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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

WESTINGHOUSE (SUNNYVALE PLANT)
SUNNYVALE, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA


SUMMARY

Located in Sunnyvale, California, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation Sunnyvale Plant is an active manufacturing facility currently manufacturing steam generators, marine propulsion systems, and missile launching systems for the Department of Defense. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the site on the National Priorities List in 1986. Westinghouse originally started its own investigations regarding site contamination in 1981. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board served as the lead agency for overseeing the investigations and initial clean-up activities from 1981 to 1987, after which EPA assumed responsibility as the lead agency.

Between the mid-1950's and 1964, Westinghouse manufactured and tested electrical transformers in a building located at the southeastern part of the site near a water reservoir tank. The transformers contained mineral oil and Inerteen, which consisted principally of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichlorobenzene (TCB), as thermal insulating fluids. The spraying of fluids containing PCBs to control weed growth also took place along fencelines and railroad spurs. Handling and storage of Inerteen primarily led to soil and shallow groundwater contamination. Soil contamination also occurred in residential yards along fencelines next to Westinghouse property. Westinghouse discontinued using PCBs in the mid 1960's. In 1984 and 1985, Westinghouse removed contaminated soils along fencelines and railroad spurs.

The remaining contamination exists principally in the southeastern part of the site near a water reservoir tank where the Inerteen storage tank and the associated pipelines were located. The tank has been removed but the pipelines still remain. Additionally, Westinghouse discovered leaking fuel tanks near the water reservoir tank had released fuel hydrocarbons, and related compounds, namely benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene, into soil and shallow groundwater.

Based on information reviewed, the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) consider this site to be a public health hazard due to the past exposure to PCBs that nearby residences and on-site workers may have experienced. Residents exposed to contaminated soils in their yards may have a low increased risk of developing cancer over a lifetime. Additional information about exposure of past on-site workers is needed before assessing the effects on their health. Although follow-up health actions are not indicated at this time, ATSDR and CDHS will evaluate the necessary additional information or data as it becomes available and assess the likelihood of an impact on community or employee health.

For present exposures, the site does not present any apparent public health hazard since access is limited to the remaining areas of contamination on-site and no drinking water sources are known to contain site related contaminants. For future exposures, the site represents an indeterminate public health hazard because there is a data gap regarding the extent of groundwater contamination off-site. Additionally, more extensive characterization of the A/B1 aquitard is needed in order to assess the nature and extent of the dense sunken oily layer containing PCBs and TCB.

Beyond this, significant exposure to contaminated soil and groundwater is unlikely if: 1) institutional controls are implemented to prevent future use of contaminated groundwater for drinking water supplies until remediation has reduced contaminant concentrations to below levels of health concern, 2) access to the site is restricted to authorized personnel, 3) land use restrictions are implemented and adhered to for on-site areas where contamination exists above levels of health concern, and 4) necessary actions are taken to prevent any exposure to local populations from site contaminants that may result from proposed remediation and/or removal activities.

The data and information developed in the Westinghouse Sunnyvale public health assessment has been evaluated by the ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel for follow-up health activities. Although past exposure to contaminated soil has occurred for some residents and on-site workers, information is not presently available to allow a determination of the magnitude and public health significance of the exposure. Therefore, follow-up health activities are not indicated at this time. Community health education activities, however, are ongoing, and the California Department of Health Services will continue to address specific community health concerns as they arise. When data become available, ATSDR and CDHS will evaluate the Westinghouse Sunnyvale site for any indicated follow-up activities.


BACKGROUND

The California Department of Health Services (CDHS), under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR), will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, CDHS and ATSDR will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible adverse health effects. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conduct health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

Staff from ATSDR prepared a preliminary health assessment of the Westinghouse Sunnyvale site in January 1989.(2) This health assessment serves to update the preliminary health assessment. This updated report is based largely on a recent review of environmental monitoring data and information, health data, community concerns, and information obtained from site visits and consultation with involved agencies and the public. The environmental data and information reviewed are generally provided in reports identified as the Remedial Investigation, Baseline Risk Assessment, and Feasibility Study, all of which are required under CERCLA.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first proposed placement of the Westinghouse Sunnyvale facility on the National Priorities List (NPL) in October 1984; final placement occurred in June 1986. Westinghouse originally started its own investigations regarding contamination in 1981. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) served as the lead agency for overseeing the investigations and initial clean-up activities from 1981 to 1987, after which EPA assumed responsibility as the lead agency.(1)

