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EPA Summarizies Responses From Community Interviews

July 2005


During July 19-20, 2005, representatives of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency met one-on-one with Hegeler residents and township and county officials to discuss community concerns about the environmental activities to take place at the Hegeler Zinc site. Hegeler Zinc was a zinc smelting facility from 1906 until about 1954. EPA will conduct a study of the site to determine the extent and concentration of the contamination to evaluate possible health and environmental risks. EPA met with 14 individuals. All of the people interviewed knew about the site and some had concerns. The following is a summary of the responses to the questions asked during the interviews.

1. When did you first become aware of the soil and ground-water contamination at the site?

Everyone interviewed has been aware of the soil and ground-water contamination at the site for some time, ranging from two to 30 years. Some had lived in the area all their lives and were familiar with Hegeler Zinc, as well as the container manufacturing plant located on part of the site and a former fireworks factory that at one time operated on or near the site.

2. Did you know about the contamination at the site before the EPA became involved? If yes, when was that? What did you understand the contamination to be at the time?

Understanding of the site's contamination varied. Some suspected pollution existed simply because the site was a former zinc plant. Others know about the contamination through work-related activities or knowing people who used to work at Hegeler Zinc. One resident said the University of Illinois sampled their yard in 1996. In 2002, Illinois EPA sampled yards and those residents were told whether the soil in their yard was contaminated. Some first learned of the contamination when Illinois EPA distributed a fact sheet (June 2003) to area residents and sponsored a public meeting (September 2003) at the Tilton Village Hall.

3. Do you have any knowledge of slag being used either on your property or other properties off the plant site? If yes, where was the slag placed? How much was used? Was it soil or rocks or gravel?

Half of the people interviewed were not aware if slag was used off the plant site, while the other half does remember slag was used as fill in driveways, alleys and public road construction. Most of these residents agreed that the slag was small, cinder-like stone or gravel. Several of the persons interviewed remembered a type of slag, called "Red Dog," that came from nearby coal mines and was also used as fill material. None of the residents remembered any red discoloration of area soil.

4. Do you know of anyone fishing in the streams that run through the plant property ?

None of the residents were aware of anyone fishing in the streams that run in the streams that run through through the site. Several said they were aware that kids ride their all-terrain vehicles on-site. One noted that the site was fenced in and offered limited access. Another said there wasn't enough water in the streams to provide a fish habitat.

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5. What concerns do you have about the soil and ground-water contamination ?

The primary concern is the extent of the contamination. Most want to the soil and ground-water know where the contamination is presently located and if it is moving. One individual was interested in knowing if ground-water contamination could infiltrate the underground mine system and spread faster that way to large areas. Another asked if the contamination could reach Grape Creek. On the other hand, two residents said in their opinion the people in the area did not see the pollution as a problem. One person said they trust EOPA to do its job, and another said the contamination does not affect any residents.

Four residents had questions regarding EPA activities. One asked why EPA is working at the century-old site now. Individuals also asked if EPA will clean up residential yards, how the cleanup will be funded, when the cleanup work will begin, and how the project will proceed.

Two residents had health concerns. One was concerned because a pet dog had died unexpectedly after spending a few weeks outdoors in a dog run. The dog run was located on a place in the yard that had been dug up to install a sewer system. The resident wondered if the excavation disturbed contaminated soil and sickened the pet. Another person wanted to know how zinc and lead contamination may affect the human nervous system.

Although this may not be linked directly to the Hegeler Zinc site, two residents were concerned with sinking ground. The Hegeler neighborhood is located over coal mines and sinking houses are common. One resident said their house has sunk at least 4 inches in 22 years. Other individuals said they knew of entire homes swallowed by sink holes, and noted the mines are not registered or mapped so no one knows where they are.

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6. Have you called anyone or received any calls regarding the problems associated with the contamination?

The Hegeler site is apparently not a topic of discussion with residents and their public officials. Residents interviewed said it is not a topic they bring up during neighborly informal visits. Public officials interviewed said they have not been contacted by residents about the area, and none of the residents recall contacting anyone regarding the site.

