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Congressional District # 15


EPA ID# ILN000508134
Last Updated: May, 2015

Site Description

The 100-acre Hegeler Zinc Site is located immediately west of the Village of Hegeler and 3.5 miles south of the City of Danville in Vermilion County, Illinois. The site is in a rural area, bordered by farmland on the west and north. An automobile salvage yard is located about 1,000 feet northeast of the site. Approximately 1,700 people live within 1 mile of the site and the nearest residential area is directly east of the site.

Hegeler Zinc began smelting zinc in 1907 under the name of Hegeler Brothers and became known as Hegeler Zinc in 1913. The zinc smelting facility operated from 1906 until approximately 1955. Hegeler Zinc produced various grades of zinc slab and rolled zinc products, and also produced sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid was produced from sulfur gas that was collected from the zinc ore prior to smelting. The smelting operation resulted in large amounts of slag, which was stored in piles on the site. Slag is waste residue produced by the smelting process and contains unburned residues and metals such as lead, arsenic and zinc.

In 1942, during World War II, the Defense Plant Corporation, a U.S. government agency, added a cadmium-scavenging process to the zinc smelters to collect cadmium dust, which was then transported off-site to a cadmium smelter. Zinc smelting operations were shut down in November 1947 due to a lack of demand after the war. Zinc rolling and sulfuric acid production continued until 1955.

In 1954, Hegeler Zinc dissolved and deeded the operations to National Distillers and Chemical Corporation. The following year, National Distillers sold the zinc rolling mill operations to Peterson Filling and Packaging. The facility was then used to package insecticides, shaving products, and other items. In 1956, Illinois Fireworks Company purchased the remaining National Distillers property for the manufacturing of fireworks. Temporary small wooden huts and inoperable tractor trailers were utilized to store fireworks and positioned throughout the site. Many of these buildings and trailers remain at the site.

In 2001, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency collected soil, waste (slag), sediment and groundwater samples from the site and surrounding residential areas and waterways. Slag materials appear to have been used to cover roads in the Village of Hegeler and later as road base for black-top roadways, which have since been repaved with asphalt.

In May 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) installed a six-foot-high chain link fence around the site, including signage, to prevent trespassers from coming into contact with the contaminated soil and waste material. EPA proposed the site to the National Priorities List (NPL) in September 2004, and finalized the site on the NPL in April 2005, making it eligible for cleanup under EPA’s Superfund program.

Complex cleanup sites are often divided into smaller, more manageable sections called Operable Units or OUs. EPA has divided the Hegeler Zinc Site into three OUs:

• OU #1: Former Hegeler Zinc property, including areas of soil, surface water, sediment, and groundwater contamination.
• OU #2: Affected areas of surface water and sediment outside the EPA-constructed fence.
• OU #3: Residential area located in the Hegeler neighborhood east of the former Hegeler Zinc property, from West Hegeler Lane east to and including Third Street.

EPA has identified several potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the Hegeler Zinc Superfund Site. PRPs are entities that may bear legal and financial responsibilities for a Superfund cleanup. EPA negotiated two separate administrative orders with the PRPs at the site, one order for OU2 and another order for OU1 and OU3, but as discussed below, only the order for OU2 was finalized.

Site Responsibility

The Hegeler Zinc Site is being addressed through federal and potentially responsible parties' actions.

Threats and Contaminants

The primary sources of contamination at the Hegeler Zinc Site are from areas related to the former smelting operations. The contaminants of concern associated with the slag pile and site property are metals, primarily lead, arsenic, cadmium, and zinc. The highest metals concentrations in on-site soils were noted near the former process building in the north-central portion of the site and within the slag pile. A significant amount of the slag within the facility is stored in a waste pile that occupies approximately 5.9 acres and rises 53.4 feet above grade. The slag pile is not contained and appears to continue to impact surface water in the area due to its proximity to the unnamed waterway flowing through the facility and into Grape Creek, which ultimately connects to the Vermilion River.

Contaminants of concern in the surface waters of the unnamed creek include pesticides, volatile organic compounds and several metals including arsenic, cadmium, and lead. In addition, pesticides and metals levels are elevated in waterway sediments of the unnamed creek, in comparison to sediments in areas that have not been impacted by industrial activity. Some fishing activity occurs within this unnamed creek. The low pH in site waters is attributed to the effects of mixing of rain water runoff with the slag waste pile. Grape Creek flows through small sections of forested wetlands and supports small wildlife commonly found in and around healthy creeks in central Illinois.

Elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, and lead were noted in samples from the residential yards adjacent to the Hegeler Zinc facility.

Cleanup Progress

Following its listing on the NPL, EPA conducted Remedial Investigation (RI) sampling at the Hegeler Zinc Site in 2006, and then analyzed the data and summarized it in an RI Report dated April 18, 2007. The 2007 RI Report included a baseline human health risk assessment and a screening level ecological risk assessment. The objectives of an RI Report are to adequately characterize the nature and extent of contamination at a site and to assess the risks to human health and the environment. The next steps in the Superfund process for this site are to complete a Supplemental RI, a baseline ecological risk assessment (BERA), and a Feasibility Study (FS). The FS will look at the ways that a site cleanup can be conducted safely, effectively, and compatibly with state and federal laws.