A. SITE DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY

The Westinghouse Electric Corporation Sunnyvale Plant presently occupies a 75 acre site within the city of Sunnyvale, California, approximately 5 miles from the southern end of the San Francisco Bay. Westinghouse currently uses the plant to manufacture steam generators, marine propulsion systems, and missile launching systems for the Department of Defense. Figure 1 shows the location of the site and features of the surrounding area. Although located within an industrial park area of Sunnyvale, residential housing lies along its immediate boundaries. Southern Pacific Railroad tracks lie along Hendy Avenue.(1)

Westinghouse purchased the original site property in 1947. Previous owners of the plant had used the property to manufacture ball mills, mine cars and hydraulic equipment in the early 1900's, and defense products such as torpedo tubes and mounts after 1940. Westinghouse also expanded the site by purchasing adjoining property in the mid-1950's from companies that manufactured heavy machinery and cable. Between the mid-1950's and 1964, Westinghouse manufactured and tested electrical transformers in Building 21 located on the southeast portion of the site near a water reservoir tank (Reservoir 2 area). The transformers contained mineral oil and Inerteen, which consisted principally of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichlorobenzene (TCB), as thermal insulating fluids. (The form of PCBs in the Inerteen was marketed as PCB 1260 or Arochlor 1260.) Inerteen also contained small amounts of monochlorobenzene and dichlorobenzene (DCB).(1) The spraying of fluids containing PCB to control weed growth also took place along fencelines and railroad spurs.(3)

Location of Westinghouse Sunnyvale Site
Figure 1. Location of Westinghouse Sunnyvale Site

As described below, Westinghouse started investigations in 1981 to determine the extent of soil and groundwater contamination and also undertook soil removal actions in 1984 and 1985. However, further investigations identified PCBs, TCB, and DCB in soil and groundwater in the Reservoir 2 area which still remain. The contamination most likely occurred as a result of handling practices and leakage from the former above-ground Interteen storage tank and the underground piping in the Reservoir 2 area. Leaking fuel tanks in the same area also released fuel hydrocarbons, such as gasoline and diesel fuel, into soil and groundwater. Monitoring wells have shown detectable levels of benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene, compounds commonly associated with fuel hydrocarbons.(1)

Figure 2 shows some of the features on and surrounding the site. Figure 3 shows in more detail the area around Reservoir 2, the location of the original sources of contamination. The site contains numerous wood structure buildings. Reservoirs 1 and 2, two below-grade 566,000 gallon reservoirs in the northeast and southeast corners of the site, respectively, provide water for fire protection. Westinghouse stored Inerteen in a 7,000 gallon above ground storage tank at the southern end of Reservoir 2. The tank was removed from the Reservoir 2 area in 1971, relocated to the Reservoir 1 area, and removed from there in 1986. The underground pipes running from the former Inerteen tank and mineral oil tanks to Building 21, where the transformers were made and tested, still remain in the Reservoir 2 area.(1)

Mineral oil was stored in five above-ground 16,000 gallon storage tanks. Three of the tanks were previously located next to the Inerteen tank near Reservoir 2 but were relocated before 1974. Aerial photographs taken in the early 1940's (pre-Westinghouse) show discoloration of the ground surface surrounding and immediately north of the tanks near Reservoir 2.(1)

Also located in the Reservoir 2 area were two underground gasoline tanks used to fuel the pumps near the reservoir. A leaking 500 gallon tank north of the reservoir was removed in 1986. The 20,000 gallon tank south of the reservoir held mineral oil until 1974 and then was used to hold gasoline and/or diesel fuel. The tank and associated pipelines remain in place but are no longer in use.(1)

In response to general public concern regarding PCBs, Westinghouse contracted with Brown and Caldwell Consulting Engineers, Inc. (BCCE) in 1981 to conduct a study to determine the nature and extent of PCB contamination in on-site soils and ground water. Phase I of the study took place in 1981 and consisted of surface sampling anywhere contamination was likely, including along the fenceline, residential and business properties next to the fenceline, the railroad tracks area, northwest and northeast yard areas and the Reservoir 2 area.

