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The inactive H&L No. 1 Municipal Landfill Response Action Site is south of Danville between the Vermilion River and Interstate 74 in Vermilion County, Illinois. The landfill operated from the 1940s to 1974, accepting domestic and industrial waste from the area. The site has a history of problems with leachate flows, seeps, and persistent odors. Before remedial activities, leachate would flow through the cover soil, predominantly along the northeastern part of the landfill. A remedial investigation (RI) was completed in July 1987. Subsequently, a leachate collection system was constructed in January 1992 and is currently in operation. The investigation and cleanup of contaminated soils and sediments on two adjacent residential properties are pending.

Nearby residents expressed concerns over possible adverse health effects from drinking private well water, eating fish from the Vermilion River, and breathing air near the site. Detailed answers to those concerns appear in the Public Health Implications section of this public health assessment. Before remedial activities, leachate would regularly flow from the site under a roadway culvert and through a private residential property before entering the Vermilion River.

Site-related contaminants currently pose no apparent public health hazard because human exposure to contaminated media is not occurring at levels of health concern. In the past, the site was a potential public health hazard to residential private well users east of the site and to persons (particularly children) playing on the site. Exposure to contaminated drinking water was eliminated in 1987 when the municipal water supply was extended to residences east of the site. In addition, exposure to on-site seeps (soil, sediment) was eliminated in the fall of 1993 after a perimeter fence was installed. Therefore, no follow-up health study is planned unless new data suggest otherwise. Recommendations include 1) sampling taps of residences east of the site, 2) complete Phase III work, 3) confirm water wells east of the site have been properly abandoned, 4) continue to restrict site access, 5) prevent precipitation percolation into the landfill, and 6) prevent storm water from co-mingling with leachate.


The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) evaluated the public health significance of this site. More specifically, IDPH determined whether adverse health effects are possible from exposure to site-related contaminants and recommended actions to prevent them.

A. Site Description and History

The 56-acre (approximately 1,950 feet x 1,275 feet), inactive H&L No. 1 Municipal Landfill site is owned by the City of Danville and is south of Danville, between Interstate 74 (I-74) and the Vermilion River (Figures 1 and 2). The site is bound on the west by a shallow ravine, on the north by Highland Avenue, on the east by Greenwood Cemetery Road, and on the south by wooded property. The land surface slopes east, and, most predominantly, north and northeast. Three surface tributaries (north, middle, and south tributaries) drain the site and site vicinity into the nearby Vermilion River. Some landfill runoff drains into two small ponds (North and South Ponds) on adjacent residential property and subsequently discharges into the south tributary. A third pond (Orange Pond) is along the south tributary.

Most of the landfill surface is poorly drained and has small local depressions. In some areas, erosion has exposed formerly buried waste, and buried waste is covered by only a few inches of soil in other areas.

The landfill operated from the 1940s to 1974. It accepted domestic refuse and waste from area industries. Although no records were required in the early years of the landfill operation, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has information showing about 3.5 tons of insecticides and pesticides were illegally dumped in the northeastern corner of the site in 1972 (1). This dumping included 7,000 pounds of the herbicide Sevin 5-D and four 50-gallon drums of the semi-liquid Aquanul 819.

Landfilling started in the 1940s and stopped in September 1974. During this period, three distinct landfilling phases can be defined. During the first phase, the city burned refuse in an incinerator at the north end of the site. The incinerator ash residue was disposed of in the northern part of the site, primarily in a large ravine. This operation continued until about 1950.

Between 1950 and 1971, the city filled approximately 31 acres of strip-mining depressions with refuse. Roughly, eight areas were identified in an earlier IEPA study as being filled in this manner (1). These areas were not contiguous and their locations are not known.

The City of Danville applied for and was granted registration of the landfill with IDPH on October 23, 1966. Subsequently, the H&L Disposal Company applied to IEPA for a permit to construct a sanitary landfill on September 27, 1971. Five isolated tracts totaling approximately 15 acres (Figure 3, tracts A-E) in non-strip-mined areas were proposed for filling. Proposed trench dimensions were 540 feet in length, 25-30 feet in width, and 16 feet in depth. Although not indicated on the original permit application, an area shown as "F" on Figure 3 (a small ravine on the east side) was also filled with refuse in late 1972 or early 1973. Following the cessation of waste disposal in 1974, a recreational park with three ball diamonds was constructed on the southwest part of the landfill. The City of Danville Park District stopped using the site as a park in 1986.

Since 1971, leachate seeps through the cover soil have been reported. Most of the seeps were reported along the slopes in the northeastern part of the landfill. Leachate seeps also were observed in the southeast corner. Local residents have complained continually about odors coming from the site.

The city of Danville failed to solve the leachate problem by selected excavation and grading and by seeding the fill surface. As a result, IEPA has not approved the closure of the site, although the site has been inactive since 1974. IEPA installed a series of monitoring wells on the site in late 1977 and early 1978. Water samples were collected from the monitoring wells, the drainage ditches on the site, and from nearby residential wells east of Greenwood Cemetery Road. Analyses of these water samples and soil borings, along with other available data, indicated groundwater contamination near the landfill. The cover soil thickness and permeability over much of the site is inadequate by IEPA standards. Therefore, the Illinois Attorney General, on behalf of IEPA, sued the city in November 1979 to force correction of the problem.

The city attempted to solve the leachate problem by installing cutoff walls in the southwest and northeast corners of the site in 1982. However, subsequent investigations revealed little improvement at the site regarding leachate seeps or groundwater quality.

