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IDPH compared the maximum concentration of each contaminant detected during environmental sampling with appropriate comparison values to select contaminants for further evaluation for exposure and carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health endpoints. Chemicals that exceeded comparison values were selected for further evaluation. A detailed discussion of each of the comparison values used is found in Attachment 1.

The comparison values are used only to screen for contaminants that should be evaluated further. Levels greater than these values do not mean that adverse health effects can be expected. The health effects of exposure to contaminants depend on how much has entered the body, the duration of the exposure, how contaminants entered the body, and how the body responds.

Evaluating the potential for adverse health effects due to exposure to contaminants is done through examining human exposure pathways. Completed exposure pathways consist of five elements: 1) a source of contamination; 2) transport through an environmental medium; 3) a point of exposure; 4) a route of human exposure; and 5) an exposed population. Potential exposure pathways have at least one element missing, but the missing element could exist. Potential exposure pathways suggest that exposure could have occurred in the past, could be occurring, or could occur in the future. An exposure pathway is eliminated if one or more of the elements are missing and will never be present.

Sampling activities associated with the site have been limited and a full assessment of the extent of on-site contamination has not been completed. Areas of visible contamination from petroleum products are evident throughout the site. Deteriorating, asbestos-containing material (ACM) is scattered throughout the site. The current owner hired licensed asbestos abatement contractors to remove the ACM. Air sampling conducted during the asbestos abatement activities has not shown a release of asbestos fibers that would be a health hazard to the surrounding community.


The extent of on-site groundwater contamination is not known. An oil product was confirmed floating on the groundwater, releasing contaminants into wetlands south of the Refinery. The wetlands drain into the Embarras River. A visible release of an oil-like material to the Embarras River has also been occurring from Indian Acres north of the Refinery operations. No public water supplies use the Embarras River as a source of water; however, fishing does occur on the river. The Embarras empties into the Wabash River about 5 miles downstream. Before April 1997, the city of Mt. Carmel, about 15 miles downstream of the confluence of the Embarras and Wabash River, used water from the Wabash River as the source of their public water supply. Mt. Carmel now uses a deep well as its water source.

In 1996, Illinois EPA collected water samples from four private wells south of the Refinery. Two of the private wells contained slightly elevated levels of arsenic (60 parts per billion [ppb] and 58.2 ppb); however, no other contaminants were found. IDPH believes that the arsenic may be naturally occurring.

In January 1999, IDPH and Illinois EPA collected water samples from 11 private wells in Kirkwood Addition, a neighborhood west of Illinois Highway 1 and next to the Refinery tank farm and land farm. Many wells are shallow, sand-point wells ranging in depth from 10 to 18 feet. Other wells ranged from 60 to 120 feet deep. The samples were analyzed for diesel-range organic compounds and gasoline components including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. None of the target compounds were found above detection levels.

Most of the residential areas surrounding the Refinery are connected to the Lawrenceville municipal water district, except for about 25 to 30 homes south of the site and approximately 18 to 20 homes in Kirkwood Addition. The water supply for Lawrenceville is provided by deep wells upgradient of the Refinery.

In April 1999, Illinois EPA used a geoprobe to collect groundwater samples from neighborhoods near the Refinery tank farms. Four groundwater samples were collected from Kirkwood Addition, one sample was collected from property on 11th Street, one sample was collected from property on Olive Street, and one sample was collected from property on Cherry Street. No contaminants were identified at levels that exceeded comparison values.


Sampling activities were conducted off the site to identify any impacts to soils in nearby residential areas. Samples of the thick, tar-like waste material surfacing in residential yards contained elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The material also had an acidic pH of less than 2. This is the same material associated with waste at Indian Acres. The contaminated residential properties identified during the 1996 investigation were remediated, thus reducing exposure to the surrounding population. USEPA conducted additional investigations in February 1999 and found areas of contamination in other residential yards in the same neighborhood. Some material in the yards is visible at the surface, but it has also been found at depths up to 3 feet. Many residents found the material in their yards while they were digging or trenching on their property. Areas where the material is at the surface have been isolated by temporary fencing until the contamination can be removed.

A sample of waste material collected from a low-lying area near the Embarras River also contained PAH contamination. This property, currently owned by the city of Lawrenceville, houses the city's sewage treatment facilities. Only areas seen to be contaminated with the tar-like material were sampled. Surface soil samples were not collected; only the waste material itself was sampled and analyzed.