Features of Westinghouse Sunnyvale Site and Surrounding Area
Figure 2. Features of Westinghouse Sunnyvale Site and Surrounding Area

Reservoir 2 Area
Figure 3. Reservoir 2 Area

According to information reviewed by Tetra Tech, Inc. for EPA, BCCE took 284 soil samples from these areas at depths ranging from zero to six inches. Sample results only report concentrations for PCB 1260. Of the 284 samples, 71 had concentrations equal to or greater than 50 parts per million (ppm). (CDHS Policy #81-2 classifies soil containing greater than 50 ppm PCBs as hazardous waste.) Nineteen of the samples taken along the on-site fencelines had PCB concentrations greater than 500 ppm, with the highest concentrations found along the north and central segments of the west perimeter fence which borders residential backyards.(1,3)

Incomplete data exists regarding soil samples taken by BCCE from residential and business properties. As described more fully in the Off-Site contamination section, some samples taken at various distances from the western fenceline reportedly showed PCB concentrations ranging from non detectable to less than 50 ppm.

Also during Phase 1, BCCE installed seven ground water monitoring wells to sample groundwater to a depth of 35 feet below ground surface, and one well to sample to a depth of 60 feet below ground surface. The initial groundwater analyses only reported the presence of PCBs in groundwater at both sampled depths directly beneath the former Inerteen storage tank.(3)

Phase 2, which started in 1982, consisted of locating the underground Inerteen and mineral oil pipelines, and conducting deeper soil and groundwater investigations in the area south of Reservoir 2 through the use of soil boreholes and construction of 23 ground water monitoring wells. In the Reservoir 2 area, BCCE identified PCB 1260 concentrations ranging from 0.06 to 28,000 parts per million (ppm) in soil extending from the surface to approximately 45 feet below ground surface (or approximately 15 to 20 feet below the water table). The highest concentrations were found around the former Inerteen tank area near Reservoir 2.(1) Groundwater results from sampling conducted during Phase 2 showed detectable concentrations of PCBs, TCB and DCB, with the highest concentrations also in the former tank area.(3)

During these initial investigations, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) served as the lead agency. After consulting with the CDHS Toxic Substances Control Division and the CDHS Epidemiological Studies Section, the RWQCB issued an order in September 1984, to clean up PCB contaminated soil found in neighboring residential and business properties and along on-site perimeter fence lines.(4,5) In November 1984, Westinghouse finished the initial soil clean-up by contracting with IT Corporation to remove PCB contaminated soil in off-site areas to at least a depth of 2.0 feet until PCBs levels reached a nondetectable level (less than 0.05 ppm). Along the on-site perimeter fence lines, all soil containing greater than 50 parts per million (ppm) PCBs was removed to a depth of at least six inches and all plants and trees growing in the contaminated soil were removed. Westinghouse replaced all removed soil with clean fill and replaced all removed plants and trees with new ones.(1,3,4) The removed contaminated soil was taken to a legal hazardous waste disposal site.(3)

In July 1985, the RWQCB issued another order addressing PCB contaminated soil clean up of areas other than Reservoir 2.(6) Removal of soil containing greater than 50 ppm PCBs and replacement with clean fill occurred in the north storage yard and along a central railroad spur.(1,3) Figure 2 shows the areas where past soil removal actions occurred. The RWQCB also ordered Westinghouse to further investigate the Reservoir 2 area and to minimize or prevent the discharge of PCBs to surface waters.(6)

Samples taken after the soil removal confirmed that levels after clean-up ranged from non-detectable to approximately 20 ppm. However, a "hot spot" containing 8900 ppm PCBs remained in the northwest yard area.(7) After assuming responsibility as the lead agency in 1987, EPA authorized the removal of all soil containing more than 25 ppm PCBs in the northwest yard in 1989 and is currently overseeing the investigation and clean up of the remaining soil and ground water contamination around the Reservoir 2 area.(1,8,9)

