PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
LANSON CHEMICAL COMPANY
EAST ST. LOUIS, ST. CLAIR COUNTY, ILLINOIS
The Lanson Chemical Company site is at 1300 Piggott and 31st Streets in East St. Louis, Illinois. The site is on 5 acres at the edge of the Alta Sita neighborhood of East St. Louis near the Alton and Southern rail yard. Before emergency removal actions in 1992, the site consisted of a main building containing many process tanks, an outside bermed area containing storage tanks, a loading dock, and a storage shed. The abandoned chemical facility produced various products for use in the formulation of paints, lacquers, floor waxes and varnishes, including alkyd resins and emulsion copolymers.
A remedial investigation conducted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) in 1990 detected contamination of the surface soil, sub-surface soil, groundwater, and buildings by chemicals used or found at the facility. These chemicals included chlorinated and aromatic solvents, ketones, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCB contamination of the soil and structure is attributed to an explosion of a reactor containing PCB oils; however, the facility may also have used or handled oils containing PCBs. Additionally, a large amount of liquid hazardous waste was held in the process and storage tanks and in 55 gallon drums scattered about the property.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) conducted the 1992 emergency removal action at the request of IEPA in response to vandalism at the site that resulted in the release of a large amount of the PCB-contaminated resin from the process tanks inside the building. During this action, the liquid and drummed waste and affected soil and structures were removed or decontaminated. The only site-related contaminant found off the site is Aroclor 1254 (a PCB congener) detected at low levels in the sediment of a drainage ditch northeast of the site.
The site poses no apparent public health hazard. Although citizens are concerned about what seems to be high cancer rates among community members, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) was unable to detect an unusual rate or type of cancer when analyzing the cancer incidence in the zip code containing the facility. Past exposures to air emissions from the facility before and during its operation undoubtedly contributed to odor and health complaints by residents. Additionally, exposure to contaminated soils and surfaces may have occurred after abandonment since the facility property reportedly housed a day care and is accessible to trespassers. Off-site movement of contamination does not appear to have occurred to any great extent based on residential soil sampling and limited groundwater monitoring by USEPA, IEPA, and IDPH.
IDPH recommends that remaining structures be demolished to remove physical hazards and that the fence be repaired
to prevent trespass. The direction and flow of groundwater should be more firmly established and additional analysis
of the on-site monitoring wells performed. If private wells are identified downgradient of groundwater flow, they should be sampled.
The Lanson Chemical Company site is on approximately 5 acres at 800 South 31st Street in East St. Louis, Illinois (St. Clair County) (Figure 1). It is bordered on the south by the Alton and Southern Railroad, on the north by Piggott Avenue, and on the east and west by vacant or cultivated land. The site is next to the Alta Sita neighborhood. Wetlands exist to the south-southeast of the property.
During its operation, Lanson produced alkyd resins and emulsion copolymer for use in the manufacture of paints, lacquers, varnishes, and floor waxes. According to inspection reports, raw materials used in the production of the alkyd resins included a tall oil fatty acid (safflower, soya, or linseed), phthalic anhydride, glycerine, glycerol, and xylene. Production of the emulsion copolymer involved the use of vinyl acetate and butyl acrylate. Solvents used in the plant processes included mineral spirits, VM&P naphtha (containing toluene, xylene, and benzene), naphtha, cellosolve acetate, and butanol (CDM 1991). The plant has not been used for manufacturing for more than a decade.
When active, the site had several structures including the main production facility, loading dock, storage buildings, and storage and process vessels (Figure 2). Most of these were demolished and removed during remedial activities. The main building contained process vessels, a loading dock, and a storage shed. This building and the outside storage tanks existed intact on the site until 1992. The storage building is still erect; however, the main building has been partially dismantled and removed. Many process storage tanks and drums were in a bermed area in the southeast corner of the site before remedial activities but have since been removed. A 6-foot chain-link fence with a locked gate partially encloses the site; however, portions of the fence are missing from the southwest side. Due to the plant overgrowth, this opening is not easily accessible in spring and summer. Formerly, two residential mobile homes were on the site. Both have since been removed. In the 1980s, a day care operated in one of the mobile homes.
When federal emergency remedial activities began in the summer of 1992, about 45 storage tanks and 46 drums and containers of waste and unused product still existed on the site (USEPA Files). The USEPA On-Scene Coordinator estimated that about 100,000 gallons of resin waste were present, with half assumed to be contaminated with PCBs.
