Illinois EPA Seals Chemetco Facility

Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano has issued an order to seal the Chemetco, Inc., facility in Hartford due to environmental concerns at the site. The Seal Order restricts public access to certain portions of the site, and prohibits entry by anyone except specified personnel in the performance of their duties. Those entering the site must also comply with applicable OSHA regulations.

The facility ceased operations on November 1, 2001, and filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, on November 13, 2001. Chemetco is a former copper smelter and during its operation, it generated sludges, baghouse dust, refractory brick, acids and other waste materials.

"Conditions at the facility may pose an immediate threat for anyone entering. In the interest of public safety, I decided it was best to seal the site," said Cipriano.

Among the environmental concerns at the site are eight hazardous waste management units subject to closure under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Closure has not been completed at any of the units. Also, a large pile of slag at the facility, in excess of 100,000 tons, has tested as hazardous for lead. Other materials containing hazardous levels of lead and cadmium are located throughout the facility and are uncontained. Testing of the stormwater retention pond at the site has identified trace levels of heavy metals and there is concern that rainfall could cause this pond to overflow into nearby fields, and wooded areas.

Chemetco has a history of violations of environmental laws and regulations, including a guilty plea to discharging wastewaters containing hazardous levels of lead and cadmium into a wetlands area and nearby Long Lake, over the course of about 10 years.

In addition to the Seal Order, the Illinois EPA has referred the site to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a removal assessment under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The U.S.EPA will determine if an immediate or substantial threat to human health or the environment exists and, if it does, they will proceed with removal.

In conjunction with U.S.EPA, the Agency will also be conducting a more comprehensive investigation of the facility to determine whether it has impacted nearby groundwater, surface soils or the surrounding environment. This investigation, also covered under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, is scheduled for spring 2002 and the results will determine if the site is eligible for the National Priorities List, or Superfund.

The Seal Order will remain in effect until rescinded by Cipriano.

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