In 1986, the RWQCB also oversaw the removal of a leaking 500 gallon gasoline tank located north of the Reservoir 2 and 18 cubic yards of gasoline impacted soil. The depth of the excavation (9 to 9.5 feet) was limited due to concerns about maintaining structural integrity of Reservoir 2, an existing building (Building 12A), and two monitoring wells in the area. Monitoring wells in the area show detectable concentrations of total fuel hydrocarbons, benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene, indicating gasoline contaminated soil may still be present.(1)

After EPA became the lead regulatory agency in December 1987, EPA negotiated a formal agreement with Westinghouse that required Westinghouse to conduct a complete investigation of the site such that a clean-up plan could be selected. Westinghouse contracted with EMCON Associates in 1989 to develop the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study Report (RI/FS) to define the nature and extent of contamination in the Reservoir 2 area and to identify different remediation alternatives.(1,3)

EMCON conducted additional soil sampling and installed 28 monitoring wells from 1989 to 1990. Westinghouse initiated a quarterly groundwater monitoring program in July 1990, which includes sampling of the wells for PCBs, DCB, TCB, total fuel hydrocarbons, benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylene, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs); measuring groundwater levels in the wells on a monthly basis; and removing some of the oily hydrocarbon compounds from the wells twice per month.(1)

Following completion of the RI/FS, EPA released its preferred clean-up alternative for public review. The comment period ran from July 1, 1991 to August 29, 1991 with a public hearing on August 7, 1991. EPA selected the final remedy as documented in the October 16, 1991 Record of Decision.(26)

B. SITE VISIT

On the morning of May 22, 1991, Diana Lee, Jane Riggan, and David Borgeson from the CDHS/ATSDR cooperative agreement project and a staff person from the Toxic Substances Control Program within CDHS, visited the site under the guidance of the Supervisor of Environmental Affairs for Westinghouse. He walked us around the areas where contaminated soil had been removed and around the Reservoir 2 area. No environmental monitoring was conducted during the site visit. We observed the following:

  • The site has posted no trespassing signs and is surrounded by an 8 foot slatted chain fence with barbed wire at the top. Entrance is allowed through a main gate area only with appropriate identification. All visitors must sign in and be issued a badge.


  • Most of the site is paved with asphalt, but there are some areas mainly along fencelines covered with loose gravel.


  • There is an abundance of heavy machinery and physical hazards, e.g., nails, broken glass, etc. Signs are posted requiring hard hats and safety goggles to be worn inside certain areas.


  • Chemical storage areas are clearly marked with Department of Transportation labels. Primary materials stored in underground tanks or at grade vaults included unleaded gasoline, fuel oil, lube oil, sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide. Materials stored above ground include ketones, solvents, lubricating oils, degreasers, nitrogen, liquid oxygen, carbon dioxide, and sodium hydroxide.(1)


  • Each of the two reservoirs on the premises are fenced. The reservoirs are kept filled and sunk below the ground with a concrete lip rising about four inches above the ground surface. Nearby propane tanks are used to fuel the pumps to remove the water as necessary.


  • Most of the Reservoir 2 area is paved and used for parking. The area surrounding the former storage tanks and an easement of approximately 3 feet around the reservoir are unpaved but covered with gravel. Some of the area around Reservoir 2 had been newly asphalted because the area had recently undergone investigation for possible leakage from the reservoir. Markings on the ground in the Reservoir 2 area indicated placement of the underground piping running from the former Inerteen storage tank to Building 21.


  • An employee eating area lies approximately 100 feet from the Reservoir 2 area.


  • Building 21 is still an active manufacturing facility. Some offices within Building 21 are located near the Reservoir 2 area.


  • EMCON currently uses a 6,000 gallon portable tank located in the Reservoir 2 area to hold the monitoring well water extracted for quarterly monitoring. The Supervisor of Environmental Affairs informed us the water is treated with carbon and discharged to the sewer under permit. EMCON discharges approximately 4,000 gallons of water quarterly.