Lanson Chemical was founded in 1962 by Dr. H. J. Lanson. The Purex Corporation (now Purex Industries) acquired the operation in 1970 and continued to employ Dr. Lanson and his son, Elliott. In 1974, Purex sold the facility to Morris Industries, which reportedly continued to employ Elliott Lanson at the facility. The involvement of the Lanson family in the facility operations ended in 1975 when they founded Lanchem. Delta Oil Products subsequently leased the Lanson property from Morris Industries in 1978. Delta Oil Products purchased the property in 1980. Delta produced oils for use in electrical equipment. Some PCBs present on the site may have been from this operation, although PCBs were banned for use in electrical equipment during this period. Delta filed for bankruptcy, and manufacturing appears to have ceased at the facility at that time.
In 1980, C. B. Equipment Company and Wayne A. Brent purchased the property. Six months later it was sold to Jack A. Chase, who in turn sold it to Mid-America Alcohol Producers, Inc. The Lanson site was apparently acquired along with Wastex Research, Inc., a defunct East St. Louis chemical recycling firm and the subject of USEPA and IEPA clean up actions. File information shows that the county seized the Lanson Chemical property from Mid-America Alcohol Producers for back taxes in 1984. The current status of this property is unclear; however, Mid-America Alcohol informed IEPA of the chemical release in 1992, and is listed as the current owner in USEPA and IEPA documents.
Lanson Chemical has had a history of problems related to its operations and wastes since the late 1970s. Some waste products were disposed at off-site facilities like Clayton Chemical in Sauget. The Purex Corporation said that routine spills of solvents, acids, and bases occurred during product transfer and handling from 1970 to 1974. IEPA began inspections of the facility in March 1977 in response to citizen complaints about site-related odors and surface water runoff from the facility entering neighboring residential property. Complaints were also raised about solvent-like odors coming from the combined sewer system into neighboring buildings and homes as the result of improper disposal of wastes in the sewers and ground. Before 1978, wastes and unused products were disposed in a low-lying area on the site commonly called the lagoon. Wastewater from the plant was also discharged into the lagoon where it would run off the site.
IEPA inspection reports from the 1970s and 1980s noted hundreds of barrels scattered about the property, some of which were punctured and leaking. Liquid and solid materials were visible on the ground along with areas of stressed vegetation. Possible sources of the odors from the site were identified as vinyl acetate, toluene, isobutyl acetate, and the various fatty acids used in the manufacturing process. A 5,200 gallon spill of an unidentified solvent was also reported. Toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, butyl acrylate, and other organic chemicals were suspected of being dumped into area sewers. Nonfunctional sewer vents and inadequate dilution of wastewater discharge were also noted. Both conditions could lead to the build-up of solvent vapors in the sewers. Sewer explosions had reportedly occurred in the past and were attributed to Lanson Chemical's discharges into the sewers. The Mayor of East St. Louis inspected the plant and surrounding area and threatened to close the operation due to the volume of complaints received by city officials and IEPA of odors coming from the sewer system, particularly in the early morning hours.
Citizen complaints were also filed with the City of East St. Louis and IEPA regarding dumping of wastes into the sewers resulting in solvent odors entering the homes of nearby residents. Citizens contended that the combined sewers allowed vapors similar to those associated with the site to be emitted from drains, faucets and down spouts. Representatives from Lanson Chemical did acknowledge wastewater disposal into the sewers and attributed the odor problem to low flow through the system in the early morning, resulting in inadequate dilution of the wastewater. No records were found to indicate if this was a permitted or unpermitted discharge. Water samples taken from the sewers off the site had a solvent odor and the characteristic milky appearance associated with oil-based emulsions. These samples were also similar in appearance and odor to samples collected from the on-site sump and areas of ponding.
The low-lying lagoon northeast of the building had standing water containing raw material product and waste. The ponded water would flow through a culvert under Piggott Street into the drainage ditch that crosses the vacant land northeast of the site. This land has been under cultivation for gardens by area residents. Samples taken of this ponded water (both on and off the site) by IEPA in 1978 describe a septic and solvent odor, high chemical oxygen demand, and in two samples, a high pH. The sampling was done after heavy rain, which may have diluted this waste. Tanker trucks were also reported to be routinely washed on the site, and the rinsate was diverted to the lagoon or allowed to percolate into the soil.
