PRECISION CHROME, INCORPORATED
FOX LAKE, LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) has requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) perform a health consultation for the Precision Chrome, Inc. site. The purpose of this health consultation is to use the site information currently available to evaluate any known or potential adverse human health hazards.
Precision Chrome is situated on approximately 3 acres at 105 Precision Road in Fox Lake, Lake County, Illinois (Attachment 1). The site is approximately 7 miles south of the Illinois-Wisconsin border in Lake County, Illinois. Precision Chrome is in a predominately industrial area. The town of Fox Lake has large lakes to the north and east. The population of Fox Lake is approximately 7,500 people. 
The site is bordered on the north by the Fox Lake North Shore Sanitary District Sewage Treatment Plant. Bordering the site to the south is Honing Road. Vacant land is to the east of the site, and to the west of the facility is an industrial company (Attachment 2). Residential property is north, south, and west of the site within 0.25 miles. The closest home is about 700 feet southeast of the site.
Precision Chrome has operated at its current location since 1971, and employs about 30 people. Before the construction of the current facility, the site was undeveloped. Precision Chrome is the site's only owner and operator. Activities at Precision Chrome include plating steel shafts for hydraulic equipment applications. Cutting, grinding, polishing, honing, and induction hardening are also conducted during the process of producing the shafts. Precision Chrome generates chromic acid that is sent to a facility meeting the special requirements for handling hazardous waste that is reused. Precision Chrome was governed by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) from 1980 to 1985.
Chromium plating takes place in PVC-lined steel tanks. A surface water pond on the site was used to help maintain these tanks at a constant temperature and for quenching during the induction hardening process. None of the water used in the cooling system came into direct contact with any plating processes. At one time, non-contact cooling water was recycled by using an on-site pond. The pond was part of a string of ponds that were naturally occurring and intersected the groundwater table. Water was pumped out of the pond at a rate of 75 gallons per minute and used for non-contact cooling water. The water was then returned to the pond to cool. The pond was recharged using a 30-foot-deep well.
Precision Chrome discontinued the use of the closed loop pond extraction system in 1994 when they replaced the pond with an evaporative cooling tower system. Wastes were not mixed with the process water supply. There is no evidence that Precision Chrome has placed any wastes from the plating process anywhere on the property. 
Groundwater flow in the area is generally to the northwest; however, localized variations due to seasonal factors can cause the flow to change directions. Groundwater near the site is used for municipal, private and industrial supplies. Most of the residents within a 4-mile radius of the site obtain drinking water from the public drinking water systems that use groundwater as a source. The municipal well used for Fox Lake is about 100 feet deep, approximately 0.5 miles northwest, and upgradient of Precision Chrome.
The nearest groundwater wells are on the site. One well is approximately 120 feet deep and provides the plant with drinking water. The other well is 30 feet deep and is used as a recharge make-up water source for the surface impoundment. The nearest private drinking water well is approximately 1,000 feet south of the property. Several surface water bodies including Duck Lake, Fox Lake, Myers Bay, and Squaw Creek are within one mile of Precision Chrome and are used for recreational purposes. 
In 1980, Precision Chrome notified Illinois EPA that their manufacturing process generated hazardous waste. In 1981, Illinois EPA informed Precision Chrome that the spent chrome solution generated by the facility was not subject to hazardous waste regulations because they sold the material to a recycling company. Precision Chrome later requested that Illinois EPA remove them from the hazardous waste facility list. Illinois EPA granted the company the status of a non-handler of hazardous waste in November 1985. 
In 1985, Precision Chrome reported a spill containing chromium from a leak in the condensate return system. Because of the spill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) sampled the non-contact cooling water that was being returned to the pond, soil from the area around the ventilation system, and soil from the southeast corner of the building. 
In February 1986, a water sample was taken from the recharge well on the site. In March 1986, cooling water from the on-site pond was sampled and chromium VI was found. Sodium bisulfate was added to the cooling water impoundment to change the chromium VI to less-toxic chromium III. In July 1986, another sample was collected from the cooling water impoundment. Illinois EPA also sampled two ponds on private residential property south of the site in 1986. 
In 1987, Precision Chrome reported a spill of about 200 gallons of chromic acid on the northeast portion of the property. Thirty cubic yards of soil were excavated and removed after the spill. Subsequently, Illinois EPA sampled the recharge well water and non-contact cooling water. 
In August 1990, the site was placed on the Comprehensive Environmental Resource Compensation and Liability Inventory System (CERCLIS) list due to the potential risk to public health and the surrounding environment.  In October 1991, water samples were collected from the recharge well, the non-contact cooling water discharge pipe, and cooling water from the pond on the site. A sediment sample was also collected from the cooling water pond. 
In 1992, Illinois EPA conducted a Comprehensive Environmental Resource Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) screening site inspection report. Soil, sediment, and water samples were collected from various areas on and off the site. There are currently eleven groundwater monitoring wells on the site (Attachment 3). These wells have been sampled quarterly since February 1995. 
