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HEALTH CONSULTATION

TRI-COUNTY AND ELGIN LANDFILLS
(a/k/a TRI-COUNTY LANDFILL COMPANY/WASTE MANAGEMENT)
SOUTH ELGIN, KANE COUNTY, ILLINOIS


PURPOSE

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requested a follow-up health consultation be conducted for the Tri-County and Elgin Landfills (See Figures 1 and 2) in South Elgin, Illinois, to evaluate changes that have occurred at the sites since the release of the 1995 Public Health Assessment (PHA).


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

In August 1995, ATSDR released a PHA for the Tri-County and Elgin Landfills (IDPH 1995). The PHA concluded that the Tri-County and Elgin Landfills were public health hazards and made several recommendations (Attachment 1).

In the past 7 years several regulatory activities by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have taken place for both the Tri-County and Elgin Landfills. Four reports, called Explanation of Significant Differences, were issued to describe changes from the original clean-up plan that was detailed in the USEPA Record of Decision. These changes affect the groundwater extraction and treatment and the caps placed on the landfills. On May 25, 1999, USEPA approved the Remedial Action Work Plan for the site and issued the Notice of Authorization to Proceed with the Remedial Action at the site. In addition, several Unilateral Administrative Orders were issued to Browning-Ferris Industries, the Tri-County Landfill Company, and to Waste Management of Illinois, Inc. (USEPA 2001, USEPA 1999, USEPA 1998b, USEPA 1992).

The following activities have been completed at the Tri-County Landfill and Elgin-Wayne parts of the site since the 1995 PHA (USEPA 2002b, USEPA 2001) was completed:

  • Clearing of all trees and other vegetation.
  • Grading of the land surface, contoured for drainage.
  • Construction of an asphalt cap on the Elgin-Wayne part of the site (Waste Management Recycle Transfer station).
  • Placement of a geomembrane composite landfill cap over the Tri-County Landfill part of the site. This was followed by a geonet drainage layer, 12 inches of rooting zone soil, and 6 inches of top soil.
  • Excavation of contaminated soils and sediments from a wetland area just south of the site. These sediments and soils were placed under the Tri-County Landfill cap.
  • Installation of a landfill gas extraction system.
  • Replacement of monitoring wells and installation of new monitoring wells.
  • Re-vegetation of the Tri-County Landfill.
  • Installation of a surface drainage collection system composed of perimeter drainage channels and an infiltration (retention) basin.
  • Installation of a new perimeter fence.

At the Elgin Landfill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers redesigned the landfill cap profile. Completed activities include (USEPA 2002b, USEPA 2001):

  • Placement of six inches of fill material, which was a grading layer for the composite liner system.
  • Composite layering of a geomembrane, geonet drainage layer, and filter fabric on the steep slopes of the site.
  • Composite layering of a geomembrane and filter fabric over the remainder of the site.
  • Placement of 12 inches of rooting zone soil and 6 inches of top soil over the composite cap.
  • Re-vegetation of the Elgin landfill.
  • Construction of a landfill gas extraction system, which ties into the Tri-County Landfill system.
  • Construction of a perimeter surface water drainage system. About 2/3 of the surface water drainage ties into the Tri-County Landfill drainage system. The remaining 1/3 discharges into the lower detention pond and then into the Route 25 drainage.
  • Installation of a new perimeter fence along the eastern, northern, and western perimeters of the Elgin Landfill.

Planned future activities involving the entire site include (USEPA 2002a, USEPA 2002b, USEPA 2001):

  • Preparation and application of an operation and maintenance plan.
  • Establishment of institutional controls such as deed restrictions to limit future use of the properties.
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of natural attenuation on contaminated groundwater for a 5-year period, following the November 11, 2001 completion of the landfill cap and gas collection system. The 5-year monitoring will be repeated until the site is removed from the National Priorities List. The first five-year monitoring report is due on June 30, 2004.

The 1995 PHA discussed contaminants in surface soil, sediments, and groundwater. No new data are available for any of these media. Contaminated soils of the Tri-County Landfill are now under the landfill cap. Contaminated sediments from a wetland south of the Tri-County Landfill have been removed and placed under the landfill cap.

IDPH staff has observed the remediation work at the site and the increased use of former farmland around the site. A new subdivision of single-family homes is about 0.5 miles east-northeast of the site. Land about 0.25 to 0.5 miles north and northeast of the site has become a sand and gravel pit. A reclaimed part of this sand and gravel pit to the northeast has an office building. Interconnected asphalt driveways and parking lots on adjacent reclaimed land suggest that additional construction is likely. The former Talisman Restaurant, less than 300 feet from the site, is now Blackjack's Gentleman's Club. Two businesses and their buildings, Al's Truck Repair and Fox Valley Door, were removed from the site. The Elgin Landfill is no longer used for parking trucks and truck trailers. The Waste Management of Illinois, Inc. Recycle Transfer Station has two on-site buildings. It also has an asphalt parking lot for dumpster and recycling container storage, and for recycling truck parking. The Woodland Landfill, west of the site across the Prairie Path, is now closed, and a waste transfer station is proposed for that site.