7. Who would you most likely call regarding your concerns about the contamination?

Residents and public officials said they would contact the Danville Township supervisor, Neighborhood Watch Committee chairperson, Vermilion County Health Department, local and state emergency management administration, Illinois EPA

8. How do you perceive EPA? Illinois EPA? Your local environmental regulatory agencies? or EPA.

Generally, residents share a good opinion of Illinois EPA and EPA. Residents said the agencies are very helpful, do a good job and seem to know what they are doing. One said Illinois EPA may be understaffed because the agency calls the local health department to conduct an initial investigation of a situation. One resident admitted knowing nothing about either Illinois EPA or EPA.

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9. What persons, agencies or organizations do you think are most credible when it comes to environmental problems or concerns?

Three residents said EPA, Illinois EPA and the Illinois Department of Health are most credible. On the other hand, most of the residents said no specific agency is most credible. One person said they would contact their adult children to research the Internet and obtain their advice on what to do. Another said they were suspicious in nature and it depends on what they were being told. Another individual feels state and federal government agencies may try to cover up certain things but they would believe local (township and county) officials. One noted Illinois EPA faces funding shortfalls.

10. How or where have you received most of your information about contamination or environmental problems associated with the site ?

Most of the residents have received the mailings from Illinois EPA and most of your information about EPA. Two learned about the site contamination through a newspaper article contamination or environmental and listening news on the radio. Another said they heard about the site problems associated with the through word-of-mouth and by attending county board meetings.

11. Have you received any printed information explaining the contamination? If so, was it understandable? Did it give you the information you wanted? If not, what was lacking?

Most of the residents said they have received fact sheets from Illinois EPA and EPA and the information was understandable and complete. One resident whose yard was sampled did say they did not understand some of the technical guidelines regarding sampling results. The resident was confused by the longitude and latitude notations and preferred the letter use a specific address or street reference instead.

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12. How can EPA best provide you with information concerning the investigation and cleanup of the contamination ?

Most of the residents preferred mailings to keep apprised of site activities. Others said that public meetings, news releases, emails and Internet postings would also be effective methods to provide information.

13. How frequently do you want to receive information ?

All but two of the persons interviewed asked EPA to send information when something noteworthy is happening at the site. Two residents asked to be informed on a regular basis - one asked for quarterly updates while the other requested a yearly report.

14. What radio/TV stations and newspapers do you think most people listen to, watch and read?

Residents listen to radio stations in Danville: WITY-AM; 980, WDAN-AM ; 1400, D102-FM, KISS-FM ; 103.1, and WIXY-FM; 100.3; and in Champaign: WIXY-FM; 100.3. Residents watch television news from Champaign stations WICD-TV ; NBC; Channel 15 and WCIA-TV; CBS - Channel 3, and Terre Haute, Ind.'s WTWO-TV - NBC and Channel 2. Newspapers read by locals are in Danville's Commercial News and Champaign's News Gazette and Independent News.

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15. Do you (would you) use the Internet to learn more about the site from an EPA Web site?

The residents were split on using the Internet to access the EPA Web site regarding the Hegeler Zinc site. About half said they would use the EPA Web site but the other half said they would not. One person said they would ask their adult child to check the Web site for them.

16. How would you describe the media coverage of activities associated with addressing the contamination?

Most of the residents said media coverage has been light or nonexistent. Three said media coverage is medium. One said the news coverage is accurate. Another said the local press will print what EPA distributes.

17. In general, how would you rank local interest in the site's soil and ground-water contamination?

All of the individuals said local interest in the site is low. One said people don’t understand mining so they don’t feel threatened. Another said anyone connected with Hegeler Zinc when it was operating is either dead or very old.

18. Is there anyone else that you might recommend we interview or include on the mailing list ?

Residents provided names of six additional people to interview.

19. Would you go to the nearest library to look at technical and government documents (Information Repository) regarding the environmental studies and cleanup of the site?

Most of the residents said they would go to a library to look at the file of documents. Some said they prefer the Westville Public Library and others had no preference between Danville Public Library and Westville. One person would rather access the EPA Web site instead of going to a library.

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Documents on file

An information repository is a file for public review containing documents related to the project and the Superfund program. EPA established two information respositories.

Archives/Reference Department
Danville Public Library (217) 477-5228
319 N. Vermilion St.
Danville, Ill

Reference Department
Westville Public Library (217) 267-3170
233 S. Street St.
Westville, Ill

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