On September 4, 1985, IEPA sent a notice that outlined the response actions required by the City of Danville concerning the landfill. The city failed to respond to the seriousness of the situation adequately, so IEPA negotiated with an engineering firm to undertake the investigation as described in the notice.

The H&L Municipal Landfill was evaluated in 1985 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Hazard Ranking System (HRS) and scored 17.40. On May 13, 1986, IEPA was granted access to the site for one year to conduct a remedial investigation (RI). The RI was completed in 1986 by Wehran Engineering Corporation under the direction of IEPA. IDPH also provided assistance during the investigation. Wehran Engineering Corporation recommended the installation of a long-life final cover, a perimeter cut-off wall, and a drainage system to control existing leachate volume and allow for future leachate containment and collection.

On May 19, 1988, an agreement for the design and implementation of a leachate collection system was executed by the city, H&L, the state, and IEPA. The construction of the leachate collection system was divided into three phases: Phase I - off-site construction of a gravity sewer, transfer pump station and forcemain, clarifier basin and cover, surface restoration, testing, connection, and other related activities; Phase II - on-site construction of a leachate collection system; and Phase III - investigation and cleanup of contaminated soils and sediments on two adjacent residential properties. These agreements were incorporated into the consent decree that was signed in August 1991.

The construction of the Phase I work was completed before 1991. Phase II work was completed in 1991 after the city installed the underground leachate collection system around the northern and eastern perimeter of the site. The collection system began operating in 1992 and appears to have eliminated the leachate seeps and groundwater migration off the site. Phase III work has not yet been completed. The investigation phase is completed but cleanup of the off-site properties is still pending. Apparently, IEPA agreed that if the leachate collection system completely prevented leachate overflow, the Phase III cleanup would not be necessary.

B. Site Visit

A representative of IDPH visited the site area on May 21, 1993. The following observations were noted:

  1. A new fence was around the perimeter of the city of Danville's old Health and Safety Garage. The only part of the building structure remaining was the concrete slab floor.
  2. A contractor was installing fence posts around the perimeter of the landfill.
  3. Unlike previous site visits, there were no leachate seeps observed on the east side of the landfill. The drainage ditch was dry, and no leachate odor was detected.
  4. The outside of the leachate collection holding basin and the pumping stations were observed.
  5. The IEPA warning signs were still posted at various locations around the site.
  6. A resident living south of the site expressed health concerns about past and present exposure to contaminants from the site.

On May 25, 1993, Cary Ware of IDPH accompanied Sue Doubet of IEPA, and Tom Stone, Danville City Engineer, to the site and the leachate collection holding tank. Ms. Doubet informed Mr. Stone about locations in the three tributaries east of the site that should be sampled during the Phase III work. Mr. Stone pointed out a couple of leachate seeps on the site and the crushed limestone placed to control the seeps and their odor. The city is considering construction work to divert surface water away from the leachate collection system and channeling it directly into the three tributaries that flow toward the Vermilion River.

IEPA and Vermilion County Health Department personnel documented odorous leachate outbreaks in June 1996 and March 1997. Leachate was observed flowing across private property, similar to flows that occurred prior to the installation of the leachate collection system. During times of increased leachate and rain water overflow, the city relieves pressure on the leachate collection system by trucking some of the leachate directly to the sanitary district. However, reports indicate that these actions are sometimes inadequate, resulting in leachate breakouts at the north end of the site.

IDPH staff revisited the site on September 29, 1997, and verified that the conditions described above are still accurate.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use


According to 1990 census data, Vermilion County has a population of 88,257. This is a 7.3% decrease from the 1980 population of 95,222. Danville had a population of 33,828, a 13.23% decrease from the 1980 population of 38,985 (2). The decreases are partly due to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the area.

Land Use

Land use in the immediate vicinity of the site has included the following:

  1. Residential - The area surrounding the landfill is primarily residential, with the heaviest concentrations of homes west of the landfill. A junior high school is approximately 1,500 feet west of the site.
  2. Agricultural - The area east of the site was frequently used for livestock grazing and farming until the 1970s. Since then, occasional livestock grazing has been reported.
  3. Municipal - Municipal land use included a city garage (abandoned in August 1986) north of the site and a recreational park with three ball diamonds constructed on the southwest part of the landfill (abandoned in the summer of 1986). A Danville Township Garage is directly west of the site.
  4. Commercial - Light industry, gasoline stations and retail food establishments, car dealerships, retail shops, and fast food restaurants are west of the site, within 0.5 miles.

Natural Resource Use

The Vermilion River flows in a southeast direction and passes by the northern border of the site. The area's drinking water supply is more than a mile upstream of the site. Fishing and boating have been reported in the area. Swimming in this portion of the river does not occur on a regular basis. In the past, this area was mined for coal. Because this area is unincorporated and wooded, it might be used for hunting for squirrel, rabbit, deer, and other game.

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. No site-specific health outcome data related to this site was identified. 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.


During a public meeting conducted in August 1987, the following community health concerns were expressed:

  1. Concern over private drinking water quality near the site.
  2. Concern that contamination from the site may be harming the Vermilion River.
  3. Concern that fish from the river were unsafe to eat.
  4. Concern that the air near the site was unsafe.

These concerns have been repeated since the August 1987 meeting, but no new community health concerns have been expressed since that time. This document was released for public comment in September 1997. IDPH did not receive any comments on the document during the comment period that ended October 3, 1997.

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