IEPA to release ground scan results around Amerock plant

By Richard S. Gubbe
Contributing Writer

Results from the ground scan completed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) on land owned by the Rockford Park District and Northwest Community Center (NWCC) will be released soon, according to an IEPA official.

The land north of Auburn Street, which was formerly owned by the Amerock Corp., was surveyed for heavy metals by the IEPA last April. An IEPA investigative team scanned 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. Permission to survey the land around the NWCC was given in the spring. The IEPA does not need permission to inspect public park district land.

The map is nearly complete,” IEPA spokesman Maggie Carson told The Rock River Times (TRRT) last week. “It should be finalized by the end of the week. At that time, they will share it with the property owner, then it will be made available as public information. I’ve asked to be notified when this occurs, and will let you know as well.”

The investigative team plotted the land northwest of the Amerock plant last April and reported to TRRT that screening to map underground metals took place.

The probe in April was used “to map out underground metal with a more sophisticated metal detector,” IEPA investigator Mark Wagner told TRRT last May. He said then his team would explore “the whole northern part of Kent Creek with metal detectors and find out what might be there.

We’re going to survey as much of that area north of the creek that we are able to get to unobstructed,” Wagner told TRRT.

The metal detector used fits on a 2-foot-by-4-foot, two-wheel cart. Limitations kept them to the areas in the field that is surrounded by trees.

Carson also conveyed an update from the project managers with both the site evaluation team and the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) program on the well water contamination in the area around Soper and Alliance avenues.

The IEPA has met with the owners of the Mobil and CITGO stations,” Carson said. The Mobil site at 4432 Auburn St. is already enrolled in the LUST program. The Mobil station had been notified of a violation in August 1996 and again Feb. 8 of this year. In 1996, the station was owned by Kelley Williamson and is now owned by IRB., Inc., according to the county Tax Assessor listings. The Mobil station was cited in the past for leakage of 600 gallons of product.

It appears that the contamination may be from a previous owner/proprietor,” Carson said.

The LUST program identifies all LUST incidents reported to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and to the IEPA. Not all underground gasoline storage tanks have been registered with the fire marshal’s office since the program began. The state database from registered underground tanks dates back to 1974. Other storage tanks below ground in the area still contain gasoline, and it’s possible, the IEPA has said, a spill happened from a tank that was never registered.

Carson said the Mobil station “is proceeding with corrective action.” She added that the CITGO station at 4315 Auburn St. is not enrolled in the LUST program. LUST sites are monitored by the State Office of the Fire Marshal.

The responsible party has not yet been determined,” Carson said. “More data, both ownership and technical, will be needed before a clear path can be identified.”

In the past, the IEPA said the leaking gasoline that found its way east of the gas stations has included other underground storage tanks. TRRT has cooperated in revealing other sites that may have contributed to the leaking of benzene into the well water supply.

There were gas stations around there in the ’30s,” Carson said when the investigation began. “But most of their storage tanks were emptied and filled with gravel.”

In January, the 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. The probe into gasoline contamination of the groundwater in the area began last September.

Allegations have been made of toxic heavy metals, construction equipment and other debris being buried north of Parkside and west of Central avenues in the 1960s and 1970s. Allegations have also been made by neighbors and former plant workers that Amerock dumped toxic substances into Kent Creek after the plant opened in 1956, continuing through the 1980s.

The investigation into toxic dumping came in the throes of the discovery by TRRT of five drainage leads from Amerock to Kent Creek and the alleged burying of toxic drums north of the creek.

The IEPA launched two investigations, one into groundwater pollution in the area west of Central Avenue and north of Auburn Street and the other into allegations of environmental pollution by previous Amerock owners. The IEPA also has said it will take soil samples around the creek to determine if chemicals were dumped there in the past from the Amerock plant.

The water investigation began last July when neighbors in the area reported foul water to TRRT.

From the June 27-July 3, 2012, issue

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