Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content

PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

V&M/ALBALADEJO NORTE WARD
(a/k/a V&M/ALBALADEJO FARMS SITE)
VEGA BAJA, VEGA BAJA COUNTY, PUERTO RICO
CERCLIS NO. PRD987366101

December 30, 1998

Prepared by:

Superfund Site Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


TABLE OF CONTENTS

SUMMARY

PURPOSE AND ISSUES

BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION

    Site Background and Activities
    Current Conditions of Site
    Current Issues
    Public Health Implications

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

CONCLUSIONS

RECOMMENDATIONS

    Public Health Action Plan
    Child Health Issues

DOCUMENTS REVIEWED


SUMMARY

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) published a Site Review andUpdate for the V&M/Albaladejo Farms site on May 7, 1997. This Public Health Assessmentdocument has been developed by reorganizing information in the 1997 SRU into a format thatconforms to ATSDR's Interim Guidance on the Structure of Public Health Assessments.

The site is located about 1 mile west of State Road No. 160 in the Almirante Norte Ward of themunicipality of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. The site includes the V&M property and the Albaladejofarm. Total acreage is unknown. Several small plots within the site were formerly used fordumping plastic-coated electrical cables, electrical equipment, car batteries, and transformers. The total quantity of waste brought onto the site and the date when activities began are notknown. Some wastes were burned, presumably to recover copper, aluminum, and lead. Burningreportedly ceased in 1988. By early 1995, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hadproposed further waste identification, sampling, and soil removal activities.

ATSDR prepared public health consultations in 1995 that concluded that site soils posed apotential health concern and concurred with EPA's proposed cleanup levels.

EPA also will investigate groundwater quality to determine whether remedial activities are neededto protect the aquifer that supplies off-site public wells that serve large numbers of residents inVega Baja.

ATSDR concluded that the site poses no apparent public health hazard. In the past, substantiveexposures are likely to have been experienced by salvage workers but cannot be reliably evaluatedand quantified. ATSDR's evaluations of on-site activities and off-site populations, contaminantlocations, and EPA's proposed removal have not identified any exposures that pose an ongoingpublic health concern. The proposed soil removal and proposed groundwater investigation andany required followup groundwater remediation should minimize the potential for futureexposures and adverse human health effects.


PURPOSE AND ISSUES

ATSDR prepared a Site Review and Update in response to our mandate to evaluate public healthissues at sites proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their NationalPriorities List (NPL). ATSDR concluded that there are no known public health issues at thistime.

This Public Health Assessment (PHA) document has been developed by reorganizing informationin the 1997 SRU into a format that conforms to ATSDR's Interim Guidance on the Structure ofPublic Health Assessments.

BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION

In the 1977 SRU, ATSDR described available information and data for the V&M/AlbaladejoFarm site and evaluated the current public health status of the site and the need for public healthactivities.

Site Background and Activities

The site is located about 1 mile west of State Road No. 160 in the Almirante Norte Ward of themunicipality of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. The site includes the V&M property and the Albaladejofarm. Total acreage is unknown. Several small plots within the site were formerly used fordumping plastic-coated electrical cables, electrical equipment, car batteries, and transformers. The total quantity of waste brought onto the site and the date when activities began are notknown. Some wastes were burned, presumably to recover copper, aluminum, and lead. Burningreportedly ceased in 1988.

By early 1995, EPA had proposed soil removal activities, which address the following:

* Delineating waste and burn locations,
* Further sampling of soil and drainage sediments,
* Removing contaminated soils/sediments; Action Levels are:

Lead 500 parts per million (ppm)
Cadmium 135 ppm
Antimony 108 ppm
Arsenic 60 ppm
Copper 10,250 ppm
Silver 1,350 ppm
Zinc 56,000 ppm
Dioxin 1 part per billion (TEF)

Notes: 1. EPA has a methodology for reporting the cumulative concentrations of dioxin and furan compounds -- then called the Toxicity Equivalency Factor (TEF) -- in terms of their relative potency compared to 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.

2. Lead is the removal indicator metal--removal to the lead action level should also achieve action levels for other metals.