The history of enforcement actions by IEPA began with the original inspections in 1977 when IEPA informed Lanson Chemical that they were to: 1) identify and stop leaks and spills from barrels, storage and process vessels, and product transfer; 2) segregate drums of waste from drums of usable material and neatly stack all barrels; 3) stop all discharges to the ground and prevent runoff to adjoining properties; 4) fill the low-lying lagoon with naturally occurring earth material; and 5) dispose of drummed waste at an approved disposal facility. IEPA informed Lanson Chemical that they could be found violating the Illinois Environmental Protection Act if their practices continued unabated.
In response to continued complaints of improper disposal and odors, IEPA reinspected the plant. The neighborhood sewer odors were again attributed to activities at Lanson Chemical. The agency's report described "atrocious" conditions with every hose and pipe fitting leaking the contents of storage and process vessels onto the ground. The odors were described as "extremely nauseating," "very irritating," and "obnoxious." Lanson Chemical representatives acknowledged that previously identified spills, including vinyl acetate, remained on the ground surface. At the time of the reinspection, the company had not yet removed all of the drummed waste or regraded the land as they had agreed to in a compliance settlement with IEPA. Of the barrels removed during this period, 240 went to the Peoria Disposal Company and 160 were sent to the Earthline Facility in Wilsonville, Illinois.
IEPA was actively involved in monitoring the site through 1978. In May 1978, staff and patrons of the Mellow Room Lounge in East St. Louis complained that solvent odors were present in the club. An IEPA investigation noted solvent vapors as far as two blocks from the plant. The company did install an exhaust fan on a standpipe in a waste trap in an attempt to vent the solvents from the sewers and alleviate the problems; however, it was not operating during various IEPA inspections. IEPA files also show liquid discharge on and off the site property with runoff pooling outside the northeast site boundaries.
Until the plant closed, plant personnel were alleged to have routinely disposed of wastewater and waste materials by releasing them into the wetland south and west of the site (near the rail yard) and into the low-lying lagoon north and east of the buildings. Gravel, clean soils, and asphalt fines were ultimately used to fill this area to prevent pooling of water on the site, with subsequent runoff of wastewater to the neighboring properties to the east. This regrading was done following an agreement between Lanson Chemical and IEPA in 1978.
A $5,000 fine and clean up program was proposed by IEPA in 1978 in response to continued allegations of dumping of solvents into the sewers by company personnel. By 1978, company compliance had improved according to IEPA inspection reports, although several drums remained on site and liquid waste discharge to the soil continued. In May 1978, 380 drums were sold to United Steel Drum, an East St. Louis drum reconditioning firm. A subsequent fire and chemical release at United Steel Drum resulted in the identification of Lanson Chemical as a potentially responsible party in this hazardous waste site clean up. In 1981, the Purex Corporation filed a hazardous waste site notification (CERCLA 103[c]), which identified Lanson Chemical as a site where solvents, acids, and bases from cleaning and paint compounds were treated, stored, or disposed.
An explosion occurred at the facility in the fall of 1978 that shook nearby houses. According to Elliott Lanson, who visited the facility immediately afterwards, a process vessel equipped with a heat transfer system containing several jackets, a heater, an expansion tank, and approximately 500 gallons of PCB oil exploded, partially demolishing the structure housing it. The specific PCB mixture was Thermonol FR-1, which, according to Monsanto, is 100% Aroclor 1242. The PCBs were released from the heat transfer system onto the concrete flooring. Firefighters flooded the area with water and flushed the PCB oil into the surrounding site soils. Sampling on the site in 1985, 1990, and 1992 confirmed the presence of PCBs, although not Aroclor 1242. Most PCBs detected on the site were identified as Aroclors 1248 and 1254. As PCBs weather and age, their chromatographic patterns change from the original composition making identification difficult. Although this is true, the general rule is that aged PCBs resemble lesser chlorinated rather than higher chlorinated Aroclors.
Delta representatives refuted the Lanson account and claimed the explosion occurred in a basement reactor room involving two reactors, neither of which used PCB oils. The reactors were reportedly undamaged while the room was heavily damaged. Since a partially demolished structure housing a reactor was reported on the site in various IEPA reports, this seems to support the Lanson account. It is uncertain, therefore, whether the PCBs found on the site originated from the (disputed) reactor explosion, from Delta's handling of oils used in electrical equipment, or from unknown activities by the previous plant owners or operators.
