News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
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Cleanup at Waukegan Lakefront Superfund Site to Continue

According to a recent article in the Lake County News-Sun, the U.S. EPA and the State of Illinois are set to invest tens of millions of dollars to continue cleanup at the Outboard Marine Corporation (“OMC”) Superfund Site.

Here is how U.S. EPA describes the OMC Site: It “is located on Lake Michigan around the northern Waukegan Harbor area in Waukegan, Illinois.  The site contains four cleanup parcels, called “operable units” (OU).  The Waukegan Harbor (WH) site is OU #1.  The Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke Plant (WCP) site is OU #2.  The PCB containment cells that were created when the harbor was cleaned up in 1990-1993 comprise OU #3, and the OMC Plant 2 site is OU #4.

“Waukegan Harbor is a federally-authorized harbor that was constructed in the late 1800s. . . . From approximately 1948 to 1971, OMC purchased an estimated 8 million gallons of hydraulic fluid that contained PCBs and used it in its OMC Plant 2 building in its die casting process to make outboard motors.  The fluids containing PCBs were sometimes discharged through floor drains onto the OMC Plant 2 property and also into Waukegan Harbor.  As a result, 700,000 pounds of PCBs were estimated to be present in the soil on the OMC Plant 2 site and 300,000 pounds of PCBs were in the sediment in Waukegan Harbor.  OMC cleaned up PCB-contaminated northern harbor sediment and some of the OMC Plant 2 soils in 1990-1993.

“OMC also operated several vapor degreasers at the OMC Plant 2 facility to clean newly made parts with trichloroethylene (TCE).  Leaking degreasers and/or TCE storage tanks have created a widespread TCE groundwater contaminant plume and an isolated dense, non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) pool of TCE beneath the OMC Plant 2 site.  OMC abandoned the Plant 2 facility in December 2002.

“In the early 1900s, a wood-treating plant operated on the WCP site, followed by a manufactured gas plant in the 1920s and a coke oven gas plant in the 1940s.  The plant was purchased and disassembled by OMC in approximately 1972.  The WCP site was discovered during OMC’s harbor cleanup in 1990.  It has arsenic and polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) soil contamination and the groundwater is contaminated with high levels of ammonia, arsenic, benzene, and phenol.”

According to the Lake County News-Sun article, the new cleanup work will include dredging of the Waukegan Harbor:

“The harbor will be dredged to reduce PCB levels in sediments to 0.2 parts per million. . . . The dredging will go as deep as 10 to 15 feet, depending on what core samples reveal about PCBs in the sediment.  After dredging, a 6-inch layer of sand will cap the harbor floor.”

“The sediment will be pumped to the city-owned grounds at OMC Plant No. 2.  Eventually, the sediment will be covered with clean fill and could be turned into a park.  Water from the sediment will be returned to the harbor after meeting federal clean drinking water standards.

“The federal government is paying 90 percent of the estimated $35 million project, and the state will cover the other 10 percent. The project should be completed by 2012.

“Demolition of the final 600,000 square feet of OMC Plant No. 2 will cost about $21 million, funded by a federal economic stimulus grant.  PCBs, trichloroethylene (TCE) and asbestos must be removed before most of that building can be demolished by Tecnica Environmental Services and Brandenburg Industrial Services Co., both minority-owned businesses from Chicago.

“The remnant of Plant No. 2 that houses a decontamination unit, which is cleaning groundwater at the gas and coke plant site, will remain for another two to three years. The project to remove TCE from groundwater at the Plant No. 2 site will begin after building demolition is complete in 2010.  That work will take two months, and then the site will be monitored for a year.

“The TCE plume in the groundwater will be treated with iron filings and clay.  Iron reacts with trichloroethylene, which was used as a degreaser, rendering it harmless.  The clay will bind the sand aquifer to stop groundwater from flowing through the site.

“Environmental engineers also will inject sodium lactate, which is food for the naturally occurring bacteria that is already breaking down the TCE.  Bioremediation would take about four years.”

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

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