* Disposing of excavated materials at an off-site facility in compliance with regulatory policies,
* Placing clean backfill to cover any residual contaminants not removed and to maintain drainage gradients, and
* Considering institutional controls to prevent inappropriate future use of the affected land.

An ATSDR Health Consultation (March 2, 1995) reported the site poses a potential healthconcern due to exposure to surface soil contamination, possible ground water contamination, andthe potential for consumption of crops that might be grown by the burn plots and might take upcontaminants from the soil.

ATSDR prepared a second Public Health Consultation (March 7, 1995) that reviewed theremoval cleanup levels. ATSDR concurred that the proposed levels would be protective of publichealth and reported that if site conditions or land use change, re-evaluation of the cleanup levelswould be necessary.

ATSDR staff visited the site in June, 1996. Staff observed the former burn locations, heavyvegetation, farming patterns, terrain features, limited accessibility, and the absence of closebyresidences and potentially exposed populations. Discussions with EPA confirm that conditionshave not changed since our visit. In the absence of an identifiable potentially exposed population,a public availability session and public meeting were not initiated.

EPA intends to undertake soil removal in 1997 and also will investigate groundwater quality todetermine whether remedial activities are needed to protect the aquifer that supplies off-site publicwells that serve large numbers of residents in Vega Baja.

Current Conditions of Site

Five burn locations have been identified. EPA reports that the surrounding areas have not beenused for agriculture for several years. The surrounding areas are blanketed by heavy vegetation,and vehicle paths and burn plots also are partially overgrown. Runoff from burn locationsdischarges locally into on-site karst sinkholes which recharge an aquifer that is used elsewhere fordrinking water. Groundwater has not been investigated to date (Note: public wells in the VegaBaja vicinity are sampled at regulated intervals). Sampling in and adjacent to burn locations hasshown soils there contain substantively elevated levels of metals including aluminum, arsenic,antimony, cadmium, copper, lead, and silver. Three samples were analyzed for dioxins;concentrations were less than 1 ppb TEF. Samples of soil taken from a path, or road, connectingthe burn plots also were found to contain elevated levels of metals. EPA had intended to samplefood crops in 1994, but found that the areas of interest were not being used for farming.

The site vicinity is rural and characterized by rugged, hilly, heavily-vegetated terrain with smallfarms located in the valleys. Population is sparse within one mile of the site. It has beenestimated that fewer than 100 people reside within mile of the site boundary, and there are noresidences close to the burn plots. Residential properties should not have been affected by eithercontaminated runoff or by windblown dust because surface runoff from the burn locationsdischarges into on-site sinkholes, and the burn plots are surrounded by very dense vegetation.

Surface runoff from burn locations is likely to have transported contaminants into the sinkholesand might have contaminated the underlying aquifer. EPA conducted a survey of the nearbyresidents in November 1994 and found all are connected to the public water supply. The nearestpublic well is 0.7 miles east-northeast of the site in the apparent direction of groundwater flow. Twenty active Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) wells serving about 67,000people exist within 3.8 miles of the site. ATSDR's review of water quality data for the nearestpublic well and for several others did not disclose any contaminants at levels of public healthconcern. Groundwater may discharge from the aquifer to the nearby river, the Rio Indio. Asurface water intake on the Rio Indio, approximately 2.2 miles downstream from the nearestapproach to the site, provides water to the Vega Baja community. The water is treated withchlorine and combines with public well water in the distribution system. Tap water from thatsystem has been tested in residences; metals concentrations were below EPA's MaximumContaminant Levels (MCLs).

Current Issues

ATSDR considered exposure scenarios for several populations and identified one likelysubstantive past completed exposure pathway:

* Past salvage workers -- via inhalation and incidental ingestion of metals (fumes and/or attached to particulate matter)

Past exposure is expected to have occurred, but the extent, frequency, and duration of exposure cannot be evaluated. The number of workers affected is expected to be very small but cannot be estimated.

Several potential exposure pathways were identified:

* Site intruders and farm workers -- via incidental ingestion

Exposure is uncertain -- and if exposure has occurred its extent, frequency, and duration could not be evaluated.

* Consumers of site-grown foods in the past -- via ingestion

It's uncertain whether edible plants have taken up contaminants from the soil and whether consumer exposure has actually occurred. The land surrounding the burn locations has not been farmed for several years.

