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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

BYRON SALVAGE YARD
(a/k/a BYRON JOHNSON)
BYRON, OGLE COUNTY, ILLINOIS


SUMMARY

The Byron Johnson Salvage Yard and the former Dirk's Farm property are in Ogle County abouthalf way between the cities of Byron and Oregon in the northern part of Illinois. Waste materialscontaining volatile organic compounds, cyanide, and heavy metals were disposed improperly atboth properties and resulted in extensive soil, sediment, and groundwater contamination. About150 residences are within a 1-mile radius of the site, primarily to the northwest. The areasurrounding the site is agricultural, residential, or wooded, with the exception of the ByronNuclear Power Plant.

Because of the groundwater contamination, most residences that used private wells have been connected to public water from the city of Byron. Nevertheless, the site poses a public health hazard for individuals who continue to use contaminated well water and for people living outside of the public water supply service area who use private well water that may be contaminated and are downgradient from the site.

Soil and waste removal, fencing, and establishment of vegetation at the Salvage Yard havereduced the likelihood of direct soil contact and dust emissions. Should the fence around the sitebe removed, any future development of the Salvage Yard may increase the potential for humanexposure to contaminated soil. The main health effect that could result from such exposure iscontact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Soil contamination at the former Dirk's Farm propertyhas been partially remediated and will be further addressed by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends monitoring existing area wells andrestricting new wells in potentially-contaminated groundwater zones, including the area whereresidents who are participating in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry'strichloroethylene subregistry live, and restricting development of properties where soil contamination exists.


BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Illinois Environmental ProtectionAgency (Illinois EPA) have defined this site as two areas: The Byron Johnson Salvage Yard(Salvage Yard) and the former Dirk's Farm property (Attachment 1). Both are in the northern partof Illinois in Ogle County about half way between the towns of Byron and Oregon. This site wasplaced on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1982.

The Salvage Yard consists of 20 acres divided into a 2.5-acre tract, a 7.5-acre tract, and a 10-acretract, each owned by one of three owners. In the 1960s and early 1970s, this area operated as asalvage yard and unpermitted landfill. The Salvage Yard is bordered on the west by Razorville Road.

The former Dirk's Farm property (Dirk's Farm), directly west of the Salvage Yard acrossRazorville Road, was also used during the 1960s and 1970s as a storage and salvage area. Dirk'sFarm is bordered on the north by Acorn Road. Now owned by Commonwealth Edison Company(CECo), the area consists of 160 acres of wooded and vegetated farm land. Except for theconstruction of the segment of the power plant's blowdown corridor that crosses the property andoccasional hay harvesting, the site has been idle since March 1973. Dirk's Farm was included inthe 1985 USEPA Remedial Investigation (RI) of the Salvage Yard to determine the extent ofenvironmental contamination.

The Salvage Yard and Dirk's Farm properties are in an area of hills and narrow drainagechannels. About 150 residences, primarily northwest of the site, are within a 1-mile radius of thesite. Most of these homes are in the Rock River Terrace subdivision, about 1 mile northwest ofthe site. The area surrounding the site is agricultural, residential, or wooded, with the exceptionof the Byron Nuclear Power Plant. Two small ravines, the West Waterway and South Waterway,drain the Salvage Yard into the south branch of Woodland Creek, an intermittent creek flowingnorthwest to the Rock River. Meyers Spring, a spring-fed pond, is about 0.5 miles northwest ofthe site. Dirk's Farm is drained by narrow drainage paths from east to west on the southern partof the property and south to north on the extreme northeast edge of the property.

Motorsport Park, which is used for motorcycle riding, is northeast of the Salvage Yard. Along the southern boundary is residential property where the owner of the 10-acre portion of the Salvage Yard lives. CECo owns the properties immediately north (Byron Forest Preserve District), southeast (Byron Nuclear Power Plant), and west of the Salvage Yard, which comprises about 480 acres.

