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The Cross Brothers Pail Recycling National Priorities List (NPL) site is situated in the Pembroke Township, Kankakee County, approximately l2 miles east of Kankakee, Illinois. Groundwater in the Kankakee Aquifer is contaminated with volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds beneath and downgradient of the site while on-site soil is contaminated with volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The migration of chemicals to off-site soil is limited. Approximately seventy homes are within a 0.25 mile radius of the site; four residences located downgradient of the site depend on private water supplies for domestic use. However, two of these residences have an alternative township water supply available, and the other two are vacant. Citizens raised questions about the safety of the drinking water supply and potential health effects from exposure to site contaminants . Detailed answers to these questions appear in the Public Health Implications sections of this health assessment. Exposure pathways of potential concern include incidental ingestion of contaminated soil by on-site workers and trespassers. For the most part, this exposure should be limited based on present conditions at the site. In addition, there is a potential health concern of future exposure to contaminated groundwater for those residences living in the direction of the groundwater plume who do not hookup to the township's municipal water supply. Planned remedial action should capture the groundwater contamination plume prior to it affecting these water supplies.

The site currently poses no apparent public health hazard because human exposure to contaminated media is not occurring at levels of health concern. However, the site caused a public health hazard at two contaminated residential wells located north of the site. This past completed pathway of exposure to contaminated drinking water was eliminated when the private wells were replaced in 1980. In the more distant future, the groundwater plume could be a potential health concern to downgradient wells if remedial action is not implemented.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendation Panel have evaluated the data and information on this site for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. Because there is no indication that exposure to site contaminants is occurring at levels of public health concern and because the two residences who experienced past exposure have been vacated, this site is not being considered for follow-up health activities at this time. However, the site will be reevaluated by ATSDR and IDPH if new data, (i.e., groundwater monitoring), suggests that exposure to significant levels of hazardous substances is occurring or has occurred in the past. As part of the ATSDR Physician Education Cooperative Agreement, IDPH will inform area health professionals of the potential effects associated with exposure to contaminants found on this site and others in the area.


In cooperation with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, ATSDR will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent them. ATSDR, which is in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conduct health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

In l980, the Cross Brothers Pail Recycling site was identified during an aerial survey in the area by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). A subsequent investigation revealed surficial and buried waste materials (i.e. pails and drums) as well as a groundwater contamination plume due to waste disposal practices. The site was placed on the National Priority List (NPL) in September l983.

The Cross Brothers Pail Recycling site is located in the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section l5, Township 30 North, and Range ll West, of the Second Principal Meridian, Kankakee County, Illinois (Appendix A, Figure l). The site is a 20-acre parcel of land in Pembroke Township located approximately l2 miles east of Kankakee, Illinois. The Illinois-Indiana border lies 2 miles east of the site. The nearest surface body of water is the Kankakee River located 4.5 miles north of the site and it is a discharge zone for the Kankakee Aquifer.

The site itself is situated in a wooded area near small farms and private residences. Owner James Cross currently resides on the site and operates a pail and pallet reclamation business which employs approximately l0 part-time workers. An open drainage ditch parallels the east side of Arbor Road along the western boundary of the site. Although site access is not physically restricted, unauthorized site entrance has not been reported to be a problem by IEPA personnel or the local population.

Additional site conditions include the following:

  1. The site is relatively flat; elevation ranges from 665 to 680 feet above mean sea level.
  2. The site is underlaid with a 50 foot layer of relatively permeable sand over a 40 foot layer of relatively impermeable clay aquitard.
  3. Depth to groundwater ranges approximately 6 to 10 feet below the surface; these levels vary seasonally (plus or minus 2 feet from the above levels).
  4. Average annual temperature in the area is 51oF; average annual precipitation is 32.7 inches.

James and Abner Cross operated the pail and drum reclamation operation at the site from l96l-l980. The reclamation operation consisted of placing drums and pails containing dye, ink, and paint residue onto the ground allowing their contents to drain. Waste solvents were then poured over the pails and drums and then ignited to burn out the remaining contents. The pails and drums were then moved to a reconditioning shed to be sand blasted and repainted. This process resulted in a layer of waste residue up to 6 inches thick covering approximately l0 acres of the property. The operation also included burial of crushed pails and drums in approximately l0 trenches. The trenches varied in size but were generally less than 20 feet in width and depth.

After a l980 court order by the Illinois Attorney General's Office to close and cleanup the site, IEPA sampled the local residential groundwater wells. As a result, the homeowners immediately north of the site were advised to obtain an alternative source of water to replace their contaminated wells. Subsequently, James Cross paid for the installation of two new deeper carbonate bedrock wells at the two closest homes downgradient (north) of the site. In addition, IEPA conducted additional field work to further characterize the contamination at the site. The results of these activities indicated the presence of surficial and buried waste materials and a groundwater contamination plume.

