Remediation Along Kress Creek and West Branch of the DuPage River

Overview

As part of the Remedial Action River Cleanup, sites along Kress Creek and the West Branch of the DuPage River were remediated between 2005 and 2012. The sites were cleaned up by removing thorium-contaminated materials as part of a large-scale remediation project designed to restore a historic river corridor and replenish the health of its ecosystems. Approximately 8 miles — including all of Kress Creek and the West Branch extending from the West Chicago Wastewater Treatment Plant downstream to McDowell Grove Forest Preserve near Diehl Road — have been cleaned up and restored. Contaminated material from these areas has already been transported to an approved disposal site in Utah.

Prior to the remediation of each project reach, much of the floodplain areas were cleared of nonnative brush and trees. Access roads were established to facilitate the construction crews and equipment. The cleared areas also served as staging and lay down areas for the target material and accommodated its transport. 

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County provided oversight and funding for several strategic restoration projects and performed many efforts to replenish the river corridor’s riparian and floodplain habitats and to create wetlands. It relocated native mussels and fish to other areas along the river. It installed thousands of plant plugs to stabilize the river banks. And, it placed natural, glacial and rocky material in the riverbed to increase oxygen levels and improve aquatic habitat for fish and invertebrates. It also used many other techniques to improve water quality and habitat for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. 

In addition, the District and the DuPage County Stormwater Management have implemented an Aquatic Monitoring and Research Program to document the physical, chemical and biological recoveries of the riverine habitats since remediation and restoration began. 

History

Between 1932 and 1973 the Rare Earths Facility in West Chicago extracted thorium and other rare earth elements from various ores and sands. Over the years, processing wastes from the facility distributed thorium into Kress Creek, the West Branch of the DuPage River and other sites around West Chicago. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified the Kress Creek and West Branch River area corridor as the “Kress Creek Superfund Site.” Data collected by Kerr-McGee, the U.S. EPA and the state of Illinois was used to develop remedial standards for the affected waterways and river corridor.  

In 2005 remedial work proceeded under a contractual agreement between Kerr-McGee and the affected communities, the U.S. and state of Illinois. Later, a consent decree ensued. The agreements reflected a long-term intergovernmental cooperative effort that involved local governmental entities, the Forest Preserve District, and multiple federal and state agencies. The agreement committed Kerr-McGee to the remediation and restoration of the waterway and the floodplain areas impacted by the thorium removal. Kerr-McGee began the river cleanup and transferred the environmental liability to Tronox, LLC, a spin-off company, in 2006. Tronox, LLC filed bankruptcy in January 2009.

Tronox, LLC settled a bankruptcy claim in federal court in May 2010. As part of a settlement agreement, the Department of Justice, Department of Energy and the Department of Interior established the West Chicago Environmental Response Trust to act as the fiduciary administrator over the remaining remediation. The WCERT projected sufficient funds to complete the cleanup work at Bower School and McDowell Grove Forest Preserve in Naperville. 

Image © FPDDC

View the map that depicts reaches for remediation along the West Branch and Kress Creek.

Reach 4: Kress Creek, from Route 59 to West Branch of the DuPage River
Disturbed area: 1.61 acres
Work completed: November 2007

Reach 5A: West Branch River, south of West Chicago Wastewater Treatment Plant
Disturbed area: 0.42 acres
Work completed: August 2006

Reach 5B: West Branch River, from Gary’s Mill Road to Kress Creek
Disturbed area: 6.57 acres
Work completed: June 2007

Reach 5C: West Branch River, from Kress Creek to Mack Road
Disturbed area: 5.98 acres
Work completed: November 2008

Reach 5D: West Branch River, from Mack Road to River Oaks Drive
Disturbed area: 8.31 acres
Work completed: November 2008

Reach 5E: West Branch River, from River Oaks Drive to Williams Road
Disturbed area: 4.54 acres
Work completed: November 2008

Reach 6: West Branch River, from former Cenacle property to Butterfield Road
Disturbed area: 6.83 acres
Work completed: November 2009

Reach 7: West Branch River near Warrenville Grove Forest Preserve, from Butterfield Road to Warrenville Dam
Disturbed area: approximately 12 acres
Work completed: November 2010

Reach 8A: West Branch River near Warrenville Dam to northern area of McDowell Grove Forest Preserve (excluding area near Bower School)
Disturbed area: approximately 6 acres
Work completed: November 2011

Reach 8A: West Branch River near Bower School
Reach 8B: West Branch River near southern area of McDowell Grove Forest Preserve — River Impoundment Upstream of Sheet Pile

Disturbed area: approximately 6.5 acres
Work completed: November 2012

Kress Creek at Route 59 bridge
Work completed: November 2012

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