC site include PCBs, which OMC used in hydraulic fluids at its boat motor manufacturing plant, and trichloroethene (TCE), a chlorinated solvent that OMC used to degrease newly-made parts. PCBs are found in Waukegan Harbor and on the OMC Plant 2 site. TCE is found in the groundwater under the OMC Plant 2 site. The Waukegan Coke Plant (WCP) portion of the site has a different set of contaminants of concern because OMC did no manufacturing there. Contaminants identified at the WCP site included tars, creosote, arsenic, ammonia, and phenol found in soil and/or groundwater.

Due to the OMC-related contamination, the Waukegan Harbor area was designated an “Area of Concern” as defined by the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Please see www.epa.gov/greatlakes/aoc/waukegan for more information on that process and the current status of Waukegan Harbor.

OMC declared bankruptcy in December 2000 and abandoned its manufacturing plant in 2002. The city of Waukegan purchased both the Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke Plant (WCP) site and the OMC Plant 2 property from the bankruptcy estate as part of its plan to revitalize the city’s lakefront.

Due to its large size, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has divided the site into four cleanup parcels: Waukegan Harbor, the WCP site, the three polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated soil containment cells, and OMC Plant 2.

Land use in the immediate area of the OMC site is marine recreational and industrial. Several large industries in the area use Waukegan Harbor to receive raw materials from cargo ships. The city of Waukegan has a public beach on Lake Michigan southeast of the WCP site. Once the WCP and OMC Plant 2 properties are entirely cleaned up, the city plans to use that land to revitalize the lakefront by zoning it for the construction of town homes, condominiums, and shops. There is more information at www.waukeganweb.net/index.aspx?NID=107Exit EPA Disclaimer

Description of photo

Image of the active harbor dredging operation. (PDF) (1pp, 17MB)

Waukegan Harbor

OMC first cleaned up Waukegan Harbor in 1992 by dredging PCB-contaminated sediment. However, EPA determined in 2009 that more dredging was needed to remove residual PCB contamination to fully clean the harbor. In July 2013, EPA completed hydraulic dredging sediment with residual contamination from the harbor and pumped it to the OMC Plant 2 property for storage in a consolidation facility.

Former Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke Plant

Soil cleanup on the WCP site began in November 2004 and was completed in November 2005. Thousands of tons of contaminated soil were dug up and then trucked off site for disposal in area landfills. Some of the more tarry material was trucked to Utah and Pennsylvania for disposal in facilities that burned the tarry material to generate electricity. After all excavations were completed and testing was done to show that cleanup levels had been reached, clean backfill material was brought in and a 6 to 10 inch clean top soil layer was placed over the site. The city of Waukegan now maintains the property.
The ground-water cleanup at the WCP site consists of two phases, one active and one passive. In fall 2008, the active phase began with construction of a groundwater treatment plant (in a building on the OMC Plant 2 property) to clean contaminated groundwater pumped from beneath the WCP site. Treatment occurred in innovative aerobic (oxygen-loving) bacterial reactors in which the organic chemical contaminants served as food for the bacteria. “Digested” water was then filtered and pumped back into the ground beneath the WCP site. The active groundwater cleanup was completed in September 2011.

The passive phase of the ground-water cleanup began in early 2012 and continues. This phase includes monitoring remaining residual groundwater contamination until safe levels are reached. The WCP site cleanup effort is the only cleanup currently underway at the OMC site that is not funded by U.S. EPA or the state of Illinois. North Shore Gas Company, General Motors Corporation, and the EJ&E Railway have conducted and/or contributed to the cleanup work being done at the WCP site.
Description of photo

A close up of the water treatment and sediment disposal facility. (PDF) (1pp, 20MB)

PCB Containment Cells

The three PCB containment cells were constructed and filled in 1992. The City of Waukegan, under U.S. EPA oversight, is in now in charge of their operation and maintenance. Since 2005, the city has been maintaining the surface covers on the containment cells, conducting routine inspections, and operating the ground-water pumps to remove and then treat water from inside the cells.