EPA conducted negotiations with the PRPs for completion of the next steps in the Superfund process. In July 2009, an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) was signed by EPA, KIK Custom Products Inc., General Services Administration (GSA), and the site property owner for the preparation and performance of a BERA and FS at Operable Unit 2. The OU2 AOC addresses site-impacted streams (surface water and sediments) exiting the fenced former Hegeler Zinc property, including Grape Creek and an unnamed tributary to Grape Creek, and any site- and stream-related pesticide contaminant source and/or impact areas.

EPA had also negotiated a second AOC with GSA and Millennium (a subsidiary of Lyondell) for a Supplemental RI and an FS at OUs 1 and 3, but Millennium filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in January 2009, before the AOC could be finalized. Therefore, in August 2009, EPA initiated a fund-lead study to conduct the work that Millennium would have performed at OUs 1 and 3.

A bankruptcy settlement with Lyondell was approved in April 2010. As part of the bankruptcy settlement, the United States received partial payment by Millennium for claims relating to a portion of the cleanup costs for this site.

Operable Unit 1: Former Hegeler Zinc Property

In March 2010, EPA finalized the site-specific plans for the Supplemental RI at OU1, including the collection and analysis of soil, surface water and sediment samples and additional investigation activities for groundwater. Between 2010-2012, EPA completed four phases of groundwater investigations. A total of 17 monitoring wells were installed at the site, including shallow wells, mid-depth wells, deep wells, and one well in the slag pile. All site monitoring wells have been sampled for metals to determine the nature and extent of contamination. Perchlorate is a chemical found in commercial fireworks, and this chemical was sampled because commercial fireworks have, at times, been stored in trailers at the site. Groundwater sampling results showed elevated metals concentrations, and percholorate was not detected. In February 2012, EPA finalized the BERA Report for OU1. The BERA Report assesses potential risks to both land and water receptors (plants, animals, and fish) from site-related contaminants.

After further review of the groundwater data, EPA determined that additional mid-depth groundwater investigations was required at the site to properly determine the nature and extent of contamination beyond the site boundary. In January 2013, EPA installed 3 mid-depth wells off-site and collected water level measurements and groundwater samples from all existing on-site and off-site wells.

The next step in the Superfund process at OU1 is to draft the Supplemental RI Report. 

Operable Unit 2: Surface Water and Sediment Outside EPA-Constructed Fence

In May 2009, KIK submitted a revised BERA work plan, which was approved by EPA, to begin an investigation into waterway sediments. The objectives of the work plan include the following: 1) identifying the types and quantity of pesticides- or metals-impacted sediments, 2) assessing the ecological risk associated with the detected pesticides and/or metals, and 3) attempting to identify sources of the pesticides and/or metals in the waterway sediments. KIK collected sediment and interstitial water samples in the OU2 waterways in July and October 2009.

In early May 2011, KIK collected supplemental sediment samples to further assess conditions within the OU2 waterways. In September 2012, EPA approved the OU2 BERA Report submitted by KIK, and in April 2014, EPA approved the OU2 Human Health Risk Assessment Report. The next steps in the Superfund process at OU2 include developing a Feasibility Study which will evaluate cleanup options using the results from the HHRA and BERA reports.

Operable Unit 3: Residential Area Generally East of the Hegeler Zinc Site

On September 26, 2014, EPA selected a cleanup plan for the residential properties that comprise OU3 of the site. The selected remedy is outlined in a document called a "record of decision" or ROD. The ROD calls for removing soil from properties with high levels of lead and arsenic, replacing the contaminated soil with clean soil, and restoring the ground as near as possible to its original condition. EPA considered several alternatives before selecting this course of action. The estimated cost of EPA’s cleanup for OU3 is $4.3 million. The ROD is posted under the "Technical Documents" section of EPA Region 5's Hegeler Zinc website and can also be found at the Danville Public Library.

The next steps for OU3 include conducting the remedial design and implementing the cleanup. The remedial design is a set of plans and specifications that meet the requirements and budget as outlined in the ROD. Prior to starting the removal of contaminated soil, additional sampling is required to define the limits of soil excavation. EPA completed two rounds of remedial design sampling in March and May 2015. EPA anticipates that cleanup activities at OU3 will start in fall 2015.

Community Involvement

Site photos, presentation slides, the OU3 Record of Decision, and other site-related documents can be found at the EPA website: http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/hegelerzinc/index.htm. In addition, site documents can be read at the Danville Public Libraries, EPA's information repositories for the site. EPA will hold future public meetings as work progresses at the site.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
colleen moynihan (moynihan.colleen@epa.gov)
(312) 353-8196

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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