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Crab Orchard was a busy site for munitions manufacturing, as this War Department photo, circa 1940s, shows. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of War.

Crab Orchard was a busy site for munitions manufacturing, as this War Department photo, circa 1940s, shows. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of War.

Clean-up Work Continues at Crab Orchard

Did you know that much of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge served as a bomb and munitions manufacturing plant during World War II? The War Department (now the Department of Defense) located the plant here in southern Illinois because it was away from the coasts and contained a large reservoir as a source of water. After the lands were transferred from the War Department into the National Wildlife Refuge System in the late 1940s, Congress mandated that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allow the re-use of the manufacturing facilities by private companies to help the local economy.

Crab Orchard’s manufacturing facilities have served many companies since then, right up to the present. Some of the private companies stored pesticide chemicals, produced inks and dyes and manufactured explosive products for mining and military uses. This resulted in the creation of dumps, waste burning pads and groundwater contamination. Large cleanup operations have taken place over the decades at the refuge to address environmental contamination. This most recent investigation, known as the Additional and Uncharacterized Sites Operable Unit, was designed to find the last of the contaminated areas.

Staff from the Environmental Remediation and Restoration Program at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge finished up a large investigation to identify the remaining hazardous waste sites that need to be cleaned up. The investigation project is directed by the Service and conducted by a private party responsible for some of the pollution problems. Service specialists are consulting with the U.S. EPA, Illinois EPA, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the investigation findings and next steps. The Remedial Investigation report was used to characterize the nature and extent of contamination. The next step in the process is a feasibility study that will develop cleanup alternatives and their relative costs. Lastly, the Service will issue a Record of Decision outlining the selected cleanup approaches.

Contact Mike Coffey at michael_coffey@fws.gov, Leanne Moore at leanne_moore@fws.gov, or Chuck Beasley at chuck_beasley@fws.gov for more information.

By Mike Coffey
Rock Island - Ecological Services

A number of industries have used facilities at Crab Orchard since its transfer to the Service following World War II. Photo by USFWS.

A number of industries have used facilities at Crab Orchard since its transfer to the Service following World War II. Photo by USFWS.

 

Last updated: June 4, 2015