Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content




The Wauconda Sand and Gravel Landfill, placed on the National Priority List (NPL) in 1983, is in Lake County, Illinois on the outskirts of the Village of Wauconda. It is a former sanitary landfill which reportedly accepted some industrial wastes (less than one percent of the total wastes). Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) involvement started in the mid-1970s. In 1981, it was alleged that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were dumped at the site. Low levels of PCBs were detected in several water samples by the IEPA. On the basis of hazardous wastes found at the site and the likelihood of human exposure, the site was placed on the NPL. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) completed a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) in 1984. The Wauconda Task Group, a group of companies identified by USEPA as Potentially Responsible Parties, completed a supplemental RI/FS in 1987 and has conducted monitoring of the landfill since then.

A number of contaminants, mostly metals and volatile organic chemicals, have been detected in leachate and at low concentrations in off-site groundwater in both the upper and lower aquifers. Vinyl chloride has been found in about one-third of the samples in the upper aquifer, sometimes above regulatory criteria. It is unclear whether some contaminants originate from the landfill. The lower aquifer is the source of drinking water for most of the 35-40 residential wells located within 1/4 mile of the landfill. Residential wells (except for two tapped to the upper aquifer near the landfill, out of service since 1984) have had few readings of any contaminants except for antimony and vanadium, which may not have originated from the landfill.

The Wauconda Landfill site is considered of no apparent public health hazard because the limited past exposure and potential for future exposure to site-related chemicals of concern are below levels of public health concern. The only potential risk is to users downgradient (north and northeast of the landfill), in wells tapped into the upper aquifer. However, most of the wells are tapped into the lower aquifer. Several contaminants were found in 1983 in two residential wells tapped into the upper aquifer. These two wells were subsequently closed. It is possible that residential wells tapped into the lower aquifer could potentially become contaminated in the future from the upper aquifer, for three reasons: (1) the clay aquitard between the two aquifers may allow slow infiltration of some chemicals, and (2) the clay aquitard may not be continuous, and (3) the lower aquifer could become contaminated through well shafts improperly grouted through the upper aquifer into the lower aquifer.

A clay cap has been placed on the landfill to prevent direct contact and to reduce leachate production by preventing rainwater from filtering down through the garbage. The landfill cap is being upgraded where necessary to further reduce leachate production. The site is well vegetated, minimizing the possibility of wind-blown dust escaping off-site. A fence surrounds the landfill and restricts access to the site. A leachate collection system, installed in 1987, collects leachate from the northern perimeter of the landfill to prevent contamination of Mutton Creek (a small creek adjacent to the north face of the landfill) with leachate. The leachate is pumped from the system into the Village of Wauconda sanitary sewage system, and from there into the sewage treatment plant.

Health outcome data evaluation for cancer incidence indicated significant increases in a number of cancers in the area surrounding the site. However, there are no known connections between these particular cancers and exposure to chemicals such as those found at the site. The community is concerned about adequate detection of residential well contamination and use of sludge as soil amendment on cropland. The present IEPA monitoring programs are adequately designed to protect public health in these areas.

There were no completed exposure pathways documented after 1984. The site has been remediated. Minor erosion repair and revegetating of some parts of the landfill remains to be completed. A diesel oil spill (several thousand gallons), occurred to the west of the landfill on March 26, 1993, and an undetermined amount flowed onto site property. This area was remediated by removal of the contaminated soil. The only follow-up activities planned are the continued monitoring of groundwater, gas generation, and sewage sludge. Follow-up activities relating to health will be considered if data become available that suggest human exposure is occurring or will occur in the future.


In cooperation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, IDPH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

The Wauconda Landfill is located in the Village of Wauconda in Lake County, Illinois (in the west half of the NW quarter of Section 24, T44N, R9E of the 3rd P.M., Lake County) (Figure 1). The site occupies 60 acres, including a 43-acre unpermitted landfill and a nine acre landfill that was permitted in 1977 by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). The remainder is perimeter area. The site is enclosed by the site security fence and is part of a 74-acre parcel owned by the Wauconda Sand and Gravel Company (USEPA, 1989). The site is bordered by Garland Road on the east, Bonner Road to the south, and Mutton Creek on the north. A recycling business and several residences are located near the east side of the landfill (Figure 2).

