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The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), at the request of the Illinois EnvironmentalProtection Agency (Illinois EPA), evaluated data collected during an investigation of residentialwells south of the Lockformer Company property in Lisle, DuPage County, Illinois, to determine whether current conditions pose a public health hazard.


The Lockformer Company property is located at 711 Ogden Avenue in Lisle, Illinois. The propertyis approximately 1,500 feet west of Interstate 355 and is approximately 12 acres in size. Residencesare north of the property, across Ogden Avenue; southeast of Lockformer, along Chicago and ElmAvenues; approximately 2,500 feet south of the Lockformer property, across the Metra rail line andSt. Joseph Creek; and approximately 1,500 feet west of Lockformer, south of Ogden Avenue(Attachment 1).

The Lockformer Company is a metal-fabricating facility. Releases of trichloroethylene (TCE) hadallegedly occurred on the Lockformer property beginning in 1968 and continuing for anundetermined period. The company used TCE in the past as a degreaser to clean metal parts.Contamination at the Lockformer site is presently under investigation by the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency (USEPA) and Illinois EPA. In 1992, Lockformer conducted soil sampling ontheir property and found TCE in the soil at levels as high as 680 parts per million (ppm).

During the summer of 2000, a group of residents hired legal counsel, and on October 11, 2000,these residents had their private well water tested by a private environmental consultant. The groupowned homes south of the Lockformer property in the suspected path of groundwater flow. Theconsultant collected a second round of well water samples on November 10, 2000, and TCE wasdetected in some of the wells sampled. Beginning in December 2000, Illinois EPA collected about350 more private well water samples north and south of the Lockformer property (1).

TCE was not detected in water samples collected from private wells north of Ogden Avenue, which is upgradient of the site. Including private and Illinois EPA sampling, approximately 175 private wells south of the Lockformer property contain TCE. Low levels of tetrachloroethylene (PCE), 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) also have been detected at elevated levels in a few of the private wells south of the Lockformer property. The highest level of TCE was 19.5 micrograms per liter (g/L) of water. The USEPA drinking water standard or maximum contaminant level (MCL) for TCE in public water supplies is 5 g/L. Traces of TCE have been detected as far away as Southcrest Drive, approximately 2.5 miles south-southeast of the Lockformer property (Attachment 2) (1). IDPH mailed letters to residents containing a health interpretation of the laboratory results and explaining ways to reduce exposure to chemicals in their well water.

IDPH staff first visited the area on October 28, 2000, and most recently on October 17, 2001. TheLockformer parking lot was easily accessible from Ogden Avenue. From the parking lot, monitoringwells were observed on the southern portion of the property. The land south of Lockformer slopesdownward to the Metra rail line and St. Joseph Creek (Attachment 1). The wells closest toLockformer on the south are along Elm Avenue, north of St. Joseph Creek; however, TCE has notbeen detected in these wells. South of the creek, contamination has been found in wells along FrontStreet, Riedy Road, Hitchcock Avenue, and Gamble Avenue. Residents along these streets now haveaccess to public water.

The Illinois Attorney General filed suit against the Lockformer Company on January 19, 2001, foralleged infractions of environmental law. A subsequent preliminary injunction called forLockformer to provide bottled water to residents of affected homes, to conduct an environmentalinvestigation (EI) with Illinois EPA oversight, and to devise a remedial action plan to resolveproblems identified in the EI. The Lockformer Company has been providing bottled water toaffected homes since that time (1).

Staff from IDPH, Illinois EPA, and the Illinois Attorney General's Office attended the Village ofLisle Trustees' meeting on February 5, 2001. The Attorney General assured the mayor, trustees, andcitizens in attendance that the state would work with the Lockformer Company, the village, and arearesidents to resolve the issue of contamination of private well water.

On October 31, 2001, USEPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order to Lockformer, requiringthe company to submit a Removal Action Work Plan (RAWP) for the site for USEPA approval. ARAWP provides for the immediate removal of the source material (i.e., TCE) or hot spots, with thegoal of mitigating the continuing release of TCE into the groundwater from contaminated soils at theLockformer facility.

In February 2002, USEPA announced that clean-up activities at Lockformer would begin in the spring of 2002. The removal of TCE from soil would involve using several techniques includingelectrical resistive heating. This method heats the soil with electricity and creates steam. TCE andother contaminants volatilize and the vapors are carried to the surface as the steam rises. The vaporsare collected and passed through activated carbon filters which remove TCE and other similarcontaminants (2). This process may require at least 2 years to completely cleanup TCE at this site.USEPA has successfully used this technology at other sites in Illinois.

