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The Lenz Oil Service, a National Priorities List Site, operated for approximately 25 years, from 1961 to the 1980s, as an oil and solvent storage and transfer facility near Lemont, Illinois. Between 1980 and 1986, the owner also operated a licensed special waste hauling service and an asphalt supply service at the site. In 1986, the company and owner went bankrupt, and the facility was abandoned. Past practices at the facility contaminated soils, sediments, and groundwater with waste oils, industrial solvents, and asphalt derivatives, including aromatic compounds (e.g., benzene, xylenes, toluene), chlorinated solvents (e.g., methylene chloride, vinyl chloride, 1,2-dichloroethenes), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g., naphthalene and methylated naphthalenes), and polychlorinated biphenyls (e.g., Aroclor compounds). Residents living near the waste site were concerned about the contamination and the possibility of developing adverse health effects as a result of exposure to site contaminants. Children were known to play on the site, and some residents used water from private wells.

In 1988, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency determined that the site required an immediate cleanup; therefore, waste from 55-gallon drums, tanks, surface sludges, and contaminated soils were incinerated. Fresh soil was added to the incinerated soil and replaced on site as backfill. Groundwater samples collected from January 1985 to June 1988 from monitoring wells and some residential wells contained volatile and semi-volatile organic chemicals. Five homes, within one-half mile south and southwest of the site, were connected to a community water supply in April 1988.

Before the immediate cleanup, individuals trespassing or working on the site may have been exposed to contaminants by inhalation and skin contact with contaminated surface water and soil. After the immediate cleanup, groundwater and some subsurface soil remain contaminated. Monitoring data from 1991 and 1992 indicated the presence of a layer of contaminants, which appeared to float on top of the groundwater. An investigation of this contaminant layer in 1994 provided additional groundwater information for the remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS), which was completed in 1997. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Proposed Plan dated July 30, 1997, recommends that the groundwater contaminant layer be extracted for off-site disposal and that additional on-site treatment and disposal of remaining contaminated soil occur.

Based on the reviewed information, the Lenz Oil Service site near Lemont, Illinois, is currently considered to pose no public health hazard. People are not known to be exposured to site contaminants at this time. Before the availability of a community water supply in 1988, some residents using private wells may have been exposed to groundwater contaminants. Presently, people are not exposed to the residual surface soil contaminants found at the site.

The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends (1) that all contaminated private wells be properly sealed, (2) that institutional controls which prevent future use of the contaminated aquifer be implemented, (3) that access to the site be restricted, and (4) that ground cover be maintained to minimize wind and surface water erosion.


In cooperation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) evaluated the public health significance of this site. More specifically, IDPH and ATSDR determined whether adverse health effects are possible as a result of exposure to site contaminants and recommended actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, 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 or the "Superfund") to conduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

The Lenz Oil Service site (hereafter called the Lenz Oil site or the site) consists of 4.9 acres and is at the northeast intersection of Illinois Route 83 and Jeans Road in southeastern DuPage County, Illinois (Southeast quarter, Section 11, Township 37N, Range 11E, of the Sag Bridge, Illinois 7.5 minute quadrangle). The closest town is Lemont, Illinois, Cook County, approximately 3.5 miles southwest of the site.

Figure 1 shows the important topographical features near the site (14). This site is north of the Des Plaines River Diversion Channel in DuPage County and is in a flood plain and river discharge area. Figure 2 shows the specific land use of adjacent properties. The Lenz Oil site is currently a vacant, grassy area, containing a radio tower, monitoring wells, a fire hydrant, two underground utility man ways, and a drum storage area. The current site topography is a result of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's (IEPA) cleanup activities of 1988. Figures 3 and 4 illustrate the changes implemented at the site before and after the cleanup.

The site is bordered by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and an auto salvage business to the northwest, Illinois Route 83 to the southwest, Jeans Road to the southeast, and a private residence to the northeast. Other residences and small businesses are along Jeans Road. Several large industrial complexes are along the Des Plaines River upstream and downstream from the Lenz Oil site.