The Wauconda Landfill began operation in 1941 on land previously used as a sand and gravel quarry. Between 1941 and 1977, before the State required landfills to be permitted, the northern two thirds of the site were used as a sanitary landfill. In June 1977, a nine acre area in the southern one-third of the site was permitted for solid waste disposal by IEPA and was operated until July 1978, when the entire site was closed and covered. The landfill received mostly municipal (residential and commercial) wastes, estimated to be 3.2 million cubic yards during the life of the landfill. Less than one percent of this volume is estimated to be from industrial sources. Industrial wastes included sludge, tars, spray paint cans, acids, pigments, incinerator ash, plastics, adhesives, solvents, dust from different industrial processes, and materials containing lead, chromium, barium, nickel, and zinc, and "unknown waste" (USEPA, 1991c).

Leachate seeps developed on the landfill several years after closure. The IEPA monitored site activities beginning in the mid-1970s. In 1981, an anonymous caller contacted IEPA and alleged that six million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), rumored to originate from Outboard Motor Corporation in Waukegan, had been deposited on the site. The IEPA investigated leachate, surface water, and groundwater quality near the site. The United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) Field Investigation Team (FIT) studied the site and collected groundwater data in July 1982. In September 1983, the USEPA gave the site a Hazard Ranking System score of 53.42 and placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL). The USEPA conducted a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) from 1983 to 1985, which involved electromagnetic and resistivity surveys, mapping, sampling of air, groundwater, surface water, and sediments, and installing new monitoring wells to assess environmental conditions. The FS recommended cap repairs, leachate seep collection, and installation of a perimeter fence. A USEPA Record of Decision (ROD) (Sept. 30, 1985; USEPA, 1985a) directed additional study to further define potential impacts to the environment from the site.

The Wauconda Task Group (WTG), a group of industrial companies identified by USEPA as Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) was formed in 1984. They retained Conestoga-Rovers Associates (CRA) to provide technical overview to USEPA RI/FS program. The WTG/CRA identified concerns and data gaps in the USEPA RI/FS and installed additional monitoring wells and conducted additional sampling. Under an Administrative Order by Consent (AOC) between USEPA, IEPA, and the WTG, the WTG conducted a Supplemental RI/FS to address data gaps and agreed to construct a security fence around most of the site, and constructed a leachate collection system. These have been operated and maintained since their installation.

The leachate collection system, which collects leachate from the northern side of the landfill, stored leachate in a 10,000 gallon tank on site until January 1992, when a hookup was made to the Village of Wauconda sewage treatment system. Leachate (currently less than 1,000 gallons per day) is being treated at the above facility along with Wauconda municipal sewage. Before January 1992, the leachate was transported to other treatment facilities including the Waste Management CID landfill in Chicago. In January 1992, the pumps for the leachate collection system were changed to make them compatible with the Village of Wauconda emergency generator system, in case of a power outage.

The cap of the landfill is well vegetated, with little evidence of ponding. A wet area on the northwest corner of the landfill has been drained by extending the leachate collection system to that area. A gully near the northeast corner has been repeatedly filled with fill ranging from soil to rocks 3 to 6 inches in diameter, with erosion continuing as of February 1992. In the summer of 1992, this area was reconstructed to correct this problem. A diesel fuel spill of several thousand gallons from an above ground vehicular storage tank occurred on March 26, 1993, on the Lake Cook FS property west of the site. An unknown amount flowed onto a low-lying area on the western border of the site, about 100 yards from the northwest corner of the site. However, this area has since been remediated by removal of the contaminated soil.

PCB contamination, which was one reason for placement on the NPL, was not found in any of several hundred samples of groundwater, leachate, surface water, sediment, soil, or air collected after 1983 by USEPA, CRA/WTG, or the Lake County Health Department (LCHD), except for a low level of one PCB compound found in two leachate samples: one in 1990 and one in 1992.

B. Site Visit

Representatives of IDPH and the LCHD visited the site on January 17, 1992. A representative of the IDPH subsequently visited the site on January 22, and February 29, 1992. The most recent visit was conducted by IDPH staff on April 14, 1994.

