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The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) requested that the IllinoisDepartment of Public Health (IDPH) conduct air sampling in an office building reportedlyaffected by petroleum odors. The suspected source of the odors was a neighboring former fuelstation, identified as the Nextel Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) site.


The Nextel Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) site is on the northwestern corner of theintersection of First Avenue and 26th Street, North Riverside, Cook County, Illinois. The affectedoffice facility, the State Farm Insurance building, is immediately to the west of the site(Attachment 1). A golf course is northeast of the intersection, and forest preserve land is to thesouth (Gruntman 2001c).

Before 1974, the Nextel property was a fuel station. Later, it was Nick's Drive-In restaurant.Nextel leased the building for a telephone sales office and has been considering buying theproperty (Gruntman 2001c).

According to Illinois EPA records, on February 3, 1988 a 75-gallon diesel-fuel spill occurred at"Illinois Truck and Bus." The location of this spill was First Avenue and 26th Street, which is theintersection where Nextel is located (Gruntman 2001c); however, the exact location of the dieselspill is uncertain. The small size of the current Nextel property suggests that the former fuelstation serviced automobiles rather than trucks and buses. A State Farm Insurance representativesaid that one of their customers remembered a gasoline station at the present Nextel location(Sramek 2001b). Consequently, more than one source of contamination could exist.

As a condition of the pending sale of the property, on January 7, 1997, Adept EnvironmentalSolutions, Inc. (AES) investigated the Nick's Drive-In property. AES said the former fuel stationhad two fuel service islands and three underground storage tanks, each of about 2,000 galloncapacity. The fuel station was abandoned before January 1, 1974, and the tanks were abandonedand filled with rocks. AES took four soil borings to 15 feet in depth. In each borehole, they tooksoil samples at 2.5-foot intervals. They screened each soil sample with a photoionizationdetector. For each boring, they sent the sample with the highest photoionization detector readingto a laboratory for analysis. The laboratory analyzed these samples for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (Table 1). The highest concentrations were in Soil Boring B-4, which wasclosest to the underground storage tanks. According to AES, the measured concentrations wereless than Illinois EPA clean-up levels. They found no evidence that contaminants had migrated tobasements, crawlspaces, sewer lines, or utility vaults in the area (AES 1997). No soil boringswere taken between the underground tanks and the State Farm Insurance office.

Before the State Farm Insurance office was built, a restaurant occupied that property. Therestaurant building and foundation were removed and a wine cellar on the eastern side of thebuilding was filled with pea gravel. This old wine cellar was on the side of the building next tothe Nextel property (Gruntman 2001c). According to State Farm, the former wine cellar wasalong the easternmost wall, where fuel odors were reportedly the strongest. (Sramek 2001b).

The State Farm Insurance building was built in 1988, but the occupants did not experience anyfuel odors at that time. In March 2001, the owner and agent of the State Farm Insurance officereported the odor to Illinois EPA. The odors reportedly followed the re-paving and expansion ofthe Nextel parking lot. The larger parking lot extended to the concrete walkway between theNextel and State Farm buildings (Gruntman 2001c). According to State Farm Insuranceemployees, the odors were most intense during the heating season and on Mondays, but lessintense during the air-conditioning season. In that regard, it should be noted that the heating,ventilation, and air-conditioning ducts were in the building ceiling and not in the slab (Sramek2001b).

The fire department determined that the petroleum vapors responsible for the odors were not afire hazard (Gruntman 2001b). A subsequent Illinois EPA investigation in March 2001 found nopetroleum sheens or odors in the sewers or catch basins. One sewer on the State Farm Insuranceproperty might have had grease present. An air test with a photoionization detector found volatileorganic chemicals at only one corner of the State Farm Insurance office. The odors were thestrongest at that location (Gruntman 2001a). In March 2001, Illinois EPA also interviewed theoperator of Nextel, who said that they noticed a slight grease or sewer odor upon occupancy, butno odors since then. The Nextel building has no basement (Gruntman 2001c).

