By Danielle LaBella
The city of Rockford, Illinois is located in Winnebago County, about ninety miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois. The average drive time from Chicago to Rockford would be less than two hours (a longer drive time than to most Chicago suburbs). Rockford was first settled in 1834, and was a quiet country village until the 1850’s. The city eventually began to grow industrially and commercially through the years. Furniture, machinery, and manufacturing facilities began to prosper after the implementation of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad in 1852. Most currently, Rockford is home to about 150,115 residents and is surrounded by some well-known, yet fairly rural towns including Belvidere, Marengo, Woodstock, Beloit and Freeport.
The growth of the City of Rockford did not come without consequence, as much urban sprawl resulted from population, technological, industrial, and commercial growth. Within this growth, an era was spawned for Rockford and many other cities. This period of growth included practices that had hazardous consequences for the people of fast-growing cities. Many of these practices forced the initiation of the federal Superfund program, which helps the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discover, research, and clean up toxic waste dumps or areas of hazardous contamination. The contamination may involve groundwater, soil or even the air. The main goal of this program is to fund the clean-ups in order to make areas safe for residents, and to make them available for future use.
There are three sites located in Rockford, Illinois that are on the current National Priorities List of Superfund sites. The sites are named Pagel’s Pit, Interstate Pollution Control, Inc., and Southeast Rockford Groundwater Contamination. Some of the key reasons these sites are of concern include the history of hazardous waste storage and use as quarries and landfills, and the observation of ground water contamination, soil contamination, and vapor intrusion (hazardous chemicals from contaminated groundwater or soil migrating into an overlying building). All of these locations have seen some clean-up progress, but all have potential long-term hazardous effects. Follow-up studies, including five-year reviews done by the EPA must continue for the crucial ongoing protection of each site and the people of Rockford.