In April 1999, Illinois EPA and USEPA conducted sampling activities at the Texaco ballfield in response to area residents' concerns about possible contamination. Soil samples, including three subsurface and ten surface soil samples, and ambient air samples were collected. The soil samples were analyzed for metals, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), semi-volatile organic chemicals (SVOCs), and pesticides. The two 24-hour ambient air samples were analyzed for VOCs and SVOCs. No chemicals exceeded comparison values.

Exposure Pathways

Completed exposure pathways associated with the Refinery are summarized in Table 1. Site workers and trespassers are assumed to have come into direct contact with waste materials on the site. Direct contact might result in dermal absorption. Exposure was also likely through inhalation of contaminant vapors and through inhalation and ingestion of contaminated dust. Municipal employees might work near and come into contact with contamination on the city property near Indian Acres, but because the site is fenced and access onto the site is controlled by a guard, those workers and trespassers are not likely to go onto the site. Only a few workers, except for the workers contracted to do the demolition work, currently remain at the Refinery. Although the extent of contamination on the site is not yet known, areas of visual contamination have been noted, particularly at Indian Acres. Much of the site is covered with vegetation or concrete roadways, thus reducing the release of dusts and exposure to airborne soil contaminants.

In the past, area residents were probably exposed to airborne emissions from refinery operations. When the Refinery was active, area residents reported a gray, ash-like material settling onto cars, houses, and other surfaces. The material originated from a stack on a processing structure at the refinery. Individuals stated the ash etched the paint on houses and cars and caused skin and respiratory irritation. Residents also complained of strong, sulfur-like odors originating from operations at the Refinery. No environmental data are available to identify what contaminants and concentrations were coming from the site at that time.

Residents near the site have likely been exposed to site-related waste material in their yards. Material containing elevated levels of PAHs has been identified in four yards, and another yard has been fenced because waste material is visible and is scattered throughout the property. The off-site areas of contamination are easily accessible to the occupants of the homes and others where the contamination was found. Individuals have likely been exposed to the contamination by direct skin contact, inhalation of contaminant vapors, and inhalation and ingestion of contaminated dusts. Because contamination has been identified in yards, children are assumed to have ingested some waste material or contaminated soil because of hand-to-mouth play habits.

A potential exposure pathway exists through drinking water (Table 2). Some shallow private wells are near the south side of the Refinery and near the tank and land farms west of Highway 1. An oil product identified floating on the groundwater is discharging into a wetland area south of the site. This oil product is now being actively captured. Samples collected thus far from area private wells have not contained site-related groundwater contamination. Arsenic found in two private wells may be naturally occurring.

The Embarras River receives drainage from the site. Releases into the river have been observed originating from Indian Acres and the wetland area south of the Refinery. The Embarras River is used for fishing. Fish and other aquatic life may accumulate PAHs in their bodies as they feed from contaminated sediment. If fish are contaminated and people eat them, then the people could be exposed to contaminants in the fish. No data concerning PAHs in fish have been collected.

Toxicological Evaluation

PAHs are a complex group of chemicals that occur in the environment as mixtures of many components with widely varying toxic properties. Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) is one of the most potent PAHs and probably the most studied. Little is known about many of the other PAHs. USEPA developed toxicity equivalency factors (TEFs) for many of the PAHs based on their toxicity relative to BaP to estimate the potential for human health effects from exposure to mixtures of PAHs [3]. The total TEFs for all the PAHs detected in the soil samples for this site were compared with the BaP comparison value. From most recent sampling efforts in February 1999, two residential yards were found contaminated with site-related waste. Laboratory analysis reports of samples of the waste material showed levels of PAHs in samples with BaP TEF concentrations of 54 parts per million (ppm) and 169 ppm.

Because of their behavior and play, children ingest a certain amount of soil daily. Children who exhibit hand-to-mouth activity may ingest much more soil. Adults ingest a small amount of soil daily, through accidental hand-to-mouth transfer. Playing in the soil, gardening, or excavating contaminated soil will increase exposure to area residents. IDPH assumes that children contacted contaminated material in their yards during play 5 days per week, 10 months per year, for 10 years. PAHs were the only contaminants for which the estimated exposure dose exceeded health guidelines. No human studies are available to evaluate whether any adverse health effects have actually been seen at that level. In animal studies, no non-cancer or cancer effects have been seen from oral exposure at that level. Adverse effects in mice were seen at 100 times the levels children might experience at and near the site.

