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The former Indian Refining Company site (Refinery) is an inactive oil refinery facility on the southern edge of Lawrenceville, Illinois. During years of operation, the Refinery produced petroleum products and generated wastes. The investigation of site-related contamination is in the preliminary stages. The former refinery property is fenced, secured by locked gates, and a guard is posted at the main entrance. Indian Acres, a 21-acre area northeast of the Refinery operations, was a former disposal area for refinery waste. Indian Acres is currently fenced; however, past inspection reports document evidence of trespassers. Since 1996, Indian Acres has been under an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Seal Order.

Various petroleum products and petroleum processing-related contaminants including oils, gasoline, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and acidic sludge have been associated with the site. Off-site groundwater sampling of residential wells has not identified the presence of site-related contaminants in the groundwater. An acidic, tar-like waste was identified at Indian Acres. Site-related waste material found in nearby residential yards also contained PAHs and was acidic. Demolition activities are currently ongoing at the Refinery.

The full extent of contamination at the site is not known. A remedial investigation of the site may not be completed until all above-ground structures are removed, but some operable units may be completed before then. Completed exposure pathways to site-related contaminants include:

  • dermal contact, inhalation, and ingestion of off-site waste materials, contaminated soils, and fugitive dust by nearby residents (past, present, and future);
  • dermal contact, inhalation, and ingestion of on-site waste materials, contaminated soils, and fugitive dust by site workers or trespassers (past, present, and future); and
  • inhalation of airborne emissions from plant operations (past).

Based on the level of site-related contamination identified in the residential areas and the acidity of the waste material, this site is considered a public health hazard. Recommendations for future actions include:

  • collection of additional samples on and off the site;
  • identification and sampling of private wells downgradient of groundwater contamination;
  • identification of areas where acidic waste has moved to the surface and isolation of the areas from the public until the waste can be remediated; and
  • continuation of education of nearby residents on ways to reduce exposure.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) conduct a public health assessment for the former Indian Refining site. The purpose of this public health assessment is to evaluate, based on the information currently available, any known or potential adverse human health effects if people are exposed to contaminants related to the site.


Site Location

The Indian Refining Company, also known as the former Texaco Refinery, is a 990-acre, inactive oil refining facility along the Embarras River on the southeastern edge of Lawrenceville, Illinois, in Lawrence County (Figure 1). The northeastern portion of the site consists of a 21-acre wetland area called Indian Acres. This area was formerly used as a dump site for refinery waste. The western and northwestern boundaries of Indian Acres are adjacent to Lawrenceville homes. The eastern side of the dump is bounded by the Embarras River, and the southern boundary is a railroad track. The northern portion of the dump is owned by the city of Lawrenceville and is the location of the municipal sewage treatment facility. This area is east of the end of Hickory Street and continues south to the railroad tracks.

The Refinery borders several residential neighborhoods in Lawrenceville (Figure 2). The northern boundary runs along Hickory, Orchard, and Crackle Streets. The eastern portion of the site is bounded by Illinois Route 1. A Refinery tank farm and land farm are west of Highway 1. A residential area, the Kirkwood Addition, is near the tank farm and land farm. The southern and eastern site boundaries border a wetlands area, and immediately south of the site are a few homes and small businesses. Lawrence Addition, Indian Creek, Meadow Lake Heights, other residential areas, are approximately one mile south of the site.

Site History

Oil refining operations began at the Refinery in the late 1800s. Several companies have owned the Refinery, including Texaco, Incorporated. Although attempts have been made to continue operations, the site has remained inactive since November 1995. Demolition activities are currently underway to salvage and remove all above-ground structures on the Refinery. The current owner is American Western Refining L.P. Company.

During the years of operation, various products, including liquid petroleum gas, motor gasoline, aviation gasoline, jet fuel, burner oil, diesel oil, home heating oil, fuel oil, and asphalt materials, were produced. Wastes generated by operations at the site included oily sludges, acidic lube oil filter clay, lime sludge, catalyst waste, and tar and asphalt wastes [1].

In 1989, Illinois EPA, Division of Air Pollution, investigated uncontrolled blowing asbestos at the refinery. Illinois EPA records show asbestos removal was conducted at the refinery and the material was reportedly landfilled on the site. In 1992, Illinois EPA filed a consent order requiring that the refinery owners investigate certain portions of the facility, including a wastewater treatment pond, former wastewater treatment plant lagoons, tar pits, groundwater contaminated with petroleum products near the administration building, and Indian Acres.

Indian Acres is in a wetland area northeast of the refinery. For many years, the area was used as a dumping site for wastes generated from several processes at the refinery. Some wastes originated from a lubricating oil manufacturing process that used sulfuric acid. In May 1996, Illinois EPA inspected Indian Acres and found large areas covered with sludge and a tar-like crust. The crusted areas covered a highly corrosive liquid waste that had an acidic pH of 2 or less. Because of this investigation, Illinois EPA issued a seal order in June 1996 to restrict access to Indian Acres. Besides the contaminated areas at the Indian Acres landfill, oily sheens and dark, thick liquids have been reported on the surface of the Embarras River, east of Indian Acres.

In 1996, an acidic, tar-like substance was observed in residential areas north and west of Indian Acres. In November 1996, Illinois EPA initiated an immediate removal action in cooperation with USEPA to address the off-site contamination in the residential area. Acidic, tar-like waste was excavated at a property on Fourth Street and at a property on Hickory Street. The refinery subsequently purchased all but one of the properties on the block bordered by Third, Cedar, Fourth and Hickory Streets. They also purchased some properties on the south side of Hickory Street between Third and Fifth Streets. Samples were collected in February 1999 from additional areas where site-related waste material is surfacing in residential yards.

In June 1997, USEPA confirmed that a subsurface oil product floating on groundwater was being released through several discharge points into wetlands southeast of the Refinery fence line. The wetlands affected by the oil release are connected to the Embarras River. An interceptor trench was subsequently constructed for collection and treatment of the oily water.

In July and December 1996, Illinois EPA sampled several residential wells south of the Refinery. Two of the private wells contained elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic (60 parts per billion (ppb) and 58.2 ppb); however, no other contaminants were found. Many of the rural residents south of Lawrenceville use private water wells for their drinking water supplies. IDPH and Illinois EPA collected water samples from several private wells in Kirkwood Addition in January 1999. No site-related contaminants were identified at that time.

USEPA and Illinois EPA signed an agreement with Texaco on June 15, 1999, requiring Texaco to conduct a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) of the former Refinery site and adjacent areas of concern.


Lawrenceville, which is in the southeast portion of Illinois, is a community of about 5,000 people. Ninety-eight percent of the population of Lawrenceville is Caucasian. About 800 homes and 30 businesses are within one mile of the site [15]. The neighborhood where most of the residential sampling has been conducted is a two to three-block area north of Hickory Street and along Fourth Street. This neighborhood is next to the northeastern site boundary and the Indian Acres area and is in a low-lying area prone to flooding.

Five schools are within one-half mile of the site. The local baseball field, Texaco Ballpark, is adjacent to part of Indian Acres. Lawrence County Memorial Hospital, Rural Health Clinic, two nursing homes, and two elderly housing facilities are within one mile of the site. Two asphalt plants are adjacent to the northwest corner of the Refinery. Air emissions from the asphalt manufacturing processes have resulted in past complaints from nearby residents.

Some residents who live within a few blocks of the Refinery have spent most of their lives in that area. The Refinery was a major source of employment for many local citizens.

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