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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

AGRICO CHEMICAL CO.
PENSACOLA, ESCAMBIA, FLORIDA


SUMMARY

The Agrico Chemical Co. Superfund site (Agrico) is a former sulfuric acid and phosphatefertilizer production facility in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida. The site is in a mixedresidential/ light industrial/commercial area on the northwest corner of the intersection ofInterstate 110 and Fairfield Drive. The plant began operation in 1889 and produced sulfuric acid,superphosphate and monoammonium phosphate. After the plant closed in 1975, all processingequipment and buildings were removed from the site.

Community members are concerned that children who used a now-abandoned on-site baseballfield may become ill from their exposure to contaminated soil. Residents near the site areconcerned that contaminants may have migrated from the site to the neighborhood west of the site.

Groundwater under the site is also contaminated and is moving toward the east-southeast. Contaminated groundwater is unlikely to affect people since there are no public or privatedrinking water wells in this area. However, groundwater contamination has recently reachedBayou Texar, an environmentally sensitive estuary about one and one-half miles east-southeast ofthe site. Although the level of contamination entering the Bayou is currently very low, peoplewho eat fish or shellfish from this area may be affected in the future if these organisms becomecontaminated.

We focused our public health assessment on the following chemicals: arsenic, chromium,fluoride, lead, manganese, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), sulfate and vanadium. Workers and trespassers on the site may have accidentally eaten contaminated soil or wastesludge, or gotten this material or contaminated water on their skin. Arsenic in surface soil, wastesludge, and surface water on the site may have caused skin irritation or the appearance of "corns"or "warts". Lead in surface soil may have caused decreased intelligence scores, slow growth, andhearing impairment in young children who trespassed on the site. Arsenic in surface soil on thesite may also increase the risk of skin, bladder, liver, kidney and lung cancer.

Children using the on-site baseball field that was abandoned in 1991 have been exposed tofluoride at a level that could cause mottling of the teeth. Arsenic in surface soil at the on-sitebaseball field, and lead and PAHs in surface soil on and off of the site would result in no apparentincrease in the risk of cancer. Analysis of off-site surface soil samples has been limited to PAHs,fluoride and three analyses for lead. No adverse health effects are likely from exposure to them. However, we have insufficient information about the other contaminants of concern in off-sitesurface soil and therefore cannot determine if adverse health effects are likely.

Based on the information we have, this site is a public health hazard. We recommend that theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintain site security and post additional warningsigns to reduce the likelihood of trespassing. We also recommend that they collect and analyzeadditional samples to characterize off-site surface soil and on-site surface water. EPA shouldconduct periodic monitoring of Bayou Texar to ensure timely discovery of any increase incontaminant levels. Finally, they should ensure that remediation workers at this site are providedwith appropriate protection from contaminants.

BACKGROUND

The Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (Florida HRS), in cooperation withthe Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), will evaluate the public healthsignificance of the Agrico Chemical Company site. Specifically, Florida HRS will determinewhether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent them. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Healthand Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response,Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conduct public health assessments athazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

The Agrico Chemical Co. (Agrico) site occupies about 35 acres at the intersection of FairfieldDrive and Interstate 110, in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida (Figures 1-4, Appendix A). The site is bounded by Interstate 110 to the east, Fairfield Drive to the south, the CSX railroadyard to the west, and CSX property containing two baseball fields to the north.

Production of sulfuric acid from pyrite (iron sulfide) began in 1889 by an unidentified company. From 1920-1963, sulfuric acid and superphosphate fertilizer were produced at the site by theAmerican Agricultural Chemical Company. Continental Oil Company purchased the property andoperated the facility from 1963 to 1972. Agrico purchased the facility and operated it until 1975,producing superphosphate and monoammonium phosphate. Fertilizer production ceased inmid-1975 and the facility was purchased by a Florida partnership and a private individual in 1977. In 1979, all buildings and process equipment were removed from the site (Geraghty & Miller 1992b).

In 1983, the EPA conducted a hazardous waste site investigation at the site. They found fluoride,lead, sulfate, and chromium in soil and wastewater pond samples. In 1988 and 1989, the FloridaDepartment of Environmental Regulation (FDER) (now the Florida Department of EnvironmentalProtection (FDEP)) investigated groundwater contamination at the site. They found elevatedfluoride and sulfate levels in both shallow and deep groundwater on and downgradient from thesite. In 1991 and 1992, contractors for the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) for Agricoconducted remedial investigations of the site. The contractors found that on-site surface andsubsurface soil, shallow and deep groundwater, and waste sludge material, as well as off-sitesurface and subsurface soil, and shallow and deep groundwater were contaminated with arsenic,chromium, fluoride, lead, manganese, sulfate, and vanadium. On-site and off-site surface andsubsurface soil and on-site waste sludge were also contaminated with polycyclic aromatichydrocarbons (PAHs).

In 1978, a baseball field was constructed off of the site to the north. Sometime between 1981 and1986, a second ballfield was built on the site just south of the first one (Geraghty & Miller 1992c). This on-site ballfield was abandoned in 1991 after soil contamination was found. In 1992, thePRPs built a new ballfield north of the northern ballfield to replace the one that was abandoned(EPA 1992). Both ballfields are now located off of the Agrico site. The abandonedsouthern-most ballfield has been fenced off to prevent access.

