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Congressional District # 10


EPA ID# ILD984807990
Last Updated: March, 2015

Site Description

The 16-acre North Shore Gas North Plant former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) site ("North Plant site") is located in Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois, at the southeast quadrant of the intersection of Pershing and Dahringer Roads.  The North Shore Gas Company (NSG), which recently merged into Integrys Business Support, LLC (Integrys), is the potentially responsible party (PRP) for the North Plant site.

Pershing Road borders the North Plant site to the west and Elgin, Joliet, & Eastern Railway (EJ&E) tracks are located along the eastern border of the site.  The North Shore Sanitary District's (NSSD) sewage treatment plant and retention basins are located to the east of the EJ&E tracks.  This area was formerly used as a landfill owned by Abbott Laboratories. There are wooded parcels to the north and northeast, which were previously occupied by the Greiss-Pfleger Tanning Company, and small areas of wetlands that are present at the southwestern and northeastern corners of the site, as well as along the eastern site border.

The site is mostly vacant land, but still contains some concrete building foundations.  NSG owned a small parcel on the southern portion of the property when the MGP was operating that is currently owned by the city of Waukegan, which now uses it as a yard waste burning and composting area.  MGP operations were not conducted on this parcel.  Another parcel south of the city of Waukegan property is occupied by the A. L. Hansen Manufacturing Company. 

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 used 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.  On-site disposal of waste and spills and leaks often resulted in contaminated soil and groundwater.  MGPs were often located near water bodies and sediment contamination is also common.

The North Plant site MGP was constructed in 1912 as a gas production and storage facility and was operated as such until 1953.  Prior to its excavation in 1992, a tar pond called the "Waukegan Tar Pit" was located to the northeast of the site.  Gas was manufactured via coal carbonization (1912–1927), water gas (1927–1951), and oil gas (1951–1953) processes.  From 1953 to 1965, the facility provided a propane-air supplement to natural gas suppliers.  The facility eventually was comprised of twelve retorts, a water gas generator, gas purification equipment including oxide boxes, and two gas holders (200,000 cubic feet and 1.5 million cubic feet in size).  Underground MGP structures included a tar well and tar separator below the 200,000-cubic foot gas holder.  Aboveground MGP structures included: propane, oil, tar, and other storage tanks; coke bins; and a coke pile.  Gas production at the plant ended before the aboveground MGP structures were dismantled and removed in 1966 and 1968.  Historical records indicate the potential for contamination and migration of contaminants during plant demolition activities, including the rupture of a relief holder unit which released 400,000 gallons of water, tar emulsion, and tar to the soil.

The North Plant site is not listed on the National Priorities List; however, EPA is addressing the site under the Superfund Alternative Site approach. 

Site Responsibility

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

Threats and Contaminants

Integrys has conducted some cleanup actions at the North Plant site in the past, but soil still contains residual levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the BTEX group (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene) of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals.  The Waukegan Tar Pit was excavated in 1992; however, tar was observed well beyond the limits of the excavation, with tarry residues contaminating an estimated 67,400 cubic yards of soil.  Evidence of chlorinated solvents, free phase coal tar, and oily hydrocarbons has been observed in soil samples collected at the site.  Chemicals detected in groundwater samples from the site include VOCs (primarily BTEX and chlorinated solvents), SVOCs (primarily PAHs and phenols), heavy metals, and cyanide.

Potential human health risks could occur should site trespassers come into contact with contaminated soil or should contaminated groundwater be used for drinking purposes.

Cleanup Progress

Twenty MGP sites

In 2007, EPA was approached by Integrys, the site owner and PRP, with a request to address thirteen former MGP sites in Illinois, including the North Plant site in Waukegan, under the Superfund program.  EPA agreed and entered into an AOC with Integrys to conduct a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) at the thirteen former MGP sites in Illinois plus seven others in Wisconsin for a total of twenty overall.  The 2007 AOC allows for a streamlined approach to site investigation and remedy development because site conditions and contaminants at the twenty MGP sites are sufficiently similar and Integrys is a PRP for each one.  Some benefits of the twenty-site AOC include the use of multi-site documents, a mechanism to review the adequacy of past work, and flexible scheduling and prioritization of resources to address the worst contaminant problems first.

By the end of 2008, all of the multi-site work planning documents had been approved, and site-specific work began at the North Plant site.

Previous Investigations and Remedial Actions 

When NSG closed the MGP plant in 1968, it performed free tar removal efforts at a ditch located on the site and removed about 25,000 tons of tar from the property.  In 1992, NSG conducted removal activities to address impacted material at the Waukegan Tar Pit under an AOC that EPA issued in 1992.  NSG excavated visible free-phase tar and then covered the area with a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cover.  Additional site characterization at the tar pit was conducted in 1995, and soil and groundwater sampling was conducted in other portions of the site in 2002 and 2004.  At that time tar-impacted material was identified in several areas, including the northeast portion near the Waukegan Tar Pit; the eastern and southeastern portions along the EJ&E railroad tracks; the northwest portion near the former aboveground gas holder and generator house; the center portion near the former purifying house and coke bins; and the southwest portion near a former tar pit structure.  The full extent of off-site contaminants (to the east) has yet to be determined.

Current Status

In December 2008, Integrys submitted a draft site specific RI/FS work plan to EPA for review and approval under the 2007 AOC.  However, the "worst problems first" prioritization approach for the twenty MGP sites delayed finalization of the North Plant site RI/FS work plan until late 2011, which EPA then approved in March 2012.  Integrys initiated fieldwork to collect soil and groundwater samples at the site in mid-2013.  Periodic collection of groundwater samples began in late 2013 and will continue for at least a year so that seasonal variations can be assessed.  By 2014, all sampling field work at the site was completed, with quarterly groundwater sampling continuing until at least 4 rounds of sampling are done.  EPA anticipates that a draft RI report will be submitted in summer/fall of  2015 for EPA review and approval.

In addition to the ongoing RI work, in mid-2013 Integrys initiated a time-critical removal action at the North Plant site to remove and/or stabilize major sources of MGP contamination from or in the soil.  EPA is overseeing this work.  The removal action was completed in the late summer of 2014.  A removal action completion report was submitted to EPA in December 2014 for approval.  

Community Involvement

EPA's remedial project manager (RPM) for the North Plant site periodically attends meetings held by the Waukegan Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) to provide updates on cleanup progress at the North Plant site to the CAG, last attending a meeting held in the summer of 2014.  The Waukegan CAG has been meeting on a monthly basis since the 1990s primarily to discuss the cleanup of the nearby OMC Waukegan Harbor site, but it has recently expanded its scope to other environmental matters in the area.  The RPM plans to attend future CAG meetings to provide updates on cleanup progress at both the North and South Plant former MGP sites in Waukegan.

Property Reuse

On February 4, 2014, representatives from EPA and the Waukegan CAG met to discuss potential uses of the North Plant after cleanup is completed.  The group agreed future meetings will be held as the cleanup process proceeds. 


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



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