On January 22, 1992, the leachate collection system on the north side of the landfill was being upgraded. Soil was exposed in that area due to movement of bulldozers and other vehicles involved with the collection system installation. Several mounds of topsoil were present, to be used in final grading of the landfill. A spring (appearing as a small ponding area) was located at the northwest corner of the landfill. The fence was intact except for one small portion on the north side which had been partially knocked down by a bulldozer sliding down the hill, according to the site custodian. The landfill was well vegetated except for the steep slope on the southwest corner. This area was covered with black plastic matting to prevent erosion. On the east side, there was a damp spot (about 10x15 feet) with a few cattails, and a swale one foot deep and 10 to 12 feet long just north of the recycling plant. Another swale, about 100 feet long in the same area, appeared to be draining into the landfill. A small amount of trash was evident that had apparently blown over from the recycling plant. There was a slight odor near the southwest corner of the landfill (southwest breeze blowing at 5 to 15 miles per hour on that day). There were small amounts of garbage evident in a couple of places on the landfill. The building at the northeast corner of the landfill houses a tank for storing leachate; both the tank and building appeared to be in good repair.

On February 29, 1992, the site was revisited on the outside (north side next to Mutton Creek). A gully that was filled in with coarse rock was observed about 150 to 170 feet in from Garland Road. It extended back under the fence into the landfill at least 50 to 75 feet. Erosion was evident. There was a space underneath the fence at the point that the rocks were laid that would make the landfill accessible to humans and animals.

Another site visit was performed by IDPH staff on April 14, 1994. The soil of the area is very sandy. A six foot high chain link fence surrounds the site, but it lacks barbed wire. Consequently, the landfill is accessible to anyone willing to do a little fence climbing. The site has gas flares or vents, and land to the north and west that is mostly undeveloped. An excavating contractor and an auto wrecker are business properties adjacent to the southeastern corner of the landfill, and a six inch well is present at the excavating firm.

By the northeastern part of the site, there are a number of homes across Garland Road (within 200 feet of the site). Also, there are numerous homes about 1000 feet east of the northeastern half of the site. On the northeastern corner of the landfill, a French drain discharges into the stream along the northern boundary. The northeastern, eastern, and southwestern sides of the landfill were well-vegetated. The southeastern and southern part of the site has some bare areas, which did not have large gullies. The unfilled portion had pipes, broken concrete, and a bulldozer. A marsh with frogs was between this area and the permitted part of the landfill.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

The Wauconda landfill is located on the outskirts of the Village of Wauconda (population 6400). About 1250 people live within a one-half mile radius of the site, 4200 within a one-mile radius, and about 15,000 within three miles of the site (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). There are 30 to 35 residential wells within one-quarter mile of the landfill; all are screened to the lower aquifer except for six wells (well records not available and aquifer undetermined). There are two wells located about 1600 feet northwest of the site that are screened in the upper aquifer (CRA, 1992a). A recycling business adjacent to the east side of the landfill has its own well. An industrial park is directly west of the site, and is on the village municipal water supply. A subdivision of about 100 homes one half mile east of the landfill uses private wells, as does a slightly larger subdivision of homes about one-half mile south of the site. A new subdivision (currently about 20 homes) is being developed about one-half mile northeast of the landfill. These homes also have private wells.

The Wauconda High School (600 students) is located about 3500 feet southwest of the landfill. Transfiguration Catholic School (elementary school, 300 students), a public grade school (800 students), and a junior high school (500 students) are all about 1.5 miles away. A public K-2 school (Robert Crown, 400 students) is located about one mile west of the landfill on Bonner Road. A private church school (New Hope School, 12 students) was started in September 1991 about 1500 feet west-southwest of the landfill and is supplied by a private well (depth unknown). This facility is scheduled to be supplied by municipal water within the next year. A day care center run by the park district is next to the high school. One nursing home (95 beds) is about 1.5 miles southwest of the landfill. Another day care center (Messiah Lutheran Preschool) is located three miles south of the landfill. The nearest hospitals are in Barrington and Libertyville (8 and 10 miles distant, respectively).

The land to the north of the landfill is mostly farmland and estate type housing (Township of Wauconda, population 12,859 and Fremont Township, population 12,007). The Village of Wauconda straddles these two townships.

There are several bodies of water near the landfill. Mutton Creek, a small one to three foot wide stream, directly borders the landfill to the north. This creek is large enough to support invertebrate aquatic life, but is probably not large enough to support fish life (USEPA, 1985). Mutton Creek drains Mud Lake, which is a quarter of a mile northeast of the landfill in Fremont Township. Directly west of the landfill, Mutton Creek flows through a wetland area and empties into Island Lake, about three miles from the landfill. This lake is used for recreation (boating, fishing, and swimming), and waterfowl frequent the wetlands adjacent to this lake. Bangs Lake, surrounded by the Village of Wauconda, is about one mile long and half a mile wide, and is used for boating, swimming, and fishing (located half to one mile from the landfill). The landfill is not in the Bangs Lake watershed (LCHD, 1990a).