The Lenz Oil site began operation in 1961, operated under two different owners, and was an oil and solvent storage and transfer facility for more than 20 years. Wastes from several local and regional industries were accepted by the operators and stored in 55-gallon drums. Waste from truck tanks, above-ground tanks, and under-ground tanks were also deposited in unlined impoundments. Besides the storage and transfer business, between 1980 and 1986, the owner operated a licensed special waste hauling service and an asphalt supply service from the Lenz Oil site. Site features that existed before remediation are included in Figure 3.

Some oils were purchased and resold for road work material. Waste oils and solvents were collected from service stations and other small businesses. Some waste oil was unloaded and filtered and later sold as secondary #6 fuel. Solvents were reported to be reclaimed for recycling. Table 1 lists some of the known waste materials accepted by the waste site operators.

Lenz Oil Service, Incorporated, filed a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Part A permit application for tank storage with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in 1980. A permit application was also submitted to IEPA for the development of a waste management site. Due to reported groundwater contamination, IEPA outlined five tasks that had to be completed before issuance of an operating permit for a storage and transfer facility for waste oils and solvents. In these tasks, Lenz Oil Service was required to assess the extent of groundwater contamination caused by oil and grease at the site, upgrade the quality of groundwater in the area, and limit further groundwater contamination by operational controls at the facility.

Lenz Oil Service contracted with Soil Testing Services, Inc., (STS) to analyze groundwater from two monitoring wells. The groundwater samples obtained from these wells in April 1981 contained ammonia, chloride, phenols, residue, and oil/grease that exceeded drinking water standards. STS again sampled the wells in October 1981 for oil/grease content only. No further groundwater data are known to exist from a Lenz Oil Service initiative. In October 1984, IEPA identified the Lenz Oil site as a potential hazardous waste site in a USEPA Preliminary Site Assessment. In 1985, Lenz Oil Service constructed three unlined surface ponds (or impoundments), filled them with oily waste, and removed them approximately 6 months later.

After numerous permit violations, including manifest infractions, inadequate waste handling practices, and reported releases of hazardous waste to local groundwater and surface water systems, IEPA submitted this case to the Illinois Attorney General's Office in the spring of 1985. The suit was filed in DuPage County Circuit Court, and in June 1985, the court ordered Lenz Oil Service to initiate immediate clean up actions, to file a site clean up plan, and to file a site closure and compliance plan. Lenz Oil failed to carry out major portions of the court order, and in April 1986, the company and its owner filed for bankruptcy. The facility was then abandoned.

IEPA and its contractors initiated an investigation of the Lenz Oil site. The following tasks were completed in 1986 to assist in site characterization:

  • IEPA inventoried, sampled, and secured on-site drums, tanks, and truck tanks.
  • The Lenz Oil site was surveyed with a metal detector to identify buried objects, such as piping systems and drums. IEPA concluded there were no buried drums.
  • Six composite surface soil samples were collected to help characterize the extent of the site contamination. In addition, borings were removed to measure soil-gas levels, and 5 soil samples were collected from these borings.
  • Eleven monitoring wells were installed to evaluate the hydrogeology of the Lenz Oil site and assess the groundwater.
  • One non-community well (serving more than 25 people for less than 60 days each year) and 3 private wells down gradient of the Lenz Oil site were sampled on November 6, 1986, and January 22, 1987, and analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and metals.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and IEPA offered to test the private wells of any homeowner living within 2 miles of the site for volatile organic compounds. Approximately 20 homes up-gradient of the Lenz Oil site took advantage of this offer. No site-related contaminants were detected in any of the 20 wells tested.

Based on the results from these investigations, IEPA determined that the Lenz Oil site required immediate cleanup. Table 13 lists some of the contaminant concentrations in the on-site soils of the site before the cleanup began. A permitted mobile incinerator, operated by an IEPA contractor, was set up on the Lenz Oil site. Table 13 also lists some post-incineration contaminant concentrations.

