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Fact Sheet 2

Drinking Water Sample Results and Proposed Plan

Southeast Rockford Groundwater Contamination Superfund Project

March 1991

Rockford, Illinois

Background Of The Site

In March 1989, an area in southeast Rockford bounded by Harrison Avenue, 21st Street, Sawyer Road and 8th Street was finalized on the National Priorities List because of industrial solvents from an unknown source or sources found in private wells and Rockford Municipal Well #35. The National Priorities List is a list of hazardous waste sites eligible for investigation and cleanup money under federal Superfund law.

In late 1989, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Emergency Response Branch sampled private wells in the site boundaries and beyond. The U.S. EPA provided bottled water, then water filters to residences with well contamination high enough to pose a possible health risk from short term exposure. The U.S. EPA Emergency Response Branch has completed Rockford public water main hookups for approximately 280 of these residences.

In June 1990, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) began an Operable Unit (one part of the overall investigation and cleanup) which involved private well sampling in an area bounded by Harrison Avenue, Sandy Hollow Road, 24th Street and the Rock River. These boundaries were based on U.S. EPA sample results. The purpose of the samples was to identify wells with lower contaminant levels which may pose a possible health risk from long term (a life time) exposure. In late 1990, the IEPA conducted a feasiblity study describing drinking water alternatives for identified wells which meet the proposed criteria outlined in this fact sheet.

Recently, the study area was expanded eastward to approximately one and a fourth mile east of Alpine Road. Study area boundaries do not indicate known areas of contamination but simply represent the present geographical area of investigation. To find the source(s) of contamination, areas free of contamination must be identified. By comparing groundwater flow between contaminated and uncontaminated areas within the study area, one can focus on possible contamination sources. This investigation of potential sources will begin this spring.

This fact sheet summarizes the June sample results, describes drinking water alternatives examined in the feasibility study, and outlines the alternative preferred by the IEPA and the U.S. EPA for affected wells.

Summary of IEPA Sample Results

How Many Wells Were Tested?

One hundred and seventeen wells were tested by the IEPA in June 1990. The IEPA chose sample locations on a grid system to supplement samples already taken by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. EPA. Not every house needed to be sampled to evaluate the water quality of an area.

What Chemicals Were Tested For?

The water was tested for nine volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are commonly used industrial solvents, and for four metals. All but one of these chemicals had been found in previous samples of private wells in the area.

The VOCs tested for were:

  • trichloroethene,
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane,
  • cis-1,2-dichloroethene,
  • trans-1,2-dichloroethene,
  • 1,2-dichloroethane,
  • 1,1dichloroethane,
  • 1,1-dichloroethene,
  • tetrachloroethene,
  • and vinyl chloride.

The metals tested for were:

  • arsenic,
  • cadmium,
  • chromium,
  • and lead.

The well samples were not tested for bacteria or nitrates. If you are concerned about bacteria or nitrates in your private well, you should contact the Winnebago County Health Department.

What Are The Sample Results?

  • 31 wells had no detected contamination.
  • 25 wells had contaminants at levels which violated the U.S. EPA public water supply standards.
  • 60 wells had small amounts of contaminants at levels which did not violate U.S. EPA public water supply standards.
  • 1 well had one contaminant for which there is no standard.

Lead was the only metal detected at levels violating public water supply standards.

What Is The Problem With These Chemicals?

The IEPA is concerned about chemical concentrations that violate U.S. EPA standards for public water supplies, because these concentrations may pose a health risk for people who consume the water for a lifetime. There are no standards for private wells. Many of the industrial solvents detected may affect the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Several are classified by the U.S. EPA as probable cancer causing agents in humans. Vinyl chloride, which was detected in three wells, is classified by the U.S. EPA as a known cancer causing agent in humans.

Summary of Possible Remedies

The IEPA and the U.S. EPA considered four alternatives as possible remedies for wells in the Southeast Rockford study area which violate public water supply standards and meet other criteria discussed below. The four alternatives are:

Alternative 1.

Hookups To The Rockford Public Water Supply.

