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Residents living near the Monterey Coal Mine #2 site requested that the Illinois Department ofPublic Health (IDPH) review environmental data associated with the site to determine whether apublic health hazard exists. IDPH has reviewed available data concerning the Monterey CoalMine #2 site and nearby residential wells. The data review was conducted to determine whetheradverse health effects could be associated with exposure to levels of chemicals detected in samples taken from monitoring wells, private wells, soil, waste, and dust.


Site History

The Monterey Coal Mine #2 site is south of Albers, Illinois, in Clinton County (Figure 1). Thecoal mine operated from April 1977 to August 1996, and is a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil, Inc.Permits for the underground coal mine were authorized by the Department of Mines andMinerals and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The site covers about 1,400 acres,and on-site operations included subsurface coal mining, coal processing, and mine waste disposal(1). The waste disposal area (gob pile) covers approximately 300 acres (Figure 2). About 100homes are within 1.5 miles of the site.

The site is being remediated with plans to cap the waste disposal area. Groundwater at the site isbeing pumped and discharged to the Grassy Branch of Sugar Creek where that groundwater isdiluted by stream water. Sugar Creek eventually drains into the Kaskaskia River. As part of theremedial process, groundwater will eventually be pumped and discharged directly into theKaskaskia River. A nearby public water supply may be extended to the area surrounding the site.

In November 2001, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) requested thatIDPH review private well sample results and write letters to residents giving a health-basedinterpretation of the results. During the summer of 2002, concerns about exposure to site-relatedgroundwater, soil, household dust, and airborne dust were brought to the attention of the ClintonCounty Health Department (CCHD) and the Clinton County Board by area residents. CCHDrelayed these concerns to the IDPH Edwardsville Regional Office and requested that IDPH andIllinois EPA staff attend a County Board meeting on October 2002. At that meeting, residentsasked IDPH to review environmental data associated with this site and determine whetherexposure to levels of chemicals detected in samples taken from monitoring wells, private wells,soil, waste, and dust presented a public health hazard.

Sampling Activities

Hundreds of monitoring-well samples have been collected since 1993, primarily by the company,and analyzed for manganese, iron, sulfate, chloride, pH, and total dissolved solids. Private wellsnear Monterey Coal Mine #2 have been sampled by CCHD, Illinois EPA, the Illinois State WaterSurvey, the Monterey Coal Company (MCC), and IDPH. Many of the residential wells near thesite are shallow, some of poor construction.

MCC has monitored several private wells since 1997. In 1997 and 1998, MCC collected 27samples from six private wells. These samples were analyzed for pH, specific conductance, totaldissolved solids, total iron, total manganese, sulfate, and chloride. In April 2001, MCC collected14 samples from nine residential wells. The 2001 samples were analyzed for the constituentslisted above as well as for total suspended solids, dissolved iron, and dissolved manganese.

In September 2001, Illinois EPA collected 17 samples from shallow residential wells (about 18-30 ft deep) and analyzed them for 20 metals. Also in September 2001, Illinois EPA collectedthree surface soil samples and two samples from the mining waste piles. Two of the soil sampleswere collected from farm fields and the third from a residential yard. These soil and wastesamples were analyzed for metals, organic chemicals, and pesticides.

From September to December 2001, Geo-Technical Associates conducted a limited investigationof groundwater, surface soil, subsurface soil, sediment, and household dust near the site (2).These samples were analyzed for metals and organic chemicals. Because we do not know howthe samples were collected, the usefulness of the data is limited.

In November 2002, Illinois EPA and IDPH collected samples near the site. Illinois EPA collectedoutdoor dust-wipe samples from houses and other structures at three different locations. IDPHcollected seven indoor dust-wipe samples from these same three properties. IDPH collected 16water samples from 15 residential wells for metals analysis in November 2002 and from 18residential wells in February 2003 (Table 1).

Table 1.

Results (g/L) of Illinois Department of Public Health sampling of residential wells near Monterey Coal Mine #2, Germantown, IL, November 2002 and February 2003.
Sodium (Na)39,000215,000107,82486,500
Manganese (Mn)31,400359270

Note: g/L = micrograms/liter; results of 34 samples from 33 wells.

