National Zinc Company

(Cherryvale Zinc Division) Site

Site Background

The former National Zinc Company (Cherryvale Zinc Division) facility site (NZC Site) is located in the city of Cherryvale, Montgomery County, Kansas, on the north side of town within a mixture of industrial/commercial and residential properties. The NZC Site was a zinc smelting facility operating from 1898 to 1976 that generated large volumes of solid waste.

National Zinc Company in 1900's

The National Zinc Company (Formerly Edgar Zinc Company) in Cherryvale, Kansas in the early 1900's;
Photograph courtesy Kansas State Historical Society.

The solid waste consisted of furnace cinders, broken clay cylinder retorts, building materials removed during facility repairs, and metallic slag created during the smelting process. These waste materials can be contaminated with heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, and/or zinc. As smelter waste material breaks down into smaller particles over time, the contaminants can become mobile. In addition, smelter waste has historically been used as fill material throughout the community.

Historical and recent investigations conducted at the NZC Site and nearby properties have found smelter related material and contaminated soil with elevated levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic, and/or zinc associated with historical zinc smelting operations.

Smelter cinder waste

Smelter cinder waste.

Broken retorts and slag

Broken ceramic retorts and smelting slag.

Site History:

In 1976 an investigation of the NZC Site by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) identified sludge and liquid waste contaminated with heavy metals in large settling ponds used to contain runoff from piles of slag and roasted ore. The National Zinc Company conducted limited response actions in the late 1970's through the early 1980's, treating and dewatering approximately 95 million gallons of liquid from large settling ponds, removing ore and sludge from the former facility, and encapsulating approximately 300 tons of remaining ore and sludge in a former lagoon area on-site. A Restrictive Covenant established in 1983 restricted the future use of the smelter property. The City of Cherryvale acquired the property in 1989.

KDHE inspected the site in 1995 and determined the prior encapsulation efforts by National Zinc Company had failed and significant concentrations of heavy metals were present in sludge, soil, and sediment. KDHE completed a series of assessments from 1999 through 2002 at the site and on adjacent properties. Assessment findings found residential and non-residential properties contaminated with elevated levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic, and/or zinc.

Based on these findings, KDHE referred the areas adjacent to the NZC Site (Cherryvale Residential Yards Site and the Cherryvale Rodeo Grounds Site) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete a time-critical removal action of impacted soils. Removal activities began in November 2001 and were completed in May 2002. The Rodeo Grounds property was excavated to at least 12 inches, and a total of 35 residential properties were excavated to 12 inches deep. If lead concentrations in the soil at 12 inches (or deeper) exceeded KDHE's Tier 2 risk-based standards for residential areas of 400 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), an orange plastic barrier guard was placed between the underlying impacted soils and clean backfill soil. The EPA Removal Action Summary Report indicates that the excavation reduced lead concentrations to 400 mg/kg or below at the Rodeo Grounds property, and that barrier guard was used on 20 residential properties. Following excavation, the residential properties were backfilled with clean soil and hydroseeded with a grass mixture. Backfill was only used in isolated areas at the Rodeo Grounds. The EPA Removal Action excavated 76,000 cubic yards of impacted soil, transporting it to the NZC Site property for consolidation into a soil repository which was capped with clean soil and vegetated. The photos below are of remediation activities conducted in 2001-2002.

Removing soil from a yard

Excavating contaminated soil from a yard in Cherryvale.

Excavated yards

Residential yards after contaminated soil was removed.

In 2003 KDHE entered into a Consent Order with United States Steel Corporation and Citigroup Global Market Holdings, Inc., (formerly Salomon Smith Barney Holdings, Inc.). The Respondents investigated conditions at the site and designed corrective measures. In 2007, after a public comment period, KDHE issued a Corrective Action Decision (CAD) which outlined the preferred actions, and signed an amended consent order with the Respondents. Between June and November 2007, the Respondents excavated, consolidated, and capped sediment and soils on the former facility property that were impacted with heavy metals above non-residential standards. They also removed impacted sediments from a nearby unnamed creek and Drum Creek, and installed a sediment catchment basin in Drum Creek.

In 2010 KDHE accepted the Removal Action Summary Report into the Administrative Record. Additional work necessary to complete the removal action includes establishing an Environmental Use Control on the west portion of the NZC Site, removing soils from the utility corridors and capping them to prevent exposure, designing and installing a leachate treatment system to manage water infiltration at the EPA soil repository, and capping the soils and other contaminated material at the EPA soil repository that were generated by operation and maintenance activities, repairs, and soil removal actions. The Respondents are currently evaluating these issues, and corrective measures are expected to be completed within the next few years.

Area during soil removal

Site area during the 2007 removal action, facing northwest.

