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PRELIMINARY PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

STAUFFER CHEMICAL COMPANY/TARPON SPRINGS
TARPON SPRINGS, PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORDIA


SUMMARY

The Stauffer Chemical Co. (Tarpon Springs Plant) site is located northwest of the city of Tarpon Springs, Pinellas County, Florida. The site is in a mixed residential/light industrial area along the.Anclote River. Elemental phosphorus was extracted from phosphate ore at the plant from 1947 to 1981.

Soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water are contaminated. When the plant was in operation there was community concern about noxious fumes coming from the site. The community is currently concerned about airborne dust transporting contaminants from the site. Contaminants of concern at the site are antimony, arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, fluoride, lead, thallium, vanadium, radon, radium and sulfur dioxide.

Residents near the site are concerned that contaminants may have caused brain cancer, lung cancer or emphysema. Four of the contaminants of concern--arsenic, beryllium, cadmium and chromium--are known or suspected lung carcinogens. None of the contaminants of concern is known to cause brain cancer. Workers on the site and residents within about one-half mile may have been exposed to sulfur dioxide and phosphorus pentoxide from the plant while it was operating. However, we do not have any information to estimate the health risk from exposure to the sulfur dioxide and phosphorus pentoxide.

Based on the available information, we categorize the Stauffer Chemical Co. (Tarpon Springs Plant) site as a public health hazard. Exposure to contaminants at this site has occurred in the past and may still be occurring. Exposure to contaminants at this site for longer than a year may cause adverse health effects. Workers on-site are exposed to contaminants in the soil and dust, and nearby residents may be exposed to contaminated air-borne dust. Workers were exposed to arsenic while the plant was in operation. This exposure may result in a "low" to "moderate" increase in the risk of skin cancer. Contaminants in the groundwater on-site may migrate into wells south and west of the site.

We recommend private wells within one-half mile south and west of the site be monitored. We also recommend river water and sediment samples from the beach area near the site be analyzed to determine the potential exposure to people who swim there. On- site workers should be provided with appropriate protection from exposure to contaminants.

ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) has evaluated the data and information developed in the Stauffer Chemical Co. (Tarpon Springs Plant) Public Health Assessment. The Panel has determined that health education is needed to assist local residents and workers in understanding their potential for exposure to contaminants and possible associated health risks. In addition, health professions education is recommended to inform the local medical community about the health effects that may occur in individuals exposed to contaminants from the site.

Florida HRS in cooperation with ATSDR and the Pinellas County Health Unit will develop and distribute educational materials for residents who may be consuming contaminated water from private wells. Also, physician education materials will be developed to inform local doctors of the possibility that patients may experience adverse health effects from exposure to chemicals from the Stauffer site.


BACKGROUND

The Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (Florida HRS) has entered into a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to evaluate the public health significance of this site. Specifically, Florida HRS is tasked with determining whether health effects are possible and recommending actions to reduce or prevent them. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesand is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conductpublic health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

The Stauffer Chemical Co. (Tarpon Springs Plant) site (Stauffer) is between Anclote Boulevard and the Anclote River, about one mile east of the Gulf of Mexico, in Tarpon Springs, Pinellas County, Florida (Figures 1 and 2, Appendix A). The plant, which extracted elemental phosphorus from phosphate ore, is currently inactive and many buildings and other structures have been dismantled and removed from the site. A skeleton crew,consisting of a manager, four operators and three security guards, is currently stockpiling slag and other processing debris for later disposal as well as providing 24-hour security and maintenance of the grounds and remaining equipment.

The 160-acre facility was operated by Victor Chemical Works from 1947 to 1960 when it was purchased by Stauffer Chemical Co. Stauffer operated the plant until it closed in 1981 (NUS Corp. 1989, 1991). The facility's ownership has changed several times since then and is currently the Stauffer Management Co., a subsidiary of Zeneca, Inc. (formerly ICI Americas) (McNeice 1993).

The main plant site, as shown in Figure 3, Appendix A, is south and west of Anclote Road. This area originally included the phosphate ore processing and phosphorus production facilities, waste disposal facilities, office and administration buildings, and several railroad spurs used for receipt of raw materials and shipment of products. The area to the north, between Anclote Road and Anclote Boulevard, contains production wells for process water and was also used for storage of crushed slag and other waste materials. The railroad lines, many of the buildings, and much of the waste slag were removed after the plant closed.

Prior to 1978, Stauffer is reported to have buried about 900 55-gal. drums of calcined phosphate sand on-site near the southern-most slag piles (Figure 4, Appendix A) (NUS 1987). Between 1975 and 1979, the Pinellas County Department of EnvironmentalManagement (DEM) received numerous complaints from local citizens about air pollution from the Stauffer plant. Residents near the plant complained of choking fumes (probably sulfur dioxide) from the plant. One news article and several citizen complaints described white clouds (probably phosphorus pentoxide) emanating from the plant. Air sampling between 1977 and 1980 showed sulfur dioxide and suspended particulate emissions from the plant were in violation of Florida ambient air quality standards (Gibbs 1980). Sampling in 1985 of on-site shallow groundwater showed levels of fluoride, a by-product of the phosphorus extraction process, exceeded Florida's Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) (McClellan 1986).

Because of concern over air emissions and groundwater contamination this site is being evaluated for possible inclusion in the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund cleanup sites. The NPL is maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and lists those hazardous waste sites that require cleanup action under the "Superfund" law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). This Public Health Assessment is being prepared by Florida HRS for ATSDR as part of the evaluation process.

