The Acme Chicago Coke plant is located on Torrence Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Coal was received by truck and converted to coke for use in the blast furnace. A by-products plant was operated to recover tar, ammonia, and light oil from coke oven gas, and remove impurities from the gas. An ammonium sulfate solution was produced using ammonia removed from the gas. The cleaned gas was used for underfire fuel for the coke batteries, and fuel for the blast furnace stoves and boilers. The coke was transferred to the blast furnace using an 11,000 foot long covered conveyer system.
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On September 28, 1998, Acme Metals and its subsidiaries filed separate voluntary petitions for protection and reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. In June 2001, the Company entered into a contract for the sale of Alpha Tube to AK Steel. Also in 2001, the Company began a shut-down of the operating facilities and liquidation of the working capital assets of Acme Steel.
On October 10, 2002, International Steel Group (ISG) purchased a portion of the assets of Acme Steel from bankruptcy. The bankruptcy proceedings are now closed and an order of abandonment was issued for the unsold assets of Acme Metals including, apparently, the Chicago Coke Plant. Currently, there is not an identified owner of the real property comprising the Site.
During the week of July 29, 2002, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) conducted a site assessment at each of the following Acme properties: Riverdale, Chicago Coke, and Chicago Furnace Plants. The purpose of the site assessment was to determine the threats to human health and the environment at the closed down portions of the Acme Steel Company facilities. On August 1, 2002, U.S. EPA inspected the Chicago Coke Plant. Concerns identified at the Chicago Coke Plant included:
• Profile and dispose of cyanide sand from sand filter.
• Hole in perimeter fence
• Impoundments containing sediment
• Naptha odor in and around buildings in center of facility
• Uncontainerized lead batteries at facility
On November 24, 2004, representatives from U.S. EPA, Superfund Division, Emergency Response Branch, and a representative from the Chicago Department of the Environment (Chicago DOE) conducted a site inspection at the Acme Chicago Coke Plant. The purpose of the inspection was to determine whether the current conditions at the Site pose an immediate threat to public health, welfare, and the environment.
The following was observed during the November 24, 2004, inspection:
There were a number of tanks and containers present throughout the Site. Markings on the containers indicated the presence of corrosives, solvents, oils, paints, and cleaners in addition to unknown materials in unmarked containers. Friable asbestos materials were found inside buildings and in the surrounding soils. Some of the potential hazardous wastes and/or hazardous constituents had leaked from the abandoned and deteriorated containers. Coke byproducts and wastes have been deposited in soils throughout the property including wetland areas. A large segment of the chain link perimeter fence in front of the facility had been removed and replaced with an orange snow fence. Other gaps in the fence were also present.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) conducted an combined assessment of the Site during the week of May 2, 2005. Concentrations of organic contaminants in over half (8 out of 15) samples exceeded the removal action limites (RALs) for industrial properties. Contaminants of concern include benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene, debenzo(a,h)anthracene, benzidine, and benzo(b)flouranthene.
The Chicago DOE inspected the Site in April 2005 and believes conditions at the Site have continued to deteriorate. Some of its findings include:
• Although the missing section of fence at the front of the facility has been replaced, there are still several holes in the perimeter fence which allow unrestricted access to the Site. In addition, the locks at the front entrance have been broken.
• Scavengers appear to be entering the Site on a frequent basis. Numerous transformers are now missing, turned over, or damaged. Others appear to be staged for future removal. The Chicago DOE does not believe the PCB-containing transformers have been damaged yet.