In 1981, when Mid-America Alcohol Producers, Inc., purchased the property, about 2,000 barrels were stored on the site. After taking possession of the property, Mid-America pumped an estimated 125,000 gallons of liquid from these drums into 9 outdoor and 5 indoor tanks on the property. This activity probably introduced the PCB contamination into the interior process vessels containing resins. A 1985 site inspection noted that most of the barrels had been removed. Additionally, some surface soils had been removed and replaced, or covered with clean soil. Soil samples at the time showed the presence of PCBs, solvents, and other site-related chemicals. Resin overflowed to the wetlands south of the site (near the rail yard), and stained or barren soil was also noted on the site.
Three separate hazardous waste site investigations or actions have been conducted at this site since 1985. A USEPA Field Inspection Team (FIT) performed a Preliminary Site Assessment of the site in 1985 to score it for the Superfund list. PCBs, solvents, and other site-related contamination was found in the two surface soil samples taken near the on-site sump. The groundwater was considered highly vulnerable to contamination due to the sand and gravel geology and the presence of shallow groundwater. The site was scored using USEPA's Hazard Ranking System, and while Lanson Chemical did not qualify for the National Priorities List (Superfund), it was added to the State Remedial Action Priorities List (SRAPL) in 1988. A notice pursuant to Section 4(q) of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act was issued in February 1989 to potentially responsible parties informing them of their potential liabilities associated with contamination of the site.
A 1990 tank survey by the IEPA contractor reported 102,400 gallons of waste liquids and resins were in process and storage tanks on the site. An inspection of the facility in April 1990 identified 29 storage and process tanks inside the building. Some were leaking, and high organic vapor readings were found inside the plant and various tanks. Eighteen process tanks were compartmentalized in three groups of six, and seventeen of these were insulated with a suspected asbestos-containing material. One tank was leaking reddish-brown fluid. Both labeled and unlabeled 55-gallon drums were observed throughout the plant. Cylinders of welding gas and bottles of formaldehyde, ammonium hydroxide, and calcium hydroxide were still stored within the facility. A distillation apparatus was in the south-central area of the plant.
Eleven outside storage tanks were at the south end of the facility in a bermed area. This area contained evidence suggesting one or more tanks had leaked or spilled their contents and that liquid product had overflowed the berm. This suspected overflow may have been due to spills, leaks, rainfall, or pumping out the bermed area. Small patches of brown and black resinous substances were observed on the ground amid areas of stressed vegetation. Eight unlabeled, corroded, and leaking 55-gallon drums were on the site along with an open drum containing an oily liquid. An elevated storage tank in the northeast corner of the plant appeared to have leaked 75 to 100 gallons of a highly viscous material. A boiler or reactor was noted inside a partially demolished reactor building. Lack of state funding precluded the needed cleanup at that time.
In 1991, an IEPA contractor completed a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) at the site. Surface and sub-surface soil, sediment, groundwater, and concrete samples were collected and analyzed. Contamination was found in all media tested. In May 1992, Mid-America Alcohol Producers notified IEPA that a hazardous spill had occurred at the facility. Scavengers had removed metal fittings from the tanks holding waste liquids and resins resulting in the release of approximately 5,000 gallons of resin inside the process building. The resin had flowed out of the building onto the loading dock and into the surrounding soil. Because of this release and a lack of state funds for the cleanup, IEPA requested USEPA assistance and funds in conducting an emergency removal action.
Representatives of USEPA and IEPA conducted a site assessment in May 1992. The site had changed little since the 1990 RI/FS. An inhabited mobile home sat at the northwest corner of the property between the main building and the storage shed. The eleven outside tanks remained in the bermed area at the southeast end near the loading dock. Nine of the eleven tanks still contained various amounts of liquid. The partially demolished reactor structure was still standing and contained three drums and the heat transfer tank that reportedly held PCB oils and was involved in the 1978 explosion. The main building still held two rows of tanks ranging in capacity from 2,000 to 5,000 gallons. Some of these tanks still held liquid products. The laboratory contained gallon jugs of chemicals, including formaldehyde and ammonium hydroxide. Seven, 55-gallon drums including one labeled "xylene" were also found in the laboratory.
USEPA collected tank samples and a sample of the spilled resin from the floor. All samples showed high PCB and solvent levels. About 10,000 gallons of resin remained in the tanks after the vandalism. Approximately 50 drums containing flammable liquids were scattered throughout the property. The lagoon area had been backfilled in 1978 and was no longer identifiable. USEPA and IEPA determined that conditions at the site were such that additional releases were likely and posed a threat to the public health and environment. Federal funds were appropriated for an emergency removal action.
