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The Outboard Marine Corporation/Waukegan Harbor site is on the National Priorities List (NPL) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is in Waukegan, Illinois, and it consists of several areas contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): (1) Waukegan Harbor, (2) the North Ditch, (3) and the Parking Lot Area. It also contains the New Slip, which has high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Phenols, PCBs, and PAHs are the only known chemicals of concern at the site, with phenol and PAHs being of concern only at the New Slip. The level of cadmium (not site-related) is elevated in the bottom sediments of Waukegan Harbor, but there is no data on the degree of cadmium contamination of fish in the harbor. Waukegan Harbor is used for pleasure boating and waterborne commerce and is surrounded by many businesses and industries. There is a public beach immediately east of the site, and downtown Waukegan is west of it.

This site is a public health hazard because humans have probably been exposed to substances at concentrations that could result in adverse health effects. Exposure has occurred via the human consumption of PCB-contaminated fish (past, present, and future). The primary human exposure pathway of concern is the consumption of PCB-contaminated fish from Waukegan Harbor or Lake Michigan. Others include dermal exposure to dust, groundwater, soil, and surface water; inhalation of aerosols, dust, and volatile chemicals; and ingestion of dust, soil, and surface water. Because groundwater is not used on or off site, remediation workers are the only people likely to be exposed to it. At the New Slip, exposure to phenol and PAHs may occur, while in the other areas of the site, PCBs are the only known chemicals of concern. However, the concentrations of most other compounds are unknown.

Community health concerns include the following (1) the fear of eating PCB-contaminated fish from Lake Michigan, (2) possible contamination of the Waukegan municipal water supply from Lake Michigan, (3) possible dioxin formation during the high-temperature extraction process proposed for removing PCBs from the most contaminated sediments and soils, (4) the lack of incentives to dispose of the wastes more efficiently in the future, (5) the off-site transportation of wastes, and (6) Slip 2 (nature of concern unknown).

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) have evaluated the site information for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. ATSDR and IDPH concurred that anglers and their families have been exposed to PCBs via the consumption of contaminated fish. Action should be taken to reduce public exposure to PCBs, including replacement of the signs at Waukegan Harbor warning people about the hazards of consuming its fish. Health professionals in the Waukegan Harbor area should be educated about the health effects of the site contaminants. The ATSDR Great Lakes Human Health Effects Research Program is conducting an ongoing epidemiologic study of Lake Michigan fish eaters.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Conservation, Illinois Department of Public Health, and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, by cooperative agreement, will continue to monitor the levels of PCBs and other contaminants in Lake Michigan fish. The State of Illinois is developing new fish eating guidelines that take different levels of consumption into account. IDPH and ATSDR will coordinate with federal and state environmental agencies to carry out the recommendations made in this assessments.


A. Site Description and History

The Outboard Marine Corporation/Waukegan Harbor site is on the National Priorities List (NPL) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is in T45N, R12E, Section 22, Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois (Figure 1). The site contains several areas contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from operations at a plant run by the Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC; formerly Johnson Outboards): (1) Waukegan Harbor, (2) the North Ditch, and (3) the Parking Lot Area (Figure 2). It also contains the New Slip (Figure 3), which is an area contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from past coal gasification, coke production, or wood treatment or from a combination of those processes.

The harbor itself is about .9 of a mile long and has two side channels, each about 800 feet long (Figure 2). Depth ranges from as little as 6 feet in the side channels to 20 feet in the navigation channels (Thomann and Kontaxis, 1981). The harbor covers about 37 acres (not including the harbor mouth; (USEPA, 1981) and drains drains an area of 96 acres and is bordered by industrial and commercial facilities (Thomann and Kontaxis, 1981). The harbor was constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s (Barr Engineering Company, 1991).

The North Ditch, a small tributary of Lake Michigan, drains a small, primarily industrial watershed of .11 of a square mile (Thomann and Kontaxis, 1981). Impervious surfaces cover about 40% of the drainage area, but the portion between Pershing Road and the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railroad (EJ&E) tracks has grassy and wooded areas. This portion is also used for the disposal of "urban debris" (Noehre and Graf, 1980). The North Ditch includes the 600 foot long by 20 foot wide Crescent Ditch, the 240 foot long by 20 to 40 foot wide Oval Lagoon, and the 2000 foot long by 10 to 20 foot wide East-West portion (Figure 2; USEPA, 1984).

