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Congressional District # 08


EPA ID# WIT560010118
Last Updated: November, 2014

Site Description

The Better Brite Plating Company Chrome and Zinc Shops site, located in Brown County, Wisconsin, is a four-acre site. It is comprised of two sections of land that are divided by a residential area.  Formerly, groundwater was used for drinking water by both residents and the City of DePere in the vicinity of the site.  Metal plating operations were conducted at the Chrome Shop from 1978 until 1985 and at the Zinc Shop from 1968 until 1989.  It has been estimated that between 20,000 and 60,000 gallons of plating solution leaked from inground plating tanks at the Chrome Shop.  In addition, spillage of contaminated wastes has been documented.  

Site Responsibility

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is operating and maintaining the groundwater withdrawal system at the Zinc Shop, and maintaining the soil covers at both the Chrome Shop and Zinc Shop.  U.S. EPA partially funded WDNR until July 18. 2011.        

Threats and Contaminants

In early investigations, high concentrations of chromium, zinc, cadmium, and cyanide were detected in wastes, surface water and soil samples.  During periods of high water levels, chromium-contaminated surface water collected in the backyards of adjacent residences.  Area residents could be exposed to contaminants through direct contact or accidental ingestion.  There was an illegal discharge to a storm sewer.  Chromium contaminated groundwater was also recharging the sump of an nearby residence.   

Contaminants migrated into the shallow groundwater where the contamination has been contained by the formation and did not reach the sandstone aquifer, which was the water source for the City of DePere and for some nearby residents.  The primary groundwater contaminants have included chromium, nickel, cyanide, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene.   

Cleanup Progress

At the Chrome Shop, in 1980, the site owner installed surface water controls and a groundwater collection system.  In 1986 - 1987, U.S. EPA removed four subsurface plating and cleaning tanks, all surface wastes, and some visibly contaminated soil (summing to over 83 tons of contaminated soil; 9,270 gallons of chromic acid; 3,600 gallons of toxic liquids; 550 gallons of cyanide solution; 150 pounds of cyanide sludge; and 500 gallons of flammable liquids).  In 1988, WDNR razed the main Chrome Shop building, partially fenced the site, covered the site with clay, placed topsoil on the clay cover, and seeded it; and U.S. EPA took over operation of the surface water control and groundwater collection system.  In 1990 U.S. EPA installed a groundwater treatment system to treat collected groundwater prior to discharge to the DePere sewer system, and in 1993 installed a new groundwater collection system.  In 1993, U.S. EPA removed another 4,236 tons of chromium contaminated soil, and 6,103 tons of contaminated special waste soil and debris.  

At the Zinc Shop, in 1990, U.S. EPA completed removal of plating solutions and sludge stored in drums, vats and tanks, and installed a groundwater collection trench.   In 1993, U.S. EPA removed the foundation, two 15-foot dip tanks, other remains, and excavated contaminated soils to a depth of 20 feet below the former building foundation (totally to 2752 tons of hazardous chromium contaminated soil and debris, and 3,280 tons of special waste chromium contaminated soil and debris). 

U.S. EPA and later WDNR operated and maintained the groundwater collection systems while the WDNR conducted a more complete investigation of the remaining soil and groundwater contamination, and evaluated alternatives to completed the cleanup.  Through August 1999, approximately 2,330,000 gallons of chromium contaminated water had been removed from the Zinc Shop and the Chrome Shop sumps.  Total chromium concentrations in influent water from the Chrome Shop groundwater collection decreased from 500,000 micrograms per Liter (µg/L) to 150,000 µg/L between 1994 and 1999, when removal from the sump was discontinued at the Chrome Shop).  Total chromium in influent water from the Zinc Shop groundwater collection decreased from 600,000 µg/L in 1993 to 65,000 µg/L in 1999 and to 14,800 in 2009. 

In September 1996, based on the recommendation of WDNR, U.S. EPA selected the following actions to complete the cleaup: at the Chrome Shop, in place stabilization of the remaining chromium contaminated soil and groundwater; at the Zinc Shop continued collection and treatment of contaminated groundwater utilizing existing treatment equipment, which would be relocated from the Chrome Shop to the Zinc Shop; actions to prevent entry of contaminants into residential basements; ongoing groundwater monitoring; and institutional controls.  From September - December 1999, WDNR (with U.S. EPA funding) conducted the following work: Chrome Shop soils were mixed with a chemical reductant to a depth of 20 feet below ground surface; the Chrome Shop treatment equipment was moved to the Zinc Shop; the Zinc Shop collection and treatment system was started (previously Zinc Shop groundwater was transported to the Chrome Shop for treatment); a basement foundation sump was sealed; sump discharges were piped to the sewer; exterior foundation drains were installed for two residences; a fence was installed around the Zinc Shop sump; excavations were filled in with clean soils; and areas of disturbed soils were revegitated.  U.S. EPA issued a Preliminary Close Out Report dated February 2000.  

Since December 1999, WDNR (with U.S. EPA funding) has continuously operated and maintained the Zinc Shop groundwater collection and treatment system, and maintained the at the soil covers.  On March 18, 2010, the City of DePere and the State of Wisconsin entered an Environmental Protection Easement and Declaration of Restrictive Covenant to help prevent future misuse of the former Zinc Shop and Chrome Shop properties.        

The most recent Five-Year Revew for the Better Brite Site was completed in November 2014. The Five-Year Revew report conculded that the remedy currently protects human health and the environment in the short-term. The groundwater extraction and treatment system began operating at the Zinc Shop in November of 1999, and is maintained by WDNR. A Preliminary Closeout Report (PCOR) for the Site was signed in February 2000. The Grant Street Municipal well, located 250 feet northwest of the Zinc Shop, has been abandoned and the City of De Pere now draws its drinking water from Lake Michigan. Groundwater quality and public health concerns are regularly assessed at both the Zinc and Chrome Shop properties. The groundwater plume is controlled by the extraction system at the Zinc Shop, and groundwater monitoring indicates exposure risks to neighboring property owners are within limits established under Wisconsin Administrative Code NR140 Enforcement Standards (ESs) and Preventive Action Limits (PALs) at both the Zinc and Chrome Shop properties. Soil stabilization at the Chrome Shop appears to have lowered the concentrations of hexavalent chromium significantly, and the primary COC remaining above the RAS at the Better Brite Site is hexavalent chromium. WDNR will conduct environmental monitoring and operate the groundwater extraction and treatment system at the Zinc Shop until RASs are achieved. In order for the remedy to be protective in the long term, the following actions should be taken: a review of the ICs is needed to ensure that the remedy continues to function as intended and that effective procedures are in-place for long-term stewardship of the Better Brite Site. An Institutional Control Implementation Assurance Plan (ICIAP) or equivalent document should be prepared and implemented.    



Community Involvement

The State of Wisconsin oversees the operation and maintenance, and regularly interacts with community contacts.  The State provided required notices for the 2009 five-year review. 

Property Reuse

Usage of contaminated properties and groundwater needs to be restricted.   


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
william ryan (ryan.williamj@epa.gov)
(312) 353-4374

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
susan pastor
(312) 353-1325




Site Profile Information

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


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