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The Circle Smelting site in Beckemeyer, Illinois initially produced zinc from ore as a primaryzinc smelter, and later recycled zinc and aluminum scrap as a secondary zinc and aluminumsmelter. It ceased operations in the fall of 1994. Site-related contamination may pose a publichealth hazard because of long-term exposure to inorganic contaminants found in the soil,sediments, surface water and groundwater. Past emissions also included releases to the air anddeposition off the site. Residential yards, creek sediments, and on-site groundwater arecontaminated with metals, including cadmium, chromium, lead, nickel, and zinc. Because thecommunity is so close to the site, residential yards may have accumulated contaminants from former plant operations or from wastes used as backfill for yards, alleys and sidewalks.

In 1992, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency presented this site to the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency for remediation. In the spring of 1993, the Agency for ToxicSubstances and Disease Registry asked the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) toevaluate the need for a time-critical cleanup of the site. IDPH wrote a health consultation in May1993 and offered blood lead screening to area residents. IDPH did not find an increasedprevalence of elevated lead levels in the blood samples from residents, and did not recommendan emergency site cleanup. IDPH has provided citizen and health professional education toattempt to reduce exposure to contaminants. IDPH issued another health consultation in February1994 to address exposures from digging in Beckemeyer during the installation of new waterlines.

Chemicals migrating from the site may contaminate soil, sediment, and surface water onsurrounding properties. Beckemeyer residents and former workers may have been exposed tometals by inhalation or ingestion. In the early 1980s, the U.S. Occupational Safety and HealthAdministration (OSHA) cited this plant for excessive heavy metal exposures to workers. Duringearly primary smelting operations, regular exposures to air emissions could have occurred.

Residential properties are generally well covered with vegetation and well maintained, soexposure to soil is reduced. Because of the efforts of site owners and environmental regulators,site conditions have continued to improve and the current exposure risks have been minimized. Cleanup of the site and residential soil sampling is progressing.


In cooperation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the IllinoisDepartment of Public Health (IDPH) will evaluate the public health significance of the CircleSmelting Corporation site and will recommend further actions to reduce or prevent possibleadverse health effects in exposed persons. ATSDR is authorized by the ComprehensiveEnvironmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or "Superfund")to conduct health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

The Circle Smelting site is on the Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model list in Illinois. The U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is the lead agency tracking the clean-up activities.The site owners are funding the costs of the remedial actions.

Site Description

Circle Smelting is in Beckemeyer, Illinois in central Clinton County (Attachment 1). Beckemeyerhas a population of about 1,000 and is primarily residential with a few small businesses. Thecommunity has a park, public schools and a parochial school. The county seat, Carlyle, is about 3miles east of the site. Carlyle is on the southern shore of Carlyle Lake, a reservoir that is thesource of drinking water for the village of Beckemeyer.

The Circle Smelting facility was initially built around 1904. This location was likely selected fora smelter because of the abundance of coal and ready access to rail lines. In early 1982, the statewater and geological surveys described the site as being geologically appropriate for the storageof solid wastes (ISGS, 1982). Today, the parent company is the American Smelting and RefiningCompany (ASARCO). The 41-acre site is on the east side of Beckemeyer, along old Highway 50(Attachment 2). Properties along First Street share the southern fence line near the formeroperations area and are the homes closest to the site. According to the owners (ASARCO, 1995),11 properties make up this area and ASARCO purchased eight of them in 1995.

The topography of the Beckemeyer area slopes northward. The eastern and western drainageditches on the site flow northward under old Route 50 to an unnamed creek (Attachment 2). Thiscreek is a tributary of Beaver Creek, which connects with Shoal Creek, and joins the KaskaskiaRiver. Carlyle Lake is a manmade impoundment of the Kaskaskia River about 5 miles east of thesite, and is used for drinking water, recreation, boating, fishing, and swimming.

Operations History

Several metal smelting operations have existed at this site, with up to seven metal-processingroasters operating at one time. Peak production pre-dated many environmental and worker safetyregulations. Primary zinc smelting with coal and coke began about 1904, and secondary zincsmelting started around 1920. In 1992, about 20 people worked at the secondary zinc andaluminum smelter. Operations continued through late 1994 (ASARCO, 1995).

The facility produced zinc metal, zinc compounds, fertilizer additives, and animal feed additives.Zinc ores were shipped by rail to Beckemeyer from other states, primarily from Missouri. Somesubstances associated with plant operations were aluminum, lead, zinc, zinc oxides, magnesiumoxide, copper oxide, borates, and iron compounds. Because coal and coke were used as a sourceof fuel, a large amount of cinders and clinkers were generated. This waste was deposited on-siteor transported off the site and reportedly used for backfill, as underlayment for concrete and onroads throughout the county. Several metals have been identified in the waste materials.