In May 2002, the owners of Lockformer agreed to pay the cost of connecting residents of the blocksimmediately south of the facility to the Lisle public water supply, after water from several privatewells was found to contain TCE at levels that exceed the USEPA drinking water standard. Thissettlement, made in response to the Attorney General's lawsuit of January 2001, will provide along-term solution and reduce exposure to TCE.

In May 2002, the owners of Lockformer responded to a private civil lawsuit by agreeing to pay $10million to a group of 186 homeowners residing in the blocks immediately south of the facility(Attachment 1). Another civil lawsuit, filed on behalf of approximately 1,500 residents living furthersouth in unincorporated areas of Lisle, Woodridge, and Downers Grove, Illinois, is currently pending.


Chemicals of Interest

IDPH compared the results of each groundwater sample collected with the appropriate comparisonvalues to select chemicals for further evaluation of exposure and possible carcinogenic andnoncarcinogenic health effects. Chemicals found at levels greater than comparison values, or thosefor which no comparison values exist, were selected for further evaluation. Attachment 3 contains abrief discussion of the two types of comparison values for drinking water used in this healthassessment, i.e., Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Lifetime Health Advisories (LTHAs).IDPH assumed that the laboratory samples were collected and handled properly and that appropriateanalytical techniques were used. TCE is the only chemical that exceeded comparison values andtherefore is the one chemical of interest.

Exposure Evaluation

Residents who use private well water containing TCE are exposed by drinking the water, inhalingTCE during household water use (such as showering or bathing), and by skin contact with the water.The potential for exposed persons to experience adverse health effects depends upon the following:

  • the specific chemical(s) to which a person is exposed,
  • how much of each chemical a person contacts,
  • the duration of a person's exposure, and
  • the condition of the exposed person's health.

IDPH used exposure scenarios that assumed adults drink 2 liters of water per day and children drink1 liter of water per day. IDPH also assumed that residents would be exposed to TCE during bathingand showering.


The highest level of TCE detected in a private well near the Lockformer property was 19.5 g/L. The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for TCE is 5 g/L. MCLs have been established by USEPA for public water supplies to reduce the chances of adverse health effects from drinking contaminated drinking water. These standards are well below levels at which health effects have been observed. MCLs are enforceable limits that public water supplies must meet.

IDPH estimated the dose of TCE for children and adults through ingestion of groundwater containing 19.5 g/L of TCE and found that exposure to that level of TCE would pose a very low increased risk of cancer.

The estimated exposure to children and adults is less than the no-observed-adverse-effect levels(NOAELs) for TCE in animals. NOAELs, established by USEPA, reflect doses used in animalstudies that did not result in observable non-cancer health effects.

The updated Toxicological Profile for TCE (3) included studies of humans exposed to low levels of TCE in drinking water that suggested adverse health effects may include skin rashes, liver problems, urinary disorders, anemia and other blood disorders, and diabetes. While none of these symptoms were reported by persons exposed to the highest level (19.5 g/L) of TCE found in the private drinking water wells, the concentrations that cause these effects are not well established.

Recent studies in Massachusetts and New Jersey suggest elevations in childhood leukemia, neuraltube defects, oral cleft defects, respiratory defects, eye defects, and small for gestational age effectsassociated with TCE in drinking water. The Massachusetts studies have several limitationsincluding the presence of other contaminants and small sample size (3). Studies in Tucson, Arizonasuggest an elevation in heart defects and low birth weights associated with TCE in drinking water. Astudy at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina suggested an elevation in males small for gestational ageassociated with TCE in drinking water. The levels of TCE in drinking water in these studies wereseveral times greater than the levels detected in Lisle (4,5,6).

In the mid-1990s, USEPA withdrew the reference dose and cancer potency factor for TCE for review. To evaluate the potential health hazards of exposure to TCE in Lisle, IDPH used information from human and animal studies, the former cancer potency factor, and the current MCL (5 g/L) for TCE. In August 2001, USEPA released a draft toxicological reassessment of TCE for public comment. The data proposed in this reassessment have not yet become USEPA policy. However, if adopted, the proposed cancer potency factor would be greater than before (7). Using the proposed cancer potency factor, IDPH estimated that persons exposed to TCE at levels greater than the current MCL could experience a low increased risk for liver and kidney cancer (Attachment 4). If USEPA adopts the proposed cancer potency factor, it also may re-evaluate the MCL for TCE.

