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EPA in Illinois

Vulcan-Louisville/Fansteel Smelting Site

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March 2017 Update

U.S. EPA has been conducting groundwater monitoring at the Fansteel and Vacant Lot areas since 2010 to check on a plume polluted by a chemical called tetrachloroethylene, or TCE. “Groundwater” is an environmental term for an underground supply of fresh water. A “plume” is a mass of contaminated groundwater. Based on the most current groundwater monitoring results obtained this year, it is evident microbes have broken down some of the TCE into its component elements. This degradation process is called “natural attenuation” and is one of the goals of the cleanup work. However, natural attenuation in the groundwater of the Fansteel site may have leveled off. The last three rounds of groundwater sampling have shown stable or minor decreases in the TCE with no accumulation of the chemical’s component elements as would be expected with biodegradation. EPA will evaluate additional data to be collected in 2017/2018 to determine if possible enhancements are needed to speed up the natural attenuation process in the future.

Site Description

The Vulcan Louisville facility, a former smelting operations, is at is at 1 Tantalum Place, two miles east of the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Street (22nd Street) and U.S. Highway 41. The facility is bounded by the R. Lavin & Sons facility to the east, 22nd Street to the south, Commonwealth Avenue to the west, and the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad to the north.

Site Background

The Fansteel site was used for industrial waste disposal. Several environmental investigations have been performed. In 1998, EPA conducted a $3.1 million cleanup, removing 49,475 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sediment from the vacant lot. In 2002, Fansteel filed for bankruptcy. As part of a bankruptcy settlement agreement, Fansteel completed a site investigation. The company's property was sold to the city of North Chicago for $1.4 million, and Fansteel paid that amount to EPA to fund future cleanup at the site. Fansteel also paid EPA an additional $700,000 and the Department of Defense paid $425,000 to resolve its potential liability. Those funds were placed in a special account that EPA will use to help pay for the cleanup.