The Parking Lot Area, north of OMC's Plant 2, covers about 9 acres (Figures 2 and 4a to 4d). The parking lot has two entrances: gates in the northwestern corner and southeast of the new die-cast complex at the intersection of OMC's private road and Sea Horse Drive (CH2M Hill and Ecology and the Environment, 1984). There is no clear boundary between the contamination of the North Ditch and that of the Parking Lot Area.

Charles Coster originally owned the land that OMC now owns. The Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railway Company (EJ&E) bought it in July 1893. A wood treatment plant, apparently the first industrial facility at the site (Figure 3) was on the western part of the property. The Chicago Tie and Timber Company operated it from 1908 to 1912. The plant had at least four steel creosote tanks, a wood planing building, an overhead steel conveyor belt system, two creosote weighing veins, and a storage building for finished ties. It is unknown where the ties were dried after treatment. Sometime after 1917, the wood plant was dismantled. Between 1926 and 1928, a coke oven gas plant was constructed on the site (Figure 3). The North Shore Gas Company bought excess gas produced there. Two by-products of the gasification process, coal tar and ammonia, were also separated and sold. Two impurities, sulfur and naphthalene, had to be removed from the raw gas before the gas could be marketed.

Before the fall of 1937, some of the gas was consumed by the operations, and this limited production to 3,100,000 cubic feet per day. Installation of a producer gas plant to provide fuel for the plant allowed an increase of gas output to 5,200,000 cubic feet per day.

The western third of the site was used for coal storage. An on-site steam electrical generating plant required water from Waukegan Harbor and a 140 foot deep well (Barr Engineering Company, 1991). Since 1936, OMC has operated plants at Waukegan Harbor (Chapman, 1985); however, the company evidently did not own the land in 1936. The North Shore Gas Company purchased the land in 1941 and sold it to the Waukegan Coke Organization in 1947. General Motors Corporation (GM) bought the land less than a year later and produced coke at the site. Gas was used for internal purposes only, and the gas purification facilities were dismantled. The coke plant had a 225 foot tall chimney and many storage tanks.

In 1969, GM sold the 2.8 acres along the southern portion of the site to OMC, and OMC bought the rest of the property in 1971. Shortly thereafter, OMC demolished the coking plant (Barr Engineering Company, 1991). The demolition specifications included the removal of all buildings, smoke stacks, equipment, and railroad tracks and ties. The foundations of the coke battery and smoke stacks were to be completely removed, and all others were to be taken out to a depth of 12 inches below grade. All oil, tar, water, or other residues remaining in oil or tar storage tanks were to be removed, but not dumped into the plant sewer system. All depressed areas were to be filled with noncombustible rubble. An office building in the southwestern corner of the property, the foundation of the above-ground tar tank, and other building foundations still remain (Barr Engineering Company, 1991).

The OMC plant makes outboard motors, lawn mowers, industrial vehicles, and turf-care vehicles. The plant has die-casting facilities for making engine blocks and related parts, which are distributed to other OMC assembly plants. The site also contains the world headquarters of the company as well as a data processing center and design and engineering facilities. More than 2,000 people work at these OMC facilities (Chapman, 1985), and there are 3 production plants. Plant 1 assembles parts finished products and performs cleaning, painting, and testing activities. Plant 2 accomplishes aluminum casting, cleaning, component manufacturing, electroplating, heat treatment, and metal finishing. Plant 3 makes components and performs cleaning, machining, metal finishing, and painting activities (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency [IEPA], 1982). OMC used nonflammable hydraulic fluids to reduce fire dangers in their facilities in the 1950s (Baker, 1988). Between 1951 and 1959, OMC used a phosphate ester containing some PCBs (Mason and Hanger-Silas Mason Company, Inc., 1981a). About 1960, the company began to use PCB-containing Pydraul A200, which was produced by the Monsanto Company (Baker, 1988). Between 1959 and 1972, OMC purchased about 8.4 million pounds of PCBs (EPA, 1981). Some of it leaked onto the floor, escaped through floor drains, entered an oil interceptor system, and PCBs escaped from the interceptor and subsequently entered the Crescent Ditch of the North Ditch. Some of the PCBs were then discharged through an outlet into Waukegan Harbor. This discharge pipe was sealed in 1976 (EPA, 1988).