USEPA began removal activities at the site in June 1992 with an inventory of all tanks and drums. Liquid wastes were pumped from the tanks, and their contents were placed in drums. All alkali or neutral liquids from the tanks and drums were pumped into a containment pool on the site where they were subject to filtration and treatment. Flammable liquids from various tanks were bulked together for shipment to a recycling facility. The empty tanks were dismantled, decontaminated and scrapped. The sludges within the tanks and the sump were mixed with fly ash for solidification and off-site disposal. Samples were collected for chemical analysis. The resin spilled inside the building on the loading dock was removed along with a resin disposal pit discovered between the mobile house and the main building. Approximately 400 cubic yards of surface soil were removed from the outside tank farm area and adjacent areas.
The sump walls, the concrete inside the building, and the loading dock were decontaminated. Asbestos abatement was also undertaken during the same period to remove asbestos pipe insulation from inside the building. Approximately 21 cubic yards of asbestos were removed from the building and disposed in an approved landfill. Sampling of residential and garden soils by USEPA, IEPA, and IDPH detected no PCBs, although PCBs were detected in the sediment of a drainage ditch in the field to the northeast. Low-levels of other possibly site-related chemicals were found in some off-site soils. Between July and August 1992, USEPA removed 800, 55-gallon drums of PCB-contaminated tank wastes, 110,000 gallons of liquid wastes containing PCBs, and 28 tons of PCB-contaminated soil. Liquid wastes were sent to an approved, out-of-state incinerator, and contaminated soils were sent to an approved, out-of-state landfill.
USEPA removal activities were halted in December 1992 due to lack of funds. About 900 drums of PCB-contaminated soils, sludges, and liquids remained on the site pending additional funding and a disposal facility to accept the wastes. Some drums were corroded and rusty, but all were intact. About 100 empty salvage drums were removed during the Mississippi Flood clean up work in the summer of 1993. An additional 350 drums were shipped off the site in October 1993. The remainder of the drums has since been removed. Soil samples collected on the site in December 1992, after the removal of surface soils, found PCBs above the clean up levels of 10 parts per million (ppm) near the tank farm and loading dock. These areas were backfilled with clean soil and graded.
IDPH staff visited the Lanson Chemical site in September 1992, accompanied by the IEPA Project Manger, the USEPA On-Scene Coordinator and a representative of USEPA's removal contractor, Ecology and Environment, Inc. A chemical odor was apparent in the air, and the prevailing winds were toward the neighboring residential area, northeast of the site. A thick, dark resinous material was observed oozing out of the ground in the northwest and northeast corners of the site near the inhabited mobile home on the plant property. This area apparently represented an on-site disposal area for unused products from the Lanson Chemical operation. The mobile home had reportedly housed a day-care facility; however, no children were present during the visit.
Immediate removal activities were under way at the facility. Several empty salvage drums on the site were waiting to be filled with solid waste and shipped for disposal at another facility. The sump had been emptied of its contents, rinsed, and decontaminated. The process and storage tanks on the site had been emptied and were being decontaminated and dismantled for salvage. Contaminated surface soils had been excavated and removed for disposal. The building and loading dock area were also scheduled for decontamination and demolition. A tour of the buildings revealed most of the contents had been removed, although a large quantity of women's shoes was stored in the storage shed northwest of the main building.
Several large vegetable gardens were observed in fields north-northeast and east-southeast of the site. Stands of sweet corn occupied the fields to the east-southeast. The plants within these plots appeared robust and unstressed.
IDPH staff visited the Lanson Chemical site again in March 1993 to obtain surface and sub-surface soil samples of residential yards, adjacent fields, and gardens neighboring the facility. No activity was apparent at the site, although some debris and salvage drums were awaiting removal. No odors attributable to the site could be detected, although the odor of burning household refuse was apparent. Access to the site was restricted by a locked gate and a 6-foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire; however, the fence was incomplete along the south-southwest edge of the site due to demolition of structures that previously acted as barriers to entry. Mail service was still in effect at this time, but the mobile home was apparently unoccupied.
IDPH conducted another site visit in July 1994. All barrels and waste materials had been removed. Part of the main building and loading dock remained standing along with the storage shed. An unoccupied mobile home remained on the site. While the main and interior gates were locked, the fence on the south-southwest was still down. Although accessible to a trespasser, the high weeds preclude easy passage during the spring and summer. The fence was scalable in places, and no security was present. No gardens were observed on the vacant land to the north-northeast although corn was growing in a heavily weed-infested plot to the east-southeast. This may have been volunteer corn. No odors were apparent in the area, nor was any waste or plant stress visible on the grounds. A large pigeon population occupied the partially demolished structure.
