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Congressional District # 10


EPA ID# ILD984807990
Last Updated: March, 2012

Site Description

The 16-acre North Plant former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) site ("North Plant site") is located in Waukegan, Illinois, at the southeast quadrant of the intersection of Pershing and Dahringer Roads in Section 15, Township 45 North, Range 12 East (Lake County).  Pershing Road borders the site to the west and Elgin, Joliet, & Eastern Railway (EJ&E) tracks are located along the eastern border of the site.  The North Shore Sanitary District's (NSSD) sewage treatment plant and retention basins are located to the east of the EJ&E tracks.  This area was formerly used as a landfill owned by Abbott Laboratories. There are wooded parcels to the north and northeast, which were previously occupied by the Greiss-Pfleger Tanning Company, and small areas of wetlands that are present at the southwestern and northeastern corners of the site, as well as along the eastern site border.

The site is mostly vacant land but still contains some concrete building foundations.  The North Shore Gas Company (NSG) owned a small parcel on the southern portion of the property when the MGP was operating that is currently owned by the city of Waukegan which uses it as a yard waste burning and composting area.  MGP operations were not conducted on this parcel.  Another parcel south of the city of Waukegan property is occupied by the A. L. Hansen Manufacturing Company. 

MGPs were industrial facilities that produced gas from coal, oil, and other feedstocks. MGPs started operating in the U.S. in the early 1800s, typically in urban areas where gas was used for lighting, cooking, and heating.  The processes used to produce the gas also produced waste and by-products such as tars, purifier waste, oils, sludges, and acidic waste.  On-site disposal of waste and spills and leaks often resulted in contaminated soil and groundwater.  MGPs were often located near water bodies and sediment contamination is also common.

The North Plant site MGP was constructed in 1912 as a gas production and storage facility and was operated as such until 1953.  Prior to its excavation in 1992, a tar pond called the "Waukegan Tar Pit" was located to the northeast of the site.  Gas was manufactured via coal carbonization (1912–1927), water gas (1927–1951), and oil gas (1951–1953) processes.  From 1953 to 1965, the facility provided a propane-air supplement to natural gas suppliers.  The facility eventually was comprised of twelve retorts, a water gas generator, gas purification equipment including oxide boxes, and two gas holders (200,000 cubic feet and 1.5 million cubic feet in size).  Underground MGP structures included a tar well and tar separator below the 200,000-cubic foot gas holder.  Aboveground MGP structures included: propane, oil, tar, and other storage tanks; coke bins; and a coke pile.  Gas production at the plant ended before the aboveground MGP structures were dismantled and removed in 1966 and 1968.  Historical records indicate the potential for contamination and migration of contaminants during plant demolition activities, including the rupture of a relief holder unit which released 400,000 gallons of water, tar emulsion, and tar to the soil.

Site Responsibility

The site is being addressed through potentially responsible party (PRP) actions under state and federal oversight.

Threats and Contaminants

Although some cleanup actions have occurred at the North Plant site, soil contains residual levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the BTEX group (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene) of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals.  The Waukegan Tar Pit was excavated in 1992; however, tar was observed well beyond the limits of the excavation, with tarry residues contaminating an estimated  67,400 cubic yards of soil.  Evidence of chlorinated solvents, free phase coal tar, and oily hydrocarbons has been observed in soil samples collected at the site.  Chemicals detected in groundwater samples from the site include VOCs (primarily BTEX and chlorinated solvents), SVOCs (primarily PAHs and phenols), heavy metals, and cyanide.  Sediments have not been sampled in recent years.

Potential human health risks could occur should site trespassers come into contact with contaminated soil or should site groundwater be used for drinking purposes.

Cleanup Progress

North Shore Gas (NSG) was merged into Integrys Business Support, LLC (Integrys).  In 2007, EPA was approached by Integrys, the site owner and potentially responsible party, with a request to address thirteen former MGP sites in Illinois including the North Plant site in Waukegan.  EPA agreed and entered into an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) with Integrys to conduct a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) at all the sites.  (Conditions and contaminants at the North Plant site are sufficiently similar to those of the twelve other Illinois MGP sites, plus seven more in Wisconsin; thus, since Integrys is a PRP for all twenty MGP sites, the AOC covers all twenty sites.)  The 2007 AOC allows for a streamlined approach to site investigation and remedy development.  Some benefits of the agreement include the use of multi-site documents, a mechanism to review the adequacy of past work, and flexible scheduling and prioritization of resources to address the worst contaminant problems first.  By the end of 2008, all of the multi-site documents had been approved, and site-specific work had begun at the North Plant site.

Previous Investigations and Remedial Actions 

Free tar removal efforts were performed at a ditch located on the site during the initial plant closing in 1968, with 25,000 tons of tar having been removed at the time.  In 1992, NSG conducted removal activities to address impacted material at the Waukegan Tar Pit under an AOC that EPA issued in 1992.  NSG excavated visible free-phase tar and then covered the area with a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cover.  Additional site characterization at the tar pit was conducted in 1995, and soil and groundwater sampling was conducted in other portions of the site in 2002 and 2004.  Tar-impacted materials were identified in several areas, including: the northeast portion near the Waukegan Tar Pit; the eastern and southeastern portions along the EJ&E railroad tracks; the northwest portion near the former aboveground gas holder and generator house; the center portion near the former purifying house and coke bins; and the southwest portion near a former tar pit structure.

Current Status

The extent of off-site impacts (to the east) has yet to be determined so additional investigation of the North Plant site will take place under the RI/FS as outlined in the 2007 AOC.  Integrys submitted a draft site specific RI/FS work plan to EPA for review and approval in December 2008.  The "worst problems first" prioritization approach for the twenty MGP sites delayed finalization of the North Plant site work plan until late 2011.  EPA anticipates that the RI/FS work plan will be approved in December 2011 and that field sampling and investigative work will begin in spring 2012.

Community Involvement

The EPA remedial project manager for the North Plant attended a Waukegan Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) meeting in November 2011 and provided an overview of the North Plant site, including a summary of contaminants with associated potential health threats and an update on site cleanup progress.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
Ross Del Rosario (delrosario.rosauro@epa.gov)
(312) 886-6195



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