At the time this health assessment was completed, laboratory tests to determine the levels of TCEpresent on the site had not been completed. Thus, it cannot be evaluated at this time whether theTCE concentrations migrating toward private wells could increase with time; however, IDPH willcontinue to review data as it becomes available.

Community Health Concerns and Activism

Area residents have expressed concern that Lockformer Company officials knew about the spilledTCE since, at least, 1992 and did not notify persons with private wells until 2000. Residents withprivate wells are concerned that they might have been drinking contaminated water for more than adecade. Some residents have filed suit in federal court against the Lockformer Company, citinghealth concerns and diminished property values in the complaint.

Citizens present at the February 5, 2001, village trustees meeting expressed concerns about the highcost of connecting to the public water system. Depending on the home, the cost could be up to$20,000. As a result of the legal settlements in May 2002, residents in the blocks immediately southof Lockformer will be connected to Lisle public water at no cost to the homeowners. Many of thesesame residents will receive a portion of the $10 million civil suit settlement.

On October 16 and 17, 2001, IDPH participated in public availability sessions in Lisle andWoodridge to answer health-related questions about Lisle groundwater contamination. IDPH staffanswered questions about the health effects of exposure to low levels of TCE and shared ways toreduce exposure. About 150 persons attended the two availability sessions.

Health Outcome Data

The IDPH Division of Epidemiologic Studies reviewed the incidence of all cancer types reported forthe Lisle, Illinois zip code 60532 for the years 1989 to 1997 (8). They found that the rate of kidneycancer reported in males (20 cases observed) was greater than the expected number of cases (10cases expected) at a statistically significant level. The rate of kidney cancer was not elevated infemales. No other biologically plausible types of cancer related to TCE exposure were statisticallysignificant.

IDPH plotted the cancer cases on a map. The cases did not appear to cluster in any particularneighborhood, but rather were distributed among population within the entire zip code. Based on theanalysis done by state epidemiologists and the Division of Environmental Health, no apparentclustering was noted near the contaminated wells. If the nature and extent of TCE contamination isfound to extend beyond this zip code, then an additional evaluation will be considered.


IDPH recognizes that children are especially sensitive to some contaminants. Children get a largerdose from drinking contaminated water because they drink more water per kilogram of body weightthan do adults. IDPH includes children when evaluating exposures to contaminants and considerschildren the most sensitive population evaluated in this public health assessment.

The doses that children experienced by drinking contaminated well water were not at levels knownto cause noncarcinogic health effects. Carcinogenic effects are unlikely to occur. The findings ofstudies done in Massachusetts and New Jersey suggested that childhood leukemia and adverse birthoutcomes were associated with exposure to TCE during gestation (4,5,6). The TCE concentrationsfound in drinking water in these studies were several times greater than what was found at Lisle.


As a result of the Attorney General's initial lawsuit, bottled water is being provided to reduce the exposure of residents to TCE in the groundwater, and Lockformer has agreed to connect homes in the area found to have the highest levels of contamination to the public water supply. This will provide a long-term solution and reduce exposure to TCE. The MCL of 5 g/L for TCE in drinking water is protective of public health; therefore, prudent public health practice supports the decision to provide alternative water to affected residences. Exposure has been reduced through the use of bottled water and will be reduced further by providing connections to public water; therefore, this site poses no apparent public health hazard.

A review of cancer incidence data indicated that kidney cancer has occurred more often than wouldbe expected among males residing within the zip code area. The cases of kidney cancer aredistributed throughout the zip code area and are not clustered near the Lockformer Company site.

Data are not yet available to help evaluate whether levels of TCE in private wells is increasing overtime. Should TCE concentrations increase, then long-term use of contaminated groundwater couldresult in a slightly increased cancer risk. No studies were found that definitively associated anadverse health effect in animals or humans exposed to the levels of TCE found in the drinking water,but the human studies found were limited. For these reasons, and because other health effects fromlong-term use of low-level TCE-contaminated drinking water are not well studied, IDPH offers thefollowing recommendation and public health action plan.


