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News Releases from Region 05

EPA Requires Additional Manganese Safeguards at Watco Facility in Chicago

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Joshua Singer (

CHICAGO (November 12, 2019) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced an administrative consent order requiring Watco Terminal and Port Services to limit handling, storing and shipping of bulk manganese-containing materials to and from its Chicago facility by Jan. 31, 2020. Bulk manganese-containing materials are those materials which are open to the air, non-packaged and able to escape as fugitive emissions.

“Today’s order will help protect people on the Southeast Side of Chicago from manganese dust so they can breathe easier,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. “This agreement confirms and clarifies actions that Watco is taking to limit manganese emissions from its facility.”

Watco stores and handles bulk materials including manganese-bearing alloys at its facility at 2926 E. 126th St. in Chicago. EPA issued a notice of violation to the company on Dec. 18, 2018, for excessive manganese air emissions. EPA’s order is in response to those alleged violations and will help protect the health and environment of the surrounding neighborhoods.

EPA’s order requires Watco to remove all bulk materials containing 2% or more of manganese. The order also requires the company to continue air monitoring for small particles including manganese for six months after all loose manganese-containing materials are removed. Monitoring can end after six months if average manganese concentrations are below the conservative risk level set by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Manganese concentrations detected in the air around the facility dropped after EPA issued the notice of violation in December 2018. The decrease resulted because Watco stopped handling and receiving new manganese shipments while continuing to reduce its on-site inventory.

EPA will continue to post air monitoring data online and has notified community groups, the city of Chicago, and Illinois EPA about the manganese levels.

Manganese is an element used in the production of steel and other industrial processes that also occurs naturally in some soil, rocks, and foods. Manganese exposure can lead to neurological and neuropsychological damage if people inhale it at high concentrations.

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