PCBs were discovered in Lake Michigan fish before the sources of contamination were found. In the late 1960s, in response to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, a pesticide monitoring program was established in the Great Lakes. High levels of DDT and dieldrin were found in Lake Michigan fish. Some unidentified compounds were later found to be PCBs and were added to the monitoring program. High PCB levels were detected in many fish. Those sampled from southern Lake Michigan contained higher PCB concentrations than those from the northern part. In 1975 (EPA, 1981) or 1976 (Mason and Hanger-Silas Mason Company, Inc., 1981a), PCB contamination was discovered in Waukegan Harbor. Other major sources of PCBs in Lake Michigan include the Milwaukee River and Harbor and the Sheboygan River in Wisconsin (Harris, 1982). More than 50 parts per million (ppm) of PCBs have also been found in sediments of the Fox River at Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor Canal, Indiana.

During the early 1970s, OMC was one of the major sources of PCBs going into Lake Michigan (EPA, 1981). In 1977, EPA Region V established Great Lakes sediments guidelines prohibiting open-water dumping of dredged materials with more than 10 ppm of PCBs. This caused the cessation, curtailment, or restriction of dredging in the contaminated areas described above (EPA, 1981). At Waukegan Harbor, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged about 30,000 cubic yards of sediments per year near the main entrance channel. Slip 3 was last dredged about 1950, and sediments were last removed from the upper harbor around 1957. About the same time, Slip 2, at the National Gypsum Company, was closed. In 1968, Slip 1 was widened and dredged (Mason and Hanger-Silas Mason Company, Inc., 1981a). In the past, dredged sediments were generally dumped into Lake Michigan (EPA, 1981). According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (1986), dredged sediments were dumped into an established deep water disposal area about 2.5 miles east of the north breakwater light through 1969. This area is not part of the NPL site and has not been sampled.

Before 1976, harbor sediments were routinely analyzed for heavy metals and organic nutrients (not PCBs) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the USEPA/Federal Water Pollution Control Administration to determine what materials were suitable for open-lake dumping. The sediments of the inner harbor (project depth 18 feet) were considered too polluted to be dumped into Lake Michigan, while those of the outer harbor (project depth 22 feet) were suitable for open-water disposal (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1986). The location to which sediments from the upper harbor were taken is unknown. According to EPA (1981), spoils from the last dredging in the contaminated area (1974; location not specified) were placed in two mounds on the OMC property. These materials are mostly sand and generally have less than 1 ppm of PCBs. However, some areas have up to 17 ppm of PCBs. These sediments probably did not come from the upper harbor, because it generally has much higher PCB concentrations. With the exception of a small amount of uncontaminated material (under 1 ppm of PCBs) removed from the southeastern corner of the Waukegan Port Authority area, no dredging for navigation has occurred in the harbor since PCBs were discovered in 1975 (EPA, 1981).

In 1978, EPA filed suit against OMC seeking to force cleanup of PCB contamination in Waukegan Harbor and on OMC property. EPA included the site on the Proposed NPL in 1982 (EPA, 1988) and added it to the NPL on September 8, 1983 (Barr Engineering Company, 1991). EPA completed a feasibility study in 1983 and signed a Record of Decision (ROD) with OMC in 1984.

A 1985 order dismissing the lawsuit left open the possibility of a future suit to recover clean-up costs. After a protracted legal battle over access to the site (USEPA, 1988), Congress gave the EPA the authority in 1986 to enter hazardous waste sites and begin cleanup (Bukro, 1988). EPA and OMC negotiated a settlement in 1986. A 1988 Consent Decree contained a plan to clean the site permanently (Figure 5). The plan involved draining the highly contaminated Slip 3 and placing dredged sediments into a disposal cell constructed within it. The sediments are de-watered, and the effluent water is treated on site. Two additional containment cells were built on site (Figure 5). Harbor sediments with more than 500 ppm of PCBs and soil with more than 10,000 ppm of PCBs are treated using a high-temperature extraction process to remove at least 97% of the contaminants before disposal. The PCBs extracted in this process are sent to an approved off-site disposal facility. Extraction wells maintain an inward hydraulic gradient to help prevent the escape of PCBs from the containment cells. Larsen Marine relocated to a new slip that replaced Slip 3 (Figure 5; USEPA, 1988).

Only one of six 1988 soil borings had high concentrations of PAHs (Barr Engineering Company, 1991). That finding led to continuing investigations of contamination in the area. The EPA will conduct a Remedial Investigation (RI) at the New Slip, and an addendum to this health assessment will be written when this RI is complete (Greim, 1992). As of August 24, 1992, remediation of the site was about 80% complete (Nolan, 1992b), including all areas but the New Slip. By November 24, 1992, remediation had been halted for the winter, and it was scheduled to resume in the Spring of 1993 (Nolan, 1992a).