IDPH visited the site again on December 30, 1997. The weather was snowy and there was about an inch of snow on the ground. A portion of the main building, the loading dock, and the storage shed remained standing. The mobile home had been removed from the site. The main gate was locked, but access was available along much of the south-southwest border of the site where the fence was either down or nonexistent. There was also a gap in the fence on the east-southeast side of the site. Two sets of boot prints and a set of dog prints showed that trespassers had been on the site within the past half hour. The tracks went from the gap in the east fence, up the loading dock, and into the storage shed. The storage shed contained abandoned equipment and other refuse. There were two pools of frozen water on the site near the loading dock, but they appeared to be only about 1 to 2 feet deep.
According to the 1990 census, the population of East St. Louis is approximately 41,000. An estimated 9,800 people live within one mile of the site. Within two miles, the population rises to about 33,700, and within three miles the population is about 74,000. Excluding the previously occupied mobile homes on the site, the home closest to the site is within 100 yards. About 200 to 250 people live within two blocks of the site. East St. Louis is one of the most impoverished communities in the U.S., ranked fifth in poverty per capita. The city's inhabitants are nearly all of African-American descent, with most of the population made up of women and children. Single females are listed as heads in 31% of households, and 71% of homes have children. More than a third of the population are children less than 18 years of age, with about 10% below the age of 5.
The area north and east of the site is the well established Alta Sita residential neighborhood. To the south and west are rail yards and undeveloped lands, including wetlands. Farther to the west are large chemical facilities in Sauget. East St. Louis has a poor economy, and the remains of abandoned and bankrupt industries are apparent throughout the community. This loss of tax base is apparent in the decline of commercialization, loss of amenities and city services, and housing that accompanies it. Besides city parks, Frank Holten State Park is the only recreational area in the vicinity. It is approximately 1.5 miles from the site.
Natural Resource Use
Most of the Metro-East area, including East St. Louis, lies in the Mississippi River flood plain, locally known as the American Bottoms. The bottomland covers approximately 175 square miles. It is about 30 miles long and 11 miles across at its widest point. An extensive levee and canal system was established to control flooding, although this is still occasionally a problem in some low-lying areas. Portions of the Metro-East area were flooded during the Mississippi River Flood of 1993, although East St. Louis was largely unaffected.
The river has defined the landscape of the flat flood plain, which is marked by meander scars, river terraces, oxbow lakes, and swamps formed by river channel migration and flooding. The river has deposited sediments ranging from fine clays and sand to coarse gravel. Local soil and geologic data suggest the American Bottoms has approximately 90 to 120 feet of unconsolidated valley fill overlying limestone bedrock from the Mississippian Age. There are two main soil units: an upper unit that consists of clayey silt and fine sand made of recently deposited alluvial material (Cahokia Alluvium), and a lower unit that consists of medium coarse sand and gravel representing glacial outwash (Henry Formation). Alluvium generally comprises the upper 15 to 30 feet of the valley fill. The outwash formation below 30 feet and going down to bedrock (120 feet) is better organized and makes up the major aquifer in the region. Historical records show the Metro-East area contained several swamps due to the fine-grained, low permeability sediments deposited by river action and the high water table. These swamps were subsequently filled over the years to allow construction and urban expansion.
The geology underlying the Lanson Chemical site was evaluated through soil borings and monitoring well installation in 1990 (Figures 3 and 4). The 25-foot borings indicated mostly sand deposits overlain by clay and covered by a superficial (1.5 feet) layer of black topsoil. The topsoil contained glass, metal scraps, gravel, and resinous particles. Below the topsoil, the clay layer was found to range from 5.5 to 11.5 feet thick. Some silt fill was found above the clay while below the clay, fine to medium grain sands were found to the end of the borings (25 feet). The upper 3.5 feet of most borings contained fill material (clays, silts, gravel, and debris) mixed with topsoil. This supports the historical record of Lanson Chemical filling and grading various low-lying areas on the property in response to IEPA directions.