To date, IDPH has sent 63 letters to area residents offering to sample their private wells for manganese. No air samples have been collected near the site.


Chemicals of Interest

IDPH compared the results of each environmental sample with the appropriate screeningcomparison value used to select chemicals for further evaluation for carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health effects (Attachment 1). Chemicals found at levels greater than comparisonvalues or those for which no comparison values exist were selected for further evaluation. Thechemicals of interest in groundwater at Monterey Coal Mine #2 are manganese and sodium.

On-site monitoring-well samples had manganese and iron levels greater than drinking waterhealth guidelines. However, because people are not drinking water from these wells, no exposureis occurring. Thus, these data were not used to evaluate the potential for adverse health effects.

Illinois EPA samples from soil and mining wastes were also reviewed. The only chemical thatexceeded a comparison value in these samples was lead in a residential yard sample. The samplewas collected from the drip line of the well house, and the source of the lead is likely lead-basedpaint from the well house.

Wipe samples from Illinois EPA sampling in November 2002 were examined by microscope.Approximately 95% of the particles in the outdoor wipe samples were identified. The sampleswere composed primarily of calcite (40%) and pollen grains (20%-30%) with the remainderbeing miscellaneous mineral grains (10%), mold and fungal spores (10%), miscellaneous plantmaterials (2%-5%), corn starch grains (1%-2%) and coal fragments or dust (2%-4%) from one ofthe three wipe samples (3). The coal fragments and dust, likely from the waste pile on the site,are not at levels expected to cause adverse health effects.

Wipe samples collected indoors by IDPH and outdoors by Illinois EPA where analyzed in the laboratory for metals. None of the metals exceeded comparison values.


Exposure to a chemical at a level that exceeds a comparison value does not necessarily mean thatadverse health effects will result. The potential for exposed persons to experience adverse healtheffects depends on: (1) how much of each chemical a person is exposed to; (2) how long a personis exposed, and (3) the health condition of the exposed person.

An exposure pathway consists of a source of contamination, environmental media and transportmechanisms, a point of exposure, and a receptor population. Exposure to a contaminant mayhave occurred in the past, may be occurring now, or may occur in the future. If all elementslinking the contaminant source to an exposed population are present, a completed exposurepathway exists. When one of these elements is missing, a potential exposure pathway exists.

Data from Geo-Technical Associates investigation of groundwater, soil, sediment, and householddust near the site were reviewed. Sample results and limited information about the quality of datain the report indicate that exposure to the levels of metals in the soil, sediments, and householddust would not be expected to cause adverse health effects. The private well sample obtained aspart of the investigation was collected during a flow of "black water" from the well. This samplehad levels of lead, iron, and manganese that could cause adverse health effects if consumedregularly. IDPH recommends that residents not drink the discolored water. Previously, this wellwas tested for iron and manganese when the water was clear. Levels of iron and manganesedetected in that sample were much lower.

Groundwater Exposure

IDPH assumed that persons consumed well water at a daily rate of 2 liters for adults and 1 literfor children. With this exposure scenario, manganese levels greater than 500 parts per billion(ppb) could cause children to exceed the upper intake levels for this metal (Table 2). USEPA hasset a Secondary Drinking Water Regulation of 50 ppb for manganese based on aesthetic effects. Water containing levels of manganese greater than 50 ppb has poor taste quality and may bediscolored. Therefore, it is unlikely that people will routinely consume water containing elevatedlevels of manganese.

Sodium levels above 20 parts per million (ppm) may affect persons with health conditions thatrequire them to be on sodium-restricted diets.

The groundwater flow of the shallow aquifer is generally southwest. Wells with elevated levelsof manganese are located both up-gradient and down-gradient of the site. Manganese is at highlevels in groundwater under the site. The cause of elevated manganese in area groundwater,whether natural or site-related, is not known.

Results of private well samples from 1997 and 1998 show that the level of manganese for all sixwells, in at least one sample from each well, was at or greater than 500 ppb.

Illinois EPA data from well samples in September 2001 showed that 6 of the 17 samplescontained levels of manganese greater than 500 ppb. Residents were advised that children shouldget their drinking water from an alternate water supply. Sodium was detected at levels greaterthan 20 ppm in all 17 samples.