A separate inspection by the IEPA in 1982 indicated that hazardous wastes at the OMC plant were not being stored properly. In 1984, an IEPA inspection found that the violations cited in 1982 had been corrected (IEPA, 1984).

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) published a Preliminary Health Assessment on the OMC/Waukegan Harbor site on April 20, 1989 (ATSDR, 1989a). ATSDR concluded the site posed a public health concern and recommended a removal action. In addition, ATSDR recommended additional and continued monitoring, further site characterization, and the establishment of action levels during the site cleanup.

B. Site Visits

Site visits were performed by Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) staff on May 9, 1989, May 24, 1990, and July 31, 1991, as well as by IDPH and ATSDR staff on October 30, 1991. On May 24, 1990, several people were seen fishing from boats about three-quarters to 1 mile offshore. On July 31, 1991, the Roen Salvage Company, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was observed dredging about 100 yards east-southeast of the northern breakwater of the harbor. This dredging was in the navigation channel of the outer harbor and was not associated with PCB remediation (Nolan, 1992b). Consequently, this activity should not have disturbed sediments contaminated at levels of concern.

Boats were on the lake, but people were not fishing from them. The northern breakwater of Waukegan harbor is posted as unsafe and also has "no fishing" signs painted on it. The breakwater north of the closed one is open to the public, and fishing from it is allowed. At the time, several people were fishing from or having lunch on this breakwater. The New Waukegan Harbor is separated from the old one by a concrete breakwater, which is open to the public. The entry to this breakwater had signs in English and Spanish warning people that fish from the northern part of the harbor (i.e., Waukegan Harbor) could be hazardous to their health. One person was fishing from the southern side of the breakwater. Many families with small children were using the public beach, and several small children were playing in the effluent of OMC Outfall 007 (Figure 2) where it flowed into Lake Michigan. The North Ditch was not flowing into Lake Michigan, but was blocked by a small sand dune near its outlet on the public beach. The water in the North Ditch was about 2 to 3 feet deep, murky, somewhat stagnant, and not very appealing. A fence bearing "no trespassing" signs and topped with barbed wire prevents people from using the road to cross the North Ditch, and there is no bridge over the ditch on the public beach. There were people on the beach about 150 yards south of the North Ditch, and several people were wading in the lake near two jet skis and an anchored boat about 100 yards south of the ditch. Most of the people on the beach were more than 1,000 feet south of the North Ditch.

On October 30, 1991, two people were fishing on the northern side of Waukegan Harbor between the OMC property and the public beach. This part of the harbor is not posted as closed to fishing. On that date, one person was also fishing in Waukegan Harbor from the breakwater which separates it from the New Harbor. It is unknown whether these people or their families ate any fish from the water.

The most recent site visit was conducted on April 14, 1994 by Tom Baughman of the IDPH West Chicago Regional Office. Four boats were fishing one-quarter to one mile offshore. People were fishing on the northernmost pier, which extends into the open lake, but not on the northern pier of the harbor, which is closed to the public. The pier between the new and old harbors now has a sign which says (only in English): "Warning. Eating fish caught in the north (with arrow) of Waukegan Harbor may be hazardous to your health. Lake County Health Department." Three people ignored the sign and were fishing in Waukegan Harbor from the this pier. One of them, a retired person, said he had regularly eaten fish from the harbor since he was a child. The other two people were not interviewed because they moved to the southern side among other anglers before being reached. Two people were fishing in the new harbor, and nine people were fishing in the open lake from the southern side of the southern pier. The northern shore of the harbor between the closed pier and OMC property still lacks warning signs. Behind the retaining wall for the disposal cell, Slip 3 was filled with sand, which was covered by ripstop nylon, weighed down by sand bags. The North Ditch was flowing into Lake Michigan.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resources Use

Waukegan, which is primarily a manufacturing community, had a population of 67,653 in 1980 (Barr Engineering Company, 1991) and was estimated to have had 72,700 people in 1987 (IDPH, 1987). The area around the harbor is primarily industrial, with the exception of swimming (public beach to the west) and boating facilities (Barr Engineering Company, 1991). About 15 businesses around the harbor employ about 3,500 people (ATSDR, 1989a). Land west of the harbor is used primarily for railroad yards and light industry. Downtown Waukegan is about 3,000 feet west of the site, and there are light industries, recreational areas, and residential properties north, south, and west of downtown. The City of Waukegan Waterworks is about 1000 feet south of the OMC property (Barr Engineering Company, 1991). Its primary intake is about 6,000 feet offshore (EPA, date unknown, cited in Davis, 1988), but it also has an emergency intake in Waukegan Harbor which is used less than 1 or 2 days per year (USEPA, 1981). The southern boundary of the Illinois Beach State Park is about 1.5 miles north of the site (Figure 6).

