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The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) perform a health consultation on the Cyber-America site (a.k.a. Canton Industrial Corporation/International Harvester) in Canton, Fulton County, Illinois (Attachment 1). A massive fire occurred at the site on August 6, 1997. The fire destroyed more than half the buildings on the site and left behind conditions that IEPA and the citizens of Canton believe to be potentially hazardous to surrounding populations. [1] This health consultation addresses the public health threat posed by the current site condition.

The Cyber-America Site is in the center of Canton, Illinois, which has a population of approximately 14,000. The 36-acre site is bordered by Elm Street to the north, Fourth Avenue to the east, Railroad Street to the south, and Second Avenue to the west (Attachment 2). Railroad tracks run along the southern and eastern portions of the site. Directly across Elm Street is a church and a gas station, while empty lots are further east, west, and south across the street. The nearest homes are east and west of the site, approximately 200 feet beyond the empty lots. Other facilities within two blocks of the site include a nursing home, grocery store, and a lumber yard.

An 8-foot wire fence with vertical wooden slats surrounds the site. The fence has gaps in several places large enough for trespassers to gain access. Buildings and concrete cover most of the site, and minimal groundcover grows around the eastern fence line.

Because no post-fire environmental data are available, IEPA and IDPH found that review of the types of businesses that have used the property is valuable when identifying possible contaminants that may have been present when the fire occurred. International Harvester originally owned the site and produced farm implements from the mid-1800s until it ceased operations in 1983. When International Harvester abandoned the site, local investors purchased the property and named it Canton Industrial Corporation (CIC). CIC manufactured finished metal goods including practice bomb fins, military gun racks, and extendable lift booms. [2] Part of CIC also operated a tire storage facility (Canton Tire Recycling) in a failed attempt to recycle tires. The facility stockpiled hundreds of thousands of tires that IEPA eventually declared a fire hazard. IEPA ordered removal of the tires in 1995. When CIC did not respond to the clean up order, an IEPA contractor removed the tires between October 1995 and March 1996. [3]

CIC also leased portions of the site to other businesses including a sandblasting vendor and a nail packaging company. [4] CIC eventually was acquired by a new owner who changed the name to Cyber-America. Cyber-America currently owns the site and continues to lease portions of the site to other companies. At the time of the fire, Jays Potato Chips was using a building as a storage facility. The only other known operating business at the site is a mobile home salvage business. That business is housed on the southwest portion of the site in buildings left undamaged by the fire.

IEPA has regulated the site for several years under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provisions because hazardous wastes are produced and stored at the site. The wastes documented in numerous IEPA documents include many types of solvent-based paint wastes stored in drums. IEPA conducted a RCRA inspection in March 1997, and IEPA found several violations. [5]

Drums and several, documented, underground storage tanks (USTs) are on the site and are used to store a variety of fuel oils, gasoline, and paint. Former employees report that a large undocumented UST containing paint waste is under the former power plant building. No investigation has been conducted to determine if the USTs are intact.

The fire started early in the morning of August 6, 1997, in a 6-story building near the center of the site. The wooden building became engulfed within fifteen minutes. The Canton Fire Department responded within minutes and received help from many neighboring fire protection agencies. The fire burned for three days and destroyed most of the buildings on the site. Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to the church and town buildings north of the site and reported at least three explosions, most likely due to burning drums.

As the fire burned, a large, pink, green, and yellow smoke plume, approximately 400 feet high, was generated. The colors were likely the result of chemicals and solvents burning in the fire. At the time of the fire, the prevailing south and west winds quickly carried the plume out of town. Residents of Cuba, Illinois, approximately 10 miles south and west of the site, complained of odors and smoke. People who called the Fulton County Health Department complained of burning eyes and expressed concern about eating garden vegetables following the fire. In addition to smoke, the plume contained charred particulates that were deposited 2 - 3 blocks in all directions from the fire.

Emergency management personnel closed off areas around the fire, but hundreds of onlookers still walked through alleys and unguarded areas to get a closer look. The Sunset Patients in Manor Nursing Home directly west of the fire were evacuated to prevent respiratory distress from smoke inhalation. Firefighters complained of headaches throughout the response.

Staff from IEPA, IDPH, the Fulton County Health Department, and the City of Canton visited the site on October 16, 1997. IDPH staff noted many physical hazards, including structurally compromised buildings, collapsing ceilings, and piles of twisted metal and rubble. Dozens of 55-gallon drums, some intact and some exploded and burned in the fire, were on the site.

Two large underground railroad tank cars used to store number 2 diesel fuel produced a strong odor. IDPH staff also noted solvent odors in other drum storage areas throughout the site. The soil is stained in the southern part of the site where dozens of drums and gallon containers of paint waste are stored and may have leaked. Piles of sand are around the site. Sand from a former sand blasting operation was used to fill holes around the site and to create a berm around a pump house.

IDPH staff saw fibrous material in the destroyed buildings and on the ground and suspected that it may be asbestos-containing material (ACM). The suspected ACM was apparently used around windows and pipes and in the ceilings of the burned buildings. On the day of the site visit, fibers were in the air.

Dozens of air conditioners, old refrigerators, and other household items are in the buildings that house the salvage business. Those items are from mobile homes still found around the southern portion of the site.

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