Regulatory History

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the operations atthis facility in the late 1970s and early 1980s. OSHA fined the company in the early 1980s forworkplace exposure violations. According to the plant manager, alterations in operations andprocedures reduced worker exposure following the OSHA citations. Personal air monitors wereplaced on workers and other sampling was conducted.

In July 1986, a fire occurred at the smelter. After the fire, the Illinois Environmental ProtectionAgency (Illinois EPA) sampled nearby yards and dust in one home. In soil, the highest leadconcentration found samples was 990 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). Lead measured in thedust sample was 1,500 mg/kg. The highest soil cadmium level around the plant was 19.6 mg/kg.The environmental contamination was attributed to smelter operations, not the fire.

IDPH collected blood samples from 20 persons living near the plant (Table 1). The results of theblood lead and erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP) tests were not high enough to warrant any healthactions under 1986 guidelines. The site owners agreed to clean up some debris after negotiationswith Illinois EPA.

In 1987, Illinois EPA began operating an air monitoring station for particulate emissions andbegan a preliminary assessment of the site. In 1988, Illinois EPA conducted a site inspection andsampled on-site soil, wastes, and sediment. In March 1992, Illinois EPA completed an expandedsite inspection, that was submitted to USEPA Region 5. ATSDR contacted IDPH in April 1993for an opinion about the necessity for an immediate clean-up action (ATSDR, 1993). IDPH wrotea health consultation evaluating potential exposures to the community and recommended bloodlead testing of area residents (IDPH, 1993).

In the fall of 1993, with the cooperation of community leaders and the local hospital staff, IDPHcollected blood samples from 248 area residents. The results did not suggest any immediatehealth risks from lead exposures (Table 2). In 1994, IDPH again consulted with ATSDR aboutworkers installing new drinking water lines in the community (IDPH, 1994). IDPH maderecommendations regarding worker protection and training, and dust control measures.

USEPA nominated the site for the Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model (SACM), whichprovides greater flexibility to clean up National Priorities List (NPL)-caliber sites moreefficiently (USEPA, 1996). Off-site soil sampling began in April 1999 and was completed in thespring of 2000. Properties sampled included residential yards, gardens, unpaved driveways,public areas, commercial properties and vacant lots. The highest level of lead detected in anylaboratory sample analyzed during the 1999-2000 sampling was 65,930 mg/kg.

Contractors hired by the site owners continue with remediation efforts. The response actionselected for the site includes excavation of soil, wastes, and sediments from off-site areas, andplacement of the excavated materials in a designated on-site area to be capped (USEPA, 1996).

Site Visits

Since the fall of 1992, IDPH staff have visited the site several times. The most recent visit was on June 20, 2001 and the following site features were observed:

  • The main operations area consists of several large metal buildings. The site managerindicated that the site once contained a lake filled with process water. Today, littlestanding water exists on the site.

  • Demolition activities have been occurring regularly for several years. During a June 1999 site visit, a brick building on the site was being demolished.

  • Site access to the former operations area is restricted by a 6-foot-tall cyclone fence topped with barbed wire. Before the installation of the fence, the site had several access points.

  • A rail line that bisects the community delineated the southern boundary. The homesclosest to the site are south of the rail lines. Several rail spurs provided access to the site for trains to load and unload.

  • A drainage ditch was between the northern site fence line and old Route 50. This areadrains under the road and into a wetland area.

  • A large part of the site has been covered with waste cinders and clinkers from formeroperations. Smelting waste excavated from the 1994 water line installation was stored ina building on the site.

  • Trucks regularly access the site. A portion of the property is being used by a commercial trucking firm and gravel has been added for roads used by the trucks.

Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Clinton County is rural and sparsely populated (total population 34,000) with farming as themain industry. Most residents of Beckemeyer live within 3 miles of the site. The site drains to thenorth under Route 50 into a privately-owned wetland area that leads to Beaver Creek west ofBeckemeyer. The homes closest to the site share the site's southern fence line. A publicelementary school is located southwest of the site. Over the years, Circle Smelting has purchasedsome nearby properties south of the site. The land east of the site is used for farm crops. Asawmill and a scrap metal yard are adjacent to the site. Today, part of the site has been paved andis used as a truck staging facility.

Drinking water in Beckemeyer is obtained by pipeline from Lake Carlyle, about 5 miles northeastof the site. New water mains, service lines, meters, and a water tower were constructed in the1990s. Before this water system was installed, the residents used private wells and complained about aesthetically poor drinking water.