During the 1960s and 1970s, both the Salvage Yard and Dirk's Farm accepted waste thatincluded cyanide, plating wastes, oils, and several solvents. Improper disposal of these wastesresulted in extensive soil, sediment, and groundwater contamination by volatile organiccompounds (VOCs), cyanide, and heavy metals. Initial investigations estimated that about 3,600cubic yards of extremely contaminated on-site soil were present. Data from private wells andgroundwater monitoring wells indicate that both the Galena-Platteville Dolomite (upper) and theSt. Peter Sandstone (lower) aquifers in the area are contaminated. Private wells use both aquifers.

A chronology of investigations and regulatory actions relating to the site follows (13)(38)(40):

  • October 1970: During an inspection of the Salvage Yard, Illinois EPA noted open dumping of oil and chemicals in the ravines. Liquid wastes had been dumped and drums were buried throughout the area. A strong chemical odor and soil discoloration were noted in puddles throughout the waterways and other areas of the Salvage Yard.
  • 1970 to 1972: Illinois EPA periodically inspected the Salvage Yard for operational deficiencies and ordered it closed in August 1972.
  • 1972 to 1976: Following a report of red discharge into Woodland Creek, Illinois EPA conducted field investigations that identified the disposal of hazardous wastes on the site. Contamination was found in soil, sediment, site runoff, and groundwater. Cyanide was detected in nearby private wells. After a series of inspections, the owner of the Salvage Yard closed the salvage operation and buried some of the drums.
  • 1974 to 1976: Dead cattle were discovered on Dirk's Farm. Autopsy confirmed cyanide poisoning, which prompted CECo to investigate the contamination of the property. Subsequently, CECo removed approximately 1,500 barrels of waste and 3,765 cubic yards of contaminated soil, and CECo attempted treatment of cyanide-contaminated soil.
  • 1974: High levels of mercury and lead were found in 30 private wells in the area. Illinois EPA filed a complaint with the Illinois Pollution Control Board against the owner of the Salvage Yard, citing that water pollution had resulted from the waste disposal activities at the site.
  • 1975: The Illinois State Geological Survey performed an evaluation of the Salvage Yard. Illinois EPA released a report that documented high levels of cyanide and heavy metals present in soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater on and near the Salvage Yard.
  • 1974 to 1980: Illinois EPA filed a formal complaint against the owner of the Salvage Yard, which resulted in an order asking that necessary actions be taken to comply with the law. The owner was found guilty in 1977 and ordered to undertake remedial activities.
  • 1981: Illinois EPA conducted an updated site investigation.
  • 1982: The Salvage Yard was placed on the NPL.
  • 1983: Illinois EPA conducted a CERCLA Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) focusing on contamination directly on or below the Salvage Yard; groundwater contamination potentially emanating from the site was not addressed.
  • June 1984: Illinois EPA signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for the removal of drums and heavily contaminated Salvage Yard soil.
  • 1984: Private well monitoring by Illinois EPA and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) detected VOCs in residential water wells near the Salvage Yard.
  • July 1984: Under an Emergency Action Order, Illinois EPA began supplying bottled water to residents along Razorville and Acorn Roads whose private water supplies contained trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination in excess of 200 parts per billion (ppb).
  • Late 1984 to Early 1985: USEPA initiated additional RI/FS activities to investigate groundwater contamination emanating from the Salvage Yard.
  • May 1985: USEPA built a fence around the Salvage Yard perimeter and posted warning signs.
  • September 1985: USEPA initiated a Phased Feasibility Study for the investigation of residential well contamination in the Rock River Terrace subdivision. TCE was present in the well water at a maximum concentration of 48 ppb.
  • May through June 1986: USEPA issued an Emergency Action Order to install carbon adsorption treatment units for residences along Acorn and Razorville Roads that were receiving bottled water.