Site Visit and Air Sampling

On June 8 and 11, 2001, staff of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) conducted sitevisits. The State Farm Insurance building was only about 6 feet from the Nextel building,separated by a concrete walkway. Asphalt pavement covered the ground surface over most ofboth properties. The State Farm Insurance building had a definite petroleum odor, which wasstrongest by the eastern wall of the eastern office. Because of the odors, State Farm Insurance hadnot been using that easternmost office. With the retirement of the resident State Farm Insuranceagent on August 31, 2001, the building became vacant (Sramek 2001c).

In June 2001, IDPH collected four samples for airborne petroleum hydrocarbons, using Buck airsampling pumps. The pumps were programmed to operate over the weekend, when the officewas closed, but the air handling system was operating. The IDPH Springfield Laboratoryanalyzed the samples for petroleum hydrocarbons (Table 2), and compared the chromatogramswith diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, mineral spirits, and Stoddard solvent. The closest matchwas for kerosene, but the IDPH laboratory did not find the heavier (higher molecular weight)kerosene components.


Chemicals of Interest

IDPH compared the maximum level of each chemical detected during environmental samplingwith appropriate screening values to select chemicals for further evaluation for carcinogenic andnon-carcinogenic health effects (Attachment 2). None of the volatile organic chemicals detectedin the soil borings or the State Farm Insurance office indoor air exceeded comparison values(Tables 1 and 2).

Exposure Pathways

The inhalation of volatile organic chemicals is the main route of human exposure. Based on thelimited data available, the measured levels of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes in theState Farm Insurance office were not considered sufficient to cause adverse health effects. Theodors present could, however, be offensive to people working in the building. Levels canincrease or decrease with time. Odors reportedly have been worse during the past winter. Duringthe winter, frozen ground can prevent soil gas from escaping into the ambient air, thuscontributing to the reported increase of indoor odors. But during previous winters, State FarmInsurance employees reported no odors.

The human nose can detect mixtures of petroleum hydrocarbons at extremely low levels–in themicrogram per cubic meter range. The nose can detect these mixtures at much lower levels thanthe odor thresholds of the individual chemical components would suggest. In response to odors,some people experience symptoms such as headache and nausea. This is particularly true if theodors are persistent or unwanted. The symptoms generally dissipate after exposure ends, withoutlong-term health consequence.

North Riverside drinking water is from the Chicago municipal water supply (Lake Michigan anddeep Chicago wells). Thus contamination of drinking water is not a concern.

The Migration of Soil Gas

Soil gas and water move most easily through sand and gravel; clay inhibits their movement.Under the asphalt, the parking lot had 2.5 feet of gravel, underlain by silty clay. AES foundgroundwater only in a sand seam of Boring B-2, about 9.5 feet below the surface. The otherborings were dry down to a depth of 15 feet (AES 1997). Although we think it is most likely thatthe contaminants moved as soil gas rather than with groundwater, none of the borings werebetween the underground storage tank locations and the State Farm Insurance building. Soil gascould readily move through the top 2.5 feet of gravel. Before the expansion of the Nextel parkinglot, contaminants could have moved upward into the air, rather than laterally into the State FarmInsurance office. The expanded parking lot could have trapped the contaminants. Thecontaminants then could have moved laterally into the State Farm Insurance office, causing theodor problem reported by the building occupants.

Kerosene is commonly added to vehicle tanks to aid the starting of diesel engines in coldweather. The odors reportedly coincided with the expansion of the Nextel parking lot.Furthermore, Illinois EPA found no evidence of contamination of catch basins or sewers alongFirst Avenue or 26th Street. These observations suggest a nearby source, perhaps on the Nextelproperty.

The reported 75-gallon diesel release in 1988 is not considered to be a likely source of the odors.Because kerosene was the closest match for the detected petroleum hydrocarbons, a keroseneleak may be the source of the odors. While the IDPH laboratory did not find the heavierkerosene-range petroleum compounds, these hydrocarbons are less volatile, less soluble in water,and are less mobile in the soil. Also, organic matter in the soil binds the heavier petroleumhydrocarbons more tightly. By being more mobile, the lighter petroleum compounds might beexpected to be at higher levels in the State Farm Insurance office.

A sub-slab depressurization system such as that used for radon reduction could further decreaseoffending odors.


