Several map points of interest are located near Waukegan Harbor: North Beach Park, Waukegan Municipal Beach, Waukegan Marina, the Waukegan Harbor Light, NRG Waukegan Generating Station, and the North Shore Water Reclamation District.
The Waukegan Harbor Light is an active lighthouse at the end of Government Pier, which extends at the foot of Madison Street in Waukegan. The original Waukegan Harbor Light was built in 1889 and moved when the pier was extended in the early twentieth century. At that time a fog signal building was added to the tower.
There was a serious fire in 1967 destroyed the light and the fog signal. The cast iron tower was undamaged. The lantern and the remains of the fog signal house were removed then, so that it now looks very much the same as it did before the pier was extended. The Waukegan Harbor Light is owned and maintained by the US Coast Guard.
Two of three Waukegan Superfund sites of hazardous substances that are on the National Priorities List are located near Waukegan Harbor.
#1) OMC Superfund
In 1975, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered in Waukegan Harbor sediments. Investigation revealed that during manufacturing activities at Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC), hydraulic fluids containing PCBs had been discharged through floor drains at the OMC plant, directly into Waukegan Harbor and into ditches discharging into Lake Michigan. According to the EPA, the State of Illinois continues to monitor PCB levels in harbor fish annually. The book Lake Effect by Nancy Nichols describes the effects of PCBs on Waukegan residents.
The OMC plants were subsequently added to the National Priorities List, and was designated as one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Cleanup of the site began in 1990, with OMC providing $20–25 million in funding. During the OMC cleanup, additional soil contaminants were found at the location of the former Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke company. Soil removal was completed at the Coke site in 2005, and cleanup of that soil will continue for several years.
#2) Johns Manville Superfund
The Johns Manville site is located one mile north of the OMC site. In 1988, asbestos contamination found in groundwater and air prompted listing on the National Priorities List and subsequent cleanup. In 1991, the soil cover of the asbestos was completed. However, additional asbestos contamination was found outside the Johns-Manville property which will require further cleanup.
The Johns-Manville property is located just north of the NRG Waukegan Generating Station and just south of the Illinois Beach Nature Preserve.
Also the EPA divided the Waukegan Harbor site into four areas for cleanup. The status of each area is discussed below.
Waukegan Harbor: OMC, under EPA oversight, first cleaned up Waukegan Harbor in 1992 by dredging PCB-contaminated sediment. To fully clean up the harbor, from 2012-2013 EPA hydraulically dredged harbor sediment with residual PCB contamination and consolidated it on site. During 2014, the dredging-related equipment was removed and the consolidation facility was capped. The State of Illinois will continue to monitor PCB levels in harbor fish annually.
Former Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke Plant (WCP): Soil cleanup began in November 2004 and finished in November 2005. Thousands of tons of contaminated soil were dug up and removed. Once cleanup levels were met, excavated areas were backfilled with clean material, and a clean top soil layer placed over the site. The City of Waukegan owns and maintains the property. Groundwater cleanup consists of two phases, one active and one passive. The active phase began in the fall of 2008 with construction of a groundwater treatment plant. Treatment took place in innovative aerobic (oxygen-loving) bacterial reactors in which the organic chemical contaminants served as food for the bacteria. “Digested” water was then filtered and pumped back into the ground. Active groundwater cleanup finished in September 2011. All machinery has since been dismantled. The passive phase began in early 2012. This phase includes monitoring remaining residual groundwater contamination until cleanup goals are met. In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers placed clean sediment dredged from the outer section of Waukegan Harbor onto the Waukegan Coke Plant site under an agreement between EPA, Illinois EPA, and the City of Waukegan. The sediment will be part of a city-planned 3 foot-thick clean soil barrier to permit residential development of the property.
PCB Containment Cells
Three PCB containment cells were put in and filled in 1992. The City of Waukegan, under EPA oversight, is in charge of their operation and maintenance. Since 2005, the city has maintained surface covers on the containment cells, conducted routine inspections and operated groundwater pumps to remove and treat water from inside the cells. To date, monitoring shows that the cells are robust and no leaks have occurred. In 2014-15, a new containment cell was completed to encapsulate very contaminated soil discovered in the southwestern portion of the site.
OMC Plant 2
The EPA received funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in June 2009 to begin cleanup work on the PCB-contaminated Plant 2 building. Demolition work on the 600,000-square-foot building began in January 2010 and finished in July 2010. About 5,000 tons of steel were recovered, most of which was recycled locally. In 2010, EPA also began digging up and removing contaminated soil and sediment for off-site disposal. Excavation and off-site disposal of over 350,000 cubic yards of soil and sediment was substantially completed in 2015. A groundwater plume highly contaminated with site-related solvents (referred to as dense non-aqueous phase liquids, or DNAPLs) was treated in 2011 with bentonite clay and zero-valent iron to break down the contaminants. Other lower concentration contaminated groundwater plumes were treated in 2014 by injecting the groundwater with an oxidizer (sodium permanganate) to break down the solvents. To address groundwater contamination near the property’s south boundary, an air sparging system was installed in September 2011. Groundwater treatment is nearing completion and will be followed by monitoring remaining residual groundwater contamination until cleanup goals are met.
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