The acidity of the waste poses a health hazard if anyone contacts it. Dermal exposure to the tar-like material could result in skin irritation characterized as a rash, chemical burns, or other lesions. Direct skin contact with the material or exposure to the vapors could also cause the skin and eyes to become abnormally sensitive to the sun. This material can cause chemical burns of the eyes [6]. If this material or contaminated food items were ingested, a person's mouth and throat could be burned, and stomach discomfort could also result. Similar waste products found in yards near a site in California caused structural problems in the concrete of the homes and caused respiratory distress in some people when the material was excavated [9].

PAHs are commonly identified contaminants associated with crude oil, coal, and gasoline. They are produced whenever substances are burned and are present in products made from fossil fuels, such as coal-tar, creosote, and asphalt. PAHs can accumulate in fat tissue and breast milk. Exposed mothers could expose nursing infants to PAHs excreted in the breast milk. Although not all PAHs have been associated with cancer, the carcinogenicity of certain PAHs is well established in laboratory animals. In addition to skin and scrotal cancer, PAHs have been linked to lung, bladder, and gastrointestinal cancers. Animal studies have demonstrated reproductive and developmental effects from PAH exposure, although these effects have not been seen in humans [7]. No good data are available about how and how much PAH exposure causes disease in humans. Because PAHs are present in so many areas of our environment and people cannot avoid all contact with PAHs, additional exposures, such as those at and near the site, should be avoided when possible.


Because of community concern about the number of leukemia cases in the Lawrenceville area, the IDPH Division of Epidemiology reviewed the Illinois State Cancer Registry to find the cancer incidence for Lawrenceville for the years 1987 through 1996. An increased rate of leukemias was not found. No cases of leukemia were diagnosed among children aged 19 or younger during the study period. In adults, 10 cases of leukemia were observed while 13 cases were expected.


IDPH and Illinois EPA have visited the Lawrenceville area several times and conducted many neighborhood interviews. The agencies held a well-attended public availability session in Lawrenceville in June 1999. IDPH has also received phone calls from area residents who have asked questions and expressed concerns about issues at the site. The following information is a summary of the health concerns expressed and our answers to these questions.

1. Is anything going to be done about the waste material in my yard?

USEPA and Illinois EPA signed an agreement with Texaco on June 15, 1999, requiring Texaco to investigate the site and residential areas near the site and to develop alternatives to address contamination. The investigation, with oversight by USEPA and Illinois EPA, should begin in the fall of 1999.

2. How can the tar-like material affect my health?

Contact with contaminated material does not necessarily mean that persons will experience any adverse health effects. The health effects of exposure to contaminants depend on how much has entered the body, the duration of exposure, and how the body responds. Because the material is acidic, it can burn the skin and eyes. Contact with some of the material can cause mild to severe skin irritations, such as rashes, burns, or other lesions. Direct skin contact with the material or exposure to the vapors also can cause the skin and eyes to become more sensitive to sun. If the material is swallowed, stomach upset and burning in the mouth and throat could occur.

To prevent or reduce exposure to contamination in the area:

  • Do not touch the tar-like material.
  • Do not let children play in contaminated areas.
  • Wash hands frequently.

3. Can I eat the vegetables grown in my garden?

If you have areas of contamination in your yard or garden area, you should avoid growing and eating root vegetables. All other vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating.

4. Will living near the site cause cancer?

Unfortunately, cancer is a very common disease. National statistics suggest that one out of three persons will have cancer in their lifetime, and there is no single cause of cancer. Cancer development depends on things such as family history, health, nutrition, personal habits, and the environment. Environmental pollution by chemicals in drinking water, air, food, and in the workplace may contribute to cancer. The harmful health effects of chemicals depend on the dose, toxicity of the chemical, and the length of exposure. Outside the workplace, very few cases of cancer are believed to be caused by exposure to chemicals in the environment.

The IDPH Division of Epidemiology conducted a cancer incidence study for the Lawrenceville zip code. Results of the study did not identify any cancer clusters in the area nor any significant excess in cancers that would be attributed to the Refinery.

