Skip to main content

Fact Sheet 2

Fact Sheet #2 September 1995

DePue, Illinois


Where is the site located?

The New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical site is located in and immediately north of the Village of DePue and just north of the Illinois River in Bureau County, Illinois. DePue Lake, a small backwater lake of the Illinois River, lies to the south of the site.

What is the New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Site?

The New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Site (NJZ/MC) is a former zinc smelter which began operations in the early 1900's. Operations at times also included sulfuric acid production, diammonium phosphate fertilizer production, and lithopone paint pigment production. (See chart). The facility includes the former plant site where industrial activity took place and all areas that may have been affected by contaminants carried off site by wind, water, deliberate disposal, or other means.

Why is there concern?

Many of the plant operations took place before most environmental regulations (see chart), so a potential existed for releases to air, water, and land. Preliminary Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) sampling, conducted in 1992 and 1993, indicated the presence of metals in onsite and offsite soil (including residential yards), surface water, and sediments. These metals include arsenic, barium, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, silver, sodium, and zinc. These metals occur naturally in the environment, but the samples from the facility indicate elevated levels when compared to samples collected from a nearby community.

Do these elevated levels of metals pose a health risk to DePue citizens?

Current information indicates that the levels found do not pose an immediate health risk to people exposed for a short period of time. More information needs to be collected before determining if the levels pose an elevated health risk to people who are exposed for many years.

What has been done at the site?

In the early 1980's the site was scored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for possible placement on the National Priorities List (also called Superfund). The Superfund List is the federal government's list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. These sites are identified for thorough investigation and, if needed, cleanup. In the 1980's, NJZ/MC did not meet the existing criteria for the Superfund List. The criteria were modified in 1990. In 1992, the Illinois EPA collected samples from the facility, and the results were used to rescore the site for the Superfund List using the revised criteria. The scoring package has been sent to the USEPA for evaluation, but no final decision has yet been made.

In April 1994, the Illinois EPA sent a notice [called a 4 (q) notice for section 4 (q) of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act] to potentially responsible parties identifying actions that had to be taken at the site. These actions included an investigation of the extent and types of contamination and a study of appropriate measures, if necessary, to correct the contamination. The noticed parties call themselves the DePue Site Group which now consists of Horsehead Industries Inc.; Mobil Oil Corporation, and Viacom International Inc.

Before receiving the 4(q) notice, Mobil Oil Corporation had begun grading and closing the gypsum pile located on the north side of Route 29 and removing sediments from the former settling ponds located on the south side of Marquette Street. In addition, the DePue Site Group installed Iron Rich Media (IRM) walls south of the zinc slag pile to treat groundwater, covered selected portions of the lithopone ridges, covered the zinc slag pile, and removed waste from the vanadium? Pentoxide area. Since receiving the 4(q) notice, the DePue Site Group has implemented an air monitoring and dust suppression plan, installed a chain link fence around the site, locked all gates, started site revegetation, began site investigations using an engineering consultant, raised the sidewalk along Marquette Street and began engineering plans for an interim water treatment plant.

Approximate Chronology of Operations and Ownership


Plant Operations

Plant Ownership

Regulatory History


Minera Point Zinc (MPZ) opened primary zinc amelter and produced slab zinc, zinc dust, and sulfuric acid. MPZ purchased land in DePue and built first facilities. Few to no environmental laws regulated industry
1923 MPZ constructed lithopone production plant. Lithopone is a paint pigment produced using barium and zinc.    
1938   New Jersey Zinc (NJZ) Company purchased Mineral Point Zinc which operated at the site as MPZ, a division of NJZ. Illinois Dept. of Public Health regulated water quality focusing on bacterial contamination.
1948 Roaster and sulfuric acid plant closed.    
1955   MPZ name deleted and site was operated as the New Jersey Zinc Company (NJZ).  
1956 NJZ closed and later demolished the lithopone production plant.    
1966   Gulf and Western (G.&W.) Industries Inc. purchased NJZ (the name of the facility continued to be NJZ).  
1967 NJZ began operation of a new sulfuric acid plant and a diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer plant. Gypsum was a by-product of the DAP production and was disposed of north of the bluff and Route 29.    
1971 NJZ closed the primary smelter and DAP plant. The facility was used for secondary smelting. Primary smelting is from ore and secondary smelting is from scrap zinc products.   Early 1970's. The state and federal Environmental Protection Acts passed. The federal Clean Air Acts passed, The Illinois EPA was created.
1972 Mobil began operating the DAP fertilizer plant Mobil Oil Corporation (Mobil) leased and began operating the DAP plant. 1972. Federal Clean Water Act passed.
1975   Mobil purchased the DAP fertilizer plant. 1976. Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act passed which reguleted active sites for solid waste. One goal was to separate household from hazardous waste. Hazardous waste defined in vague terms.
1981 Horsehead operated secondary zinc smelter recovering zinc from scrap products. Horsehead Ind., Inc. purchased certain assets from G. & W. and formed the NJZ Co., Inc. Division of Horsehead. 1980. Federal Superfund Act passed which provided a mechanism to fund and enforce cleanup of hazardous waste sites. The site was scored for the Superfund list but did not qualify under early criteria.
1987 Mobil closed and later demolished the sulfuric acid and fertilizer plants. Horsehead changed the name of its operation at the site to Zinc Corporation of America (ZCA).  
1989 ZCA ceased secondary zinc smelting at the site. G. & W. merged into Paramount Communications, Inc. (Paramount)  
1991 ZCA demolished the zinc plant.   1990. Superfund criteria revised. Site again going through scoring process. No decision on Superfund listing has yet been made.
1995 Viacom, Horsehead and Mobil formed the DuPue Site Group and signed the proposed interim consent order. Viacom International Inc. merged with Paramount.  

What are the next steps?

The DePue Site Group has agreed, in a proposed interim consent order, to conduct environmental investigations, studies of remedies, and certain actions at the site. (See Fact Sheet #3 Proposed Interim Consent Order). The site continues to be evaluated for the federal Superfund list.

For Additional Information

Repository and future administrative record file location: The project repository, which contains the Phase 1 investigation work plan and other project documents, is located in the Selby Township Library in DePue. The local location for the administrative record file will also be at the Selby Township Library. The administrative record is a file of documents upon which site decisions about remedies will be based.


If you have questions about the project you may contact:

Kurt Neibergall

Office of Community Relations

Illinois EPA

1021 N. Grand Ave. E.

Box 19276

Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276

Phone: (217) 785-3819
Richard Lange

Project Manager

Illinois EPA

1021 N. Grand Ave. E.

Box 19276

Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276

Phone: 815/223-6836