Environmental Contamination

IDPH compared environmental sampling results with the appropriate comparison valuesdeveloped by ATSDR (Attachment 3). Comparison values are used to select contaminants forfurther evaluation. Chemicals found at levels greater than comparison values or those for whichno comparison exists were selected for further evaluation and are presented in Tables 3-5. Thecontaminants of interest at the site are metals.

Because metals occur naturally in the environment, comparison to background levels typicallyfound in Illinois is helpful in determining whether the levels of metals are typical or elevated.Background levels of metals (Illinois EPA, 1994) have been included in Tables 3-5. In addition,the Illinois State Water Survey and the ISGS collected background samples and reported theresults in 1992. The background samples were taken from an area 1.5 miles southwest of the sitenear Breese, Illinois. The range of metals in these background samples were: 20-50 mg/kg zinc;<0.02-0.2 mg/kg cadmium; 5-20 mg/kg copper; and 7-20 mg/kg lead. Little variation was presentbetween surface and subsurface samples.

In 1988, on-site soil, wastes and sediments were analyzed for pesticides and other organiccompounds. None of these chemicals were found at levels that exceeded comparison values.

A. On-site Soil

Raw materials, byproducts and wastes historically used or produced at the site were often storedor spread directly on the ground. Soil in the main operations area may contain tailings, spentores, cinders, coke, scrap metals, and smelting wastes. ISGS noted no significant lateralmigration of zinc, copper, cadmium, and lead in the early 1980s (ISWS/ISGS, 1982). Of the fourmetals, zinc is probably the most mobile. Most of the 41 acres have had cinders spread over thesurface. At some points, the fill is 15 feet thick. Smelter waste was used to fill a small lakeformerly on the site. Solid waste has also been deposited along the western drainage ditch and onthe eastern portion of the site.

B. On-site Sediments and Surface Water

Ditches near the east and west borders of the site were designed to drain the property. Whenconditions provide enough water, they flow to the north and connect to an unnamed stream northof Highway 50. Results of the analyses from sediment samples collected from these ditches areincluded with the information from on-site soils and wastes in Table 3.

No data were available for on-site surface water. No permanent standing water currently exists onthe site except for the drainage ditches. The western ditch holds more water that the eastern ditch.

C. On-site Groundwater

A shallow aquifer at the site is about 1 to 3 feet thick and occurs at depths from 6 to 10 feet. Thegeneral direction of groundwater movement is to the northwest, which is similar to the surfacedrainage patterns. The slope of the site and the presence of drainage ditches reduces thelikelihood of metals leaching into soils and underlying groundwater. Groundwater studies havefound that the regional soils are suited for retaining metals (ISWS/ISGS, 1982).

Twenty-eight monitoring wells have been installed at the site. Zinc concentrations in deepergroundwater samples contained less than 0.5 milligrams of zinc per liter (mg/L). Samples fromthe shallow wells ranged from 0.66 to 45.5 mg/L of zinc. Groundwater is not included in thecurrent clean-up activities, but may be included in future remedial investigations.

D. Off-site Contamination Migration

Known and potential movement of contaminants from the site include:

  • air emissions during operation and from the 1986 fire,
  • use of waste for sidewalks, railroad beds, fill, driveways, and fertilizer,
  • surface water runoff,
  • wind erosion of waste and bare soil,
  • tracking of soils from heavy equipment during site operations,
  • digging of contaminated soils and waste during installation of water lines, and
  • contaminated dust and debris carried into workers vehicles and homes.

E. Residential Soil and Use of Waste Material

USEPA staff has recorded anecdotal accounts from Beckemeyer residents about the use of site-related materials in the community. Waste generated by smelting operations may have been usedfor fill for sidewalks and alleys. Rail lines and roads may have been constructed with wastematerials from the smelter. As a good neighbor policy, the site operators historically allowedresidents to use site wastes for fill and other uses. Many residents do not know if site wastes havebeen used on their properties.

In 1993, during the installation of the present water system, metal-rich soils and fill from areaswhere new water lines were installed were sampled. The wastes containing elevated levels oflead were taken to a large storage building on the site.

In the mid-1990s, field instruments were used to screen public and private properties throughoutthe community to determine the location of elevated lead levels in soil. Collection of soil samplesfor laboratory analysis began on off-site properties surrounding the site in April 1999 and fieldwork was completed in spring 2000. The results of this sampling were provided to IDPH inDecember 2000 (ASARCO, 2000).

The types of properties in the most recent soil sampling event included residential properties(front and back yards, gardens, and unpaved drives), public areas, commercial properties, vacantlots, and right-of-ways. Some commercial areas with paved areas and residences where accessagreements were not granted were not included.

