Waukegan River Harbor
U.S. EPA RAP Liaison
U.S. EPA - Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd. (G-17J)
Chicago, IL 60604
State RAP Contact
Local RAP Advisory Group
Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group
- Abbott Laboratories
- AKZO Nobel
- ARCADIS (formerly LFR Levine)
- Carol Dorge, Attorney
- City of North Chicago
- City of Waukegan, Illinois
- College of Lake County
- Commonwealth Edison Company
- EJ & E Railway
- Great Lakes Sports Fishing Council
- Illinois Audubon Society
- Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
- Johns Manville
- LaFarge Corporation
- Lake County Chamber of Commerce
- Lake County Department of Planning
- Lake County Health Department
- Alliance for the Great Lakes
- Larsen Marine Inc.
- Liberty Prairie Conservancy
- Midwest Generation
- National Gypsum
- North Shore Sanitary District
- Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter
- Waukegan Charter Boat Association
- Waukegan Downtown Association
- Waukegan Lakefront Development Corporation
- Waukegan Park District
- Waukegan Port District
- Waukegan Yacht Club
- Kadinger Marine
- North Shore Gas
- Salmon Unlimited
- Tanner Environmental Company
- Delta Institute
- Illinois Citizen Action
- Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources
- Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
- Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
- Illinois Lake Management Association
- International Joint Commission
- Maritime Administration
- Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Congressman Mark Kirk
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife
- University of Illinois- Marine Extension
- Waukegan Public Library
- Beneficial Use Impairments
- Delisting Targets
- RAP Development and Status
- Significant RAP Milestones
- RAP Implementation
- RAP-Related Publications
- Community Involvement
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The Waukegan Area of Concern (AOC) is located in Lake County, Illinois, on the west shore of Lake Michigan . There is also an Expanded Study Area (ESA) bounded by Dead River on the north; a bluff line which parallels Sheridan Road on the west; the southern boundary of the former U.S. Steel Property on the south; and the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan on the east. The ESA was added to explore additional concerns of the citizens beyond the AOC.
A natural inlet and portions of adjacent wetlands were filled to form the present shape of the harbor. Waukegan Harbor consists of approximately 1.2 km2 of industrial, commercial, municipal and open/vacant lands. The watershed of the Waukegan ESA contains the mouth of the Waukegan River, the North Ditch drainage basin and other nearshore areas, which drain to Lake Michigan.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Beach closings
- Degradation of benthos
- Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
Six of 14 use impairments have been identified for the Waukegan ESA (those bulleted on impairment graphic) based on the listing criteria approved by the International Joint Commission (IJC) in 1991. Impairments include restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, benthos degradation, restrictions on dredging, beach closings, degradation of phytoplankton populations and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.
In 1975, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered in Waukegan Harbor sediments. Bioaccumulation of PCBs found in the heavily contaminated harbor sediments lead to contamination of fish that resided in Waukegan Harbor. In response to the discovery of elevated levels of PCBs in the fish tissue, warning signs were placed at the harbor to warn the public not to consume Waukegan Harbor fish. Subsequent investigation of the harbor linked contaminated sediments in Waukegan Harbor to manufacturing activities at Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC). Hydraulic fluids containing PCBs were discharged through floor drains at the OMC plant and were released to Waukegan Harbor and to a drainage ditch north of the plant. The site was added to the National Priorities List in the early 1980s. In 1981, the U.S. and Canadian governments identified Waukegan Harbor as one of 43 Areas of Concern (AOCs) or severely degraded geographic areas located within the Great Lakes Basin.
Remediation efforts began at Waukegan Harbor in 1990. Under the Superfund program, OMC funded an approximate $20-25 million remediation of the harbor sediments in and around the OMC property. The remediation effort resulted in the removal of approximately 1 million pounds of PCB contaminated sediments with disposal in two confined disposal facilities north of the OMC plant and a confined disposal facility within the harbor. The Superfund dredging project removed only those sediments with PCBs at or above 50 ppm, thereby leaving residual contamination in the harbor. Signs warning anglers not to eat fish caught in Waukegan North Harbor were removed on February 20, 1997, as directed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Since that time, monitoring of fish from both the harbor and Lake Michigan has continued. In January 2006, the fish consumption advisory for Waukgan Harbor was updated to read that, "All sizes of white sucker and sunfish from Waukegan North Harbor of Lake Michigan should be limited to one meal per month because of elevated levels of PCBs. For all other Waukegan Harbor fish, follow the fish advisory for Lake Michigan."