Waukegan Harbor is used for waterborne commerce, mainly for the shipping of building cement and gypsum to Gold Bond Building Products and the Huron Cement Company, divisions of the National Gypsum Company. The harbor is also used for the docking, mooring, and storage of recreational boats. The Waukegan Port District has 158 slips and moorings and 103 dry dock spaces (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1984). Larsen Marine, a family-owned business, employs about 50 people and has provided services for boaters at the harbor since 1933. The facilities serve about 1,500 boaters with marine supplies, repair, and/or storage every summer (Larsen, 1988). From 1964 to 1984, the growing recreational use of the harbor stimulated the subsequent development of new harbor facilities south of the site for 761 pleasure boats (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1984). The facilities were completed in 1985 and were forecast to increase the number of charter fishing boats in the Waukegan area from 35 in 1983 to 60 in 1987 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1986).

The part of Lake Michigan around Waukegan Harbor is an important sport fishing region. In 1979, the Illinois Department of Conservation (Muench, 1979, cited in Harris, 1982) performed a creel study of fish caught at Waukegan Harbor and other areas around Lake Michigan. The Waukegan area was the most heavily used one for trolling, as well as breakwater and pier fishing; however, it was the second least used place for shoreline angling. Coho salmon was the most commonly caught species, followed by chinook salmon and yellow perch. It has been estimated that the sport fishery business in Waukegan, not including charter boats, generates about $1,754,000 of purchases per year (Harris, 1982).

Most of the charter boat fishing in the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan is done off of Chicago and Waukegan. In 1980, about 72% of the charter boat catch was from the Waukegan area, which includes the western one-third to one-half of the lake adjacent to the city. Most of the fish caught were salmonids, and of the 24,227 of these fish caught, 74% were coho salmon, 11% were chinook salmon, 11% were lake trout, 3% were rainbow trout, and 1% were brown trout. The charter boat business adds about $540,000 per year to the sport fishery business. This brings the estimated total value of sport fishing around Waukegan Harbor to $2,300,000 per year (Harris, 1982).

Five licensed commercial anglers operated in the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan in 1980-81 (Harris, 1982). The eight commercial fishing boats operating out of the harbor caught 25 tons of fish in 1981 and 36 tons in 1982 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1984). Bloater chubs and yellow perch make up 75% and 25% of the catch, respectfully. They are caught with gill nets, which are not permitted in water less than 30 feet deep for these species. Bloater chubs are generally caught in water more than 180 feet deep. The area of Lake Michigan adjacent to Waukegan Harbor accounts for only 2% of the chub harvest, with the most heavily fished area (40% of the total) being 19 miles east of Lake Forest (Figure 6; Harris, 1982). Lake Forest is about 8 miles south of Waukegan, so the heavily fished area for bloater chubs is about 21 miles from Waukegan Harbor. More than half of the yellow perch are caught from water 42 to 60 feet deep. About 10% of the fish are harvested off of Waukegan, and about 54% of them are caught off of Evanston and Chicago (Figure 6). In 1980 and 1981, the value of commercial fishing in the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan was estimated to be $198,700; however, the Waukegan Harbor vicinity did not appear to be a prime area (Harris, 1982).

D. Health Outcome Data

The state of Illinois maintains data bases for cancer and birth defects. These data are organized according to zip code and can be used to compare incidence rates of the site zip code to the state as a whole or a control group. Such a comparison is made if (1) exposure to a chemical(s) is(are) occurring at levels that may cause an adverse health effect(s), (2) the adverse health effect(s) is(are) recorded on one of the state data bases, (3) many people in a given zip code are exposed. A comparison may also be made if the community is concerned a disease rate is elevated.


According to television reports, the charter boat business around Waukegan has dropped by up to 50% because of fears of PCB contamination. EPA files and the March 30, 1993 public comment release of this health assessment contained these citizen concerns:

    Possible contamination of the Waukegan municipal water supply from Lake Michigan,

    Water quality monitoring,

    Possible dioxin formation during incineration,

    Lack of incentives to dispose of the wastes more efficiently in the future,

    The safety of transporting PCBs to an off-site facility (truck and rail), and

    Slip No. 2 (nature of concern unknown; Musgrave, 1983).

These concerns are addressed in the Public Health Implications section of this health assessment.

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