IDPH recognizes that children are especially sensitive to some contaminants. No children werepresent in the State Farm Insurance office. The building is vacant, so no one is being exposed tocontaminants.


Exposure to the airborne volatile organic chemicals measured in the State Farm Insurancebuilding would not be expected to cause adverse health effects. Therefore, the Nextel LUST siteposes no apparent public health hazard.


IDPH provided the owner of the building with the results of the air sampling as well asinformation about a sub-slab depressurization system that could further decrease the odors.


Thomas A. Bagman, Ph.D.
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health


Adept Environmental Solutions, Inc. 1997. Results of environmental site investigation: Nick's Drive-In, 8400 W 26th Street, North Riverside, Illinois.[LaGrange, IL].

Gruntman, C. J. 2001a. Phone log sheet of June 6, 2001. [Maywood, IL]: Illinois EnvironmentalProtection Agency.

Gruntman, C. J. 2001b. Phone log sheet of May 1, 2001. [Maywood, IL]: Illinois EnvironmentalProtection Agency.

Gruntman, C. J. 2001c. Memorandum to Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land File. 2001 March 30.

Sramek, V. 2001a. Phone log sheet of August 1, 2001 regarding State Farm Building, NorthRiverside, Illinois. [North Riverside, IL].

Sramek, V. 2001b. Field notes from June 8, 2001 regarding State Farm Building, NorthRiverside, Illinois. [North Riverside, IL].

Sramek, V. 2001c. Phone log sheet of June 4, 2001 regarding State Farm Building, NorthRiverside, Illinois. [North Riverside, IL].


This Nextel Leaking Underground Storage Tank Health Consultation was prepared by the IllinoisDepartment of Public Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for ToxicSubstances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology andprocedures 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 (DAC)

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

Roberta Erlwein
Chief, State Programs Section


Table 1.

Concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylenes (BTEX) in parts per million (p.m.) in soil borings of the Nextel property (Adept Environmental Solutions, Inc. 1997).
Chemical Boring 1
Concentration at 5 ft. Depth
Boring 2
Concentration at 5 ft. Depth
Boring 3
(depth not reported)
Boring 4
Concentration at 12.5 ft. Depth
Benzene 0.07 0.44 ND 2.9
Toluene ND ND ND 0.24
Methylbenzene ND 3.4 ND 1.7
Xylenes ND 1.7 ND 5.3

ND = not detected (detection limit less than 0.07 p.m.)

Table 2.

Concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylenes (BTEX) in micrograms per cubic meter (up/M3) in the indoor air at the State Farm Insurance office, June 2001.
Location Times and Dates of Sample Concentration of Benzene Concentration of Toluene Concentration of Ethyl benzene Concentration of Xylenes
Closed office 8AM-8PM, 6/9/01 ND 29 86 410
Reception 8AM-8PM, 6/9/01 ND 12 16 23
Agent desk 8AM-8PM, 6/9/01 ND ND 7 100
Closed office 6PM, 6/10/01 - 6PM, 6/11/01 ND ND 7 150
ATSDR Comparison Value 32 300

ND = not detected (detection limit less than comparison value)
RFC = reference concentration
EEG = environmental media evaluation guide


Approximate Location of Nextel Lust Site


Environmental Media Evaluation Guides (EMEGs) are developed for chemicals based on theirtoxicity, frequency of occurrence at National Priorities List (NPL) sites, and potential for humanexposure. They are not action levels–they are comparison values. They are developed withoutconsideration for carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions, multiple route exposure, orexposure through other environmental media. They are very conservative concentration valuesdesigned to protect sensitive members of the population.

Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guides (RMEGs) are another type of comparison value. Theyare developed without consideration for carcinogenic effects, chemical interactions, multipleroute exposure, or exposure through other environmental media. They are very conservativeconcentration values designed to protect sensitive members of the population.

Cancer Risk Evaluation Guides (CREGs) are estimated contaminant concentrations based on aprobability of one excess cancer in a million persons exposed to a chemical over a lifetime.

Reference Concentrations (RfCs) have been established by USEPA. These are levels in air belowwhich no adverse health effects would be expected.

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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