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The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) evaluate the results of residential soil samples collected as part of assessing the Hegeler Zinc site in Hegeler, Illinois. This health consultation evaluates whether current site conditions pose a public health hazard.


Site History

The Hegeler Zinc site is a former zinc smelter. The site is about 750 feet west of the Village of Hegeler, which is in Vermillion County, Illinois, about 3,000 feet south of the town of Tilton (Attachment 1). Hegeler Zinc began operations in 1906 as Hegeler Brothers and in 1913 became known as Hegeler Zinc. During its years of operation, Hegeler Zinc produced various grades of zinc slab, rolled zinc products, and sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid was produced from sulfur gas collected from the zinc ore prior to smelting. Most of the zinc ore used at the plant came from mines in Missouri. The company, however, operated its own local coal mine to charge its smelting furnaces. In November 1947, zinc smelting operations ceased, but zinc-rolling and sulfuric acid production operations continued until at least 1954 [1].

The smelting operation produced large amounts of slag, which were stored in piles on the site. The slag was a cinder material with incombustible residues, and generally contained metals such as lead, cadmium, and zinc. Subsequently, a zinc oxide plant was built on the site to recover more metals from the slag.

The site is in a rural area with two unnamed waterways bordering it on the west. One waterway flows from the north and the other flows from the south. The two waterways meet and flow northeast across the site. Farmland borders the site on the west and the north.

CCL Custom Manufacturing, a company manufacturing chemicals for use in household and personal care products, is south and east of Hegeler Zinc. The CCL Custom Manufacturing property was originally part of the 100-plus-acre Hegeler Zinc property. CCL Custom Manufacturing has operated at this location since 1963.

The Village of Hegeler is about 750 feet east of the site. An automobile salvage yard is about 1,000 feet northeast of the site. Approximately 235 persons live within a ½-mile radius of the site. Most live in the Village of Hegeler and receive water from a municipal surface water supply. No private water wells have been identified within a 1-mile radius of the site [1].

In April 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requested that the Illinois EPA Site Assessment Unit conduct an Integrated Assessment for the Hegeler Zinc site. In September 2000, the site was placed on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS) list [1]. During the investigation in May 2001, Illinois EPA collected on-site soil, waste (slag), sediment, and groundwater samples. Off-site sampling included residential soil and sediment samples.

In May 2002, Illinois EPA conducted an Expanded Site Inspection north of the Hegeler Zinc site. Illinois EPA tested residential soil in Tilton, north of the site, using an X-ray fluorescence instrument. EPA also collected some soil samples for laboratory analysis.

In September 2002, the site owner reported that trespassers were using the property as a track for riding dirt bikes and 4-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

Site Visit

IDPH staff accompanied Illinois EPA during their May 2001 Integrated Assessment of the site and surrounding areas. Staff observed small wood huts and semi-trailers scattered throughout a portion of the property. The huts were used by the World Fireworks Display Company until approximately 1993. Several huts and trailers had been inspected previously and found to contain empty boxes and old office furniture. No dangerous materials were identified inside the huts and trailers. Some brick and concrete buildings (both intact and partially demolished) used by the Hegeler Zinc operations remain on the site. The site was not restricted, so these buildings could present physical hazards to trespassers.

Vegetation was sparse on the site, which was relatively flat except for a large slag pile in the west central portion of the property. The slag pile occupied about 6 acres and rose about 60 feet above the ground [1]. Illinois EPA reported that the slag pile also contained small amounts of wood, brick, and concrete debris. Within the Village of Hegeler they identified slag materials along the railways, alleys, and residential properties.


Chemicals of Interest

IDPH compared the results of each environmental sample with appropriate screening comparison values to select chemicals for further evaluation for carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health effects (Attachment 2). Chemicals at levels exceeding comparison values or those for which no comparison values exist were selected for further evaluation. The listing of a chemical of interest does not necessarily mean it will cause adverse health effects if exposure occurs.

On-site Groundwater

During the 2001 Integrated Assessment, six groundwater samples were collected from five locations on the Hegeler Zinc site. Samples were obtained with a Geoprobe®, used to drive a steel sleeve into the ground. Samples of groundwater were collected from depths of 3.5 to 18 feet. No volatile organic chemical contamination was detected in the on-site groundwater samples; however, some metals were detected at levels exceeding drinking water comparison values. These metals included beryllium at 18.3 parts per billion (ppb), cadmium at 3,370 ppb, iron at 241,000 ppb, manganese at 8,620 ppb, nickel at 724 ppb, thallium at 5.6 ppb, and zinc 171,000 ppb [1]. Shallow groundwater generally flows across the site to the northwest. Also, water production from the sample points at these depths suggests that the groundwater was not adequate for a permanent source of drinking water.

Off-site Private Wells

No private water wells were identified near the site.

Surface Water

No surface water samples were collected during the Integrated Assessment. The unnamed on-site waterways later become Grape Creek, which eventually flows into the Vermilion River. Any site-related contamination entering the Vermilion River would be diluted before it reached water supply intakes.


During the 2001 Integrated Assessment, sediment samples were collected along the unnamed waterways and north (downstream) of the site in Grape Creek in the town of Tilton. The Grape Creek sample was collected in a residential area where a resident suggested children sometimes swim. No fishing activities have been observed or reported at this location. Organic chemicals and metals were found at levels greater than background, but only benzo(a)pyrene at 1.2 parts per million (ppm) and lead at 6,550 ppm were detected at levels greater than comparison values.