B. Site Visit

Mr. Bruce Tuovila, Florida HRS, Mr. Dave Hansen, Pinellas County Public Health Unit (CPHU), and a representative from the Stauffer Chemical Co. visited the site on September 21, 1992. Both the main plant site and the slag storage area are surrounded by chain link fences topped with barbed wire and posted with warning signs. A 24-hour guard provides additional security for the site. The main plant area south of Anclote Road is fairly flat, sloping slightly toward the river to the south. Two piles of slag, about 15 feet high, are on the east and west sides of the site. Two smaller piles are on the southern-most point of the property (Figure 4, Appendix A). Along the southeast border of the site are a series of 4 foot deep impoundments that were used to treat process waste water. We observed that they are currently filled with vegetation and contain no standing water. We also observed that the ground in this area contains crushed slag and is sparsely vegetated. The railroad spur lines and many of the buildings have been removed from the site. Only the administrative office, guard house, lunch room, shop, water tower, power substation, boiler building and clarifier remain. Foundations of the removed buildings are still present. There is no surface evidence in the areas where the drums of calcined phosphate sand are supposed to be buried. The remainder of the site is covered by well-maintained grass.

The slag storage area north of Anclote Road is surrounded on the west, north and east by pine forest (Figure 5, Appendix A). In the open central area, which contains little vegetation, are the foundation of a building and the remains of crushed slag. We did not observe any evidence of trespassing on the site.

During our drive-through tour of the neighborhood around the site, we observed a residential area with homes under construction bordering the site on the west. About 100 feet north of the site across Anclote Boulevard are more residences and an elementary school. Fifty feet east of the site across Anclote Road is a light industrial area containing a scrap yard, a concrete plant and an auto junk yard. Along the Anclote River from one-eighth to one mile upstream and downstream of the plant are private residences, fishing camps and a county park. We observed five private wells within one mile of the site.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

According to 1990 census data (BOC 1992), approximately 14,000 people live within a one mile radius of the site north of the Anclote River and about 4,700 people live within one mile south of the river. The neighborhoods north of the site are lower-middle income while the ones south of the site across the river are middle income. About 100 feet north of the site across Anclote Boulevard are an elementary school and day care center, and three-quarters of a mile southwest of the site across the Anclote River are a hospital and another day care center.

Land Use

The area within one mile of the site is mostly residential with a light industrial/commercial area across Anclote Road to the east. The Anclote River, which is used for recreation and by commercial fishing boats, borders the site on the southwest. Several fishing camps and marinas are within one mile upstream and downstream and a county park is about three-quarters of a mile downstream of the site.

A new residential development is under construction next to the site on the west. At least five private wells and three public supply wells are located within one mile of the site to the west, north, east and southeast.

Natural Resource Use

Groundwater in the area of the site occurs in a shallow sand aquifer underlain by the Floridan aquifer. Water is reached at an average depth of 8 feet and the Floridan aquifer begins at a depth of 17 to 37 feet. Groundwater flow in the surficial aquifer is to the southwest (NUS Corp. 1991). Groundwater flow velocity in the surficial aquifer ranges from 0.001 to 0.01 feet/day (Seaburn and Robertson 1987). Groundwater flow in the Floridan aquifer is believed to be to the southwest. The flow rate has not been determined. A clay layer up to 25 feet thick separates the two aquifers (USGS undated). However, the composition of this layer is not uniform and there is communication between the aquifers. Private and public supply wells within one mile of the site draw water from the Floridan aquifer (NUS Corp. 1991).

The Anclote River runs from northwest to southeast on the southwest side of the site. The river is tidally influenced from at least one mile upstream from the site to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. Thus flow direction changes depending on the tides. An electric power plant draws cooling water from the river approximately one mile downstream of the site. The river is also used extensively by commercial fishing boats traveling from a docking area one mile upstream to the Gulf of Mexico. Recreational boaters using the river may swim at the county park downstream from the site and fish near the mouth of the river.

D. Health Outcome Data

Guided by community health concerns, HRS epidemiologists reviewed information contained in the Florida Cancer Data System (FCDS). FCDS is a program of Florida HRS operated by the University of Miami School of Medicine and covers all cancers reported in Florida between 1981 and 1990. Since cancer registry information was available only at the county level, we analyzed data for Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Although there have been no allegations or indications of elevated birth defect rates near this site, HRS epidemiologists also reviewed information from the Congenital Defects Surveillance Project (CDSP). CDSP is a data base containing birth defects reported from 1980 to 1982. We will discuss the results of these reviews in the Public Health implications, Health Outcome Data Evaluation section.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

Residents of Tarpon Springs, which borders the site, have expressed a number of health concerns. We compiled these concerns from telephone conversations with community leaders, community newsletters, newspaper articles, and local health officials.

Community members have expressed the following health concerns:

  1. Can contaminants from the site cause brain cancer in people living close to the site?
  2. Are contaminants leaching into the groundwater from the site and entering nearby private and public wells?
  3. Were radioactive materials produced when the plant was operating and do they continue to contaminate the site?
  4. Can dust blowing from the site carry contamination into the community or the nearby river?
  5. Have children at the elementary school north of the site been exposed to contamination from the site?
  6. When the plant was in operation, people living near the plant or using the river frequently reported being exposed to clouds of white fumes which produced respiratory distress. What other adverse health effects could occur from this exposure?
  7. What has happened to the 900 drums of calcined phosphate sand buried on the site and what hazard do they represent?
  8. Can exposure to contaminants in the air produce emphysema or lung cancer in workers at the plant?

These concerns are addressed in the Public Health Implications Community Health Concerns Evaluation section.

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