IEPA clean up activities were completed in July 1988. The cleanup consisted of the following tasks:

  • All drum, tank, and truck tank contents were incinerated.
  • The drums were shredded and incinerated, whereas the tanks and truck tanks were emptied, decontaminated, and transported off site.
  • All buildings, and above-ground and under-ground structures were decontaminated and removed.
  • Excavation to bedrock (about 13 to 15 feet) occurred near the underground storage tanks and where 55-gallon drums had been stored.
  • Contaminated areas near the former unlined waste ponds, which were under several inches of fill, were excavated and incinerated.
  • Approximately 21,000 tons of soil were excavated, incinerated, and replaced. The areas receiving this backfill were excavated to bedrock and lined with a thick plastic liner. Final grading of the site included the addition of topsoil, sludges from a water treatment plant, and sulfur.
  • In April 1988, municipal water was made available to Jeans Road residents.

In 1984, IEPA referred the site to USEPA, and by 1989, the site was placed on the USEPA National Priorities List (NPL). The participating respondents conducted the RI activities except for investigation of the soil, surface water, and sediment. Two revisions of the RI were used as references for this public health assessment (see references 13 and 14). IEPA conducted the investigation of the soil, surface water, and sediment. USEPA and its contractors conducted the groundwater investigation. The RI/FS report became available in February 1997 and has been the basis for recommendations by USEPA for future cleanup. The RI/FS and additional information regarding groundwater and subsoil remediation will be the basis for a future IDPH site review and update.

B. Site Visits

Representatives of IDPH and IEPA visited the site on October 20, 1987, prior to IEPA clean up activities. IDPH staff continued to visit the site (March 21, 1990, May 11, 1990, and April 11, 1996). No other site visits are necessary until the site review and update process is initiated. Some post-incineration site features are depicted in Figure 4. The following features were observed during the visits:

  • The site is visible from the Illinois Route 83 overpass on the western edge of the site.
  • The site is in a sparsely populated, light industrial neighborhood.
  • No people or buildings were seen on or near the site.
  • The site was not well secured; gaps existed in the fence that consisted of cyclone, wooden, and wire fencing.
  • Some monitoring wells' housings were rusted and damaged.
  • Trash (including beer cans and food wrappers) along the inside of the fence may have been left there by trespassers.
  • A radio tower was near the southern gate.
  • Some scattered, grasslike vegetation was growing in the gray surface soil.
  • Dirty, discolored standing water was observed in the northern drainage ditch; however, no odors were detected.
  • Animal tracks were seen in the poorly drained soils at the northern edge of the site.

IDPH staff visited the site again on May 30, 1991, and found contractors working on site and noted the presence of a mobile trailer and well drilling equipment. A secure storage area had been constructed on site and contained large tanks of well processing water and barrels of cuttings from the drilling activities that took place during the installation of additional monitoring wells. The monitoring well locations are shown in Figure 5.

When IDPH conducted the most recent site visit, April 11, 1996, several 55-gallon drums were observed on site in a fenced area. Some drums appeared to have been disturbed by trespassers. Many fence sections remain in poor repair.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use


No individuals live or permanently work on the Lenz Oil site, although approximately 400 people live within 1 mile of the site. IDPH estimates that about 6,000 people live within 3 miles of the site.

Land Use

Figure 2 illustrates some of the nearby land use around the site. Between the railroad tracks and the site property line, along the northwest border, is a small drainage ditch that flows southwest during wet periods and may eventually empty into the Des Plaines River, approximately 600 to 1,000 feet southeast of the site. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal parallels the river and is about 5,000 feet from the site. The drainage way leads into a large automobile scrap yard west of the Route 83 highway. An additional automobile wrecking facility exists south of Jeans Road. According to a feasibility study (FS) (15), oil pipelines owned by three companies pass under the drainage ditch immediately downstream of the site. Large industrial complexes are upstream and downstream of the site.