Including screening and duplicate samples, more than 10,000 results were obtained from 549properties. Each property was inspected and screened with a field instrument to map the areaswhere smelter materials were present. Visible evidence included cinders, slag, retort or smelterbrick, gray or black color, and stressed vegetation areas. Residents and owners were interviewedregarding property history and management activities.

Composite samples were collected from the front yard, back yard, garden area, and driveway ofeach home. Areas found to have composite soil lead levels greater than 500 mg/kg were includedin clean-up actions. A total of 370 properties are candidates for remediation including 246residences, 6 public areas, 10 commercial properties, 28 vacant lots, and 80 right-of-ways.Cleanup began during the summer of 2001. Currently, about 70 percent of the properties havebeen remediated. USEPA is currently removing contaminated soils on village property.

F. Wetland Area Soil and Sediments

Part of the main operations area once contained a small, shallow lake. Over time, waste materialwas used to fill low-lying areas on the site. Two ditches on the site collect the runoff from themounded wastes. The ditches drain northward under the highway into privately-owned wetlands.According to ISGS records, the wetlands north of the site had high levels of zinc (Table 5).

G. Off-site Air

During most of the operations at this site, air pollution controls and regulations did not exist. Airemissions may have deposited contaminants over the west side of town, and perhaps agriculturalfields to the north and east. While the plant operated, bag houses were used to collect particlesand this fine material was recycled into the smelting process. Following the 1986 fire, IllinoisEPA collected 62 outdoor air samples at ground level at residential properties from March 22,1987 through May 27, 1988. No ambient air quality standards were exceeded during thissampling period. In 1993, Circle Smelting reported 11,100 pounds of zinc released to the air onthe Toxic Release Inventory. During periods of high winds, dust from the on-site wastes mayblow onto nearby properties and into nearby residences.

H. Quality Assurance and Quality Control

IDPH assumes adequate quality assurance/quality control measures were followed for chain-of-custody of samples, laboratory procedures, and data reporting. The analyses and conclusions inthis health assessment are valid only if the referenced information is complete and reliable.

I. Physical Hazards

The site is no longer in operation and physical hazards have been reduced. Access to the site hasbeen restricted with a fence and barbed wire. Previously, trespassers could readily access the site.

Exposure Assessment

IDPH evaluated the environmental conditions of the site to determine whether workers orresidents living near the site have been, are being, or may be exposed to hazardous chemicals.IDPH evaluated this information for the five parts of an exposure pathway. These five partsinclude a contaminant source, an environmental transport pathway (e.g., groundwater), a point ofpotential exposure (e.g., a private well), a route of exposure (e.g., ingestion of contaminatedgroundwater), and a receptor population or people who may be exposed.

If all five components for a particular exposure pathway exist, then it is considered complete.This suggests past, present and/or future exposure to contaminants. A potential exposure pathwayhas one or more components currently missing, but which could have occurred in the past oroccur in the future. An exposure pathway can be eliminated only if at least one component ismissing and will never be present. Discussion of completed and potential exposure pathwaysfollow and are shown in Tables 6 and 7.

A. Completed Exposure Pathways

Exposures to air emissions, wastes, and contaminated soils occurred to former smelter workers.Exposure of any current workers on the site would be low since operations have ceased.Trespassers may also have been exposed in the past.

Residential areas have been affected by waste and contaminated soils transported for fill. Past airemissions and windborne particles have deposited residues onto off-site surfaces including yards,streets, sidewalks, patios, and drives. Surface contamination can be tracked into homes. Throughthe years, drip-lines around homes may have accumulated airborne contaminants as rain washedresidues from roofs. Residents of all ages have likely contacted site-related contamination.

B. Potential Exposure Pathways

Workers' families may have been exposed to metals in dust transported home on the clothes offormer workers where it may have been inhaled or ingested. The site may potentially affectshallow private wells in the area, but on-site groundwater monitoring has not showncontamination at levels that would be expected to cause adverse health effects.

High levels of zinc are especially harmful to plants. Area residents may be consuming gardenvegetables grown in soils containing elevated levels of metals. Ditches on the site have sedimentcontamination and discharge into local wetlands and creeks. Recreational users of the wetlandsand downstream areas may be potentially exposed.

