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Congressional District # 12


EPA ID# IL0000034355
Last Updated: November, 2014

Site Description

The Old American Zinc Plant Site is a 132-acre inactive industrial facility in Fairmont City, Illinois, located along Kingshighway, just north of East St. Louis. Areas near the site are industrial and residential. Except for a few large slag piles, a soil stockpile, and a creek, most of the on-site property is flat. Crushed limestone has been placed over the slag (a waste product of smelting furnaces that previously operated on the site) in many locations to construct roadways and parking areas. Sparse vegetation over most of the property consists mainly of moss patches, but wetland plants grow along the course of a creek and in a poorly drained, low-lying area in the southeast corner of the property.

From 1913 until 1967, American Zinc operated a zinc smelter facility on the site. In 1967, American Zinc moved to Sauget, Illinois. At that time, all structures were either moved or torn down and  sent off-site for disposal. The site remained vacant until 1976, when XTRA Intermodal, Inc. leased the site from American Zinc to use it for a truck semi-trailer leasing and storage operation. XTRA then purchased the site property in 1979. In 2003, XTRA discontinued its operations. The site is currently vacant. 

In 1994, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tasked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to conduct an Integrated Site Assessment (ISA). Groundwater migration was not thought to be a concern because most drinking water wells are located more than three miles from the contamination and are upgradient. Site surface water flows through small drainageways into a large wetland area. No contaminant airborne release was observed during the ISA, although residents complained of particulates blowing off-site. IEPA collected and analyzed numerous soil samples from residential and other surrounding areas. Many of the samples showed arsenic, cadmium, lead, and zinc at elevated levels. IEPA also collected waste samples from on-site locations and sediment samples from on-site and nearby locations. The on-site waste samples indicated methylene chloride, semi-volatile, inorganic, and pesticide contamination. Sediment samples from creeks and wetlands indicated mostly inorganic contamination.

The Old American Zinc site is not currently on the National Priorities List but is being addressed under the Superfund Alternative Approach.

Site Responsibility

The site is being addressed by the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) under federal and state oversight.

Threats and Contaminants

Soil and slag within the 132-acre site contain lead, arsenic, cadmium, and zinc at elevated levels. Nearby surface water bodies have elevated levels of lead, zinc, and cadmium. Sediments from on-site and nearby surface water bodies have elevated levels of arsenic, lead, zinc, and cadmium. IEPA Class I exceedances exist for cadmium and zinc in site groundwater. Nearby residential properties, vacant lots, commercial properties, and alleyways have elevated levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic from slag material that was transported from the site to those areas. 

Cleanup Progress

In November 1999, EPA and its removal contractor took on-site slag samples, creek sediment samples, and nearby residential soil samples. The sediment sampling results showed high levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and zinc. The on-site slag sampling results showed high levels of arsenic, zinc, cadmium, and lead. A residential soil sampling result showed high levels of cadmium and lead.

On March 22, 2002, EPA and one of the PRPs signed an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) for the PRP to perform a non-time-critical removal action of contaminated soils from residential, commercial, and industrial properties near the 132-acre property. The PRP contractor mobilized to the site in June 2002 and completed the removal activities by June 2004. The contractor sampled soils from 462 properties near the 132-acre site, of which 339 were residential properties. The contractor excavated contaminated soil from 152 properties, backfilled the properties with clean soil, and revegetated the properties. The contractor placed the contaminated soils onto a soil stockpile within the boundaries of the 132-acre site, and stabilized and vegetated the pile to eliminate human health risks due to dermal contact, ingestion, and inhalation.

EPA and some of the PRPs entered into a separate AOC on June 6, 2005, for the PRPs to perform a remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) of the site and surrounding areas. On the same day that EPA signed the AOC, EPA also issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) to another PRP to perform and/or finance the RI/FS.  

A PRP under the AOC completed the RI field sampling work in January 2008 and submitted the draft RI Report in August 2008. The RI Report included risk assessments to identify exposure pathways and evaluate human health and ecological risks from site contamination. EPA approved the RI Report with modifications in April 2009. The RI Report concluded that there is current and future risk to human health from site contamination. It also concluded that site contamination may be adversely affecting the aquatic ecosystem in a very limited area and is adversely affecting wetland plants in localized areas downgradient of the site. EPA approved the FS Report in March 2012. The FS evaluated alternatives to remediate the 132-acre facility (including the soil stockpile) and surrounding areas that are contaminated.

EPA issued the proposed cleanup plan for the site on March 26, 2012, and accepted public comments from March 26 to April 26. EPA signed a Record of Decision (ROD) on September 11, 2012, which selected the final remedy for the site. The selected remedy includes: 1) excavation of vitrified slag, redistributed ground slag, and affected soils and sediments inside the facility area, then consolidation into a 35-acre consolidation area on the facility area; 2) removal of affected soils and sediments outside the facility area to be managed with consolidated media inside the 35-acre consolidation area; 3) capping the consolidated affected media with a 24-inch, low permeability, compacted soil barrier layer with a hydraulic conductivity no greater than 1x10-7 and a 12-inch vegetated layer cover system; 4) use of institutional controls; 5) drainage controls on manmade ditches draining the facility area, and 6) stormwater and groundwater monitoring.

EPA and some of the PRPs entered into an AOC in August 2014 for the conduct of the Remedial Design. EPA expects the remedial design of the remedy selected in the ROD to be completed in late 2015. EPA anticipates entering into separate negotiations with the PRPs for the implementation of the site cleanup work.

Community Involvement

On January 26, 2010, EPA and IEPA provided an update on site activities at a community meeting in Fairmont City, Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health also attended the meeting. On the following two days, EPA conducted community interviews to discuss with nearby residents their concerns.

On March 28, 2012, EPA held a public meeting to present the proposed cleanup plan for the site and answer questions the community had regarding the proposed alternatives.

Congressional Interest

EPA has been working with Congressman Costello's office and the Village of Fairmont City to keep communication open between the village and EPA, and to address concerns expressed by the village about site cleanup activities. 


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
sheila desai (desai.sheila@epa.gov)
(312) 353-4150



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