In November 2002 and February 2003, IDPH collected 34 samples from 33 wells (one was aduplicate sample). These samples were analyzed for manganese, iron, lead, arsenic, cadmium,chromium, sodium, nickel, beryllium, and zinc. Manganese was present at levels greater than 500ppb in eight wells (24%). Sodium was greater than 20 ppm in all samples (Table 1). The resultsfor metals in one well were questionable, and the well will be re-sampled and re-evaluated.


Manganese was detected in drinking water from some private wells at levels that may causechildren to exceed upper intake levels. Upper intake levels for manganese have been establishedby the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. The upper intake level is thehighest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risks of adverse health effects toalmost all individuals in the general population. The upper intake limits take into account sources of manganese from food, water, and supplements (Table 2).

Table 2.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels by Age Group*.
Life Stage GroupManganese (mg/d)
0-6 months ND
7-12 months ND
1-3 years 2
4-8 years 3
9-13 years 6
14-18 years 9
19-50 years 11
>50 years 11

*Note: mg/d = milligrams per day. ND = Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effectsin this age group and concern about lack of ability to handle excess amounts. Source should befrom food only to prevent high levels of intake.

Manganese in small quantities is essential to maintaining good health. Although inhalationexposure to high levels of manganese is known to result in a syndrome of profound neurologicaleffects in humans, there is only limited evidence that oral exposure leads to neurological effectsin humans. Two recent studies have reported adverse neurological effects in children (aged 11-13) who were exposed to excess manganese in well water and in foods fertilized with sewagewater (4,5). However, these two studies have several flaws that preclude their use as substantialsupport for the link between ingestion of excess manganese and the incidence of preclinicalneurological effects in children. The levels of manganese the children were exposed to in thestudy were not well documented.

Because exposure levels and duration were not well defined, these studies as reported are notrigorous enough to establish causality between ingestion of excess manganese and preclinicalneurological effects in children. Nonetheless, these studies are strongly suggestive that earlyneurobehavioral effects often seen in industrial workers exposed to excess manganese viainhalation are observed in children. Therefore, exposure for months or years to manganese atgreater than the suggested daily allowance may result in injury to the nervous system and causemuscle weakness, poor coordination, and behavior disturbances (6). The level of manganese in the private wells sampled would not be expected to cause adverse health effects in adults.


Sodium was detected in all wells at levels above 20 ppm. Sodium is a major dietary risk factorleading to high blood pressure. Numerous studies have shown that reducing sodium intake canreduce blood pressure (7). Residents with high blood pressure, heart conditions, or on sodium-restricted diets, were advised to consult with their physicians if they are drinking the water.


IDPH recognizes that children are especially sensitive to some chemicals. For this reason, IDPHincluded children when evaluating exposures at this site. Children are the most sensitivepopulation considered in this health consultation. Our assessment shows that children drinkingwater for more than three years from wells that contain elevated levels of manganese may be at increased risk of adverse health effects (4).


Because of questions raised at two public meetings held October 21 and November 13, 2002,IDPH provides the following answers to key community health concerns.

1. Does manganese cause birth defects?

Little information exists on whether manganese can cause birth defects. One study in humanssuggests that high exposures to manganese in the environment might increase the chances ofbirth defects, but other factors besides manganese might have been responsible. Since there areso few studies on this, more research is needed to determine the importance of these observations(4). Limited information suggests that exposure to manganese at levels much higher than thoseencountered in the Clinton County private wells may cause birth defects.

2. Is there an elevated cancer rate in persons living near the site?

Cancer is a common disease. It occurs in about one in three persons during their lifetime. Toinvestigate whether a specific cancer has a higher incidence in a specific area, one must comparethe incidence data for that area to the incidence in the general population. This comparison isgenerally accomplished by comparing the cancer incidence within a zip code area with theincidence in a county or the state. The population of the zip code areas near the site (62245 and62215) is too small to be statistically valuable in determining an increased cancer incidence forthose areas.

3. Are we exposed to site-related contaminants, and are they adversely affecting our health?

Windblown dust has been observed to be carried off the site from the waste piles. Limitedsampling (two samples) from the waste piles indicated no organic or inorganic chemicals atlevels that would pose health hazards. Dust-wipe samples collected inside and outside a few homes near the site did not contain metals at levels that would pose health hazards.


