SANDOVAL ZINC COMPANY
Often with certain locations there is an eerie presence. I am not talking Ghost Hunters, but a feeling that the land still holds the energy of production that once occupied it. That energy can be uncomfortable. Driving most of southern Illinois can produce that affect and driving down the dirt road to Sandoval was no different. As we parked my wife pointed out a small wooden cross in the ground just opposite a giant fenced area with what remained of Sandoval like some type of ancient ruin.
The Sandoval Zinc Company facility is located east of Sandoval, Illinois, approximately 1,400 feet east of U.S. Route 51 and 2,200 feet south of U.S. Route 50 at the eastern end of Smelter Road (a.k.a. Mississippi Avenue).
The Sandoval Zinc facility was constructed on a 14.16 acre parcel of land in 1898 and operated as a primary zinc smelter. In 1915, the company began operating as a secondary zinc smelter. Compounds fed into the kilns were pure zinc, zinc oxide, zinc chloride and possibly aluminum chloride and other trace metals. Large quantities of cinders and slag from the smelting process were used as fill material on the property. The cinders located at the site were also offered to the public and the Village of Sandoval for fill. The facility was closed in 1985, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1986. Currently, the property is owned by a private individual with no smelting activities taking place.
The State of Illinois referred the site to EPA to pursue a comprehensive cleanup to address human health and environmental risks posed by the site. Other federal and state cleanup programs were evaluated, but are not viable at this time. EPA received a letter of support for placing this site on the NPL from the state.An uncontrolled waste pile made up of cinders and slag covers approximately five acres of the facility. The cinder/slag contains elevated levels of lead, zinc and other metals. Contaminants have migrated from the site to a drainage ditch and adjacent pond and wetlands. Antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc were detected in the wetlands in excess of EPA’s regional sediment screening values. Antimony, arsenic, lead and zinc have been found in residential yards in excess of EPA’s regional screening levels (RSLs).
Access to the site is unrestricted. There are numerous signs of recreational use on the property. An estimated 1,500 people live within 1 mile of the facility. Trespasser contact with surface soil and sediment containing hazardous substances is possible. Hazardous substances have migrated from the waste pile to a designated wetland adjacent to the facility. Hazardous substances have been transported by various means, including stack deposition and filling, into residential yards and the Village of Sandoval.
On April 24, 1991, a seal order was placed on the abandoned facility by the Illinois EPA. The Illinois EPA undertook removal actions in November 1991 in response to a spill of fuel oil from an above ground storage tank. Additional cleanup activities performed by Illinois EPA in 1998 consisted of repairing and replacement of fencing, the removal of hazardous substances inside the buildings and the demolition and disposal of site buildings.
During March 2014, EPA continued its remedial investigation by conducting Phase II sampling of the properties adjacent to the Sandoval Zinc smelter property. The field sampling of soil, sediment and groundwater as well as fish tissue and plant tissue was completed in early April. As part of the Remedial process, EPA will evaluate the sampling data in order to determine whether and where the site contaminants have migrated as well as the risk to human health and the environment. This information will be contained in a Remedial Investigation Report. The process of analyzing data and evaluation will take several months.
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