IDPH recommends the following:

  • USEPA and Illinois EPA should seek a remedy to prevent future exposure to contaminatedgroundwater from the site. Either municipal water or a water treatment unit that meets theNational Sanitation Foundation Standard Number 53 for the removal of VOCs arealternatives for persons with contaminated wells. As a result of the Attorney General'slawsuit, the Lockformer Company has agreed to connect homes to public water in the areafound to have the highest levels of contamination. USEPA and Illinois EPA should continuefield activities, including data gathering and evaluation of alternative technologies for the immediate removal plan.

  • Illinois EPA should sample other private wells in the area to find the extent of contaminationand to ensure that exposures do not present a health hazard. Illinois EPA has completed thisrecommendation. Sampling by Illinois EPA has determined that the southern boundary ofthe detectable TCE contamination in private wells is near Southcrest Drive. As Illinois EPAsampled eastward into Downers Grove, it found another area of contamination that itconsiders to be unrelated to Lisle. Illinois EPA is sampling the Downer's Grove area under aseparate investigation, and IDPH is conducting a separate public health assessment forDowner's Grove.

  • Area citizens should be provided with information about ways to reduce or prevent exposureto contaminated groundwater. IDPH has met this recommendation through information sentin letters to area private well owners and provided to participants at the October 2001 public availability sessions.


Ken Runkle
Mike Moomey
Environmental Toxicologists
Illinois Department of Public Health

Jennifer Davis
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health

ATSDR Regional Representative
Mark Johnson
Regional Operations, Office of the Assistant Administrator

ATSDR Technical Project Officers
W. Allen Robison
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Steve Inserra
Division of Health Studies

Sylvia Allen-Lewis
Division of Health Education and Promotion


  1. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Files concerning contamination at the Lockformer Company site in Lisle, Illinois. June 1999 - May 2002.

  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Fact Sheet: Cleanup to Begin at Lockformer.Chicago: USEPA Region 5. February 2002.

  3. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR Update Toxicological Profilefor Trichloroethylene. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 1997September.

  4. Costas K.S. A case-control study of childhood leukemia in Woburn, MA: the relationshipbetween leukemia incidence and exposure to public drinking water. The Science of the TotalEnvironment (in press, 2002).

  5. Cohn P. Klotz J., Bove F., et al. Drinking water contamination and the incidence ofleukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1994,102:556-561.

  6. Bove F. Shim Y. Zeitz P. Drinking water contamination and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a review. Environmental Health Perspectives. 110 (supplement 1):61-74. 2002.

  7. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Trichloroethylene Health Risk Assessment:Synthesis and Characterization. External Review Draft. Washington D.C. 2001 August.

  8. Division of Epidemiologic Studies. Incidence of Cancer in ZIP Code 60532 of Lisle, Illinois, 1989-1997. Chicago: Illinois Department of Public Health; 2000 Nov. 22.


This Lisle Residential Wells Public Health Assessment was prepared by the Illinois Department ofPublic Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and DiseaseRegistry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the public health assessment was begun.

W. Allen Robison
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch (SSAB)
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 Program Section



Area of Lisle, Illinois near Lockformer Co.


Map Showing Expanded Area of Lisle, IL Groundwater Investigation and Adjacent Areas


Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) have been established by USEPA for U.S. public watersupplies to reduce the chances of adverse health effects occurring from exposure to contaminateddrinking water. MCLs are enforceable limits that public water supplies must meet. These standardsare well below levels at which health effects have been observed and take into account the financialfeasibility of achieving specified contaminant levels.

USEPA also has established Lifetime Health Advisories (LTHAs) for drinking water. A LTHArepresents the concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is considered safe; i.e., it is notexpected to cause any adverse non-carcinogenic effects over a lifetime (70 years) of exposure.LTHAs are conservative values that incorporate a margin of safety.


1986 EPA Cancer Slope Factor: 1.1 x 10 -2 (per milligram dose/kg/day)
Draft EPA Slope Factor Range: 2.0 x 10 -2 (per milligram dose/kg/day)
4.0 x 10 -1 (per milligram dose/kg/day)

Using the maximum TCE concentration found (19.7 ppb) and the slope factors given above, the following lifetime cancer risk estimates were calculated, respectively:

6.0 x 10 -6 (using the 1986 EPA Cancer Slope Factor)

1.2 x 10 -6 and 2.6 x 10 -4 (using the draft EPA Cancer Slope Factor Range values)

Table of Contents The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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