For further information and details on all of the BUIs, the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) documents listed in the RAP Development and Status section below.
July 1999: Illinois EPA and the Waukegan Harbor CAG published the Waukegan Harbor Stage III Remedial Action Plan (PDF 24.63Mb 198 pages) (RAP). This plan identified restoration goals for each of the five beneficial use impairments. These restoration goals were established prior to U.S. EPA’s publication of Restoring United States Areas of Concern: Delisting Principles and Guidelines in December of 2001. As a result, the Waukegan Harbor CAG and Illinois EPA are reviewing the restoration goals listed in the Stage III RAP and revising them to develop delisting targets.
RAP Development and Status
The Stage III RAP for Waukegan Harbor was completed and submitted to the International Joint Commission. A condensed Summary and Update Report has been written for distribution to the general public. These documents were released in late December 1999.
The Stage II RAP, completed in 1995, focused on specific pollutant loads to the AOC and the ESA, as well as the remedial actions slated to restore the impaired uses of the contaminated sites. Revision of Stage II was based on CAG and Interagency Workgroup comments. The Stage II RAP public meeting and IJC review took place in September 1995.
The first stage of the Waukegan Harbor RAP, detailing the use impairments and a definition of the problems, was completed in 1993, following extensive review and comment by the CAG and an Interagency Workgroup.
Significant RAP Milestones
- 1999: Stage III RAP (PDF 24.63Mb 198 pages) submitted to the IJC.
- 1995: Stage II RAP (PDF 13.27Mb 533 pages) public meeting and IJC review accomplished.
- 1993: Stage I RAP (PDF 13.27Mb 533 pages) was completed.
- 1990: Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group formed.
Recent progress and achievements
- 2005: Soil removal activities were completed at the Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke site . Extraction and treatment of contaminated groundwater will continue at the site for several years.
- July 2005: the Waukegan Harbor CAG received a U.S. EPA section 319 financial assistance grant to develop a watershed plan for the Waukegan River watershed. The grant is administered by Illinois EPA.
- 2004: additional sediment sampling was conducted in Waukegan Harbor to fill the data gaps from the January 2003 sampling.
- September 2003: a University of Illinois and Northeast- Midwest Institute study concluded that residential property values throughout Lake County, Illinois could increase by as much as $333 million if sediment pollution in Waukegan Harbor is remediated.
- March 2003: the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice selected the Waukegan Revitalization and Clean-up Plan as one of 15 new Revitalization Demonstration Projects to showcase collaborative partnerships among federal agencies and other stakeholders in the area of community revitalization and environmental justice.
- In January of 2003, a sediment-sampling event was conducted in Waukegan Harbor to help U.S. EPA and U.S. ACE determine the extent of contamination remaining in the harbor and evaluate the remediation options that may be used in addressing the remaining contaminated sediment.
- During 2002 and 2003 several removal actions were performed by the potentially responsible parties and U.S. EPA at the Outboard Marine Corporation site. These removal actions resulted in the removal and disposal of large amounts of acids, bases, paints, solvents, hydraulic oil, machining oil, compressed gases, metals, sludge and PCB containing transformer fluid from this Waukegan lakefront site.
- In the summer of 2001, the shipping companies that utilize Waukegan Harbor dredged Slip 1 and portions of the entrance channel to a depth of 19.5 feet.
- In May 2000, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission met with the Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) and the public in Waukegan. The Board recognized the (CAG) for its long-standing commitment to the restoration and protection of beneficial uses in the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern. Environmental education efforts to area students were also recognized. The Board urged quick action in removing the remaining 300,000 cubic yards of harbor sediment containing low levels of residual PCBs
Current projects and outlook
Pursuit of a dredging plan for the removal of PCB contaminated sediments from Waukegan Harbor continues with the expected release of an Alternatives Analysis in early 2006.