Because of concern over soil and groundwater contamination, EPA included this site in theNational Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites on October 4, 1989. The NPL is maintained byEPA 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). On September 23, 1992, contractors for the PRPs at this site released a FeasibilityStudy describing alternative soil cleanup methods (Geraghty & Miller 1992c). On September 29,1992, EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) regarding the selected soil cleanup method (EPA1992) and on February 18, 1993, EPA concluded a Consent Agreement with the PRPs toimplement the cleanup (EPA 1993). A second ROD concerning groundwater contamination is inpreparation. This Public Health Assessement is being prepared by Florida HRS for ATSDR as part of this process.

B. Site Visit

Bruce Tuovila, Florida HRS, and the EPA Remedial Project Manager (RPM) toured the site onFebruary 5, 1992. Mr. Tuovila conducted additional site visits on July 16, 1992 and April 22,1993. The Agrico site is flat and in a low-lying area with no apparent drainage channels tooff-site areas. A large impoundment, formerly used as a wastewater disposal pond, is in thenortheast corner of the site and now contains cattails and other marsh plants. The impoundmentcontained standing water at the time of the site visit. However, the RPM indicated that water ispresent in the impoundment only after periods of heavy rain. Most of the remainder of the site iscovered with grass, brush and scattered clumps of small trees. We observed concrete rubble andbuilding foundations over much of the western half of the site. An abandoned building is on thesouthern border of the site. Next to this building is an active mini-warehouse complex.

In February 1992, only the eastern half of the site, containing the wastewater disposal pond, wasfenced. By 1993, EPA had fenced the entire site. Warning signs are posted only at the entrancegate to the dirt access road. The number and location of warning signs is inadequate to warn thepublic of the hazards at this site and to meet the requirements of sections 403.704 and 403.7255,Florida Statutes, and FDEP Rule 17-736. Additional activities included filling of a concreteholding pond, removal of a brick building on the west side of the site, and construction of a newbaseball field north of the site to replace the one abandoned on-site.

During a drive-through tour of the areas around the site, we observed two baseball fields and acompany operating a borrow pit to the north of the site, a school and various businesses south ofthe site, and the CSX railroad yard west of the site. Immediately west of the rail yard is a smallneighborhood consisting of mostly older homes. All homes and businesses in the area aresupplied by city water.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

According to 1990 census data (BOC 1992), about 150 people live within a one-quarter mileradius of the site and about 6,400 people live within one mile. The population within one-quartermile is about 96% African-American. The neighborhood west of the site is low to lower-middleincome. There are eight daycare centers, six public schools, two hospitals, one private school,and a children's home within one mile of the site.

Land Use

The area within one mile of the site is mixed residential/light industrial/commercial. There arecommercial businesses and a school complex south of the site across Fairfield Drive, and the CSXrailroad yard and a residential neighborhood west of the site. North of the site is a borrow pitoperation and a sand-and-gravel supply business. Interstate 110 borders the site on the east. TheEscambia Treating Company hazardous waste site is about two-thirds of a mile northwest of the site.

Natural Resource Use

The main source of drinking water for Pensacola and Escambia County is the Sand-and-Gravelaquifer. This aquifer begins at a depth of 40-50 feet and consists of two water-bearing zonesseparated by clay or sandy clay layers. The upper zone extends from about 50 to 150 feet belowland surface (BLS) and the lower zone from about 150 to 250 feet BLS. The lower zoneprovides most of the drinking water for the Pensacola area. There is a downward verticalhydraulic gradient between the upper and lower zones of the aquifer, indicating thatcontamination of the upper zone can migrate into the lower zone. Although regional groundwaterflow in this aquifer is southward, groundwater flow near the site is more toward theeast-southeast (Watts et al 1988).

A groundwater contamination plume extends east from the Agrico site along the natural hydraulicgradient of the deeper zone and has recently surfaced into Bayou Texar, a saltwater estuary. Ofthe eight public supply wells within three miles of the site, none is within the contaminationplume. All households within the area of groundwater contamination use public water fordrinking and other domestic purposes. Except for small backyard gardens, there is no agriculturaluse of the land within one mile of the site.

D. Health Outcome Data

Guided by community health concerns, HRS epidemiologists reviewed information contained inthe Florida Cancer Data System (FCDS). FCDS is a program of Florida HRS operated by theUniversity of Miami School of Medicine and covers all cancers reported in Florida between 1981and 1990, the most recent year for which information is available. Registry information wasavailable for the 32503 and 32505 zip code areas. These zip codes include neighborhoods aroundthe Agrico Chemical Co. site. We will discuss the results of these reviews in the Public HealthImplications, Health Outcome Data Evaluation section.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

We have compiled health concerns expressed by community members during telephoneconversations and public meetings, and from newspaper articles and local health officials. Theseconcerns are addressed in the Public Health Implications Community Health Concerns Evaluation section.

Community members have expressed the following health concerns:

  1. What contaminants are present at the ballfield on the Agrico site and what health effects may result from exposure to them, especially in children?
  2. What contaminants may have migrated from the site to the residential yards west of the site and what health effects may result from exposure to them?
  3. What contaminants have entered Bayou Texar and what health effects may occur in peoplewho eat fish and shellfish that may contain these contaminants?

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