Connecting affected houses to the Rockford water supply would provide residents with a permanent source of safe drinking water. As a condition for connection to the Rockford public water supply, the city will require residents to sign an agreement to be annexed into the city when their property is contiguous or next to city boundaries, and residents will be required to plug their private wells.

Table of Target Addresses (Known Wells in Proposed Area of Public Water Supply Hookups)

Proposed Area for Hookups to Rockford PWS

In this alternative, the U.S. EPA and the IEPA would pay for the extension of the water main down the street (if necessary), for the service connection from the street to the house, for the water meter, and for plugging the private well. The resident would be responsible for the monthly water bill to the City of Rockford. The IEPA is negotiating with the City of Rockford to waive the City's hookup fee.

This alternative includes the treatment of Municipal Well #35 with a granular activated carbon treatment facility. This facility would remove volatile organic compounds detected in the well to allow the City to use this well during peak demand.

Cost of Alternative 1: $5,820,000

Alternative 2.

New Residential Water Wells.

This alternative involves the construction of new deeper water wells at each of the affected residences. This alternative is based on the assumption that the deeper water supply is not contaminated. The U.S. EPA and the IEPA would pay for the construction of the new well and plugging the old contaminated well at each residence.

Cost of Alternative 2: $6,970,000.

Alternative 3.

Point Of Entry Water Treatment Devices.

This alternative involves the installation of individual treatment units at affected residences. The treatment system would be designed to removed VOCs from the water before it was distributed in the house.

Cost of Alternative 3: $18,250,000.

Alternative 4.

No Action.

Federal law requires that the "no action" alternative be considered. "No action" means that no action would be taken to provide alternative water.

Cost of Alternative 4: $0.

Proposed Plan

The IEPA and the U.S. EPA prefer Afternative 1 (hookups to the Rockford public water supply) as the method for providing safe water to residents with well water that violates public water supply standards and meets the criteria described below. In IEPA and U.S. EPA opinion, this alternative is most satisfactory, because it is a cost effective method of providing a permanent source of safe water for residents whose wells meet the criteria.

The IEPA and the U.S. EPA rejected Alternative 2 (new residential wells) for several reasons including the fact that groundwater quality at greater depths is unknown and cannot be guaranteed to provide safe water to residents in the future.

Alternative 3 (point of entry water treatment devices) was rejected because of cost and because of the ongoing expense and commitment required to maintain the water filters.

Alternative 4 (no action) was rejected, because it did not protect human health.

What Are The Criteria Which Wells Must Meet To Be Eligible For Alternatives #l, #2 or #3?

The IEPA proposes the following criteria to determine which wells are eligible for the first three alternatives.

  1. Wells must be located within the boundaries of the contamination, as indicated by points sampled, where contaminants violate the public water supply standards or within the buffer zone. See centerfold map for proposed area of hookups.
  2. Wells must be a source of drinking water for humans.
  3. Water from the wells cannot be "sold". For example, restaurant or tavem wells would not be eligible for IEPA and U.S. EPA funded hookup to the Rockford public water supply.

Table 1 lists proposed target addresses of known wells which would be eligible for a drinking water remedy if alternative #1, #2, or #3 were chosen. If you live in the contour line as shown on the map and have a well that meets the above criteria and are not listed on the target list, please contact Virginia Wood.

Will Wells That Do NOT Meet The Criteria Be Sampled Again?

Yes. Within the next two years, the IEPA will sample select wells in the study area to determine if additional wells have become contaminated at concentrations which violate the public water supply standards. If so, these wells will be eligible for the chosen alternative.

For Additional Information:

More information on the Southeast Rockford Groundwater Contamination Superfund Project may be found in project repositories located at:

Rockford Public Library

Rock River Branch

3134 11th Street


(Call ahead for library hours)

Ken-Rock Community Center

3218 11th Street


The Administrative Record File is on microfiche at:

Rockford Public Library

Main Branch

(215 North Wyman)

For other information contact:

Tammy Mitchell

Community Relations Coord.

Illinois EPA

1021 N. Grand Ave. E.

Box 19276

Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276

Phone: (217) 524-2292
Thomas Williams

Project Manager

Illinois EPA

1021 N. Grand Ave. E.

Box 19276

Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276

Phone: (815) 223-1714