Toxicological Evaluation

IDPH estimated exposure doses to metals in residential surface soil based on two exposurescenarios: one for children and one for adults. For children, we used a body weight of 16-kg andassumed that children would contact and ingest 200 milligrams of soil daily while playing in ayard six days per week, 10 months per year. This is equivalent to annual exposure factor of 0.71(exposed 71% of the time). For evaluation of cancer effects of arsenic, a 16-year exposure periodwas used. The 16-kg body weight was used because it is more reflective of the earlier ages (0-6years of age) when a child may be more sensitive to contaminant exposures.

Our adult exposure scenario was for an adult (70-kg) contacting and ingesting 100 milligrams ofsoil daily while in a yard six days per week, 10 months per year (annual exposure factor of 0.71). For evaluation of cancer effects of arsenic, a 40-year exposure period was used.

Workers on the site were assumed to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment whenworking with waste material or contaminated soil. Trespassers were assumed to be youths oradults contacting and ingesting 100 milligrams of soil daily while trespassing onto the site 12days per year. Recreational users of the wetlands were assumed to be persons contacting andingesting 100 milligrams of sediments 12 times per year.

IDPH compared the estimated doses to minimal risk levels (MRLs) developed by ATSDR forchemicals commonly found at hazardous waste sites. An MRL is an estimate of the dailyexposure to a contaminant below which noncancerous, adverse health effects are unlikely tooccur. When an MRL was not available, IDPH used the USEPA reference dose (RfD). RfDs areused for long-term exposure, but may not be protective of hypersensitive individuals.

Based on our exposure scenarios, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, and nickel would not be expectedto cause adverse health effects. Adverse health effects that could occur based on our exposure scenarios are discussed for copper, lead and zinc.

A. Copper

The average level of copper in Illinois soil is 28.9 mg/kg, and an area background samplecontained 16.2 mg/kg of copper. The most concentrated site-related samples greatly exceededthese typical levels. The highest copper concentration found on the site was 12,200 mg/kg andthe highest found off the site was 7,300 mg/kg. Based on our exposure scenarios, no adversehealth effects would be expected in adults from exposure to copper. Children exposed to thehighest level of copper detected may experience adverse gastrointestinal effects (ATSDR, 2003).Based on average levels of copper, no adverse health effects would be expected.

B. Lead

ATSDR has no health guidelines for lead. Lead levels detected on and off the site are greater thanlevels that USEPA has used as a cleanup level for industrial areas. We do not know what levelsin the environment can increase blood lead levels in people upon exposure. Changes in the bloodhave been seen at 0.02 milligrams per kilogram day (mg/kg-day) (ATSDR, 1999).

Lead in residential soils was greater than 500 mg/kg, which USEPA is using as a clean-up levelin Beckemeyer for residential soil. The highest level of lead detected in samples from the sitewas 65,930 mg/kg. The highest residential sample was 50,000 mg/kg, and the greatest wetlandsample was 7,162 mg/kg. Background lead levels in Illinois are about 70 mg/kg.

The type of lead present in the soil, air, and dust is important because some compounds of leadare more readily absorbed by the body than others; however, these analyses were not completedduring the sampling events reviewed. No one had an elevated blood lead level when IDPH testedarea volunteers. Based on the results of the blood lead testing, no heath effects would beexpected from the lead exposure; however, not every person was tested and therefore someexposed persons may not have been identified.

Children exposed to lead before they are born and young children exposed to lead can exhibit decreased IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and may exhibit behavioral problems. Lead is stored in thebone. Women who were exposed to lead in the past can pass lead to their unborn child when leadstores are released from the bones to the blood stream and cross the placenta (ATSDR, 1999).

C. Zinc

Based on our exposure scenarios, no adverse health effects would be expected from exposure tozinc. Although zinc is an essential nutrient, exposure to high levels of zinc can cause adversehealth effects including breathing difficulties and a sickness called metal fume fever. In the past,workers may have been exposed by breathing high levels of zinc in the work place.


IDPH first conducted blood sampling in Beckemeyer in 1986 after a fire at the plant. Twenty persons from the community volunteered for blood lead testing (Table 1). Fingerstick tests were performed on the younger children and venipunctures on older children and adults. Both of these assays are sensitive, reliable, and well established; however, erythrocyte protoporphyrin concentration is more proportional to blood lead over the range of 30-80 g/dL and less reliable at lower levels. The EP concentration is useful for assessing lead exposure over the past 3 to 4 months. No elevated blood leads were noted at that time. IDPH provided information on how to reduce exposure to the existing environmental contamination.

