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Congressional District # 08


EPA ID# ILD982074759
Last Updated: March, 2015

Site Description

The 3.9-acre Peoples Gas Willow Street Station former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) site ("Willow Street Station site") is located west of the intersection of Willow Street and North Kingsbury Street in Chicago, Illinois.  The site is bounded on the west by the North Branch of the Chicago River, on the east by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad (which now occupies the right of way formerly occupied by North Kingsbury Street), on the north by Marcey Properties, and to the south by property owned by GI North Property, LLC.  Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (Peoples Gas) no longer owns the property.  Most of the site (approximately 3.3 acres) is owned by GI North Property, LLC and is used as a laydown area for steel.  The rest of the site (about 0.6 acres) is part of a parcel owned by A. Finkl & Sons Company.

The land to the east of the site (across the railroad tracks) is currently owned by Marcey Properties, LLC (Marcey) and occupied by retail businesses.  The Marcey property includes parcels formerly owned by Peoples Gas that were parts of the Willow Street Station MGP site and the Hawthorne Avenue Station MGP site.  Because of their common current ownership, the portion of the Willow Street Station MGP site located east of the railroad is being addressed as part of the Hawthorne Avenue Station MGP site.

MGPs were industrial facilities that produced gas from coal, oil, and other feedstocks. MGPs started operating in the U.S. in the early 1800s, typically in urban areas where gas was needed for lighting, cooking, and heating. The processes used to produce the gas also produced waste and by-products such as tars, purifier waste, oils, sludges, and acidic waste. Disposal of waste and spills and leaks often resulted in contaminated soil and groundwater. MGPs were often located near waterbodies and sediment contamination is also common.

Ogden Gas Company constructed the original MGP station between 1895 and 1897.  A coal gasification plant was operated to produce carbureted water gas.  Peoples Gas began leasing the site in 1907, but the facility was shut down from 1910 to 1921. Structures present at the site from about 1910 to 1935 or later included two gas holders (420,000 cubic feet and 100,000 cubic feet), two oil tanks (73,000 gallons and 70,000 gallons), two tar wells, a tar tank (158,000 gallons), a coal shed, a purifying room, hydrometers, generators, and an office.  Most of the above-ground structures were dismantled in 1938 and the original gas holders were dismantled in 1944.  Portions of the site were leased or sold to other businesses between 1944 and 1953. Peoples Gas constructed a new gas holder (17 million cubic feet) and began distributing natural gas on the site in 1953.  The new gas holder was closed in 1972.  The site has been owned and managed by the current owners since 1988.

The Willow Street Station site is being addressed under EPA's Superfund Alternative (SA) site program.

Site Responsibility

The Willow Street Station site is being addressed through potentially responsible party (PRP) actions under federal and state oversight.

Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater samples collected during past site investigation activities contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, and cyanide.  Groundwater is encountered at depths from 3 to 16 feet below ground surface (bgs) and appears to be perched.  Available information suggests that groundwater generally flows toward the river, but localized flow directions are likely determined in part by buried foundations and former roadways.

Staining has been observed in the soils, mostly from the surface to 8 feet bgs.  Tar impacts were observed at depths from 4 to 17 feet bgs at one location, and tar-saturated soils have been documented from 12 to 16 feet bgs at another location. Soil samples collected during site investigation activities contained VOCs (mostly benzene, tolune, ethylbenzene, and xylene also known as BTEX), semi volatile organic compounds (SVOCs such as PAHs), PCBs, cyanide, and metals.

Human contact with contaminated soil or groundwater over the long term could cause adverse health effects.

In 2000, EPA collected sediment samples from a location from the North Branch of the Chicago River approximately 800 feet downstream from the site.  These samples contained high levels of PAHs, PCBs, oil and grease, and metals with the concentrations of these substances generally increasing with depth.  The reported concentrations of total and individual PAHs, PCBs, and metals suggest toxicity to organisms that live in the river sediment.

Cleanup Progress

In 2005 EPA was approached by Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPSC) with a request to investigate and clean up seven former MGP sites in Wisconsin under EPA's Superfund Alternative (SA) site program.  (The SA Program addresses potential cleanup sites that might otherwise be eligible for listing on the National Priorities List (NPL), but which will instead be investigated and cleaned up by a cooperative PRP without formally listing the site on the NPL.)  WPSC later merged with Peoples Energy to form Integrys Energy Group in 2007 and Integrys then approached EPA with a request to address thirteen former MGP sites in Illinois under the SA program.  Two former MGP sites are located in Waukegan and eleven are in Chicago. The Willow Street Station site is one of the thirteen Illinois MGP sites.

In 2007 EPA and Integrys entered into an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) to conduct a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) at the two Waukegan MGP sites and an AOC for Engineering Evaluations and Cost Analyses (EE/CAs) at the eleven Chicago MGP sites.  Since all twenty MGP sites have similar conditions and contaminants, and Integrys is the PRP for each, the AOCs allow a streamlined approach to site investigation and remedy development. Some benefits of the agreement include the use of multi-site documents, a mechanism to review the adequacy of past work, and scheduling flexibility to allow progress on the "worst problems first."  By the end of 2008, EPA had approved all of the multi-site planning documents, and site-specific work began at several sites. On October 31, 2008, EPA and Integrys entered into an AOC which converted the EE/CA AOC for the eleven Chicago former MGP sites to an 

To more effectively manage all eleven Chicago MGP sites, the RI/FS AOC organized them into four larger sites: the North Shore Avenue Site, the North Branch Site, the South Branch Site, and the Crawford Site.  Both the North Branch Site and the South Branch Site have several operable units (OU). The North Branch Site is comprised of the Division Street Station OU, the North Station OU, and the Willow Street/Hawthorne Avenue Station OU.  One site is the the North Shore Avenue Station Site. The South Branch Site is comprised of the 22nd Street Station Upland OU, the Hough Place Station Upland OU, the Pitney Court Station Upland OU, the South Station Upland OU, the Throop Station Upland OU, and the South Branch River OU.

Investigations and Remediation Previously Performed

Peoples Gas (later Integrys) conducted site investigations at the Willow Street Station site from 2002 through 2004.  A small area of PCB-impacted soil was remediated by excavation in April 2004. More comprehensive remedial operations conducted at the site from 2004 to 2006 involved excavation to a maximum depth of 20 feet bgs and off-site disposal of approximately 130,600 tons of impacted material. During this remediation, tar was observed along the sheetpile wall that separates the site from the river and impacted materials were left in place at the limits of the excavations. Conditions in the river adjacent to the site were investigated by installing borings at selected locations in 2006. Tar was observed on the augers at one boring location in the river and a tar-like odor was noted at another.  Data obtained with a tar-specific green optical screening tool (“TarGOST”) device indicate the presence of coal tar at several locations along the sheetpile wall, generally at depths of 6 to 10 feet below the sediment surface.  Laboratory analysis of sediment samples collected at these locations found high levels of PAHs.

Future Work 

Since the RI field work was started in in December 2012, 5 rounds of groundwater and 3 rounds of soil vapor sampling have been completed.  Sediment sampling was also completed in October 2013.  EPA plans that a draft RI report will be submitted for review by December 2015. 


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
Rosauro Del Rosario (delrosario.rosauro@epa.gov)
(312) 886-6195



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