On-site Soil and Waste

During the 2001 Integrated Assessment, 16 soil and waste samples were collected from 15 locations at the former zinc smelter. Eight slag samples and eight soil samples were collected primarily from 0 to 1 inch below the ground surface. All 16 samples had detectable levels of metals. Arsenic, lead and zinc were the most common metals found in both soil and slag samples. The maximum values of metals in the slag samples were arsenic at 725 ppm, lead at 72,100 ppm, and zinc at 64,100 ppm. The maximum values of metals in the soil samples were arsenic at 35.7 ppm, lead at 31,600 ppm and zinc at 50,400 ppm.

Off-site Soil

During the 2001 Integrated Assessment, off-site residential surface soil samples showed lead, cadmium, and zinc at levels three times background levels [2]. Illinois EPA observed small amounts of slag materials that were apparently used as fill materials and road base materials in alleys in Tilton. Soil samples not containing slag materials also contained elevated levels of metals that could have been the result of air deposition from the zinc smelter facility.

In November 2001, IDPH reviewed data from the residential soil samples collected by Illinois EPA at seven residential properties approximately 1,000 feet east of the site. IDPH sent letters to residents containing health-based interpretations of the laboratory results. Cadmium (17.9 ppm) was the only metal detected greater than the soil comparison value.

In September 2002, IDPH reviewed the Tilton residential soil data collected by Illinois EPA in Tilton. IDPH sent letters to residents containing health-based interpretations of the sampling results. No metals were detected at levels greater than comparison values.

Exposure Assessment

The potential for exposed persons to experience adverse health effects depends on several factors including:

  • the specific chemical and the level to which a person is exposed,

  • how long a person is exposed, and

  • the health condition of the exposed person.

Children playing in Grape Creek in southern Tilton could be exposed to contaminated sediments primarily through ingestion and skin contact. IDPH estimated exposure to lead and benzo(a)pyrene at the highest levels detected in the Grape Creek sediment for children less than 12 years of age. A 30 kilogram (kg) child playing in the creek 7 days per week for 3 months per year would not be expected to experience any adverse health effects.

In addition, children playing in residential yards in the Village of Hegeler could be exposed to metals in soil. Cadmium was the only metal that exceeded comparison values in residential soil. IDPH estimated a 16 kg child ingesting 100 milligrams of soil per day, 5 days per week, 26 weeks per year. Based on this scenario, exposure to cadmium would not be expected to cause adverse health effects.

Physical hazards and chemical contaminants in surface waste exist on the site. IDPH assumed that only older children or adults would trespass onto the site 2 days per week, 12 weeks per year for 10 years. Arsenic and zinc are not at levels that would be expected to cause adverse health effects in persons trespassing on the site. Exposure to lead in slag could cause adverse health effects and will be discussed further in the next section.

Trespassers could also inhale contaminated dust while riding dirt bikes and ATVs. Without dust samples collected during these trespassing events, inhalation exposures can not be quantified, though they are likely to be minimal.



Persons trespassing on the site could be exposed to elevated levels of lead. Young children would not be expected to be on the site and they are the population most sensitive to the effects of lead; however, lead exposure in older children and adults can cause central nervous system effects such as decreased reaction time, weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles and possibly affect the memory. Lead exposure may also cause anemia, a disorder of the blood. Lead exposure in middle-aged men may increase blood pressure.


Children are a sensitive sub-population to some chemical contaminants. For that reason, IDPH included children when evaluating exposures to chemicals related to this site. Based on the given exposure scenarios, children would not experience adverse health effects from exposure to chemicals at this site.


Based on the information reviewed from the 2001 Illinois EPA Integrated Assessment and the 2002 Expanded Site Inspection, IDPH concludes that the Hegeler Zinc site poses no apparent public health hazard. This conclusion is based on current conditions and the site remaining as an industrial property. Site-related chemicals have been detected in off-site sediment and soil, but not at levels that would cause adverse health effects. Shallow groundwater is contaminated on the site, but no one is using this low-producing supply for drinking water

Access to the site is not restricted, so trespassers could contact on-site wastes and deterioration buildings could pose a physical hazard.


IDPH recommends that access to the site be restricted by fencing and posting "No Trespassing" signs. IDPH and the Illinois EPA agree that USEPA should restrict access to the site until potential physical and environmental hazards are removed from the property.


Cary Ware
Environmental Health Specialist
Illinois Department of Public Health


  1. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. CERCLA integrated assessment report for Hegeler Zinc. Springfield, IL: Division of Remediation Management; September 2001.

  2. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Residential soil samples for the Hegeler Zinc site. Springfield, IL; October 2001.


This Hegler Zinc Site health consultation was prepared by the Illinois Department of Public Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (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 (DHAC)

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

Roberta Erlwein
Chief, State Programs Section


Approximate Location of Hegeler Zinc


Environmental media evaluation guides (EMEGs) are developed for chemicals on the basis of their toxicity, frequency of occurrence at National Priorities List (NPL) sites, and potential for human exposure. They are derived to protect the most sensitive populations. They are not action levels, but rather comparison values. They do not consider carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions, multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure They are very conservative concentration values, designed to protect sensitive members of the population.

Reference dose media evaluation guides (RMEGs) are another type of comparison value derived to protect the most sensitive populations. They do not consider carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions, multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure, and are very conservative concentration values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.

Cancer risk evaluation guides (CREGs) are estimated contaminant concentrations based on a probability of 1 excess cancer in 1 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 water supplies to reduce the chances of adverse health effects from contaminated drinking water. These standards are well below levels for which health effects have been observed, and take into account the financial feasibility of achieving specific contaminant levels. MCLs are enforceable limits that public water supplies must meet.

Lifetime health advisories for drinking water (LTHAs) have been established by USEPA for drinking water and are the concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse noncarcinogenic effects over a lifetime of exposure. These are conservative values that incorporate a margin of safety.

Table of Contents The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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