From May l983 to June l984, IEPA conducted a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS). The primary focus of this investigation was to: locate additional drums/bulk waste, perform a waste inventory and characterization survey, and accurately define the groundwater contamination plume. The RI results indicated however, that additional studies would be necessary to accurately define the groundwater contamination plume.

Concurrent with the RI/FS, the Kankakee County Circuit Court ruled that Cross Brothers could continue their pail and pallet reclamation business and wood pallet reclamation operation. These activities could continue at the site as long as the pails and drums contained no hazardous wastes or substances.

In March of l985, a Record of Decision (ROD) was signed requiring an Initial Remedial Measure (IRM) at the site. The primary focus of the IRM was to remove surficial and buried waste materials as well as visibly contaminated soils. In addition, the ROD recommended that the investigation of soil and groundwater contamination be continued after the IRM to determine if any additional remedial actions would be necessary at the site.

From October to November of l985, the IEPA contracted for clearance of all vegetation, excavation of 6,438 tons of surficial soil containing paint, ink, dye and tar-like residues, and removal of 56.25 tons of crushed pails, 542 drums containing waste solvents, and 572 empty drums from the site. Subsequently, further site characterization was done in the 1989 Hydrogeological Study (HS). It consisted of geophysical surveys, surface soil sampling, soil boring, and groundwater sampling (including one round of residential well sampling).

The ROD signed in September of 1989 represents the selected remedial action planned at the site. This remedy addresses remediation of groundwater and soil contamination present at the site through treatment, engineering and institutional controls. The major components of the selected remedy include the following:

  1. Re-sample the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contaminated soil area to confirm the presence of PCBs and better define the contaminated area.
  2. If identified, remove the localized PCB contaminated soils and incinerate them at a Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) approved incinerator.
  3. Install and maintain a groundwater collection system capable of capturing the groundwater contamination plume.
  4. Install and maintain an on-site groundwater treatment facility to remove contaminants from the collected groundwater.
  5. Install and maintain a soil flushing system on 3.5 acres of contaminated soil within the disposal area.
  6. Install and maintain a 6 inch vegetative cover over that portion of the disposal area not subject to the soil flushing operation.
  7. Install and maintain a fence around the site during remedial activities.
  8. Initiate a deed notification identifying United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and IEPA concerns regarding the conductance of intrusive activities at the site (1).

ATSDR completed a health assessment in 1988. Based on information at that time, the site was considered to be a public health hazard because of the likelihood of human exposure to hazardous substances via chemicals in the groundwater migrating off-site into nearby residential potable and livestock water supply wells. Also, trespassers exposure to site contamination was possible via ingestion, inhalation, and direct dermal contact with contaminated on-site soil.

The USEPA issued an administrative order in October of 1989 to the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) requiring they design and implement the remedy selected in the ROD. Design (Pump and Treat System) of the remedy should be completed and construction begun by the end of 1993 (1).

B. Site Visit

On April l2, l990, a site visit was conducted by IDPH regional and IEPA headquarters staff. Areas of special interest at the site were the current pail and pallet reclamation business, which included a shop and two truck trailers parked parallel with Arbor Road. Employees were seen working on the site. The site appeared to be relatively flat with no evidence of any type of water runoff. At the time of the visit, the site was not fenced and was accessible to the general public. However, there was no visual evidence of public activity at the site (i.e. bikes, motorcycles, motorized terrain vehicles, vehicle tracks, and footprints) other than employees of the pail and reclamation business. Also, there were no visible signs of environmental contamination; however, physical hazards are present due to the nature of the operation at the reclamation facility. The physical hazards included the use of heavy duty equipment such as fork lifts and semi-truck trailers. These hazards are due to present operations at the site rather than the past operations of the pail recycling.

Remedial activity was not evident at the time of the site visit. However, since the RI/FS there has been a Pembroke Township water supply installed to residences west of the site up to Cedar Road and northwest of the site on Florida Avenue to Arbor Road. A township map was provided to us by local officials that documented the locations of residences hooked up to the township municipal water supply. Although these residences have municipal water, it appeared that many of their wells had not been properly abandoned as evidenced by the well heads observed during the site visit. The township wells are located approximately 2 miles southeast of the site. It appears that James Cross and the two former residences located immediately to the north (downgradient) of the site still have private water supplies. In addition, there were three residences located north of the site at the intersection of Florida Avenue and Arbor Road which have yet to connect to the available township water supply. This is an important note since the groundwater contamination plume flows in this direction (Appendix A, Figure 2).

Local private wells are used for domestic purposes as well as for cropland irrigation and water for livestock. However, there was no evidence of livestock in the immediate vicinity of the site.

