Skip to main content

Fact Sheet 1

Environmental Investigations

Fact Sheet #1

June 2004

Blue Island, Illinois


In March of 2004, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) and Illinois Attorney General’s Office signed an enforceable Consent Order with The PREMCOR Refining Group (Premcor) requiring Premcor to perform environmental investigations at their Blue Island refinery.

The Premcor refinery site occupies nearly 156 acres flanking the southwestern edge of Blue Island. Premcor-owned parcels are within an area bounded to the north and east by 127th St. and a northwest/ southeast railroad line, to the south by the Calumet Sag Channel and to the west by an industrial area (see map). Formerly known as the Clark-Blue Island Refinery, refining operations began at the site with the Great Lakes Refinery in the mid-1920s and continued until Premcor decided to close the refinery in 2001.

The Illinois EPA performed off-site environmental investigations in the fall of 2001 and did not find ongoing or residual health impacts to nearby residential communities from past refinery catalyst releases to the air. Refinery operations may have impacted neighboring surface water bodies, however, additional investigation is needed to determine the source of those contaminants identified above background levels.

2001 Off-Site Investigation

In the fall of 2001 the Illinois EPA conducted an assessment of residential soils in the area where airborne catalysts were deposited. Further investigation also assessed sediment and surface water from the Calumet Sag Channel and drainage creeks to determine whether these waterways were impacted by the site’s contaminated soils, groundwater, or direct contaminant releases to surface water.

To determine the impact of past catalyst releases, the investigation measured the metals content of the upper several inches of soil in residential areas downwind of the refinery. None of the data collected indicate any ongoing residual impacts to human health or the environment from past catalyst deposition.

To assess any residual impacts of refinery operations to surface water, the sediment and water samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), pesticides, poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metals. Like metals, the SVOCs and PCBs are classes of contaminants that can remain bound to soils and sediments for long periods. Water and sediment samples collected from the surface water bodies near the site contain some SVOCs, pesticides and metals at concentrations greater than samples upstream of the site. However, they cannot be attributed definitively to Premcor since there are many other potential sources nearby. Investigation on-site will be necessary to identify whether Premcor could be a source of the additional contamination.

Next Step: On-Site Investigation

Premcor’s characterization of environmental contamination at the former refinery site will begin in the spring of 2004 with the oversight of the Illinois EPA and under the terms of the Consent Order between the state and Premcor. To facilitate the project’s management, the Consent Order divides the site into seven areas to be investigated. These divisions are based on the types of activities that took place in each area during the site’s operational history or on known or potential areas of like contamination.

The Remedial Investigation (RI) will focus on fully characterizing environmental conditions at the three formerly industrialized areas of the site (Areas 3, 4 and 5), area by area. Four other parcels of property owned by Premcor but not historically used for petroleum processing or storage (Areas 1, 2, 6 and 7) will also be assessed through a more streamlined process known as the Site Investigation (SI). If these areas are determined not to require cleanup, they could be released for redevelopment. Any of these SI areas will be moved into the group of areas undergoing the full RI process if further investigation and remediation are necessary.

Premcor’s area-specific investigations will assess the environmental condition of surface and subsurface soils, groundwater, surface water and sediments. The type and extent of contamination will be identified including any off-site migration via contaminated groundwater or surface water.

Future Remedial Process

Once these environmental investigations have been completed, Premcor will prepare a Remedial Investigation report and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) to fully describe the environmental problems at the site and the feasible options for remedies. The Illinois EPA will review the RI/FS and prepare a Proposed Plan describing the remedial options that address the site’s contamination problems and identifying the state’s preferred remedy. This document will be presented to the community during a public meeting and made available for public comment. Once the public comments are considered, the Proposed Plan will be finalized and a Record of Decision (ROD) will be prepared that identifies the selected remedy. Another enforceable Consent Order will then be negotiated with Premcor for the design and implementation of the remedy.

For more information, you may contact:

A local information repository has been established for residents to review the investigation documents. The Consent Order and the approved work plans, investigation reports, and other major documents generated from Premcor’s environmental investigations will be made available at the Blue Island Public Library.

Fact sheets and other project information produced by Illinois EPA will also be available at the Library’s repository.

If you have questions or wish to be added to, or removed from, the site mailing list contact:

Mara McGinnis

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Office of Community Relations

1021 N. Grand Ave. East

Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276

(217) 524-3288