DISCUSSION

A hazardous chemical can affect people only if they contact it through an exposure pathway at a sufficient level to cause adverse health effects. This requires a source of exposure, an environmental transport medium, a route of exposure, and an exposed population (point of exposure). A pathway is complete if all of its components are present and exposure of people occurred in the past, is occurring, or will occur in the future. If parts of a pathway are absent, data are insufficient to decide whether it is complete, or exposure may occur at some time (past, present, future), then it is a potential pathway. If a part of a pathway is not present and will never exist, the pathway is incomplete and can be eliminated from further consideration.

At the Tri-County and Elgin Landfills, contaminated soil and sediments now are buried under the new landfill caps. That ended present and future exposure to contaminated surface soil and sediments. Past exposure to contaminated surface soil and sediments probably was occasional, resulting in negligible exposure.

A new subdivision has been developed approximately 0.5 miles east-northeast of the site. Because the subdivision is located in close proximity to the landfill, a potential exposure pathway exists for migration of landfill gas into the homes. Currently, a landfill gas extraction system is preventing the landfill gas from migrating.

In the past, site-related contaminants were found in private wells near the site. USEPA advised businesses and homes that had elevated levels of contaminants to use bottled water or find an alternate water supply. The new subdivision near the site is connected to a public water supply, and therefore residents would not be exposed to site-related contaminants in drinking water.

Landfill Gas

Organic matter in a landfill decomposes to produce, among other things, methane gas, which is flammable at levels between 5% and 15% in air. Usually, most of the methane generation by landfills occurs in the first 30 years after landfill completion. However, methane generation can last 60 years or more (ATSDR 2001, USEPA 1998a). Methane is commonly used as "natural gas" for cooking, heating, and other purposes by homes and industry.

If a landfill cover is composed of permeable sand and gravel, landfill gas can easily escape to the atmosphere. However, if a landfill cover consists of impermeable clay, landfill gas will be trapped underground and migrate horizontally. Natural pathways (e.g., buried stream channels and fractures in rock) and man-made pathways (e.g., utility conduits) can be channels for landfill gas migration. Utility conduits may provide pathways for landfill gas migration to buildings. Frozen soil over a landfill may block upward landfill gas migration, and also cause the gas to migrate horizontally through soil. Buildings with basements are more prone to landfill gas infiltration. This migration and infiltration may cause an explosion or fire if the methane reaches a flammable concentration (ATSDR 2001).

Soil saturated with moisture can inhibit the escape of landfill gas and promote horizontal movement. A rising water table will force landfill gas out of the soil. Wind dilutes landfill gas that reaches the air; however, calm conditions, such as during early morning, may cause landfill gas to accumulate. Changes in temperature and barometric pressure also can influence landfill gas migration (ATSDR 2001).

As noted in the 1995 PHA, USEPA found that on-site monitoring wells were emitting landfill gas. The Record of Decision included installing a landfill gas mitigation system, which has been done in each landfill. Monitoring of the landfill gas extraction system ensures that it is working effectively to prevent the migration of landfill gas to buildings on and near the site (J.O'Grady, USEPA, personal communication, 2002). The present landfill gas extraction system is preventing the accumulation of landfill gas in buildings on and near the landfill.

Groundwater

As described in the 1995 PHA, several businesses on and near the site had contaminated wells, and some wells penetrated the landfill. Consequently, the drinking of contaminated groundwater was a completed exposure pathway in the past. USEPA and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) advised businesses with contaminated wells not to drink the water (USEPA 2001, USEPA 1999). All on-site wells were sealed and abandoned. A new well encased through the wastes was drilled at the Waste Management of Illinois, Inc. Recycle Transfer Station. No one consumes water from this well (O'Grady 2002).

The 1995 PHA discussed the possible health effects of drinking contaminated groundwater. Groundwater will be monitored for at least 5 years. More recent groundwater data are not yet available, but should be available after June 30, 2004.


CHILD HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS

IDPH recognizes that children are especially sensitive to some contaminants. We do not know whether children have drunk water from contaminated wells on or near the site; however, because the contaminated wells serve businesses, adverse health effects in children from drinking contaminated groundwater are unlikely. Because USEPA recommended that people with contaminated wells not consume the water, exposure was more likely in the past. The 1995 PHA discussed the possible health effects of drinking water from the contaminated wells.


CONCLUSIONS

Currently, the Tri-County and Elgin Landfills pose no apparent public health hazard. Contaminated soil and sediments now are buried under the new landfill caps, so present and future exposures to contaminated surface soil and sediments have been eliminated. Past exposure to contaminated surface soil and sediments probably occurred occasionally, and resulted in negligible exposure.

In the past, landfill gas may have posed a fire or explosion hazard. However, the present landfill gas extraction system is preventing the accumulation of landfill gas in buildings on and near the landfill. The continued operation, maintenance, and monitoring of this system will be needed until the landfill no longer generates potentially explosive concentrations of landfill gas.

As described in the 1995 PHA, the concentrations of chemicals in some off-site private wells were high enough to pose a public health hazard. The 1995 PHA discussed the potential health implications of drinking this water. Because USEPA and Illinois EPA have recommended not drinking this water, exposure was most likely in the past. Based on available information, no one is drinking the contaminated groundwater.