On July 16, 1992, IDPH regional staff conducted a site visit. The site appeared to look the same as the April 12, 1990 site visit. Three employees were observed on-site. Two employees were loading pallets with a fork lift into a semi-trailer. Another employee was observed coming out of a small trailer home located in the middle of the site. A pile of broken pallets was observed on the north side of the site. Many abandoned vehicles, machinery equipment, railroad ties, crushed 55-gallon drums, scrap metal, and at least 4 semi-trailers were observed on the site.

We observed the two residences whose contaminated wells were replaced, one has burned down and the other is currently unoccupied.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use


A house count performed using both a topographical map of the area and a drive-by survey indicated approximately 70 homes within a 0.25 mile radius of the site. The average household density for the town of Pembroke was calculated as being approximately 3 persons per household. These figures indicated that the total number of persons living within 0.25 miles of the site was approximately 200. This value gives an indication of the number of people within walking distance to the site who could gain access to the site. Mr. Cross's nearest neighbor had lived 200 feet north of Mr. Cross's trailer home; however, the resident left some time ago and the residence was completely destroyed by a fire. During the site visit children were observed playing on Cedar and Julip Road which are approximately 0.5 to l mile west and southwest of the site. No parks or playgrounds were identified in the immediate area.

The Pembroke Township of 62 square miles is home to approximately 3,320 people. This is a predominately African-American community with a median age between 45-55. The majority of the population works outside the township, and a substantial number of people are on public assistance. Bio Search Labs is the largest employer in the township which employs about 70-100 people.

Land Use

Pembroke Township is a rural area primarily used for agriculture. The 20-acre site is situated within a semi-residential area which is interspersed with small farms and underdeveloped pastureland.

Natural Resource Use

Prior to l989, all area residents used the groundwater from the Kankakee and Carbonate Bedrock Aquifers for domestic uses, i.e. bathing, cooking, drinking. Currently, residents located west of the site are connected to the township's public water supply. The primary reason for the public water supply was because of the low water yield in private wells. Some of these private wells continue to be used for outside uses (washing automobiles, watering lawns, etc.)

There are at least l2 privately owned wells (ranging from 25 to 250 feet in depth) within 0.5 mile of the site, five of which are potentially in the pathway of the contamination plume. Regionally, groundwater is estimated to flow toward the Kankakee River located 4.5 miles north of the site. The nearest surface body of water is the Kankakee River.

The windblown deposits/glacial outwash collectively form an extensive aquifer referred to as the Kankakee Aquifer. This aquifer consists of well sorted, fine to medium grain sand with minor amounts of fine to medium gravel. The top of the aquifer is found within l0 feet below ground surface and ranges from less than l0 to about 70 feet in thickness. The bottom of the aquifer is formed by a glacial till unit which hydraulically separates the Kankakee Aquifer from the Carbonate Bedrock Aquifer. The Kankakee Aquifer is moderately productive and is a source of small domestic water supplies within the area of the site. The general flow direction of the Kankakee Aquifer is towards the north. The linear groundwater velocity of the Kankakee Aquifer is approximately l92 feet/year (2).

The Carbonate Bedrock Aquifer consists of limestone and dolomite, with minor amounts of shale, that is overlain by a confining till layer. Boring logs indicate a gravel zone between the till and the bedrock. It is suspected this zone represents a highly fractured phase of the bedrock. This aquifer is used to supply large quantities of irrigation water regionally as well as local residential water supplies (2).

D. Health Outcome Data

Health outcome databases available for this public health assessment are the Illinois State Cancer Registry, Vital Records, and the Illinois Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Reporting System. There was no site specific health outcome data identified that was appropriate for this site. According to the local county health department, no health studies have been performed in the community (3). Additional information can be found in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation of the Public Health Implications section.


The Pembroke Township Supervisor informed IDPH staff on July 16, 1992 that a house located north (south of Florida Avenue) of the site had a contaminated water supply. This supply was recently replaced with a new well instead of the Township's water supply which was more costly to install. After further discussion, it was determined that the well was replaced because of poor construction and coliform bacteria contamination rather than chemical contamination migrating from the site (4).

In November of 1991, the USEPA conducted community interviews with local officials and interested residents to discuss the remedial design and remedial action (RD/RA). There was a moderate level of interest in the community; but since this project has been going on for about 10 years, community concern and involvement have decreased (5). Health concerns were expressed as follows:

  1. Concern about the northern movement of the contaminant plume, and the possibilities of it changing course and contaminating the township's public drinking water.
  2. Concern that alleged illnesses of people living near the site might be caused by environmental contamination originating from the site.

EPA, in conjunction with IEPA and IDPH, conducted a public meeting on November 30, 1993 at the Hopkins Park Village Hall to solicit comments on the proposed clean-up plan. Two concerns were presented:

  1. The fire department expressed concerns about possible fire hazards at the site and nearby community.
  2. A question was asked about whether the proposed incinerator would operate on-site.

Responses to these concerns can be found in the Public Health Implications section of the health assessment.

The health assessment was released for public comment from December 1 to December 31, 1993. No comments were received.

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