The Mississippi River is about 3 miles west of the site and has strongly influenced the hydrogeology of the area. The sub-surface soils laid down in various areas by river action may have inherently different properties that either promote or inhibit groundwater flow. Studies of the area show the presence of more than one aquifer in both confined and unconfined conditions. Noncontinuous clay lenses separate the aquifers in some areas, but all aquifers are interconnected at some point. The presence of clay in some soils would serve to slow the downward migrations of any contaminants on the surface. However, the intermittent nature of the clay lenses would suggest the underlying shallow aquifer remains highly vulnerable to surface contamination.
The groundwater regionally and beneath the site occurs at a depth of about 15 feet, depending on river stage, rainfall, and pumping. It can be much lower in some areas due to draw down by high volume industrial wells and higher in places due to the presence of low-permeability soils. Groundwater flow is generally expected to be westward toward the river; however, reversed flow is possible when the river stage and local well pumping is high. The fine to medium grained sands found on the site are conducive to the water-bearing properties of the alluvial deposits.
Four monitoring wells were installed at the site in 1990 to detect site impacts on groundwater quality and direction and speed of groundwater flow (Figure 5). In spite of the expectation that groundwater flow would be westward toward the river, the result of the first measurements suggested an easterly flow toward the residential property. A second measurement conducted a week later could not establish a direction due to the relatively flat groundwater table. Since these measurements were taken in August, the river stage would have presumably been low, and there are no large industries close to the site whose groundwater usage might explain these results. Preliminary data from Sauget also suggest relatively static groundwater conditions in the Cahokia alluvium. Additional groundwater level measurements would be needed to establish the predominant direction of groundwater flow.
The public water supply for East St. Louis is drawn from the Mississippi River. The intake for East St. Louis is on the Illinois side of the river near the I-55/I-70 (Poplar Street) bridge, north of the St. Louis Arch. Besides East St. Louis, this intake, owned by the Illinois American Water Company, serves most of St. Clair County, including Millstadt, Brooklyn and National City, and is connected to the Granite City public water supply. In the mid-1980s, there were reportedly 12 drinking water wells known to exist within three miles of the site. More possibly existed, primarily for individuals too distant from a public water supply. IEPA files show the closest private well was in the 3600 block of McCasland Avenue. All private wells would be expected to be finished in the shallow aquifer. No records were found on how many private wells may presently exist in the area since no well survey has been done recently. Given the ready availability of the public water supply, few would be expected.
Although the site is distant from the river, Lanson Chemical did apparently discharge into the sewers that ultimately discharged into the river from the city wastewater treatment facility. The overall contribution of Lanson Chemical to the outfall was probably small when compared with the household and other industrial waste streams. The East St. Louis discharge was often out of compliance and contributed to the poor quality of the river. Since the closure of the East St. Louis treatment plant, the waste stream has been diverted to the American Bottoms Wastewater Treatment Plant where treatment has been improved.
Local residents also use the Mississippi River as a source of fish. Some individuals using the waters near treatment outfalls and the hazardous waste sites lining the river may receive most of their dietary protein from the river fish (mainly carp and catfish). There are no irrigated farm fields within three miles of the site, although several subsidence gardens are near the Lanson Chemical site.
IDPH maintains various sources of health outcome data, including vital records
(birth and death certificates), reportable diseases, and registries of cancer
incidence, reproductive outcomes, and occupational disease. The Illinois State
Cancer Registry (ISCR) and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Reporting System (APORS)
are the two most useful for addressing the most common concerns regarding the
effect of environmental
contamination on health. ISCR has data from 1985 to 1992, organized by cancer
type, demographic variables, alcohol and tobacco use, occupational history,
and place of residence. APORS has been collecting information since 1987 and
includes similar information relating to low birth weight, birth defects, and
fetal loss. The Divisions of Epidemiologic Studies and Vital Statistics provided
assistance and advice in assessing the health outcome data for this area.
Some residents of the Alta Sita neighborhood next to Lanson Chemical have expressed a belief that the area has an increased rate of cancer and liver and kidney disease. They are concerned that this may be related to living near the Lanson Chemical site. A local activist group, Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Emerge), has been involved in calling attention to the site and pressing for a site cleanup. One goal of Project H.O.P.E. is to eliminate all of the hazardous waste sites from East St. Louis and, in particular, to clean up the Lanson Chemical facility.
