Trucking companies owe EPA $42M for hazmat cleanup

April 12, 2021

Tyson Fisher


Xtra Intermodal and X-L-Co. are on the hook for $42 million after hazardous substances at an old zinc smelting facility site in Illinois were discovered.

On March 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a settlement with Xtra Intermodal and X-L-Co. in an Illinois federal district court. The two trucking companies must pay nearly $5.5 million for EPA past response costs, $36 million for future response costs and more than $500,000 for natural resource damages.

According to court documents, the site of the hazardous substances violation occurred at the Old American Zinc Plant in Fairmont City, Ill., just outside St. Louis. The zinc smelting plant was built in 1911. Zinc smelting operation stopped in 1967.

X-L-Co. leased 20 acres of the area in 1976 to use as a truck terminal. The company then acquired ownership of the entire 132-acre site in 1979. After purchasing the site, Xtra Intermodal expanded its truck terminal operations.

Problems began when Xtra Intermodal started construction for the terminals and access roads.

The company had to flatten piles of slag, which is a smelting byproduct. To do this, the slag had to be moved and spread to other areas of the site. Some of the material had to be ground up to smaller sizes in order to be moved. According to the EPA, the soil and groundwater in the surrounding area has been contaminated with hazardous substances, including cadmium, zinc, arsenic and manganese.

The Illinois EPA began investigating the site in 1994 after receiving complaints about dust. No airborne contamination was found, but the agency did discover the aforementioned contaminants in soil samples. The U.S. EPA followed up in 1999. The Old American Zinc plant was not added to the National Priorities List until 2016. That list includes hazardous waste sites that are eligible for long-term remedial action and federal funding.

Contamination from the slag was largely the result of the smelter operations that occurred before Xtra Intermodal and X-L-Co. gained control of the site. According to EPA documents, Xtra Intermodal said it had no reason to know any hazardous substances were disposed of at the facility when it purchased the land in 1979. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, was not signed into law until 1980. However, since Xtra Intermodal is the current owner of the site, it is liable for damages. LL

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.