The Village of Wauconda has six municipal wells. Well #4, the closest to the landfill, is about 1000 feet east-southeast of the southeast corner of the landfill. It is screened to 1260 feet. Therefore, it gets its water from a deep (Cambrian-Ordovician) aquifer. It is currently used as a standby well only when demand for water is high, currently supplying about nine percent of the water for the Village of Wauconda. The other five wells are located between one and one and a half miles from the landfill, and are all screened to the bedrock aquifer. After an iron removal facility is built for wells #5 and #6, these wells will come on line as primary producers and pumping from well #4 will be substantially reduced.

D. Health Outcome Data

The State of Illinois maintains databases for cancer and birth defects. These data are organized according to zip code. A search of the databases by IDPH, revealed an elevated level of cancer in two zip code areas adjacent to the Wauconda site. However, there is no evidence that the types of cancer found are linked to contamination from the Wauconda site. More details are given in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation section of this health assessment.


IDPH representatives have interviewed officials at the IEPA, USEPA, LCHD, three local government officials, and environmentally active local citizens in Lake County. The following documents were also reviewed: transcripts for public meetings conducted on May 11 and December 14, 1988 and the USEPA Responsiveness Summary (Jacobs Engineering Group, 1988; USEPA, 1988a; USEPA, 1989a). Officials and residents raised the following health-related concerns:

  1. The Wauconda sewage treatment plant is processing leachate from the landfill. There is concern that this will raise the heavy metal content of Wauconda sewage sludge. The concern was raised about the health effects of eating food fertilized with this sludge.

  2. One person raised the concern that some toxic chemicals might be overlooked in the annual survey of residential wells.

  3. Concern was expressed as to whether monitoring wells were placed correctly to detect the progress of the contaminant plume. Specifically, concern was raised about the absence of monitoring wells to detect possible plume entry into the lower aquifer, which travels in a roughly southwesterly direction, from an interconnection between the upper and lower aquifers which exists north of the landfill site. Concern was also raised about possible contamination of the Wauconda city water supply from this, and if anything was being done to prevent contamination of the lower aquifer.

  4. Concern was raised that the gates to the main site are sometimes left open. Allegedly, the landfill is accessible to neighbors' dogs and other domestic animals and that people using mud bikes sometimes had access to the site even after the fence was constructed.

  5. Concern was raised about the elevated cancer rate in the area and the landfill's possible role in it. Concern about the incidence of other diseases, including multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig's Disease, was also raised. A request was made for a cancer registry to be set up for the area near the landfill.

  6. The leachate collection system may be collecting only a small portion of the leachate actually being generated at the landfill, increasing the probability of groundwater contamination. Evidence cited for this was a ravine near the northwest corner of the landfill that is much deeper than the collection system, and much higher documented leachate production rates at the neighboring ARF landfill. A spring in the northwest corner of the landfill may also be increasing the production of leachate.

  7. Concern was raised that leaching of contaminants not yet detected might result if barrels buried at the landfill rusted through sometime in the future and released their contents. This concern was raised due to the low number of borings (four) allegedly conducted on the landfill to determine the contents of the landfill.

  8. Concern was raised that Bangs Lake, Mutton Creek, Island Lake, and Cotton Creek Marsh (fed by Island Lake) might be contaminated with heavy metals from the landfill.

  9. Concern was expressed about the fact that vinyl chloride was found in groundwater beyond the perimeter of the landfill.

  10. Concern was expressed about what measures are being taken to protect the public health of local well owners, and whether they will be provided with city water.

  11. Concern was raised that the clay cap on top of the landfill would ultimately fail due to shrinkage of contents underneath, leading to more leachate production and contamination of groundwater. Concern was raised about the extent of cracks in the landfill cap.

  12. Concern was raised about air quality, particularly vinyl chloride emissions, and its possible effect on health surrounding the landfill.

  13. There is concern that gas generated by the landfill might travel to basements of neighboring residences.

  14. There is concern as to whether the groundwater contaminant plume will reach a residential area currently being developed about one-half mile northeast of the landfill.

  15. Concern was raised about the health effects of exposure to a small water retention area, partly off-site, which collects surface water runoff from the southwest corner of the landfill

Next Section      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

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #