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HEALTH CONSULTATION

YEOMAN CREEK LANDFILL
WAUKEGAN, LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has received recent information about the Yeoman Creek Landfill National Priorities List (NPL) site from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region 5 project manager. IDPH offers new conclusions and recommendations based on this new information.

The Yeoman Creek Landfill covers about 49.2 acres in the southeastern quarter of Section 8, T45N, R12E, in Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois. The site was originally a peat bog that was mined and later filled with refuse. Waukegan School District #60 owns most of the site, but some of the landfill extends into properties to the north and south. The landfill is bordered by a marsh on the south, Butrick Avenue on the east, Elmwood and Lorraine Avenues on the west, and commercial and residential properties along Sunset Avenue on the north. Yeoman Creek flows along the western side of the landfill. Apartments, a nursing home, and commercial properties are within 100 feet east, north, and west of the site. The nearest single-family homes are about 100 feet south of the landfill on Greenwood Avenue (Golder and Associates, Inc. 1994). In 1986, Yeoman Creek Landfill was added to the NPL (USEPA; Golder and Associates, Inc. 1994).

The materials deposited in the Yeoman Creek Landfill included landscape and demolition wastes, domestic garbage, and sludge. The landfill also may have received some hazardous and nonhazardous special wastes. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) files contain little information on this subject other than a report from one hauler about dumping an unknown amount of PCBs.

The Yeoman Creek Landfill operated from 1963 until 1970. National Disposal Service, Inc., operated the landfill until 1969, when T-K City Disposal, Inc., assumed operations. When National Disposal Services operated the landfill, they maintained a 50-foot buffer between the wastes and Yeoman Creek. However, when T-K City Disposal took possession of the landfill, they disregarded this buffer and filled to within 5 feet of the stream. Following closure of the Yeoman Creek Landfill in 1970, IEPA found that it lacked adequate final cover and that leachate was entering Yeoman Creek. After 1970, the City of Waukegan made many attempts to cover the landfill adequately, but leachate seeps continued. Between 1979 and 1980, following the initiation of legal action by IEPA and the Illinois State Attorney General, the city:

    1. completed applying final cover to the site,

    2. installed a partial fence with locked gates to restrict vehicular access,

    3. posted signs that random dumping was illegal, and

    4. installed a retention berm along Yeoman Creek.

In 1980, the city achieved the required two feet of cover on the landfill, which greatly reduced leachate production; however, the cover was too permeable to prevent rainwater infiltration.

In 1981, 1982, and 1984, IEPA sampled and found elevated levels of ammonia, arsenic, boron, and PCBs in on-site groundwater. In 1985, IEPA found PCBs in the sediments of Yeoman Creek and in the sump of a nursing home north of the site. A fire occurred in the sump of a building north of the site, but the cause was not determined (IEPA 1988; IEPA 1985; Kuhn and Millian 1985).

The primary concern is the presence of flammable or potentially flammable levels of landfill gas in buildings north of the site. Organic matter in a landfill decomposes to produce, among other things, methane gas, which is flammable at levels between 5 and 15 percent in air. The Yeoman Creek Landfill was a former peat bog, and the subsurface decay of any remaining peat could also produce methane gas. Methane is commonly used as "natural gas" for cooking, heating, and other purposes by homes and industry.

Because the levels of airborne volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) were not measured in buildings north of the site, IDPH cannot positively establish the source of contaminants in these buildings, although landfill gas is suspected. The fact that VOCs were found in the basements of buildings north of the site and also in landfill gas suggests that the landfill was the source of the VOCs found in the basement. Landfill gas can migrate into buildings near a landfill, and this migration and infiltration may cause an explosion or fire if the methane reaches a flammable concentration. In Wisconsin, flammable levels of landfill gas accumulated in a nearby home. When a resident removed clothes from the drier, static electricity ignited the accumulated gas and blew up the home, seriously injuring the homeowner (Ohl, 1998).

On June 4, 1992, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released an Interim Preliminary Health Assessment prepared by IDPH for the Yeoman Creek Landfill, with an addendum on the Edwards Field Landfill. On September 30, 1997, ATSDR published a Public Health Assessment for the Yeoman Creek and Edwards Field Landfills. IDPH also prepared this document, and concluded that the Yeoman Creek Landfill posed no apparent health hazard because, at that time, no exposures to hazardous concentrations of chemicals existed. The document stated that the ventilation system in buildings north of the site had eliminated the fire and explosion danger and recommended:

    1. periodic checks of the levels of airborne chemicals in the buildings directly north of the Yeoman Creek Landfill, and

    2. consideration of installing a gas venting system at the landfill to prevent the migration of landfill gases.

On April 16, 1998, USEPA released an Action Memorandum for the Yeoman Creek Landfill that stated that the ventilation systems were not sufficient to eliminate the fire and explosion risk or to prevent exposure to VOCs migrating from the landfill into the buildings north of the site. To prevent accumulation of landfill gases in these buildings, USEPA proposed that the parties responsible for the landfill install a gas collection system to intercept landfill gases (Dollhopf, 1998). Besides the fire and explosion hazard, people may inhale VOCs, which may accumulate in these buildings.

IDPH staff visited the Yeoman Creek Landfill several times, most recently on February 19, 1997. On April 5, 1989, and May 24, 1990, remnants of a fence about 4 feet high were observed along the southwestern side of the Yeoman Creek Landfill, making the site readily accessible. On July 31, 1991, the site was surrounded by a chain-link fence topped by barbed wire and with signs reading, "Warning!; Hazardous Area; No Trespassing." The fence also inhibits access to Yeoman Creek on the western side of the landfill. A nursing home was located about 100 feet north of the site on Sunset Avenue. On October 30, 1991, on the eastern side of the landfill near the apartments, shopping carts were stacked against the site fence, probably to enable access. On subsequent visits, the site was essentially unchanged.

On February 19, 1997, there were branches and a shopping cart against the fence, and a large branch was hung on the barbed wire of the fence near the apartments on the northern part of the western side of the landfill. The shopping cart and branches appeared to be placed to allow access to the site. On the eastern side of the site near the apartments, an approximately 10-inch gap in a gate would allow access by small children.

A Waukegan Harbor citizens group has expressed concern about leachate seeping into Yeoman Creek, polluting the Waukegan River, and eventually reaching Lake Michigan. Other than this group, there seems to be little public interest in this site. In 1991, USEPA mailed 1,200 invitations to residents for a public meeting, but only eight residents attended (Hammil, 1991). Human exposure to PCBs in the sediments of Yeoman Creek is unlikely. Because of the large volume of Lake Michigan, the contribution of any PCBs in the sediments of Yeoman Creek to pollution in Lake Michigan would be negligible.

Recently, the occupants and owners of buildings north of the site have been concerned about the presence of flammable gases (Ohl 1998).


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