* Private well users in the past -- via ingestion.

Residents in the vicinity are connected to the public water supply. It's not known whether there had ever been any nearby private wells used for potable water supply in the past or whether they might have been affected by site-related contaminants.

* Public water users (sources--wells and Rio Indigo) in the future -- via ingestion

Recent water quality data show water users are not adversely affected. Future quality of the aquifer and river resources at points of withdrawals cannot be firmly predicted.

* Area residents in the past and future -- via inhalation and incidental ingestion

No residences are close to the burn plots. Dense vegetation should have prevented wind from eroding and blowing contaminated dust onto area residential properties. Surface runoff from the affected areas drains into on-site sink holes; it does not migrate overland off site onto residential properties.

Public Health Implications

Public health implications, if any, cannot be evaluated for past salvage workers because ofuncertainty about the exposure extent, duration, and frequency. Because of the localized natureof the burn plots, dense vegetation, rugged terrain, inactive farming, and limited site access, theredoes not appear to be a definite exposed population at this time.The potential for future exposure and health consequences should be minimal after the proposedsoil removal activities are completed and groundwater is investigated and remediated, if needed.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

ATSDR could not identify an associated community or community health concerns.


CONCLUSIONS

Currently, the V&M/Albaladejo Farms site poses no apparent public health hazard. In the past,substantive exposures are likely to have been experienced by salvage workers but cannot bereliably evaluated and quantified. ATSDR's evaluations of on-site activities and off sitepopulations, contamination locations, and EPA's proposed removal have not identified anyexposures that pose an ongoing public health concern. The proposed soil removal and theproposed groundwater investigation and any required followup groundwater remediation shouldminimize the potential for future exposures and adverse human health effects. In the absence of adefinable exposed population, evaluations of morbidity and mortality are not appropriate andwould not produce reliable information.

ATSDR concludes from its evaluations that no additional public health initiatives are needed at this time.


RECOMMENDATIONS

If new information is revealed that identifies a population that has experienced quantifiableexposure to site-related contamination, ATSDR can reevaluate public health issues associatedwith the site.

Public Health Action Plan

No public health initiatives are needed.

Child Health Issues

ATSDR did not identify any child health issues associated with the site.


SITE TEAM/AUTHORS

Don Gibeaut
Environmental Health Engineer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Arthur Block
ATSDR Regional Representative, Region 2


DOCUMENTS REVIEWED

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Record of Activity concerning public healthimpact of soil contamination at V&M/Albaladejo site. March 2, 1995.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Record of Activity concerning review ofremoval action goals for V&M/Albaladejo site. March 7, 1995.

Autoridad De Acueductos Y Alcantarillados. Laboratory data sheets providing water quality datafor public wells sampled in the 1980s and 1990s.

Autoridad De Acueductos Y Alcantarillados. Memorandum and laboratory data sheets providingwater quality data for public wells. September 13, 1995.

Autoridad De Acueductos Y Alcantarillados. List of public well locations. September 14, 1995.

CDM Federal Programs Corporation. Draft Work Plan, Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study,V&M/Albaladejo Farms site, Vega Baja Puerto Rico. December 12, 1996.

Departamento De Salud, Hospital Regional De Arecibo. Letter providing public well samplingdata. October 3, 1995.

Departmento De Recursos Naturales y Ambientales. Letter describing public well locations. September 20, 1995.

NUS Corporation. Final Draft, Site Inspection Report, V&M/Albaladejo Farm. July 25, 1989

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Memorandum--Request for Approval of a RemovalAction at V&M Albaladejo Farms,... August (day not clearly shown), 1995.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Initial Pollution Report, pertains to removal actions. September 8, 1995

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Progress Pollution Report, pertains to removal actions. December, 1995

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Progress Pollution Report, pertains to removal actions. February 12, 1996

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Progress Pollution Report, pertains to removal actions. March 9, 1996

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Progress Pollution Report, pertains to removal actions. March 28, 1996

Roy F. Weston, Inc. Draft, Expanded Site Inspection Summary Report, Vega Baja Solid WasteDisposal, Rio Abaja, Puerto Rico, Volume 1. November 8, 1996.



Table of Contents

  
 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #