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The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) requested that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) perform a health consultation regarding the groundwater samples collected at the Sangamon Valley Landfill (the site) near Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, to determine whether the current conditions pose a public health hazard.


The site is north of Sand Hill Road, east of Peoria Road near the Sangamon River. The site received garbage and trash until 1995 when a court ordered it to close. The order required owners of the site to address the concerns of area residents including groundwater contamination, overfilling of one area of the landfill, and waste, and noise pollution.

Illinois EPA has collected groundwater samples from area private wells since 1990, mainly along Riverside Drive and Sand Hill Road. Over the past decade, IDPH has reviewed this data and has mailed letters to residents explaining the results. Groundwater samples collected during these years showed no contamination that would pose a public health hazard.

In 2001, a proposal was made to reopen the landfill. The annual "Non Hazardous Solid Waste Management and the Landfill Capacity in Illinois" reported that the landfill has 18.9 million cubic yards of remaining capacity, which should allow the landfill to remain open and accept waste until the year 2037 [1]. Area residents remain concerned about groundwater contamination, waste and noise pollution.


IDPH staff visited the site on May 19, 2001. The landfill covers about 18 acres. It is bordered on the south by Sand Hill Road, on the east by a ravine, on the west by railroad tracks and on the north by the Sangamon River.

The landfill appeared to be well maintained. It was surrounded by a 6-foot-tall chain-linked fence topped with barbed wire. The landfill had a gated entrance and "Restricted Area" signs were posted along the north and east sides of the landfill. Several monitoring wells were around the perimeter of the site and several methane gas vents were on the landfill. The surface of the landfill is covered with soil and growth of vegetation. Because the landfill is closed, no activity was visible. No odors were detected during the site visit.

Fire hydrants were present, indicating that a public water supply is present; however, most residents use private wells as a source of water. About 30 homes are within a 1-mile radius of the landfill.


IDPH assumed that the groundwater samples were collected and handled properly and that appropriate analytical techniques were used. IDPH assumed that children in this community would drink 1 liter of water per day and adults in the community would drink 2 liters of water per day. For volatile organic chemicals, we assumed inhalation exposure would be equal to exposure by ingestion.

IDPH compared the results of the well water samples collected from the private wells with the appropriate screening comparison values to select chemicals for further evaluation of carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health effects. Chemicals found at levels greater than comparison values or those for which no comparison value exist were selected for further evaluation. A discussion of each comparison value used is found in the Attachment. Exceeding a comparison value does not necessarily mean that exposure to the chemical will cause adverse health effects.

The potential for exposed persons to experience adverse health effects depends on:

  • how much of each chemical to which a person is exposed,
  • how long a person is exposed, and
  • the health condition of the exposed person.

Residents near the landfill with private wells as their source of water can be exposed to chemicals in the water, primarily through ingestion (drinking well water) and inhalation.

Chemicals of Interest

Based on the well water sampling data from 1990 to 2000, methylene chloride and trihalomethanes (THM) are the two organic chemicals found at levels slightly greater than comparison values. When the affected wells were resampled, methylene chloride was not detected, and the presence of THMs may have been due to the recent addition of bleach to the well water. The inorganic chemicals detected were sodium and chlorides.

Exposure to methylene chloride and THMs at the highest levels detected in the well water for 12 months every year for 30 years would pose no apparent increased cancer risk. Also, the estimated low level of exposure to methylene chloride and THMs would not be expected to cause any non-cancer health effects. Sodium and chlorides will be discussed further.


The highest level of sodium detected was 490 parts per million (ppm). The primary health effect associated with ingestion of elevated levels of sodium in drinking water is hypertension (high blood pressure) [2]. Sodium has long been a major dietary factor in reducing the risk of high blood pressure. Numerous studies have shown that reducing sodium intake can reduce high blood pressure. In letters to residents with elevated sodium levels, IDPH recommended that persons with high blood pressure, with a heart condition, or on a sodium-restricted diet consult their physician if they are drinking this water.


The highest level of chloride detected in well water was 404 ppm. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Secondary Drinking Water Standard (SDWS) for chloride is 250 ppm. SDWSs are unenforceable federal guidelines for public drinking water supplies that consider taste, odor, color and certain non-aesthetic effects of drinking water. These chloride levels would not be expected to cause adverse health effects but may affect the taste of the water.


Children are a sensitive sub-population, so special consideration is given to potential exposures to children in the toxicological evaluation. Given the exposure scenario stated previously and the levels of sodium detected in the well water, IDPH does not anticipate children to be at health risk from drinking the water.


Based on the information reviewed from the well water sampling data from years 1990 to 2000, IDPH concludes that no public health hazard exists from exposure to groundwater in the residential wells near the Sangamon Valley Landfill.

Elevated levels of sodium and chlorides were detected in some wells, but exposure can be easily reduced. Other complaints expressed by area residents have diminished since the landfill closed.


IDPH recommends that residents with a history of high blood pressure or on a low-sodium diet consult their physician. IDPH has informed these residents about this recommendation by letter.


Mike Moomey
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health

Anuradha Meka
GPSI Intern
Illinois Department of Public Health


  1. The State Journal Register (Springfield, IL), Archives April 26th 2001, article ID: 0000496667

  2. American Heart Association, Hypertension risk factors, Physicians Database, May 1999. Available from


Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) have been established by USEPA for public water supplies to reduce the chances of adverse health effects from contaminated drinking water. These standards are well below the levels for which health effects have been observed and take into account the financial feasibility of achieving specific contaminant levels. These are enforceable limits that public water supplies must meet.


This Sangamon Valley Landfill Health Consultation was prepared by the Illinois Department of Health under Cooperative Agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the Health Consultation was initiated.

Gail D. Godfrey
Technical Project Officer

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

Lisa C. Hayes
for Chief, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR

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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