Matthiessen And Hegeler Site
Fact Sheet #2
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has announced
that the former Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc property has been finalized
on the National Priorities List (NPL), which is sometimes called the
Superfund list. Matthiessen and Hegeler is the site of a former zinc
smelter located in LaSalle, Illinois.
What does listing on the NPL mean? The NPL is a list of some of the
nation's most serious sites that have a release or a substantial threat of a
release of hazardous substances. Listing on the NPL does not
automatically mean that government funds will be spent on the site.
Listing, however, does serve as a notification to the public that according
to the U.S. EPA, more investigation should be conducted and that the site
may be eligible for these funds.
What are the next steps for Matthiessen and Hegeler? The state of
Illinois has entered into negotiations with potentially responsible parties
(PRPs) for the site. If negotiations are unsuccessful, then money from the Superfund, if it is available,
could be used to conduct a remedial investigation. The purpose of this investigation would be to
determine the nature and extent of contamination and any risks that contamination might pose to
human health and the environment.
Who are the potentially responsible parties for the site? Under the Superfund law, PRPs include
past and present owners and operators of the site. Since Matthiessen and Hegeler declared bankruptcy
in 1978, the only viable PRPs currently identified by the state are the present landowners of the former
Matthiessen and Hegeler property.
Why is the site considered hazardous? In 1993, the Illinois EPA collected soil and sediment samples
from the site and the Little Vermilion River, which is the site's eastern boundary. These samples were
significantly higher in metals than background samples. The background samples were collected in
areas not affected by past operations of the Matthiessen and Hegeler facility. Zinc was elevated
significantly in all samples, and cadmium and lead were significantly elevated in all but one sample.
Other metals were also found at elevated levels. On-site samples also showed low levels of a variety of
other contaminants including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), solvents and chemicals found
in oil and coal. Because of these chemicals and because of physical hazards found on the site, residents
are strongly urged against trespassing on the site, which is private property. The landowners have
constructed a fence around the site to limit access
A special concern is a large slag pile located on the steep west bank of the Little Vermilion River. Water
draining through the slag pile, runoff from the slag pile and slag potentially slumping directly into the
river are major environmental concerns.
What about off-site soils? The off-site soil samples collected by the Illinois EPA in 1993 showed
elevated levels of metals. The Illinois EPA at that time determined that concentrations found did not
pose a health risk from short-term exposure but that more information needed to be gathered to
determine if there may be a risk from long-term exposure. The Illinois Department of Public Health
(IDPH) collected additional off-site soil samples from different locations in 1999. According to IDPH,
levels of metals in these samples did not pose a health risk from long-term or short-term exposure.
Concentrations of some chemicals in the IDPH samples, however, did exceed screening levels set by the
Illinois EPA and warrant further investigation of off-site soils.
Why did it take so long to list the site on the NPL? Limited state and federal resources restricted
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the number of Illinois sites that could be assessed each year for the NPL. This site also had to compete
with other sites across the country for placement on the NPL.
Contacts: The Illinois EPA will be the lead agency for this site, so for more information contact Kurt
Neibergall, Illinois EPA Office of Community Relations, at 217-785-3819 or Tom Williams, Illinois EPA
project manager, at 815-223-1714. Mailing address for both is Illinois EPA, 1021 North Grand Ave.,
East, P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, Il 62794-9276.
For more information: Within the next two weeks, the Illinois EPA will place the 1995 screening site
inspection report and other project material in the LaSalle Public Library at 305 Marquette Street.
What is the Matthiessen and Hegeler site?
Matthiessen and Hegeler is the site of a former zinc rolling mill and primary zinc smelter. The
160-acre property is located in LaSalle on the west side of the Little Vermilion River. The
company began operations in 1858 and ceased operations in 1978 after declaring bankruptcy.
During the approximately 120 years of the company's existence, the Matthiessen and Hegeler
Zinc Company produced slab zinc, sulfuric acid and ammonium sulfate fertilizer. These
processes resulted in the emission of airborne particulate matter containing cadmium, lead,
zinc and other inorganic chemicals. Additional manufacturing operations occurred in
conjunction with the smelting process. A producer gas plant was operated on the site in the
early years to manufacture fuel for the Hegeler furnace. Coal was mined on the site until 1937.
During the 1950s, the company produced ammonium sulfate fertilizer. In 1961, the company
stopped smelting zinc. The manufacture of sulfuric acid was discontinued in 1968, and from
1968 until closing in 1978, the facility only did rolling operations.
1979. After declaring bankruptcy, the Matthiessen and Hegeler property was sold at auction.
1993. Illinois EPA collected three sediment samples from the Little Vermilion River, seven on-site
soil and 13 off-site soil samples for a preliminary evaluation of possible effects of past
Matthiessen and Hegeler operation and in preparation for scoring the site for possible inclusion
on the NPL.
1995. Illinois EPA held a public meeting in LaSalle to discuss sample results.
June 2001. The U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA proposed the site for the NPL. The proposal opened a
public comment period.
September 2003. The U.S. EPA finalized the site on the NPL.
Fact Sheet #2 - Matthiessen And Hegeler Zinc Page 2 of 2
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