  • June 1986: USEPA recommended that whole house carbon treatment units be installed for all affected residences in the subdivision.
  • July 1986: Illinois EPA signed the ROD for the design and construction of a water line to distribute potable water from the city of Byron to residences in Rock River Terrace subdivision and along Acorn and Razorville Roads. The city of Byron draws water from deep wells.
  • September 1986: USEPA signed a ROD for the temporary installation of carbon treatment units at residences in Rock River Terrace subdivision.
  • October 1986 to May 1987: Illinois EPA conducted a Salvage Yard cleanup and removal action, including excavation of buried drums, removal of surface drums, removal of soil heavily contaminated with VOCs and heavy metals, removal of soil with greater than 100 parts per million (ppm) cyanide, removal of miscellaneous debris, an attempt at treatment of less than 100 ppm cyanide-contaminated soil, and backfilling and regrading for erosion control.
  • June 1987: Pump tests at the Salvage Yard were conducted on both aquifers by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
  • August 1987 to August 1989: Illinois EPA funded construction of a water line from the city of Byron to the residences in the Rock River Terrace subdivision and along Acorn and Razorville Roads.
  • September to December 1987: USEPA and Illinois EPA sampled soil and sediment at Dirk's Farm and evaluated remedial actions for the Salvage Yard.
  • December 1989: USEPA initiated an RI/FS to fully address Dirk's Farm.
  • April 1991: USEPA and Illinois EPA began RI activities of Dirk's Farm including sampling of environmental media.
  • 1992: USEPA began remedial design independently of Illinois EPA. Proposed remedial activities included extension of the public water supply to more homes, plugging and abandoning wells within the anticipated area of the contaminant plume, restricting new well drilling, and planning for future monitoring of the groundwater contamination.
  • March 1992: Illinois EPA became the lead agency in providing an additional water line extension. Phase I of the project provided access to the city of Byron's public water supply for about 25 residences not included in the original water main extension. Phase II included: 1) abandonment and sealing of private wells within the plume of contamination for about 120 homes; 2) placing notices in the public repository and administrative record that some residents have been notified of potential health effects, yet refused to connect to the public water supply or abandon and seal their private wells; 3) placing deed notices on all developed and undeveloped properties within the affected plume boundaries.
  • January 1993: Illinois EPA and IDPH hosted a public meeting to discuss the issue of low levels of radium in the public water supplied to homes in the area.
  • June 1993: A public meeting and door-to-door visits with area residents were conducted to address the issues of radium in public drinking water and contaminated groundwater from the site. Staff visited about 30 homes and 15 area residents attended the public meeting.
  • October 1993: Illinois EPA began Phase II of well remediation, including abandonment and sealing of private wells within the plume of contamination.
  • December 1993: Illinois EPA completed the Phase I water line extension.
  • March 1994: IDPH released a health consultation concerning any future development of the Salvage Yard properties.
  • October 1994: IDPH released a series of health consultations comparing the health risks of public water containing low levels of radium and private wells contaminated with chlorinated solvents.
  • May 1996: IEPA collected groundwater samples in the area. Five samples were taken from the northwest plume, and five were taken from the southwest plume. Samples were tested for VOCs, and no chemicals were found above laboratory detection limits.
  • April 1997: USEPA held a public meeting to discuss the site remediation plan. The plan called for soil remediation at Dirk's Farm and a pilot test of the feasibility for a groundwater pump and treat system.
  • November 1998: IDPH and Illinois EPA collected residential well samples, a monitoring well sample, and a sample from Meyers Spring Pond.