In 1993, IDPH held a clinic at the Beckemeyer Grade School on the evenings of September 28and 30. Interested residents were interviewed, blood samples were collected by venipuncture andwere analyzed for lead. The overall participation rate was 23% using U.S. Census data. Eachparticipant received a written report with individual results. Of the 248 persons tested, only onechild had an elevated level of blood lead (Table 2). A blood test can tell if a person has beenrecently exposed to lead. The September 1993 blood tests would have detected recentsummertime exposure. Exposure and blood lead levels can vary over time. Because lead can bestored in the body for long periods, past exposures cannot be accurately evaluated with a bloodtest. Each participant received a written report with individual results. Although a limited numberof children have been tested, results do not indicate that these children are lead poisoned, buttheir blood lead levels are somewhat higher than the U.S. average.


In the past, citizens of Beckemeyer have been concerned about air emissions frequently observedduring normal operations as well as during a 1986 fire on the site. Several families wereevacuated from their homes as a precaution. Plant operations ceased in October 1994.

Some individuals living near the waste site have been concerned about the potential adversehealth effects from metal contamination in and around their homes. At one time, several familieswith young children lived close to the smelter. One family related that their children appeared tohave neurological disorders. A resident with a history of an allergy to metals feels thatenvironmental metal contamination exacerbates recurring symptoms.

Most questions raised during community meetings were not related to health risks, but toeconomic concerns. Some developers and residents worried that the site-related activities mayreduce real estate values. Many residents objected to the additional costs and delays that occurredduring the water line replacement project planned before USEPA investigated the site.

Question: Did the site require an emergency cleanup?
Answer: IDPH arranged for blood sampling of interested individuals in September 1993. Of 248 volunteers, only one child had an elevated blood lead level. Our sampling did not suggest that current lead exposures were an immediate health threat in Beckemeyer. IDPH did not recommend an emergency cleanup based on this investigation and provided this information to the regulatory agencies.
Question: If the smelter did not harm us when it was in operation, how can it hurt us now?
Response: Although the smelter is no longer in operation, environmental sampling suggests that considerable lead contamination exists in the surface soil of Beckemeyer. Exposure to elevated levels of lead can adversely affect the developing central nervous system in young children.
Question: Doesn't the number of Beckemeyer senior citizens show that lead exposure from the smelter has not created a health problem?
Response: Beckemeyer does have more seniors than young adults; however, this may be related to a migration of younger people to other job markets. Lead is lethal only in very large doses and it is highly unlikely that an individual would die prematurely due to environmental exposures from current conditions. Some developers and residents worried that the site-related activities may reduce real estate values. Many residents objected to the additional costs and delays that occurred during the water line replacement project planned before USEPA investigated the site.

This public health assessment was made available for public comment from October 16 to November 27, 2002. No public comments were received.


ATSDR recognizes that the unique vulnerabilities of infants and children demand specialemphasis in communities faced with contamination of their environment. Children are at greaterrisk than adults from certain kinds of exposures to hazardous substances emitted from sites. Theyare more likely to be exposed because they play outdoors and they often bring food intocontaminated areas. They are shorter than adults, which means they can breathe in any dustsclose to the ground. Children are also smaller, resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure perbody weight. The developing body systems of children make them more sensitive to exposuresthat occur during critical growth stages. Also, children depend completely on adults for riskidentification and management decisions, housing decisions, and access to medical care.

IDPH evaluated the likelihood of residents living near the site to be exposed to lead at levels thatcould cause adverse health effects. Children were likely exposed to higher levels of chemicals inthe past than they are at present. Lead in soil is a source of exposure for area children; however,in the future, exposures should decrease as remediation and educational efforts continue.


Based on the environmental data, IDPH concludes that the Circle Smelting site posed a publichealth hazard prior to remedial activities. Environmental data show that persons may have beenexposed to elevated levels of contaminants; however, biological sampling did not show increasedlevels of lead in blood collected in 1993. Exposure to site-related metals has been reduced by theefforts of the site owners, state and federal environmental agencies, and area residents. Sincemetals do not degrade, efforts should continue to reduce exposures to site-related chemicals.When clean-up activities are completed, exposure to lead in residential soil should no longerpose a public health hazard. Groundwater investigations are not included in the current efforts, but may occur in the future.


IDPH recommends that the site owners maintain the site fencing to prevent direct contact withwastes, and institute procedures to suppress dust migration during on-site clean-up activities.This is part of the clean-up plan.

IDPH has reviewed the results of residential soil sampling and given residents information aboutthe results of this sampling. IDPH has provided residents with information about reducingexposure to environmental contamination. IDPH will evaluate the environmental conditions of the site when the site is scheduled for a five-year review.


