The Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, located in Will County, Illinois, was a manufacturing facility for the United States Department of Defense from 1940 to 1993. Throughout its operation, the plant produced over six billion rounds of ammunition for the US Army. However, its manufacturing processes and waste disposal practices resulted in the contamination of soil, surface water, and groundwater with hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, and explosives. As a result, the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was listed as a Superfund site in 1982 and has been under investigation and cleanup ever since.
The Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was established in the early 1940s, shortly after the United States entered World War II. Its primary mission was to produce small arms ammunition, but it later expanded to include the production of munitions for larger weapons, such as tanks and artillery. After the war, however, production at the plant slowed down while they continued to produce ammunition into the late 1970s.
In the early 1980s, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began investigating the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant for environmental contamination. Their investigation revealed that the plant had disposed of hazardous waste in unlined landfills and pits on its property, which had contaminated soil, surface water, and groundwater to the point where the local creek had turned red. In 1982, the EPA listed the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant as a Superfund site, and since then, several remediation efforts have been undertaken to clean up the site.
The Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was a significant polluter of soil and water in the area. The primary pollutants found at the site were volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, and even explosives.
Chemicals such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and other VOCs, were used as industrial solvents and degreasers in the plant’s manufacturing processes. While they are known to cause a plethora of health problems, they are also some of the most common pollutants found at any Superfund site and are commonly found in polluted soil and groundwater.
In addition to harmful chemicals, the plant produced ammunition that contained lead, copper, and other heavy metals, which were released into the environment during the manufacturing process. These metals can accumulate in the soil and water and can be toxic to both humans and wildlife.
While the plant was one of the largest ammunition producers in the country, it also produced a record one billion pounds of TNT and RDX explosives, which are known to persist in the environment for long periods of time. The remnants of these explosives were so prevalent in the area that they were found to be the cause of the nearby Grant Creek flowing red.
The contaminants found at the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant Superfund site have the potential to cause a variety of health effects in humans. Exposure to high levels of TCE and other VOCs can lead to liver damage, kidney damage, and various types of cancers.
Heavy metals found at the site, such as lead and copper, are known to cause neurological problems, including developmental delays in children, behavioral and learning disabilities, and decreased IQ. High levels of lead in adults can cause high blood pressure, kidney damage, and reproductive problems.
The explosives found at the site, TNT, and RDX, have been found to cause respiratory problems, headaches, and nausea. Long-term exposure to TNT has also been associated with the development of cancer in humans.
There have been several lawsuits filed related to the contamination at the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant Superfund site. In 1985, the state of Illinois filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that the US Army had caused environmental damage at the plant and that the government was responsible for cleaning it up. The lawsuit was eventually settled, and cleanup efforts at the site were initiated.
In addition, several lawsuits have been filed by residents who live near the site. They claim that they have been exposed to hazardous substances from the site and have suffered health problems as a result. These lawsuits have sought damages for medical expenses, property damage, and other economic losses.
The Joliet Army Ammunition Plant Superfund site serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers associated with industrial waste and the importance of proper waste disposal practices. The site’s contamination with VOCs, heavy metals, and explosives has had a significant impact on the health of people in the surrounding area. Although cleanup efforts have been underway for decades, it will likely be many years before the site is fully remediated. At OnderLaw, we specialize in environmental law and may be able to assist residents affected by the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant in seeking legal remedies for the damage caused by the plant’s hazardous waste.
If you feel your community has been impacted by the contamination at the Joliet Army Ammunitions Plant, contact us today.