IEPA conducts heavy metal probe around Amerock

By Richard S. Gubbe
Contributing Writer

Although information about the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (IEPA) investigation into toxic waste dumping around the Amerock facility in Rockford has been sparse, the probe is continuing, federal and state officials informed The Rock River Times (TRRT). Meanwhile, the investigation into the gasoline contamination of the well water in the area is nearing completion, an IEPA official said May 15.

Maggie Carson, spokesman for the IEPA, told TRRT the gasoline contamination investigation will be considered completed by the state once property ownership where underground storage tanks leaked into the groundwater is established. She said the IEPA investigative team assigned to the case last September is working to “identify the responsible parties and to identify what the options are.”

Once that task is completed, focus will then shift back to the toxic dumping probe.

Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) hooked up 15 homes to city water after finding evidence of components common to gasoline in well water under homes on Soper and Alliance avenues in a four-block quadrant north of Auburn Street and west of the Amerock plant.

Brad Benning of the USEPA Region 5 office in Chicago confirmed to TRRT May 14 that the first part of the two-part investigation is coming to an end. Compensation for cleanup and the hookups to city water from the Mobil and Citgo gas stations on Auburn Street to the USEPA may be forthcoming, both the IEPA and USEPA confirmed.

The probe into gasoline contamination of the groundwater in the area began last September. The screening for metals buried in the area around Amerock took place in April, the IEPA and the Northwest Community Center (NWCC) confirmed.

The IEPA team surveyed the land around Kent Creek, some of which is owned by the NWCC and some of which is owned by the Rockford Park District. It was not confirmed whether any screening took place on Amerock property.

They did screening to map out underground metals,” Carson said. “Once it’s completed, then it will be shared with the community center owners, other property owners, the media and to the public.”

Carson said the probe in April took place “to map out underground metal with a more sophisticated metal detector.”

NWCC Director Jim Peterson confirmed the probe took place on NWCC property after an access agreement was worked out with the IEPA. “But we have not heard back from them yet,” Peterson said.

Carson said no access agreement was needed for public property probes, only on private property, such as that owned by the NWCC. She confirmed the team also accessed land that included the Mel Anderson Bike Path and the land north of Kent Creek, which is owned by the Rockford Park District.

Carson added that once the probe into toxic waste dumping continues, the investigative team will “do sediment sampling (around the creek) as part of the investigation.”

Benning said the USEPA will be monitoring the toxic dumping probe.

We’re still waiting on the state to finish up their investigation out at Amerock,” Benning said. “It’s still in its early stages, and I don’t think the state is anywhere close to being done out there yet. Typically, they won’t give out results until their investigation is done and everything is final. They’re hesitant to give out information as they go.

Things will continue on, and we’ll be in contact with the state for the progress in their investigation,” Benning added. “I’m sure they will be relaying stuff to us if there is a need for support.”

Allegations have been made of dumping of toxic heavy metals, construction equipment and other debris north of Parkside and west of Central avenues in the 1960s and 1970s. Allegations have also been made that Amerock dumped toxic substances into Kent Creek after the plant opened in 1956, continuing through the 1980s, and as recently as this year. The plant is being cleaned up by Denovo Properties, which specializes in cleaning up toxic sites in the United States and then selling them. Past requests to interview Denovo management have been unanswered.

The IEPA launched two investigations, one into groundwater pollution in the area west of Central Avenue and North of Auburn Street in Rockford and the other into allegations of environmental pollution by the Amerock Corporation. The investigation into toxic dumping came in the throes of the discovery by TRRT of five drainage leads from Amerock to Kent Creek.

A team of four former Amerock employees helped TRRT find the five drainage pipes that lead from the north end of the Amerock complex. Two of the drainage discoveries are old, galvanized metal drain pipes measuring 4 to 5 feet in diameter, and two others are old concrete drainage areas in the ground. A fifth pipe is composed of a newer, black plastic that also directs into Kent Creek. All five empty into the creek, and all are 75 to 100 yards from the back of the Amerock building.

TRRT also took a metal detector around the areas north and south of the creek and found large quantities of metal buried in the ground, some of which were located in the areas in and around the NWCC.

TRRT has been sharing its information in the investigation with both the IEPA and the USEPA.

From the May 16-22, 2012, issue

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