B. Site Visit

IDPH staff conducted a visit of the Salvage Yard on July 28, 1989. The area was surrounded by achain-link fence that limited access to the site. The area is covered with trees and heavyvegetation. Two abandoned sheds were on the site, as well as an abandoned house, an abandonedmobile home, and piles of scattered refuse. In addition, two trailers used during cleanup activitieswere parked near the entrance to the site; however, these have subsequently been removed. Thearea of Meyers Spring Pond was occupied by tent campers. Although the campers were notpresent at the time of the visit, bottles found near the outlet of the spring indicated that springwater might be collected for drinking and general use purposes.

A later visit to the Salvage Yard on May 1, 1991, found further deterioration of the abandonedstructures and the collection of additional refuse near the abandoned house. Drums were presentnear a trailer used as a base for coordination of on-site activities. Dirk's Farm access road waschained, and a "no trespassing" sign was posted. Although CECo stated that access was limitedto company personnel performing maintenance activities and a local farmer harvesting hay, nobarrier prevented trespassing by foot or by an all-terrain vehicle.

IDPH staff visited the site on September 30, 1994. The Salvage Yard property remained fenced and the area itself was overgrown with grass, bushes, and small trees. A car, a boat, and a trailer were stored on the site. The fence line along Razorville Road was posted "Caution Keep Out -- Area Contaminated with Industrial Chemicals." The Dirk's Farm property west of the salvage yard had considerable grass and clover cover, and much of the property was wooded. Access was unrestricted to the property, and monitoring wells were visible from Razorville Road. A CECo electrical transmission line traversed the property. No evidence of trespassing was seen on the property.

IDPH again visited the site on November 18, 1998. Site conditions were unchanged, although signs were posted in the area that several nearby properties owned by CECo were to be auctioned January 11, 1999.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resources Use

The Salvage Yard and Dirk's Farm properties are in rural Ogle County. The population within1.5 miles is about 600 persons, with the majority of the population living west, northwest, andnorth of the site between the site and the Rock River. The general land use in the vicinity of thesite is industrial (Byron Nuclear Power Plant), residential, recreational (Motorsport Park andByron Forest Preserve), agricultural, and undeveloped.

Most of the undeveloped land surrounding the site is vegetated and is currently owned by CECo.This includes Dirk's Farm (160 acres), 80 acres of the Byron Forest Preserve, and the land southof the Salvage Yard (240 acres), with the exception of 10 acres of privately owned property duesouth of the Salvage Yard and the area around Byron Nuclear Power Plant. CECo personnel have access to Dirk's Farm to perform maintenance activities, and a local farmer occasionally harvests hay.

The 10 acres adjacent to the Salvage Yard on the southern boundary contain two homes that areoccupied by the owner and his tenants. These are the residents living nearest the site. Since theowner possesses a 10-acre portion of the Salvage Yard, both the owner and tenants have accessand occasionally use the area for vehicle storage.

Other residents near the site reside in three major areas:

  • Several homes are northwest of the Salvage Yard and north of Dirk's Farm along Acorn Road and north of the site along Razorville Road.
  • The Rock River Terrace subdivision includes about 120 homes northwest of the site along the Rock River.
  • The South River Road area includes several homes and farms west of the site along theRock River.

Several recreational areas are near the Salvage Yard:

  • The Motorsport Park, a motorcycle raceway, is near the northeast corner of the Salvage Yard. It is active primarily during the summer and fall seasons.
  • The Byron Forest Preserve consists of 80 acres north of the site and about 150 acres approximately 1.5 miles to the northwest. The Forest Preserve has several hiking trails for public use, and programs are offered for outdoor education. A fence erected by USEPA restricts public access to the site.
  • Lowden State Park is about 4 miles southwest of the site and receives about 400,000visitors per year. Park activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, basketball,soccer, and volleyball. Although the Rock River is used for boating and waterskiing, mostpark visitors do not swim in the river.

Despite the completion of a water line from the city of Byron, a few residents continue to useprivate wells for drinking water. Other residents disconnected their wells from their householdplumbing but use the well water for watering lawns, farm and domestic animals, and gardens.The area is rapidly being developed with new residential dwellings. These residences may or maynot be within the public water supply service area, yet may be downgradient from the site. Thispublic health assessment considers exposure to contaminated groundwater for those residentsstill drinking well water. The more probable scenario of exposure would be residents using thepublic water supply for household use and well water for outdoor use. A few residents have received variances for their wells not to be sealed due to their planned agricultural uses.

D. Health Outcome Data

Based on the evaluations performed as part of this public health assessment, IDPH hasdetermined that persons have been exposed to site-related contaminants. In addition, communityhealth concerns related to the site have been reported. In response to the contamination andconcerns, certain individuals with verified exposure to chlorinated solvents are included in theAgency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) TCE Exposure Subregistry andare being contacted at yearly intervals regarding their health status.

The State of Illinois maintains databases for cancer incidence and birth defects. Information fromthe Illinois State Cancer Registry is available for the years 1985 through 1995. No healthoutcome data have been generated for this site due to the small population surrounding the site. Large study populations are necessary to provide significant health outcome statistics.


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