In May 2021, U.S. EPA performed a removal site
evaluation at Wear Cote International and found several thousand gallons of corrosive, flammable, lead,
chromium and cyanide hazardous wastes. These wastes are abandoned and
unsecured which poses a threat of release to the environment and exposure to
nearby populations. EPA began site
work the week of July 19, 2021 and anticipates the cleanup will be
completed by the end of the summer. EPA is testing hazardous
materials to determine their composition and putting compatible wastes into
containers. On-scene workers are monitoring the air and
are wearing appropriate PPE.
Wear Cote International, located at 101 10th Street, Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois, operated at the Site since 1972, conducting metal processing services, including casting cleaning, chemical stripping, and metals coating. Wear Cote utilized the electroless nickel plating process. The main advantage of electroless nickel plating compared to electrodeposited nickel is the uniform coating achieved through chemical reduction. This typically required pretreatment and treatment processes using solvent baths, alkaline cleaning baths, vapor degreasing, pickling baths, and rinse baths.
Many products used in this process are corrosives that can cause severe thermal burns at operating temperatures and chemical burns at low temperatures. Common wastes generated through the electroless nickel plating process include alkali wastewater, acidic wastewater (nitric, sulfuric, hydrochloric, and hydrofluoric acids), metals-contaminated plating baths (nickel oxide, nickel hydroxide, trace cadmium, zinc, nickel, and copper), spent solvents (tetrachloroethylene [PCE] and trichloroethylene [TCE]), spent cyanide plating baths, and spent chromium plating baths.
In November 2020, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) issued a notice of violation to Wear Cote International for its Site operations. The notice of violation alleged that Wear Cote International did not meet the exemption criteria of being defined as a Large Quantity Generator because the company had been storing hazardous waste for 146 days, above the exemption criteria of 90 days. The business shut down in May 2020, and since the violation notice was issued, the owner/operator of the facility has been working with state officials to address the chemicals remaining inside the facility. In January 2021, Illinois EPA referred the Site to the EPA Region 5 removal program to determine if the Site met the criteria for a Time-Critical Removal Action.