OMC Plant 2

The 1,000,000-square-foot OMC Plant 2 building and surrounding property was abandoned by OMC in 2002. Immediately afterwards, EPA conducted an evaluation of the contamination both within the buildings and in the surrounding soil and groundwater. After EPA determined that the eastern 400,000 square foot portion of the building was clean, the city of Waukegan demolished that portion in 2006 and disposed or recycled the resulting debris off site. The remainder was determined to be contaminated with PCBs as was soil and debris outside the building. EPA also found that ground water under the Plant 2 site was contaminated with TCE.

EPA received funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in June 2009 to begin cleanup work on the PCB-contaminated Plant 2 building. Demolition work on the 600,000 square foot building began in January 2010 and was completed in July 2010. About 5,000 tons of steel were recovered, most of which was recycled locally. In 2010, EPA also began digging up and removing contaminated soil and sediment for offsite disposal including some sand dune and stream sediment areas.

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Site Updates

July 2014

Waukegan Harbor Sediment Cleanup

Dredging of harbor sediment by EPA was completed during July 2013. Because OMC is out of business, EPA and Illinois EPA conducted and paid for this second harbor cleanup. Before dredging, a section of the harbor seawall was repaired. Additionally, a portion of the North Marina in Waukegan Harbor was removed so that contaminated sediment beneath it could be dredged. Afterwards, the marina was restored based on plans agreed to by the Waukegan Port Authority. On the former plant 2 site a temporary treatment plant was constructed for water produced during dredging. The treated water was returned to the harbor (see diagrams of the dredging and treatment operations under Technical Documents on this page) after sampling to insure that it met clean water standards (see the table of water sampling results under Technical Documents on this page). A consolidation facility (CF) was constructed on the former plant 2 site to contain the contaminated harbor sediment. The CF now holds 124,244 cubic yards of dredged contaminated sediment. A rock or concrete cover was placed over contaminated sediment areas within the harbor that were too close to the harbor seawall to safely dredge. After dredging was completed, the water treatment plant was dismantled and a smaller permanent replacement water treatment plant is under construction. A cover is also being placed over the sediment in the CF that should be completed by August 2014.

OMC Soil Cleanup
Most of the contaminated soil and sediment has now been removed from the former OMC site areas; however, areas of contaminated soil remain in the plant 2 area that either require excavation (eastern area) or will be converted into a containment cell (southwestern area) similar to the existing ones created during 1990s remedial actions. Completion of soil excavation is planned for August 2014. Completion of construction of the new containment cell in the southwestern Old Die Cast (ODC) area is also planned for fall 2014. A protective cover is planned for areas too close to buried utilities to excavate.

OMC Groundwater Cleanup
In September 2011, EPA installed an underground air-sparge curtain treatment system along the south boundary of the OMC Plant 2 property. The treatment system uses a line of air bubbles released in the groundwater to remove dissolved solvents from the groundwater before it flows off site towards the harbor. The air-sparge curtain system, now operated by Illinois EPA, will be operated for at least 15 years. In November 2011, a concentrated pool of TCE nearly 28 feet below ground surface was treated with iron filings that were injected into the TCE mass to destroy the TCE so that it cannot be a continual source of dissolved contamination to the groundwater. Treatment of dissolved TCE contamination in site groundwater began in May 2012, by injecting sodium permanganate to break down the TCE into non-toxic components. Completion of the first round of groundwater treatment was completed in July 2014. Plant 2 area groundwater will again be sampled in September 2014 to evaluate the success of the injection work. More injections will be performed, if needed.

The former Waukegan Coke Plant portion of the OMC Site is under a monitored natural attenuation remedy for residual groundwater contamination left after the significant contamination was removed. Clean sediment from the Waukegan Outer Harbor will be placed on the Coke Plant site during Fall 2014, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The sediment will be helpful to the City of Waukegan for their site future development plans.

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