  • A waste water treatment system with a permitted air stripper is located on-site to treat wastes generated by their manufacturing practices. A dissolved air floatation system captures oil used in manufacturing processes such as painting, machining, and sand blasting.


  • In on-site areas immediately bordering residential houses, new trees had been planted near the fenceline. Other than near the main entrance and along the residential border areas, very little vegetation exists on-site. In some of the residential yards bordering the northwest corner of the site, we noticed some fruit trees. The Supervisor of Environmental Affairs informed us that the plants and trees presently in place had been planted after contaminated soil and plants had been removed from the residential yards.


  • Westinghouse maintains a medical clinic for its employees on-site, located near the main gate.

On a separate occasion (July 10, 1991), we drove and walked around the residential areas bordering the site. We noted 11 single family homes in the Oak Court cul-de-sac, two apartment buildings, three houses and two businesses located along the western perimeter. A well maintained historic landmark park lies about 200 feet from the northwest corner of the site. Houses along California Avenue and across from Fair Oaks Avenue are immediately across the street from the site. Some of these houses appear to have been newly constructed. Small businesses and a number of large apartment complexes also exist on the other side of Evelyn Avenue across from the Southern Pacific Railroad.

C. DEMOGRAPHICS, LAND USE, AND NATURAL RESOURCE USE AND FEATURES

Demographics

According to the 1990 census, 13,160 people live in 5,030 housing units in the area approximately one mile north of the Westinghouse site. Eighty percent (80%) of this population falls within the age range of 18 years or older. The currently available form of the 1990 census data does not give age specific information or further breakdown of housing units. The census data show the racial/ethnic breakdown as follows: 49% white (non-Hispanic); 27% Hispanic; 19% Asian/Pacific Islander (non-Hispanic); 4% Black (non-Hispanic); 1% American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut (non-Hispanic).

Land Use

Prior to the 1950's, the area around the site was used primarily for agricultural purposes. Since then, the area has been zoned and developed for light industrial, commercial, or residential use. Houses bordering the western perimeter fenceline were built in the 1940's.(1)

As mentioned previously, apartment complexes and houses lie immediately next to the western fenceline of the site and across from the site along California Avenue and Fair Oaks Avenue, and a historic landmark park lies in close proximity to the site's northwest corner. About 300 feet east of Reservoir 2, light industry and commercial businesses exist.

Most of the site and areas surrounding the site consist of paved surfaces or industrial buildings. Residential yards are landscaped. The area around the site does not support abundant wildlife nor is it used for hunting.(1)

Natural Resource Use and Features

Information on wind speed and direction in the area indicate that wind blows from the north-northwest 36 percent of the time, and from the south-southeast about 17 percent of the time. The strongest winds blow from the southeast and the highest average wind speed blows from the north-northwest.(1)

No natural surface water bodies exist in the vicinity of the site. The paved surfaces in the area minimize surface water infiltration in the Reservoir 2 area. Surface water flow to the Reservoir 2 area is minimal because of the higher surface grade in the area which tends to promote runoff. Most of the runoff from the former tank areas flows to the storm drain east of the area. From these storm drains, water flows to the storm sewer alongside Fair Oaks Avenue. The storm sewer drains into a Santa Clara Valley Water District flood control channel located approximately 1,100 feet east of the site which allows water to flow north to the San Francisco Bay.(1)

The water bearing zones underneath the site appear to consist mainly of alternating, discontinuous layers of gravels, sands, silts and clays. The sand and gravel form the water bearing units (aquifers), and the silt and clay act as confining layers (aquitards) to restrict movement between the aquifers.(1)

Three major water bearing zones (aquifers), defined as the A-, B-, and C- aquifers, exist below the site. The A-aquifer is the shallowest and the C-aquifer the deepest of the three. The B-aquifer is further defined into B1-B3. The approximate depths below ground surface at which these aquifers occur at the Westinghouse site are as follows: A: 0 to 50 feet; B1:  50 to 70 feet; B2:  75 to 90 feet, and B3: 90 to 115 feet. Below the B- aquifers lies a 50 to 100 feet thick aquitard which exists at depths ranging from 100 to 150 feet below ground surface. This B-C aquitard severely retards movement of water from the B-aquifers to the C-aquifer. Water for municipal use is drawn from the deeper C-aquifer.(1)

