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Congressional District # 14


EPA ID# ILD980824007
Last Updated: May, 2015

Site Description

The Kerr-McGee Reed-Keppler Park site is one of four National Priorities List (NPL) sites in the West Chicago area that were contaminated with radioactive thorium wastes.  The radioactive waste originated from a nearby facility known as the Rare Earths Facility (REF).  The REF, operated by Lindsay Light and Chemical Company and its successors from 1932 until 1973, produced non-radioactive elements known as rare earths and radioactive elements such as thorium, radium, and uranium along with gas lantern mantles for private entities and the United States government's use in federal atomic energy programs.  The REF produced these elements by extracting them from monazite sands, bastnasite (rare earth ore), and other ores, using an acid leaching process. Production of these elements resulted in the generation of radioactive mill tailings that contained residual levels of thorium, radium, and uranium as well as certain other insoluble metals.  Kerr-McGee purchased the REF in 1967 and maintained operations until closing the facility in 1973.

The Reed-Keppler Park site covers approximately 11 acres of a 90-acre recreational city-owned park. Long before its use as a park, the area originally was used as a sand and gravel quarry and then as an open city dump from approximately 1939 to 1974.  The site became contaminated when radioactive thorium mill tailings from the REF were disposed in the city dump or used as fill material in and around the property.

Approximately 15,000 people live within three miles of the site.

Site Responsibility

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

Threats and Contaminants

Due to the disposal of radioactive thorium mill tailings at the site, soils at the site were contaminated with thorium and uranium and their decay products.  In addition, testing of groundwater monitoring wells at the site indicated some elevated levels of total uranium in groundwater.

People who came into direct contact with or accidentally ingested contaminated site soils or who were in close proximity to the contaminated areas and were exposed to gamma radiation could have been at risk. No one is drinking groundwater from the site. However, all contaminated soils were removed by the time-critical removal action that was conducted from 1997-2000 (see the Cleanup Progress section below).

Cleanup Progress

In spring 1993, U.S. EPA began a remedial investigation (RI) to determine the nature and extent of contamination at the site.  Based on the review of the data, U.S. EPA determined that significant risks existed at the site due to the presence of radioactively-contaminated wastes at the surface.  As a result, U.S. EPA decided to implement a time-critical removal action to expedite the cleanup of the site through excavation and offsite disposal of the radioactively-contaminated wastes.  In September 1996, after failed negotiations with the potentially responsible parties, U.S. EPA issued a unilateral administrative order to Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation and the City of West Chicago to conduct the time-critical removal action.

Kerr-McGee began excavation of contaminated soils in April 1997 and completing the removal in late 1999, removing 114,652 loose cubic yards of radioactively-contaminated material from the site.  Restoration work, which included backfilling, grading, re-seeding, replacement of groundwater monitoring wells and road work, was completed in November 2000.  U.S. EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) on September 13, 2002 selecting no further action at the site, with groundwater monitoring until sufficient data is collected to ensure that all groundwater concentrations are decreasing and that the drinking water standard for uranium has been attained and maintained in all site wells for three consecutive semi-annual sampling events.

The groundwater monitoring was conducted by Kerr-McGee (now known as Tronox) in accordance with a federal consent decree finalized on March 30, 2005.  By December 2007, all groundwater sample results collected during four sampling events were below the total uranium cleanup standard of 30 ug/L.  Based upon these results, US EPA declared the remedial action at Reed-Keppler Park complete and gave Tronox permission to abandon the groundwater monitoring wells at the site.   

As specified in the September 2002 ROD, U.S. EPA was required to conduct a five-year review of conditions at the site to determine if the remedy selected in the ROD continued to be protective.  A five-year review report was completed on August 13, 2007, and it is also available in the site information repository.  Now that the site has been cleaned up to the point where there are no residual contaminants remaining onsite that would prevent unrestricted use of the property, no more five-year reviews will be required for the Reed-Keppler Park site.

As of February 2010, the Kerr-McGee Reed-Keppler Park site was delisted from the National Priorities List.

Community Involvement

The local community has been very involved in site issues for more than a decade.  The Thorium Action Group (TAG) is a very active and vocal community group that has fought hard for the removal of the thorium materials from the West Chicago and DuPage County area.  EPA participated in regular meetings of the West Chicago Intergovernmental Forum, which included representatives of state and federal regulatory agencies, local community representatives, members of TAG, the PRP, and other interested stakeholders.

Property Reuse

The site continues to be used as a city recreational park.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
david seely (seely.david@epa.gov)
(312) 886-7058

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
janet pope
(312) 353-0628




Site Profile Information

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


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