Natural Resource Use

A review of the well construction records conducted for the RI (13) identified a total of 310 residential, commercial, and industrial wells approximately two miles or less from the site. Most of the private wells are up gradient of the site. The groundwater flows toward the southeast and the Des Plaines River Valley. The wells south of the Des Plaines River Valley are isolated from the groundwater affected by the Lenz Oil site. The area of concern remains the area between the site and the river. Private residences and small businesses occupy the land adjoining the Lenz Oil site to the south and east and along Jeans Road. The closest residential property shares the northeast site fence line. Another residence is approximately 200 feet southwest of the site, across Jeans Road. Approximately five homes are within one-half mile south and southeast of the Lenz Oil site. Since April 1988, when municipal water supply lines were installed, none of these residences used groundwater for potable purposes.

The site is in the Des Plaines River flood plain. Bluffs north of the railroad tracks are about 75 feet higher than the site and define the northern boundary of the Des Plaines River Valley (7). The site and most of the surrounding areas are either idle or undeveloped. Eight forest and nature preserves are within 5 miles of the site (13).

D. Health Outcome Data

By using state health databases, IDPH can sometimes determine whether certain health effects are higher than expected in a particular area, such as in an exposed population near a hazardous waste site (1). This section identifies available, relevant databases; their evaluation is in the Public Health Implications section of this document.

In 1984, the Illinois Health and Hazardous Substances Registry Act was signed into law. Because of this Act, the Illinois Health and Hazardous Substances Registry was created. The main purpose of the registry is to monitor health effects among the citizens of Illinois related to exposures to hazardous substances in the work place and in the environment. Specifically, the registry is a unified, statewide project to collect, compile, and correlate information on public health and hazardous substances. The registry consists of the compilation of information in the following categories:

1. Cancer incidence.
2. Adverse pregnancy outcomes.
3. Occupational diseases.
4. Hazardous nuclear materials.
5. Hazardous substances incidents.

The Illinois State Cancer Registry (ISCR) is one of the registries developed as a result of this Act. As of January 1, 1985, mandated reports of all cancer patients newly diagnosed in non-federal Illinois hospitals are reported to ISCR. In addition, some federal hospitals in Illinois report cases voluntarily. Some bordering states also exchange cancer data with Illinois. The ISCR is the prime source for information on cancer incidence within the state.


On August 9, 1985, the Southeast DuPage Homeowners Association wrote to the Illinois Attorney General's Office regarding the Lenz Oil site. At that time, all area residences used well water for drinking; therefore, they were concerned about potential exposure, specifically to chlorinated solvents. The residents also asked how the agencies involved planned to remediate and monitor this site.

In December 1986, a representative of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County wrote IEPA regarding the long-term effects the site may have on the region. Area residents were concerned because their children were known to play on the site.

IEPA published a public notice in three area newspapers beginning at the end of March 1987 and collected comments from concerned individuals. A public hearing was held on April 30, 1987, in Willowbrook, Illinois, to discuss incineration of wastes at the site and to respond to written public comments submitted to IEPA. During this hearing, health-based questions and questions regarding emission and dust control were answered. A Lenz Oil Review Committee, made up of nearby residents, representatives of local businesses, and local government officials, met once a month during the IEPA cleanup that started June 29, 1987. At that time, most of the discussions involved the incineration process (21).

In May 1987, a representative of the DuPage County Health Department sent a letter to IEPA because of their concern about incineration emissions affecting the health of the residents living on the bluff above the site and traffic safety on the Illinois Route 83 overpass.

People living around the waste site are concerned about the contaminated groundwater and any related potential health effects. At this time, IDPH estimates that the contaminated aquifer potentially affects two private residential wells. Neither well has been sealed, although both the homes are connected to municipal water.

This public health assessment was released for public comment on August 6, 1997. The comment period was open until September 5, 1997. IDPH did not receive any comments or inquiries about information contained in the document.

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