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Illinois Asbestos Superfund Sites

Published on May 21, 2024 at 3:14 pm in Mesothelioma.

Illinois asbestos superfund sites

There are as many as 1,700 or more superfund sites dotted across the United States, per the National Geographic Society. While asbestos fibers can be found on many of these sites, if they cannot, then as many as 600 other carcinogenic hazardous chemicals can.

As of July 2023, a local WCIA news story chronicled how there were 69 Illinois superfund sites at the time of publication. Asbestos fibers have been found at some of them in the soil or water.

The number of superfund sites in Illinois and nationwide is ever-changing as remediation (cleanup) efforts are initiated and completed.

Below, we’ll go over what you need to know about Illinois asbestos superfund sites and shed light on where some of the most notable ones are located. We’ll also discuss dangers associated with individuals previously having worked, lived, or visited these sites and detail the aims of cleanup efforts launched at them.

Understanding What Asbestos Superfund Sites Are

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes these locations as “abandoned hazardous waste sites” that the federal agency has designated for cleanup due to contamination. The federal agency has the authority to arrange for site cleanup itself or can compel responsible parties (those who left it contaminated) to do so. Generally, the EPA would consider these sites unsuitable for human congregation and habitation.

Which Locations Contain Asbestos?

There’s no readily accessible list that clearly outlines which of the 69 sites in Illinois contain asbestos. Instead, you can comb through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Site Fact Sheets or use an online resource like the EPA’s Cumulis tool to search by location. Both tools require you to click on each name to learn more about the contaminants found at that particular superfund site. In using the federal agency’s search tool, some of the standout Illinois asbestos superfund sites include due to their sheer size:

  • R. Grace & Company in West Chicago: EPA testing has revealed trace amounts of asbestos fibers embedded in the soil of this former manufacturing plant. During the height of its production between 1974 through 1996, an estimated 273,000 tons of asbestos-rich vermiculite passed through this facility.
  • The Johns Manville Asbestos Superfund Site in Zion, IL: According to the Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society, this site, which is near the southernmost portion of the Illinois Beach State Park, is said to be home to an estimated 1 million tons of asbestos fibers. These get released into Lake Michigan at a rate of 22 million particles per liter of water. Currents carry these fibers down south, ultimately leading to them washing up on shores as distant as the Chicago Oak Street Beach. Other sources of contamination exist in and around this park as well.
  • Wood River Power Plant in Madison County: This is one of the more recent locations added to the Illinois superfund site list (it occurred in 2019). Soil testing has revealed the presence of asbestos as well as toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) onsite.
  • MIG/DeWane Landfill in Boone County: This 50-acre landfill, located near Belvidere, IL, was operational between 1969 and 1988, a time during which it received industrial, municipal, and household waste, including asbestos, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), heavy metals, and other harmful substances, according to the EPA. A 1984 inspection revealed these hazardous materials had contaminated both area soil and water.

Health Dangers Posed by Superfund Sites

Those sites that have been identified as superfund ones are particularly hazardous not only to those who previously worked at or lived near them but also to those who continue to work on the premises long after area evacuations have run workers and residents out. This includes those who perform soil, air, or water testing as well as anyone responsible for asbestos remediation efforts, for example.

Of concern is that, according to the Urban Institute, not only do an estimated 945 superfund sites have increased potential to spread toxins during severe weather events, but the segment of the population most vulnerable to being affected by this is what they refer to as “communities of color.” Why? The non-profit contends that individuals falling into this demographic tend to live closer to these dangerous sites than others.

Some of the health dangers those who historically were employed or resided near these sites and the current individuals performing cleanup and residents living at the periphery of these sites face include mental health impacts, increased chances of birth defects or miscarriage, and the risk of developing a food or water-borne illness or cancer. When it comes to the latter, Illinois asbestos superfund sites have a strong potential of causing those in or around these areas to develop a rare, aggressive form of cancer called mesothelioma — for which there are currently just palliative treatments but no cure.

What Happens After Asbestos Gets Cleaned Up?

The EPA and its Superfund Redevelopment Program aim to take what once were contaminated sites that have since been cleaned up to reuse them. Currently, at least two former asbestos superfund sites have been repurposed. Those include:

  • The Johns-Manville Corp. In Waukegan, IL: This 350-acre parcel housed an asbestos-producing manufacturing plant and also a landfill between the early 1920s and 1998. This facility’s production focus led to air as well as surface water and groundwater contamination. The facility was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1983, and remediation efforts took place between 2017 and 2018. Testing conducted as recently as December 2023 reveals how remediation teams have isolated any remaining asbestos fibers to a small, 1-acre containment zone near a nature preserve, which has allowed for the reuse of other sections of the property once also affected.
  • Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company in LaSalle, IL: From 1858 to 1978, this 160-acre site was home to a facility where zinc smelting and rolling occurred. LaSalle Rolling Mills took over the facility and operated it until 2001. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation and identified contaminated slag piles as early as the 1990s, but the national EPA didn’t add the site to the NPL until 2003. The demolition of potentially contaminated buildings and removal of hazardous waste, asbestos included, began in 2009, and a plan to reuse the asbestos superfund site was initiated in 2017. As of December 2023, the EPA reported that the site houses new plants that employ more than 152 workers and generate over $72 million in annual revenue.

Options You Have if an Illinois Asbestos Superfund Site Has Adversely Impacted Your Health

Individuals who have been allowed to return to living or working on these superfund sites are presumably at little to no risk for exposure to the toxins, asbestos included, that once were in abundance there. This means that, hopefully, your chances of contracting a debilitating contamination-related disease are minimal or non-existent.

The prognosis is not the same for those who formerly lived or worked in these areas and were repeatedly exposed to carcinogenic toxins for years in the air, water, and soil. In some instances, as is the case with mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos fibers doesn’t immediately negatively impact a person’s health but instead does so after decades.

If the onset of your illness has been tied to environmental toxins, our legal team at Schweickert Ganassin Krzak Rundio, LLP wants to speak with you. Our attorneys have extensive experience representing mesothelioma patients in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois.

We want to go over how to file a mesothelioma claim in Illinois if it appears you have a viable case and answer any other questions you may have about the legal process and holding liable parties accountable. Meeting with our legal team to discuss your rights is complementary and comes with no obligation.

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