In March 1997, a groundwater extraction and containment system was installed. The system used a submersible, centrifugal pump installed in extraction well one (EW-1), which is 60 feet deep and 6 inches in diameter. The pump rate was 30 gallons per minute, and the extracted water was piped to the Village of Fox Lake's sanitary sewer. The system was shut down in May 1997 because the levels of chromium VI in the effluent exceeded the maximum daily amount allowed by the Village of Fox Lake's sanitary sewer system permit.  Precision Chrome would like to have the discharge permit modified, but Illinois EPA has denied this request.
Staff from IDPH visited the site in July 1998. The manufacturing building was restricted by a 6-foot-high chain-link fence topped with three strands of barbed wire. The only unrestricted area of the site was on the southern border along Honing Road, which allows access to the gravel parking area and a gravel road that leads to the impoundment area. A bike path was observed past the sewage treatment plant, northeast of the site. No indications of recreational use on the site were identified during the visit.
IDPH compared the results of each groundwater, surface water, sediment, and soil sample with the appropriate screening comparison value used to select contaminants for further evaluation for carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health effects. Chemicals found at levels greater than comparison values or those for which no comparison value exists were selected for further evaluation. A discussion of each health screening value used is found in Attachment 4.
A potential for exposure to lead, manganese, total chromium, and chromium VI in the groundwater exists. Routes of exposure include ingestion, dermal contact, and inhalation. Individuals in the area use groundwater as their source of drinking water. There are also approximately 30 people employed on the site that could be exposed to the groundwater. The exposure scenario used when determining dose was an adult weighing 70 kg, drinking 2 liters of water daily for 200 days per year. The potential for exposed persons to experience adverse health effects depends on -
- the specific chemicals to which a person is exposed,
- how much of each chemical to which a person is exposed,
- how long a person is exposed, and
- the health condition of the person being exposed.
Because of the condensate spill in 1985, USEPA sampled the non-contact cooling water that was being returned to the pond. Total chromium was detected at 6.87 milligrams per liter (mg/L) which exceeds the maximum contaminant level (MCL) 0.1 mg/L, set forth by USEPA. MCLs have been established as the highest level of a contaminant that can be delivered to any user of a public water system. Enforcement of MCLs reduces the chances of adverse health effects from contaminated drinking water. These standards are well below levels for which health effects have been observed and take into account the financial feasibility of achieving specific contaminant levels. The pond is not used as a drinking water source.
Soil samples were also collected from two areas around the manufacturing building. Neither soil sample collected contained levels of chromium that are of health concern.
Two private ponds south of the site, the recharge well on the site, and the non-contact cooling water pond were sampled in 1986. No chromium was detected in the private pond water samples. The recharge well and the non-contact cooling water pond samples had levels of total chromium that exceeded the MCL. The levels of total chromium detected in the recharge well and non-contact cooling water pond samples were 8.37 mg/L and .41 mg/L, respectively.
In July 1986, another sample was collected from the non-contact cooling water pond. Levels of total chromium and chromium VI had decreased; however, the levels of chromium VI detected (.2 mg/L) in the samples were still high enough to cause possible adverse health effects in individuals if they drank the water. The level of total chromium detected in the sample was 1.3 mg/L which exceeds the MCL. No other contaminants were found at levels above comparison values. The recharge well and the pond are not currently being used as sources of drinking water. In 1987, chromium was detected in the recharge well sample at 8.375 mg/L and in the non-contact cooling water discharge sample at 0.4 mg/L. These sample levels exceeded the MCL for total chromium in drinking water, however, the recharge well and the non-contact cooling water pond are not used as sources of drinking water.
In October 1991, the recharge well, non-contact cooling water discharge, non-contact cooling water pond, and sediment from the non-contact cooling water pond were sampled. Total chromium was detected in the recharge well sample at 1.985 mg/L. The level of total chromium detected in the non-contact cooling water discharge sample was 1.575 mg/L. Total chromium was detected in the non-contact cooling water pond sample at 1.58 mg/L. All three water samples collected exceeded the MCL for total chromium in drinking water. The sediment sample collected from the cooling water pond did not contain any contaminants that exceeded comparison values.
Twelve soil samples, four groundwater samples, and two surface water samples were collected in October 1992. Analysis of the soil samples collected showed elevated levels of chromium, but none above comparison values. Groundwater samples were collected from the drinking water well on the site, a residential well approximately 1,000 feet south of the site, and the Fox Lake public well approximately 0.5 miles north of the site. One duplicate sample was collected from the drinking water well on the site. No contaminants were detected above health comparison values in the groundwater samples collected; however, they did not analyze for chromium in these samples. Therefore, IDPH does not know if chromium is present at levels of health concern in these wells. The two surface water samples taken had total chromium levels at 0.79 mg/L and 0.81 mg/L. These levels exceed the MCL and could cause adverse health effects in individuals should they drink the water. This is unlikely because no one drinks this water.
