A.P. GREEN REFRACTORIES MORRIS PLANT
MORRIS, GRUNDY COUNTY, ILLINOIS
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) determine if conditions at the A.P. Green Refractories site pose a public health threat. The A.P. Green site is approximately 7 miles east of Morris, in Grundy County, Illinois (Figure 1). IDPH has reviewed the historical and environmental data available to determine if a public health threat exists at the site. Concentrations of hazardous compounds have been identified in on-site and off-site sediment. The site was placed on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS) list in August 1980.
The site is on approximately 600 acres in a rural area surrounded by wetlands and recreational areas. It is bordered by scattered wetland areas and a General Electric nuclear waste storage facility on the northeast, Goose Lake Prairie State Park, Heidecke Lake and the Illinois River to the northwest and west, and a cooling lake for the Dredsen Power Station and the Kankakee River on the east (Figure 2). Scattered single family residences, residential developments, and previously strip-mined areas are south of the site. No municipal water systems are within 3 miles of the site. The private wells around the site are believed to be approximately 100 feet or greater in depth and have a sulfur odor associated with them (1).
A.P. Green began operations in 1963 on the site that consisted of mining clay from old strip mines. This clay was mined 3 to 25 feet below the ground surface and was used to manufacture refractory bricks. After the mining operations ceased, A.P. Green manufactured alumina-chromic oxide plastics for use in high temperature environments. By-products generated from these operations were allegedly recycled and used as product. This facility operated until 1986 when operations were moved to other A.P. Green plants. The production building remains, and according to A.P. Green, it is empty. An office next to the production building appeared to be occupied when IDPH personnel visited the site on March 20, 1997.
In 1977 and 1978, A.P. Green accepted sludge from the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago (MSDGC). Allegedly, this sludge was used as a nutrient for depleted soils and to neutralize the acid water in the "clay pits." Analysis of the sludge revealed the presence of heavy metals.
In 1984, IEPA conducted a CERCLA preliminary assessment at the site. Later in 1984, IEPA again inspected the site in response to a complaint alleging that A.P. Green had improperly disposed of 6 transformers at the site. Six A.P. Green representatives denied any such activities, and IEPA personnel did not find evidence of transformer disposal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Ecology and Environment inspected the facility in 1986 and identified sludge, acids, and bases as concerns. A 1993 Site Inspection Prioritization (SIP) Report conducted by B&V Waste Science and Technology Corporation also identified heavy metals from the sludge as contaminants of concern (1).
Regulatory involvement at the site has been limited to the aforementioned IEPA and USEPA CERCLA inspections. The facility was never regulated under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) and was not part of any regular IEPA or USEPA inspection program.
In August 1995, the IEPA CERCLA Site Team Evaluation Prioritization (STEP) field sampling activities were conducted. Eight on-site and 3 off-site sediment samples, 1 on-site well, and 2 off-site residential water samples were collected during the inspection. The sediment samples were taken to determine if contaminants were present on the site and if contaminants had migrated off the site. The water samples were collected to assess whether plant site activities had adversely affected the underlying groundwater. Future plans for the property include a residential development around and recreational use of the main body of water. Plans are to provide the new subdivision with water from a public water supply (2).
IDPH regional staff visited the site on March 20, 1997. Site access was not restricted. A gate at the intersection of the plant road and Dresden Road was open. Trash cans were set on the side of the road for garbage pick-up. Although no one was home, an on-site house appeared to be occupied. IDPH staff saw a picnic table and tire tree swing in the front yard. Likewise, an office-type building west of the former production facility was occupied. A Chevrolet utility vehicle was parked next to the office. IDPH staff saw a water cooler, a bicycle, and a gasoline can near the office. A backhoe and grader were sitting in the parking lot. Two mobile homes (construction trailers) were parked immediately east of the production facility. IDPH staff did not see anyone in the office at the time of the site visit.
The clay pits contained water at levels 1 to 2 feet below the ground surface. The largest pit was directly south of the former production facility. That pit is believed to be about 40 feet deep. Geese were seen swimming in the water. Water flow from these areas is believed to be channeled to the eastern end of the site through a series of ditches and small ponds. Near the entrance to the site, this water is directed into one large culvert and flows under Dresden Road.
To date, IEPA has not been able to identify the location of the sludge applications. No visible signs of stained soils, stressed vegetation or waste piles have been identified. IEPA found some abandoned heavy equipment behind the house (west). Also, IEPA found seven 55-gallon drums that appeared to have "Crusher" oil oozing from them onto the ground. Next to the drums was a larger container with a garden hose attached. IEPA found old railroad ties and a refrigerator between the drums and the gravel road.
Grundy County Health Department personnel were familiar with this site, but no one had reported any health concerns about the site to them (3).