Catherine Copley
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health

Ken Runkle
Jennifer Davis
Environmental Toxicologists
Illinois Department of Public Health

ATSDR Regional Representative
Mark Johnson
Regional Operations
Office of the Assistant Administrator

ATSDR Technical Project Officers
Allen Robison
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Steve Inserra
Division of Health Studies

Sylvia Allen-Lewis
Division of Health Education and Promotion


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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Memorandum: Request for Evaluation ofData Provided by EPA to Determine if Sufficient Pubic Health Risk Exists to Conduct anImmediate Removal at the Circle Smelting Site in Beckemeyer Illinois. From Manna M. Muroya,ATSDR, to Tom Long, IDPH Toxicology Section Chief. April 30, 1993.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Circle Smelting Corporation Site Risk EvaluationAddendum for Residential and Industrial Areas. Prepared by Patricia Van Leeuwen, USEPAToxicologist, Region V. November 1, 1995.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sampling Protocols Circle Smelting Corporation Site(for Risk Evaluation Addendum to EE/CA). March 23, 1995.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis - CircleSmelting Corporation Site, Beckemeyer, Illinois. WA No. 68-5LWJ/Contract No. 68-W8-0040.Prepared by CH2M Hill for USEPA Region V in Chicago, Illinois; 1995.


This Circle Smelting public health assessment was prepared by the Illinois Department of PublicHealth under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and DiseaseRegistry (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)

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

Roberta Erlwein
Chief, State Programs Section


Table 1.

Results of IDPH March 1987 Beckemeyer Blood Lead and EP* Screening.
Participant Age Range Blood Lead Levels (mcg%)
Blood Lead or EP Ranges Mean Median
0-5 (n=3) EP = 18, 24, 26 22.7 24
6-12 (n=5) 6, 9, 10, 14, 15 10.8 10
13-19 (n=3) 7, 7, 8 7.3 7
20-29 (n=4) 5, 7, 12, 22 11.5 9.5
30-39 (n=3) 5, 9, 12 8.7 9
40-53 (n=2) 7, 11 9.0 9.0
Total** EP = 18-26
Lead = 5-22
EP = 22.7
Lead = 166/17 = 9.8
EP = 24
Lead = 9.0

* = Erythrocyte Protoporphyrin performed on finger sticks from young children.
** = Most common lead value for all the participants (mode) was 7 mcg% (n=3).

Table 2.

Results of IDPH September 1993 Beckemeyer Area Blood Lead Screening. Detection Limit is 2.0 micrograms/deciliter(µg/dL).
Participant Age Range # Individuals Rate of Participation Blood Lead Levels (g/dL)
1990 U.S. Census Bureau data 1993 Screen Blood Lead Ranges Mean ND=1.9* Median
0-5 96 24 25% ND-17.4 4.9 3.9
6-9 77 36 47% ND-6.6 3.2 3.1
10-13 77 36 47% ND-6.7 2.9 2.5
14-19 162 16 10% ND-5.4 2.5 1.9
20-29 150 27 18% ND-11.2 3.0 2.2
30-39 151 47 31% ND-11.8 3.6 3.0
40-49 106 24 23% ND-5.8 3.1 2.9
50-59 95 19 20% ND-10.5 5.0 4.8
60-69 109 12 11% ND-6.9 4.5 4.3
70+ 124 7 6% 3.4-12.9 7.0 6.7
Total 1070 248 23% ND-17.4 3.6 3.1

* = results below the detection limit were included as 1.9 g/dL

Table 3.

Chemicals of Interest in Circle Smelting On-site Waste Materials, Soil and Sediment in milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg).
Chemical 7-11-86
Background Concentrations ATSDR Soil Comparison Values
State Range
Child Adult Source
Arsenic NA 0.31-31
20 NA 1.1-24
200 CREG
Cadmium 8 0.97-54
22 2.5-127.7
10 100 CEMEG
Copper NA 160-5,800
3,800 123-12,200 (5,115) <2.93-156
none none
Lead 2525 300-9,370
9,370 239-19,348 (7,789) 4.7-647
none none
Nickel NA 74-3,200
1,000 NA <3.1-135
1,000 10,000 RMEG
Zinc NA 6,600-72,000
61,000 6,144-591,437 (144,416) 23-798
20,000 200,000 CEMEG

NA = not analyzed
U = estimated value
n = number of samples

Table 4.