Groundwater flow in the area is generally to the north, although there are some differences among the aquifers. Groundwater flow in the A-aquifer is affected by a groundwater mound where the groundwater flows outward from the center of the mound. The mound is shown by higher groundwater levels found in three wells north and northwest of Reservoir 2 but not in surrounding wells. (Westinghouse believes the groundwater mound is due to leakage from undergroundwater piping associated with the pump to the reservoir and plan to locate and correct the source of the leak as part of the remedial design for the site.) Groundwater flow in the A-aquifer below the southeast corner of the Reservoir 2 area flows northwest.(1)

Groundwater flow in the B1-aquifer appears to flow toward the north-northeast. East of Reservoir 2, the groundwater flow direction may fluctuate seasonally, changing from a northwesterly direction in winter to a north-northeasterly direction in summer. Westinghouse expects the monthly groundwater level measurements taken as part of its current quarterly groundwater monitoring program to provide information needed to verify the seasonal fluctuation in groundwater flow. A downward vertical hydraulic gradient also exists between the A- and B1- aquifers, as indicated by monitoring well data.(1)

As part of the Remedial Investigation, EMCON also reviewed information regarding wells in the area available from the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) and performed a detailed well survey. No water supply or other production wells are located within 2000 feet of the site. Five drinking water wells operate within one mile northward and downgradient from the site. Municipal well W-82 is located approximately 2,900 feet northwest of Reservoir 2. The other four wells, W-157, W-156, W-14, and W-183 are domestic wells. Well W-157 is located 4,200 feet northwest of Reservoir 2; W-156 is 4,300 feet west-northwest of Reservoir 2; W-14 is 6,900 feet northeast of Reservoir 2 and W-183 is about 7,000 feet northwest of Reservoir 2. For wells W-157, W-156, and W-183, no information is recorded regarding their depth or screening interval. Well W-14 is recorded as having a depth of 109 feet and screening interval of 68 feet to 93 feet deep. Municipal well W-82 is screened at an interval of 401 feet to 630 feet deep. An industrial supply well, W-81, is located at the Westinghouse facility but is not currently used. The SCVWD identified this well as a non-producing industrial well.(1)

According to SCVWD records, two other domestic wells were identified as being located approximately 4000 feet directly downgradient from the Westinghouse site. In March and April 1991, EMCON performed a detailed well survey to determine the status of these two wells. A door-to-door survey of the area with letters and questionnaires to residents and owners of land in the area did not yield any information on the location or status of these wells.(1)

D. HEALTH OUTCOME DATA

On January 1, 1988, the state's Cancer Surveillance Program began collecting data through its California Tumor Registry, for the region that includes the Westinghouse site and surrounding areas. The CDHS released the data for 1988 on February 18, 1991.(10)

The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program began collecting data for Santa Clara County in 1983.(11) The pertinence of these two data bases to the Westinghouse Sunnyvale site will be discussed further in the Public Health Implications Section of the health assessment.

Westinghouse also maintains an on-site medical clinic with employee health records.(12) After speaking with the Health and Safety Manager at the Westinghouse site, we sent a letter on July 17, 1991 requesting information about the available medical services and types of records retained by the clinic.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

In 1981, in response to general public concern regarding PCBs, Westinghouse hired BCCE to study the extent of PCB contamination at the site. According to a Community Relations Plan prepared for the EPA, local officials and some of the residents were aware of the PCB contamination at that time.(13)

Soil testing occurred in 1981 in backyards of homes directly bordering the western fenceline of the Westinghouse property. As part of its clean-up order issued in 1984, the RWQCB ordered contaminated soils be removed from yards adjacent to the site. This removal action attracted print and television media attention, and community involvement was high. Westinghouse, the City of Sunnyvale, and the CDHS Toxic Substances Control Division conducted a series of meetings for residents whose homes were impacted, to discuss the contamination and the proposed clean-up plans.(13)

During that time, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an alliance of environmental, labor and other organizations concerned about water contamination in the area, canvassed residents to identify concerns related to the Westinghouse site. The health effects related to groundwater contamination were identified to be the primary concern.(13) After the removal of the contaminated soil from backyards, there were no apparent community concerns. According to all sources queried, no inquiries regarding the site occurred for the next several years.