RECOMMENDATIONS AND PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

IDPH recommends the following:

  • USEPA continue to monitor groundwater at the site as part of the plan for the site and monitor groundwater for at least 5 years.
  • People in businesses near the site should not drink water from contaminated wells. USEPA and Illinois EPA have notified area well users not to drink this water. Based on available information, no one is currently drinking the contaminated groundwater.
  • USEPA continue to monitor the operation and maintenance of the landfill gas extraction system until the landfills no longer emit landfill gas at levels more than 10% of the lower explosive limit. This is part of the plan for the site.

PREPARER OF REPORT

Thomas A. Baughman, Ph.D.
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health


REFERENCES

ATSDR. 2001. Landfill Gas Primer: An Overview for Health Professionals. November. Available at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/landfill/html/intro.html. Accessed on April 2, 2003.

IDPH. 1995. Public Health Assessment: Tri-County Landfill Waste Management of Illinois, South Elgin, Kane County, Illinois, CERCLIS NO. ILD048306138. August 29. Available at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/PHA/tricounty/tri_toc.html. Accessed on April 2, 2003.

USEPA. 2002. Construction Completions at National Priorities List (NPL) Sites - by Number. October 18. Available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/query/queryhtm/nplccl1.htm. Accessed on April 2, 2003.

USEPA. 2002. NPL Factsheets for Illinois: Tri-County Landfill Co./Waste Management of Illinois, Inc., EPA Region 5, Kane County, South Elgin, EPA ID# ILD048306138. February 2002. Available at http://www.epa.gov/R5Super/npl/illinois/ILD048306138.htm. Accessed on April 2, 2003.

USEPA. 2001. Tri-County/Elgin Landfill Superfund Site, St. Charles Township, Kane County, Illinois, CERCLIS ID# ILD048306138 , Site Spill ID# 052G. October 2001.

USEPA. 1999. Explanation of Significant Differences, Tri-County-Elgin Landfills Superfund Site, St. Charles Township, Kane County, Illinois. July 13. Available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/rods/fulltext/e0599058.pdf. Accessed on April 2, 2003.

USEPA. 1998a. Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the United States: Estimates for 1990. Available at www.epa.gov/outreach/ghginfo/reports/anth.htm. Accessed on April 2, 2003.

USEPA. 1998b. EPA Superfund Explanation of Significant Differences, Tri-County Landfill Co./Waste Management of Illinios, Inc., OU 0, South Elgin, Illinois. April 23. Available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/rods/fulltext/e0598151.pdf. Accessed on April 2, 2003.

USEPA. 1992. EPA Superfund Record of Decision: Tri-County Landfill Co./Waste Management of Illinois, Inc., OU 1, South Elgin, Illinois. September 30. Available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/rods/fulltext/r0592218.pdf. Accessed on April 2, 2003.


CERTIFICATION

This Tri-County-Elgin Landfill health consultation 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 begun.

W. Allen Robison
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch (SAAB)
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DAC)
ATSDR


The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this health consultation and concurs with its findings.

Lisa C. Hayes
for Roberta Erlwein
Chief, State Programs Section
SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


Approximate Location of Tri-County Landfill, Elgin Landfill, and the Woodland Landfill Property
Figure 1. Approximate Location of Tri-County Landfill, Elgin Landfill, and the Woodland Landfill Property


ATTACHMENT 1: RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE 1995 PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

  1. It should be determined whether any children, pregnant women, or women of childbearing age regularly drink water from well 7, which has a high lead level.

    1. If this is found to be the case:
      1. The following blood lead levels should be measured:
        1. Any children of mothers who regularly drank water from well 7 during or before pregnancy or lactation.
        2. Any pregnant females or women of childbearing age who regularly drink or drank water from well 7.
    2. Blood lead levels of other people who drink or drank water from well 7 should also be examined, but time is not as critical.
    3. A first draw and a flushed water sample should be taken from well 7 to determine whether plumbing or possibly the landfill is the source of the lead.

  2. Access to the site should be restricted.

  3. Institutional controls should be used to prohibit future on-site construction.

  4. The concentrations of chemicals in on-site surface soil along the Prairie Path should be examined, since this is where contact by the public is most likely.

  5. The concentrations of on- and off-site airborne contaminants should be determined.

  6. Because soil contamination is present, during remediation, care should be taken to minimize the evolution of airborne dust and volatile chemicals.

  7. The geology and hydrogeology around the site needs to be examined.

    1. The direction of groundwater flow off-site needs to be determined.
    2. It should be determined if contaminated groundwater is flowing or may flow southward into the area south of the site where clay confining layers are thin or absent, and if any of these chemicals are likely to contaminate deeper aquifers.
    3. The likelihood of possible further contamination of wells around the site should be examined.
    4. The possible future contamination of the Newark Aquifer and wells (municipal and private) should be investigated.

  8. The on-site geology and hydrogeology needs further investigation to determine whether the layer of gray clay will sufficiently protect the deeper aquifers after the proposed leachate collection system is installed. This should be done before the proposed leachate collection system is constructed.

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