In 1992, the Reverend Buck Jones, a local minister and leader of Project H.O.P.E., conducted a door-to-door survey of the health status of selected members of the Alta Sita neighborhood. According to a press release issued afterwards, the survey was carried out to learn if Alta Sita residents were suffering from health problems attributed to exposures from the Lanson Chemical site. Project H.O.P.E. states that 22 persons on Trendley Avenue died of cancer in the last 10 years, 42% of the neighborhood's families had one or more persons who developed cancer, and 25% had liver or kidney problems. In December 1992, some residents of the neighborhood told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the Lanson Chemical site had caused a high cancer incidence and that the government agencies involved at the site were not responsive to the concerns and needs of low-income and minority communities.
In August 1992, during the USEPA emergency removal project, media and area residents converged at the Lanson Chemical site. The residents expressed their concern about the ongoing cleanup activities, problems with past and present releases from the site, and potential health effects. The USEPA On-Scene Coordinator briefed the media on the ongoing remediation (USEPA Files). Six months after cessation of the USEPA Emergency Removal Action (July 1993), Project H.O.P.E. held another rally at the Lanson Chemical site to press for USEPA's resumption of the site cleanup activities. The group repeated that the Alta Sita neighborhood residents are victims of environmental inequity based on social, economic, and racial factors, and suffer higher rates of cancer from living in the area.
To gather the community's concerns, staff from IDPH and IEPA attended a meeting in September 1992 at Bride of Christ Church in East St. Louis. It was moderated by Reverend Jones, and sponsored by Project H.O.P.E. About 50 local residents attended the meeting along with representatives of the electronic and print media. An open discussion of residents' concerns was followed by a question and answer session about the site cleanup and potential health department activities. Residents provided information on the history of Lanson Chemical, environmental problems in the area, and health problems among the neighbors. Several Alta Sita residents believe that they have cancer because of living near the Lanson site. That evening, IDPH and IEPA staff attended another public meeting sponsored by USEPA in Centreville. The USEPA On-Scene Coordinator made a presentation on the removal activities, and the Community Relations Coordinator distributed fact sheets about the site and its cleanup to the group. The agencies present addressed questions and concerns of the audience.
The following is a summary of the health concerns expressed by the Alta Sita residents:
- Is the incidence of cancer among persons living along Trendley and Piggott Avenues a result of living near the Lanson Chemical site?
- Has the proximity of Alta Sita residents to the Lanson Chemical site caused them to have an excess of kidney and liver diseases?
- Are nearby residents being exposed to chemicals, primarily PCBs, from the site through contaminated air, groundwater, soil, and surface water runoff?
- Are the vegetables from gardens near the Lanson Chemical site safe to eat?
- Doesn't the fact that the disappearance of field mice, birds, rabbits, and snakes from the site area mean it is unsafe to live near the site?
- Aren't dangerous wastes leaking from stored drums at the site?
- If there is nothing to worry about, why is USEPA spending $2 million to clean up the Lanson Chemical site?
- Aren't race and socioeconomic status the reasons that an adequate and timely cleanup of the site has not been done and the community has not been compensated and relocated?
- Is the sampling that has been done adequate, or has it failed to detect off-site contaminants?
- Is it safe to remain in the residential area near the Lanson Chemical site?
Another public meeting was held June 19, 1995, in East St. Louis to discuss the preliminary public health assessment and the possibility of a biomarker study in the community. The 1994 draft of this preliminary public health assessment recommended drawing blood samples from persons in Lanson neighborhoods to be analyzed for PCBs. IDPH believed that elevated results would provide evidence for additional investigation. Normal results would provide additional reassurance to the community regarding past exposure to PCBs. Since Project H.O.P.E. was speaking for the community, IDPH asked it for help in identifying sample populations and volunteers to provide blood samples for analysis. Project H.O.P.E. and others present at the public meeting expressed that the community did not want to participate in such a study. As a result, IDPH stopped exploration of the biomonitoring project.
Reverend Jones provided several comments to the 1994 draft preliminary public health assessment. These were more process-specific than content-specific in nature, and are summarized as follows:
- The health assessment lacked a semblance of democratic participation and self-determination.
- IDPH did not properly exchange information with the community or seek resident input.
- IDPH failed to consider environmental exposures resulting from personal activities (such as hobbies) and the range of exposures resulting from cultural patterns.
- IDPH was biased in favor of the polluters in conducting the health assessment and flawed in the epidemiological approach to investigating the Lanson site.
- The recommended blood and urine sampling will not find contaminants and will be used to silence community groups concerned about toxic waste.
- IDPH ignored the damaging effects of chronic stress and anxiety caused by living near a hazardous waste site.
This document was released for public comment, and the comment period ended May 29, 1998. No comments were received.