In December 1988, EPA released a fact sheet to notify the public about the change of lead regulatory agency from the RWQCB to EPA to oversee the remaining investigations and clean-up of the site.(8) The fact sheet described Westinghouse's plans to conduct the Remedial Investigation to define the extent of contamination remaining in the Reservoir 2 of the site, and to develop the Feasibility Study to evaluate clean-up alternatives designed to protect public health and the environment. The 1988 fact sheet resulted in a few inquiries regarding the quality of drinking water contamination and effects on property values.(13)

The following information lists the key health concerns which were expressed during the development of the EPA Community Relations Plan in 1989. These concerns surfaced during community interviews with local officials, public interest groups and residents, and include:(13)

  • possibility of contaminated water supply. There has been much publicity about water contamination problems in Santa Clara Valley and people are generally concerned about the quality of their drinking water. Residents do not understand why contaminated groundwater beneath a site does not affect their drinking water;


  • health effects from exposure to contaminants. Two people expressed concerns about the safety of eating fruits and vegetables from their gardens. Other residents were worried about the health effects of site contamination on pregnancies and small children;


  • effects on property values. People are concerned about owning property near a Superfund site and whether this will result in disclosure requirements. Some individuals who had recently purchased homes in the area were concerned about not being informed about the status of Westinghouse as a Superfund site;


  • reuse of Westinghouse property. Officials from the City of Sunnyvale are considering "possible reuse of some or all of the Westinghouse property in the future" and "would like the site cleaned up enough to allow the use of land for residential purposes;"


  • verifiable and effective site clean-up. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and some of the residents were concerned about the adequacy of the information about the site and resulting site characterization.

A June 1991 EPA fact sheet addresses the results of the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study.(14) In this fact sheet, EPA describes the four remedial alternatives for site clean-up. EPA's preferred alternative consists of excavating contaminated soil down to eight feet and capping with asphalt, and extracting and treating groundwater. Clean-up of the groundwater requires EPA to "invoke a waiver of the requirement to meet PCB drinking water standards in the A-aquifer source area where it is technically impracticable to meet the standard."(14)

Approximately 200 people attended a public hearing held by EPA on August 7, 1991 where EPA received comments on the proposed clean-up plan. Community members expressed dismay at the waiver of the PCB drinking water standard and seemed to interpret the waiver to mean that Westinghouse was being absolved of responsibility for adequate clean-up. There was also concern about how far the PCBs had spread off-site and whether the exact boundaries of the groundwater plume had been defined.

On August 21, 1991, we attended a neighborhood meeting where we were asked to provide an overview of the health assessment process and to answer questions about health related concerns. On October 16, 1991, EPA issued the Record of Decision and a local community group organized a meeting on October 17, 1991 at which they expressed their anger with EPA for signing a Record of Decision which included the waiver for PCB drinking water standards. The following is a list of health related concerns that were raised by community members at the above meetings. These concerns are discussed further in the Community Concerns Evaluation section.

  • What health effects are possible if you are exposed to PCBs?


  • Do the PCBs affect fruits and gardens in the neighborhood?


  • Are there health effects from taking a shower in PCB-contaminated water?


  • What is the danger of PCB exposure to the workers at Westinghouse?


  • What health studies have been done on the residents?


  • When will a health study be done on the residents? workers?


  • Was there testing done in the soils outside the Westinghouse site?


  • Have PCBs spread off-site? Is the plume spreading in the area of Cedar and Dwight? Have the exact boundaries of the plume been defined?


  • What is the general air quality around the site? Are there PCBs in the air?


  • During excavation, what type of precautions will be taken to prevent soil particles from becoming airborne and being carried downwind into neighborhoods?


  • Can the soil under Building 21 be tested now?


  • Is there a possibility that any parts of the site area will be rezoned for residential use?


  • Are there any private wells affected by the contaminated groundwater?


  • Could being exposed to the combination of chemicals, even in small quantities, increase the risk?

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