From the limited information reviewed, IDPH cannot determine whether Monterey Coal Mine #2is the source of elevated manganese levels found in some private drinking water wells located inLooking Glass and Germantown Townships. Regardless of the manganese source, IDPHconcludes that the elevated levels found in some of these wells could pose a public health hazardfor children exposed over long time periods. Sodium has been detected at elevated levels in allwells, but does not appear to be site related. The following recommendations and public healthaction plan are offered to help residents be more informed and deal effectively with concerns regarding manganese or sodium in drinking water.


IDPH recommends that:

  • Residents who have children and live near the site should have their wells tested formanganese. IDPH has offered well sampling to area residents.

  • Residents of homes where the primary drinking water source has manganese levelsgreater than 500 parts per billion should use an alternate source of drinking water forchildren. IDPH has made this recommendation to affected households.

  • Residents who have high blood pressure or heart conditions, or are on sodium-restricteddiets, should consult their physicians if they are drinking well water near the site. IDPHhas made this recommendation to affected households.

  • A public water supply should be offered to residents near the site. Illinois EPA has been working with participating parties to provide a public water supply to the area.


David Webb
Environmental Health Specialist
Illinois Department of Public Health


  1. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Fact sheet #1, Monterey Coal Mine #2 site.Albers, Illinois. Springfield, October 2002.

  2. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. A summary of selected background conditions for inorganics in soil. Springfield, August 1994. Illinois EPA/ENV/94-161.

  3. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Memo to Monterey Coal Mine #2 Site file.Springfield, December 13, 2002.

  4. He P, Liu D, Ahang G, et al. 1994. Effects of high-level manganese sewage irrigation on children's neurobehavior. Chung Hung Hua Yu Fang I Hsueh Tsa Chih 28:216-218.(Chinese)

  5. Zhang G, Liu D, He P. 1995. Effects of manganese on learning abilities in schoolchildren. Chung Hua Yu Fan I Hsueh Tsa Chih 29:156-158.

  6. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for manganese. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services; 1999 July. Report No.:PB/2000/108025.

  7. Cutler JA, Kotchen TA, Obarzanek E, eds. The National Heart, Lung, and BloodInstitute Workshop on Salt, and Blood Pressure. Hypertension. 1991;17:I1-121.

  8. NRC (National Research Council). 1989. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed.Food and Nutrition Board, National Research Council, National Academy Press,Washington, DC. p. 230-235.


This Monterey Coal health consultation was prepared by the Illinois Department of Public Healthunder a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures 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.

Richard Gillig
for Roberta Erlwein
Chief, State Programs Section


Clifton County, Illinois, location of Monterey Coal Mine #2
Figure 1. Clifton County, Illinois, location of Monterey Coal Mine #2

Site location Monterey Coal Mine #2, Clifton County, Illinois
Figure 2. Site location Monterey Coal Mine #2, Clifton County, Illinois


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 designed to protect the most sensitive populations and are not action levels, but rather are comparison values. They do not incorporate carcinogenic effects, chemicalinteractions, multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes of exposure. EMEGs arevery conservative concentration values used to protect sensitive members of the population.

Reference dose media evaluation guides (RMEGs) are another type of comparison valuedesigned to protect the most sensitive populations. They do not take into account carcinogeniceffects, chemical interactions, multiple route exposure, or other media-specific routes ofexposure. Rather they are very conservative concentration values used to protect sensitivemembers of the population.

Cancer risk evaluation guides (CREGs) are estimated contaminant concentrations that are basedon a probability of 1 excess cancer in 1 million persons exposed to a chemical over a lifetime.These are also very conservative values used to protect sensitive members of the population.

Maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) have been established by the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency (USEPA) for public water supplies to reduce the chance of adverse healtheffects from contaminated drinking water. These standards are well below levels at which healtheffects have been observed and take into account the financial feasibility of achieving specificcontaminant levels. These are enforceable limits that public water supplies must meet.

Lifetime health advisories (LTHAs) have been established by USEPA for drinking water. Theyare the concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adversenoncarcinogenic effects over a lifetime of exposure. These are conservative values thatincorporate a margin of safety.

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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