Chemicals of Interest in Beckemeyer Off-site Residential Waste Materials and Soil in milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg).
Chemical 7-21-86
9-25-86 n=10
7-26-88 3-1-92
Background Concentrations ATSDR Soil Comparison Value
State Range (Means) Breese
Child Adult Source
Antimony NA NA 8U-9.1U 3.3-52.2
NA NA NA NA 0.24-8
20 300 RMEG
Arsenic NA NA 1.5-9.6 6.2-38
NA NA 11.8-12.1 NA 1.1-24
200 CREG
Cadmium NA ND-16.4 1U-4.9 0.6-4.8
11 0.4-1.8
ND-2.1 NA <2.5-8.2
10 100 CEMEG
Copper NA NA 71-880 16-3,600 (431) 1,000-7,300 12.7-418 (100.5) 56-200 NA <2.93-156
none none
Lead 140-1,500 60.6-770 940-1,600 61-14,000 (1,573) 7,100-50,000 32.5-600 (245) 300-1,160 ND-4,350 (493.3) 4.7-64
none none
Nickel NA 249 35-450 25.8-2,020 (155) 65-130 10.8-140 (41.3) NA NA <3.1-135
1000 10,000 RMEG
Zinc 2,200-17,000 990-18,500 (7,117) 640-11,000 614-24,200 (3,941) 57,000-71,000 66.1-1,990 (793.2) 691-1,970 (681.8) NA 23-798
20,000 200,000 CEMEG

NA = not analyzed; U = estimated value; n = number of samples

Table 5.

Chemicals of Interest in Beckemeyer Wetlands (non-residential) Soil and Sediments in milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg).
Chemical 9-25-86
1-11-93 n=8
Background Concentrations ATSDR Soil Comparison Value
State Range (Means) Breese
Child Adult Source
Antimony ND-16.8 7.9U 10.6 NA 1.7-82.9
NA 0.24-8
20 300 RMEG
Arsenic 6.56-6.93 0.28 4.1-56.4 NA 4.2-45.5
8.34-15.6 1.1-24


200 CREG
Cadmium ND-19.6 4.7 0.7-16 2U-10 0.51-52.6
ND-1.73 <2.5-8.2
10 100 CEMEG
Copper 93.2-636 180 7.8-3,600
86.6-603 <2.93-156
none none
Lead 180-1,010 (431.5) 550 13.3-6,100
135-1,390 4.7-647
none none
Nickel 37.6-564 180 9.1-1,570
NA <3.1-135
1,000 10,000 RMEG
Zinc 895-29,500 58,000 52.5-42,000
1,370-2,720 23-798
20,000 200,000 CEMEG

NA = not analyzed ; U = estimated value; n = number of samples

Table 6.

Circle Smelting Completed Exposure Pathways.
Source Media Exposure point Exposure route Receptors Time Activities Estimated Number Exposed Chemicals
On-site Waste Smelter Waste
On-site surface Ingestion
Working with waste material 25 Metals
On-site Air Smelter Air On-site air Inhalation Workers
Past Breathing 25 Metals
Residential Soil and Fill Smelter Soil
Solid waste
Residential soil
Residents Past
1,000 Metals
Off-site Air Smelter Air Off-site air Inhalation Residents Past Outdoor activities 1,000 Metals

Table 7.

Circle Smelting Potential Exposure Pathways
Source Medium Exposure point Exposure route Receptors Time Activities Estimated number exposed Chemicals
Residential dust Smelter Dust Worker cars and homes Ingestion


Workers and their families Past
Residing 100 Metals
Surface water Smelter Surface water Creeks Ingestion Recreational users Past


10 Metals
Groundwater Smelter Groundwater Private wells Ingestion Private well users Past
Present Future


0 Metals
Biota Smelter Plants Gardens Ingestion Gardeners Past
Present Future
Eating 25 Metals


Beckemeyer, Clinton County, Illinois

Location of Circle Smelting


Environmental Media Evaluation Guides (EMEGs) are developed for chemicals based on theirtoxicity, frequency of occurrence at National Priority List (NPL) sites, and potential for humanexposure. They are derived to protect the most sensitive populations and are not action levels, butrather comparison values. They do not consider carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions,multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure, and are very conservativeconcentration values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.

Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guides (RMEGs) are another type of comparison valuederived to protect the most sensitive populations. They do not consider carcinogenic effects,chemical interactions, multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure, andare very conservative concentration values designed to protect sensitive members of thepopulation.

Cancer Risk Evaluation Guides (CREGs) are estimated contaminant concentrations based on aprobability of 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.

Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) have been established by USEPA for public watersupplies to reduce the chances of adverse health effects from contaminated drinking water. Thesestandards are well below levels for which health effects have been observed and take intoaccount the financial feasibility of achieving specific contaminant levels. These are enforceablelimits that public water supplies must meet.

Lifetime Health Advisories for drinking water (LTHAs) have been established by USEPA fordrinking water and are the concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected tocause any adverse non-carcinogenic effects over a lifetime of exposure. These are conservative values that incorporate a margin of safety.

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