Groundwater monitoring wells are in place on the site (Attachment 3). IDPH reviewed groundwater monitoring well sample results from 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998. [3,5,6] Lead, manganese, and chromium VI have been detected in numerous groundwater monitoring well samples at levels that would be expected to cause adverse health effects in exposed individuals. Total chromium also was found as high as 18.3 mg/L, and at levels that exceeded the MCL in several additional samples. The most recent groundwater monitoring samples available to IDPH were collected in February 1998.  The most recent samples showed total chromium exceeded the MCL in monitoring wells 4, 5, 8, and in the extraction well formerly used for the groundwater extraction and containment system (EW-1). Levels of chromium VI that could be expected to cause adverse health effects were detected in monitoring well samples taken from wells 4 and 5 along with the sample taken from EW-1. Manganese and lead were also detected at levels that would be expected to cause adverse health effects should individuals be exposed.
Chromium is an essential nutrient that helps persons maintain normal glucose, cholesterol, and fat metabolism. Most health problems come from exposure to high levels of total chromium and exposure to lower levels of chromium VI. Long-term health effects associated with exposure to chromium VI are dermatitis, ulceration of the skin, ulceration and perforation of the nasal septum, and inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane and pharynx. Workers who inhaled low levels of some chromium compounds for long periods have shown increased rates of lung cancer. USEPA has classified chromium VI as a known human carcinogen by inhalation; however, there is no evidence to support that it is carcinogenic by ingestion. 
Children's Health Section
Long-term lead exposure has been shown to affect virtually every organ and system in the human body. Lead exposure generally affects the blood and nervous system of humans. Children are the most sensitive population because of their frequent hand-to-mouth activity. Children exposed to lead generally have decreased IQ scores. Prenatal exposure to lead produces toxic effects on the human fetus, such as increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and impaired mental development. USEPA considers lead a probable human carcinogen. 
Manganese is an essential nutrient; however, overexposure can cause adverse health effects in humans. Some studies conducted showed that symptoms associated with over exposure to manganese in drinking water include weakness, stiff muscles, and trembling hands. 
Based on the information reviewed, IDPH concludes that a public health hazard may exist from the contamination at the Precision Chrome site. Groundwater on the site is contaminated with lead, manganese, and chromium, including chromium VI. IDPH does not currently know if the private and public drinking water wells on and near the site have been contaminated by site related activities. Some wells in the area were sampled; however, chromium was not analyzed in these samples. The contamination present on the site and in the groundwater may migrate to drinking water wells in the area.
IDPH recommends that:
- Public and private drinking water wells in the area and on the site be sampled to learn the extent of contamination.
- Precision Chrome resume use of the groundwater extraction and containment system to prevent contamination leaving the site.
- Precision Chrome stop using the well on the site as a source of drinking water should sampling show the well is contaminated.
Illinois Department of Public Health
- Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, CERCLA Preliminary Assessment Report for Precision Chrome, Inc.. October, 1992.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency, Preliminary Assessment/Visual Site Inspection for Precision Chrome, Inc. December 21, 1993.
- Harding Lawson Associates, First Quarter (1995) Interim Groundwater Sampling Report for Precision Chrome, Inc. August 1995.
- Harding Lawson Associates, Application for Establishment of a Groundwater Management Zone for Precision Chrome, Inc. November 10, 1997
- Harding Lawson Associates, Fourth Quarter (1996) Interim Groundwater Sampling Report for Precision Chrome, Inc. February 1997.
- Harding Lawson Associates, First Quarter (1998) Interim Groundwater Sampling Report for Precision Chrome, Inc. March 1998.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR Update Toxicological Profile for Chromium, April 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR Update Toxicological Profile for Lead, August 1997.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR Draft Toxicological Profile for Manganese, September 1997.
This Health Consultation for Precision Chrome, Inc. was prepared by the Illinois Department of Public Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the Health Consultation was initiated.
Roberta Erlwein (for Gail Godfrey)
Technical Project Officer, SPS, SSAB, DHAC
The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC), ATSDR, has reviewed this Health Consultation and concurs with its findings.
Sven E. Rodenbeck (for Richard Gillig)
Section Chief, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR
Environmental Media Evaluation Guides (EMEGs) are developed for chemicals based on their toxicity, frequency of occurrence at National Priority List (NPL) sites, and potential for human exposure. They are derived to protect the most sensitive populations and are not cut-off levels, but rather comparison values. They do not consider carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions, multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure, and are very conservative concentration values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.
Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guides (RMEGs) are another type of comparison value derived to protect the most sensitive populations. They do not consider carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions, multiple route exposer, or other media-specific routes of exposure, and are very conservative values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.
Cancer Risk Evaluation Guides (CREGs) are estimated contaminant concentrations based on a one excess cancer in a million persons exposed to a chemical over a lifetime. These are also very conservative values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.