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.

A row of brick buildings with triangular roofs and multiple smokestacks; the buildings are reflected in a pond in front of them.

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.

Black pebbles with a bumpy texture, ranging from quarter sized to sand.

Smelter cinder waste.

Broken pieces of gray ceramic on the ground

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 Kansas (RSKs) 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.

An orage excavator on top of a large pile of dirt loads dirt into an orange truck

Excavating contaminated soil from a yard in Cherryvale.

Buildings in a mobile home park; there is bare soil where contamination was replaced with clean fill.

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.

An aerial photograph showing bare soil in excavation areas.

Site area during the 2007 removal action, facing northwest.

An aerial photograph showing vegetation on former excavations.

Site area after the 2007 removal action, facing northwest.

The following photos show the soil consolidation cells.

An aerial photograph showing vegetation at the soil disposal area.
An aerial photograph showing vegetation at the 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.

The Drum Creek Catchment Basin is made of two piles of rip-rap crossing the creek so that the water will slow down and release sediment.

Impacted sediment in Drum Creek collects in the catchment basin.

An excavator digs accumulated sediment from the catch basin.

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

In 2010 KDHE accepted the Removal Action Summary Report into the Administrative Record. Additional work necessary to complete the removal action included 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. These corrective measures are currently in progress and/or have been completed.

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 RSKs. 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.

Workers use an excavator to remove the top layer of soil from a residential yard

Removing soil from a residential yard in 2012.

After soil removal and resodding the yard is green and level.

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. The Respondents have implemented the RSE in phases.

In August 2014 field work began with soil sampling and surveys for potential smelter residue material at three school properties in Cherryvale (McKinley School, Lincoln Central Elementary School, Cherryvale Middle/High School). Additional soil sampling was conducted at daycare facilities, 1st Street Park, Logan Park, Cherryvale Ball Fields/Park, a subset of residential properties, and a subset of alleys and roadside ditches in public right-of-way (ROW) areas. Results are available below in the selected site documents under Phase 1/Phase 2 RSE Reports and Plans.

The photos below are from sampling activities conducted in Fall 2014.

Two workers in orange vests collect soil samples from the top of a sidewalk into orange buckets.

Gradient sampling of a sidewalk.

Two workers in orange vests collect soil samples from an alley.

Gradient sampling of an alley.

Three workers inspect the soil near some playground eupiment.

Sampling at the former McKinley School playground.

A large grassy area next to a school.

Sampling at the Lincoln Elementary School playground.

An early removal action was completed in October 2015 for those areas frequently used by children for extended play periods and with lead concentrations above the screening levels. This included five daycare facilities at residences, one owner-occupied single family residence, one park property, and an isolated area of exposed brick in Logan Park. The work is documented in the Soil Evaluation Phase 2 - Early Action Property Soil Removal Summary Report, March 2016, available below.

An excavator sits on bare soil in a home's side and back yard; yellow caution tape and orange construction fencing prevent entry.

Removing soil from residential daycare yard.

A grassy residential yard with play equipment and a play house.

Soil removal action and re-sodding completed.

City-Wide Removal Action Design Plan

The Respondents developed removal action alternatives for residential yards, driplines, driveways, walkways, City ditches, and City alleys. The alternatives are described in the Phase 2 Removal Site Evaluation Report.

KDHE developed the Final Agency Decision Statement (ADS) that summarizes the selected alternative. The selected alternative is to excavate soils above the residential or non-residential standard and use institutional controls including city ordinances to prevent contact with smelter residue material (SRM) and impacted soil in places where excavation is not feasible. Public notice of the availability of the draft Agency Decision Statement was published in the Montgomery County Chronicle on October 20, 2016. KDHE held a public availability session for the public on November 7, 2016, at the Cherryvale City Hall to present information regarding the preferred remedy and solicit public participation. KDHE did not receive any comments during the 30-day comment period (October 20 - November 19, 2016). The Final ADS, dated November 22, 2016, is available below.

Pre-Remedial Action Design sampling was conducted in the first half of 2017 in order to provide further information regarding the number of properties that require remediation and for development of the Removal Action Plan. The results were submitted along with the Draft Removal Action Design Plan to KDHE for review in August 2017. The RAD Plan describes the strategy for removal of smelter residue material and lead-impacted soil from residential yards where access has been granted, commercial properties, and city right-of-ways. KDHE provided comments and the Removal Action Design Plan was approved April 2018.

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. KDHE's Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics prepared a report on average blood lead levels among children and adults in Cherryvale and other selected areas in Kansas. For further information about the KHHLHP, please visit their website or call 1-866-865-3233.

Interim Risk Management Plan and New City Ordinances

The Interim Risk Management Plan (RMP) was prepared by Respondents on behalf of the City of Cherryvale to provide a plan to manage SRM and associated impacted soil in the long term in order to protect human health and the environment. The Interim RMP presents the new City Ordinances and the requirements for handling smelter residue material that is located throughout the City of Cherryvale in yards and city right-of-ways (sidewalks, alleys, ditches, and parks).

For additional information regarding what to do when you excavate or encounter SRM:

Removal Action Implementation

The Respondents and KDHE have finished negotiating an amendment to the Consent Order to implement the Removal Action Design (RAD) Plan. KDHE, the Respondents, and the City of Cherryvale held a public meeting on July 8, 2019, to discuss the strategies for addressing environmental contamination in the City. The Removal Action Design (RAD) Plan and the Interim Risk Management Plan (RMP) were discussed.

Following the public meeting scheduled July 8, 2019, contractors for the Respondent initiated logistics to begin removal actions. The Respondents continued to sample Class A, B, and C parcels and expect to finish in spring 2020. KDHE is reviewing removal plans for each parcel.

Removal actions began the week of April 20, 2020. Removal actions for properties that have granted access are expected to take approximately one to four days each, depending on the property layout, features present, accessibility, and extent of excavation. The removal activities for all properties are expected to take approximately two to three years to complete.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Respondents initiated removal actions on vacant parcels and parcels that require only remediation of driveways.

Community Involvement

KDHE has prepared a revised Community Involvement Plan (CIP) to outline the Agency's community outreach program. The revised CIP includes updated information. 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 ensure that contamination is addressed in a way that protects people and the environment - now and in the future.

Residents and local 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, the CIP, the Removal Site Evaluation activities in the Cherryvale community, please contact the KDHE Site Project Manager.

Additional Information

For additional site information, please contact:

  • Pamela Green, Environmental Scientist
    KDHE Bureau of Environmental Remediation
    Curtis State Office Building
    1000 S.W. Jackson St., Suite 410
    Topeka, Kansas 66612-1367
    Phone: 785-296-1935

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