Area after soil removal

Site area after the 2007 removal action, facing northwest.

The following photos show the soil consolidation cells.

Soil disposal area
Soil repository area

The EPA soil repository area (left) and onsite soil disposal area (right), capped and revegetated.

The following photos are of the Drum Creek Catchment Basin.

Drum Creek Catchment Basin

Impacted sediment in Drum Creek collects in the catchment basin.

Cleaning accumulated sediment from the catch basin

Accumulated sediment being cleaned out of the catchment basin in 2011.

In May and June 2012, Respondents removed contaminated soil from eight residential properties south of the NZC Site. These properties were not addressed during the 2001-2002 EPA Removal Action. The soil was impacted with smelter related waste material and contained elevated levels of lead, cadmium, and/or arsenic above Tier 2 residential risk-based standards. The residential properties were excavated to at least 12 inches, and if at 12 inches (or deeper) post-excavation lead or arsenic concentrations exceeded 400 mg/kg for lead and 11.3 mg/kg for arsenic, an orange plastic barrier guard was laid between the underlying impacted soils and clean backfill soil. Barrier guard was used on all eight residential properties. Following excavation the residential properties were backfilled with clean soil and re-vegetated with sod. Approximately 2,800 cubic yards of impacted soil was removed and transported to the NZC Site property where it is being temporarily stockpiled on an existing soil repository and covered with plastic sheeting to contain the soils until a permanent location is selected and the soils are permanently capped. KDHE approved the Residential Removal Action Report in February 2013. Below are photos of remediation activities conducted in 2012.

Removing soil from residential yard

Removing soil from a residential yard in 2012.

After soil removal and resodding

This residential yard has been excavated and resodded.

Since mid-2012 KDHE has been working with the Respondents to address additional residential concerns in the Cherryvale community, and in May 2013 the Consent Order was amended to include a Removal Site Evaluation (RSE) and Removal Action Design to address more widespread soil contamination within the City of Cherryvale.

Next Steps:

The Respondents submitted a RSE Phase I Work Plan to KDHE in June 2013, which KDHE approved the following July. The Respondents implemented this plan in August 2013. The Phase I RSE Report is currently under review. The Phase I results will be the basis for planning additional testing, conducted during Phase II RSE activities, to delineate the extent of the contamination in the City.

Once the RSE activities have been completed, KDHE will prepare and issue a Draft CAD. KDHE will make the Draft CAD available for public comment, and the CAD will be finalized after considering any public comments received. Following KDHE's issuance of the Final CAD, Respondents will prepare a Removal Action Design (RAD) Plan for KDHE review and approval. Upon KDHE approval of the RAD Plan, KDHE and Respondents will enter into negotiations for an Amendment to the Consent Order to implement the RAD Plan.

Community Involvement:

KDHE is currently preparing a Community Involvement Plan (CIP) to outline the Agency's community outreach program. KDHE is committed to promoting communication between the public and the Agency, and wants to make sure the community's concerns and information needs are considered as project activities progress. Ongoing input and involvement by citizens in the Cherryvale community is essential to KDHE's efforts to provide effective community engagement. Community members need to be involved in all phases of the investigation and remediation process so that contamination is addressed in a way that protects people and the environment - now and in the future.

Residents, current and former employees, and local government officials may be able to provide valuable information about the NZC Site and Cherryvale community that can help KDHE determine the best way to address the environmental matters identified. Information can help determine the location of contamination, and how people may be exposed to it. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the NZC Site or about the community involvement process, or the proposed RSE activities in the Cherryvale community, or if you have observed smelter related material in your yard or elsewhere in the Cherryvale community, please contact the KDHE Site Project Manager.

Kansas Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Prevention Program (KHHLHPP)

KDHE, in partnership with the City of Cherryvale and the Montgomery County Health Department, held a free blood lead screening clinic in Cherryvale on November 13-14, 2013. The purpose of the screening was to give Montgomery County residents an opportunity for a free assessment of their blood lead levels.

The clinic was open to all residents- children and adults- of Montgomery County.

For further information about the KHHLHP, please visit their website or call 1-866-865-3233. You can also contact KDHE's Environmental Health Officer for this site, Farah S. Ahmed, MPH, PhD, at 785-296-6426 or at

Additional Information

For additional site information, please contact:

  • Holly Burke
    Environmental Scientist
    KDHE Bureau of Environmental Remediation
    Curtis State Office Building
    1000 S.W. Jackson St., Suite 410
    Topeka, Kansas 66612-1367
    Phone: 785-296-6242

Selected site documents:

Hard copies of these files are also available at:

  • City of Cherryvale, City Hall
    123 W. Main Street
    Cherryvale, KS 67335
    Contact: City Clerk
    Phone: 620-336-2776