Several major remedial actions have been completed that will significantly reduce the quantity of contaminants in Waukegan Harbor and the nearshore area. Approximately 453,600 kg (1 million pounds) of PCBs were removed during remediation activities at the Outboard Marine Corporation site and Waukegan Harbor in 1993. Other major remedial actions have been undertaken at Outboard Marine Corporation, Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke, Johns-Manville Company, Waukegan Paint and Lacquer, North Shore Gas North Plant, and the Waukegan Tar Pit.
At Waukegan Paint and Lacquer, approximately 15 m3 of paints, solvents and flammable solids were removed from weathered tanks before leaking into sandy soil next to Lake Michigan. At the Johns-Manville site, approximately 3 million cubic yards of asbestos containing waste has been covered to prevent entry into Lake Michigan. Approximately 1,600 yd3 of contaminated soils and tars were removed from the Waukegan Tar Pit. In 2002 and 2003 removal actions resulted in the removal and disposal of large amounts of acids, bases, paints, solvents, hydraulic oil, machining oil, compressed gases, metals, sludge and PCB containing transformer fluid from the Outboard Marine Corporation site. In 2005, soil removal activities were completed at the Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke site, groundwater treatment will continue at the site for several years.
The Waukegan CAG has been instrumental in obtaining cooperation from local parties involving additional investigations. Groundwater monitoring from local parties is being conducted in an area south of the harbor. The CAG helped obtain access from private businesses and federal grant money to install the monitoring wells.
A federally funded 319 grant has been released to the Waukegan CAG to develop a watershed plan to reduce nonpoint source pollution and improve water quality in the Waukegan River watershed.
Other pending actions:
- Facilitate an agreed upon location for a confined disposal facility that would house sediment dredged from the shipping channel.
- Raise funds to fulfill the local share match for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging of the shipping channel.
- Outboard Marine Corporation cleanup U.S. EPA
- Johns-Manville Corp. cleanup, U.S. EPA
- Yeoman Creek Landfill cleanup, U.S. EPA
- Waukegan Environmental Justice Revitalization Project, U.S. EPA Region 5
- Waukegan Environmental Justice Cleanup and Revitalization Plan—Outboard Marine Corporation, U.S. EPA & the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice Revitalization Plans
- Brownfields 2004 Grant Fact Sheet - Waukegan, IL, U.S. EPA
- Brownfields Assessment Pilot Fact Sheet – Waukegan, IL, U.S. EPA
- Evaluation of the Toxicity and Bioaccumulation of Contaminants in Sediments from Waukegan Harbor, Illinois, United States Geological Survey Report
- Economic Valuation of Contaminated Sediment Remediation in Waukegan, IL, Northeast-Midwest Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and San Francisco State University
- Waukegan Harbor Restoration Moving Ahead with Dredging: Firms Underwrite Cost of Phase I Dredging, Illinois EPA
- Waukegan Harbor Moves Forward With Sampling Event: Tests Show Scope of Remaining Contamination, Illinois EPA
- Environmental Success Stories: Waukegan River 319 Project, Illinois EPA
- P2 Commitment Helps Firm Earn OSHA "Star" Award: Dexter Corp., Waukegan, Demonstrates Enthusiasm with Simulated "Spill", Illinois EPA
Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) was organized in 1990 to act as a local advisory group to the IEPA to address environmental concerns in the AOC. The CAG is comprised of members from industry, fishing interests, environmental interests and residents. The Waukegan Harbor CAG holds monthly meetings on the third Thursday of the month, except for December.
Public participation and the cooperation of state, federal and local agencies are an integral part of the RAP process. The development of the Waukegan Harbor RAP has been a cooperative effort including input from representatives from business, government, industry, environmental groups, education, recreation and local citizens.
Public involvement activities and strategies are described in two separate public involvement plans prepared in 1990 and 1993 for the RAP process (IEPA, 1994).