5. Could years of playing ball on the Texaco ballfield cause childhood leukemia?

Illinois EPA and USEPA collected soil samples from the surface and subsurface and air samples at the Texaco ballfield in April 1999. No contaminants were found at levels that would be a public health hazard. Leukemia is the most common cancer among children less than the age of 15. The causes of leukemia are not well understood. Several recent studies focusing on the investigation of leukemia risk among young children have suggested that maternal exposures during pregnancy, such as low-dose radiation, parental alcohol consumption, and dietary habits, may be related to the risk of leukemia in infants. The IDPH Division of Epidemiology reviewed cancer incidence for Lawrenceville for the years 1987 to 1996 and found no excess rate of leukemia.

6. We experience a lot of headaches. Is this because of the site?

Headaches are caused by biochemical changes in the brain because of many interacting factors. Stress, acting on the nervous system, makes headaches more likely to occur. Besides stress, other headache triggers may include diet, sleep patterns, hormones, and environmental factors. Environmental triggers of headaches include weather and temperature changes, glaring lights, computer screens, high altitude, and odors. In the past, when the Refinery was operating, odors were a reoccurring complaint. Odors associated with the Refinery have diminished since it closed. Odors associated with current demolition activities at the Refinery should be minimal, but IDPH cannot say that the site is not responsible for the headaches because some people are sensitive to odors other people cannot detect. One way of tracking possible causes of headaches is to keep a diary of their occurrence. If the headaches persist or become debilitating, medical attention should be sought.

7. There are a lot of kidney and liver problems in our family; could this be related to the Refinery?

Genetic factors may contribute to a family's predisposition toward some diseases. If there is a family history of a medical condition, routine screening examinations can result in the detection of some diseases at early stages when treatment is most likely to be successful. Outside of the workplace, cases of disease or cancer believed to be caused by exposure to chemicals in the environment are very few in number. Exposure to the type of contamination found at the Refinery is not likely the cause of kidney and liver disease among your family members.

8. Were fish from the Embarras River sampled and analyzed for contamination and is it safe to eat fish from the river?

IDPH is not aware of any laboratory analysis of fish samples collected from the Embarras River, so we cannot speculate on the safety of eating fish from the Embarras River. PAHs can build up in fish over time.

When properly prepared, fish can provide many health benefits. The fat of the fish is where most of the contaminants are stored. You can reduce the amount of any contaminants in a fish meal by properly trimming, skinning, and cooking the fish. Remove the skin and trim all the fat from the belly flap, the line along the sides of the fish, the fat along the back, and under the skin. Broil, grill, or bake the trimmed, skinned fish on a rack so the fat drips away. Do not use the drippings to prepare broth, sauce, chowder, or soup. Choose smaller fish to keep for a meal because as fish grow older, they develop a higher overall body fat content. By choosing to eat smaller fish, exposure to contaminants is reduced.

9. Has something hazardous from the Refinery been dumped at the Lawrenceville sewage treatment plant causing foul odors? How long may this last?

The contractor doing the demolition work at the Refinery obtained a permit from Illinois EPA to dispose of approximately 1 million gallons of caustic water from tanks at the Refinery. The material was to be trucked to the storage lagoon at the Lawrenceville sewage treatment plant, fed through the mechanical plant for treatment, and then discharged. A maximum of 25,000 gallons per day were permitted to be taken to the plant until all the caustic water was completely removed from the Refinery. After numerous citizen complaints and two fish kills, the city stopped accepting the material. Based on the permit application, the odorous component of the caustic water included ammonia. The material had a caustic pH of 11, which can cause skin irritation touched or burn the eyes or mouth if it comes into contact with the eyes or mouth.

In May 1999, Illinois EPA used an air sampling screening instrument to detection organic contaminants. At that time, no contaminants were measured above detection limits. We can often smell contaminants at levels much lower than they can be measured. Ammonia has a very pungent, irritating smell, and if present at low levels, some people might be able to smell it. Some individuals, such as those suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions, may be especially sensitive to odors. Because the odor is intermittent, depending on such things as weather and wind direction, remaining inside when odors are noticeable may alleviate symptoms.

Illinois EPA is continuing to investigate the source of the odor and whether unpermitted material was improperly taken to the sewage treatment plant. Odors should subside as the city treats and properly discharges the material at the treatment plant.


IDPH and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recognize that children are especially sensitive to some contaminants. For this reason, IDPH includes children when evaluating exposures to contaminants. Children are the most sensitive population considered in this health assessment because they may have more exposure than adults because of their hand-to-mouth play habits.

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