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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
REYNOLDS METALS COMPANY
TROUTDALE, MULTNOMAH COUNTY, OREGON

SUMMARY

The Reynolds Metals Company in Troutdale, Oregon, is a primary aluminum reduction plant. The property is bordered by the Columbia River to the north, the Sandy River to the east, the Troutdale airport to the south, and farmland to the west. The plant was in operation from 1941 until 1991, when most operations ceased for economic reasons. There are plans to resume full operations again in the near future. One hundred employees currently work at the site.

When operating, the plant produced wastes that were contaminated with aluminum, mercury, fluoride, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and cyanide. Wastewater was initially disposed of into a wetland area between the plant and the airport. The current wastewater treatment includes pH adjustment, coagulation and flocculation, and solids settling and removal in a clarifier. The treated wastewater is discharged to South Ditch, which lies south of the facility, which then discharges to Company Lake and the outfall ditch, which lie north of the Corps of Engineer dike. Wastewater is pumped from South Ditch into Company Lake and discharges to the Columbia River via the outfall ditch. The treatment and discharge of treated wastewater to the Columbia River is allowed and monitored under Reynold's Metals' National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)(1) permit. Much of the waste at the site has been removed, and removal actions are continuing. Studies are currently underway to determine the extent of environmental contamination and subsequent clean-up efforts which will be required.

The Reynolds site was proposed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)National Priorities List in August 1994, and was finalized on the list in December of the same year.

People may be exposed to contaminated soils and sediments in the area bordering the Columbia and Sandy rivers. This area is accessible by both boat and car. People often enter the area for recreational purposes and to pick blackberries that grow there. The area north of the dike has warning signs at access points to the North Landfill and Company Lake. These warning signs state: "No trespassing, no fishing, no swimming - industrial pollution." Because of the potential for exposure to contamination, ATSDR recommends that access to this area be restricted.

Contamination at the site may have contributed to contamination of fish in the Columbia River, although it is difficult to determine what effect the site may have. Levels of PCBs in Columbia River fish are similar to levels which are seen nationwide.

Workers at the Reynolds site may also be exposed to contaminated soils and sediments, particularly those workers who are involved in outdoor activities. They may be exposed to significant amounts of fluoride by accidentally ingesting small amounts of the contaminated soils and sediments. If they are exposed to this amount of fluoride for many years, they may develop skeletal fluorosis and may experience an increase in the incidence of dental cavities.

Based on the potential health effects that workers may experience because of contamination at this site, ATSDR has determined that the site is a public health hazard. Reynolds' Metals representatives feel that their employees are not being exposed as often as ATSDR estimates.

BACKGROUND

In this public health assessment, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will evaluate the public health significance of contamination at the Reynolds Metals Company site. ATSDR will determine specifically whether health effects are possible and will recommend and implement 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 public health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. SITE DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY

The Reynolds Metals Company facility in Troutdale, Oregon, is a primary aluminum reduction plant. The plant covers 80 acres, and is surrounded by 700 acres which is also owned by the Reynolds Metals Company. The property is bordered by the Columbia River to the north, the Sandy River to the east, the Troutdale airport to the south, and Fairview Farms to the west. The plant was constructed in 1941 by the United States government, and was leased in 1946 and then purchased in 1949 by Reynolds. Although it has not been reducing aluminum ore since 1991 for economic reasons, there are plans to resume full operation. A staff of 100 employees currently works at the site. The site is within the 100-year flood plain but is surrounded by a flood control dike. Company Lake, East Lake, and the north landfill are not contained within this dike.

When the plant was reducing aluminum ore, it produced wastes that contained metals, fluoride, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and cyanide. Potliners, made of carbon and contaminated with PAHs, fluoride, and cyanide, were disposed of in several piles on the site. Much of the aboveground potliner waste has been removed. Cryolite, which is sodium aluminum fluoride, was disposed of into on-site ponds. Contaminated wastes and soils at the ponds have since been removed.

Wastewater produced at the plant was initially disposed of into a wetland area between the plant and the Troutdale airport. The wetlands drain to the west and eventually into the Columbia River. Two lakes, East Lake and Company Lake, are between the plant and the Columbia River. East Lake was formerly part of a stream that included Company Lake. This stream has since been interrupted by a built-up roadway. Wastewater is now discharged into Company Lake, which empties into the Columbia River.

In its early operations, the facility released large quantities of particulates into the air. These particulates were probably composed of PAHs, aluminum, and fluoride. The amount of wastes which were released into the air was greatly reduced in 1950, when better waste control systems were installed. One family who had lived a mile to a mile and a half from the site prior to 1950 won a lawsuit filed against the Reynolds Metals Company for "damage to persons ... from 'excessive amounts' of fluorides [Reynolds v Yturbide]."

Other areas which received wastes during the operation of the plant are a storage and scrap yard in the plant area, and a landfill to the north of Company Lake. Capacitors which are likely to contain PCBs have reportedly been buried on the site. However, after searching with magnetic gradiometry and excavations, no capacitors have been located.

Recently, evidence of on-site PCB contamination was discovered. This information was relayed to ATSDR after the draft of this public health assessment had been completed. Therefore, this issue will not be considered in this document, but will be addressed in a separate document.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Reynolds Metals Company location

Clean-up actions to date include the removal of metallic mercury and mercury-contaminated soils from the scrap yard, removal of wastes and contaminated soils from the cryolite ponds, removal of above ground potliner wastes, and subsequent removal of contaminated soils in the potliner areas. In addition, one production well no longer in operation has been properly abandoned.

The Reynolds site was proposed to the EPA National Priorities (Superfund) list in August 1994 and was finalized on the list in December of the same year.

B. SITE VISIT

Dana Abouelnasr, Ph.D. and Steve Haness, Ph.D. from ATSDR visited the site area on January 18, 1995. They met with representatives from the EPA, the Oregon Division of Health, the City of Troutdale, and the Reynolds Metals Company and their contractors (CH2M Hill). During a tour of the site, they observed that both Company Lake and the north landfill were accessible to boaters and others who park at the Reynolds facility and walk through the area to the Columbia River. Signs at both the lake and the landfill indicated that the area had been contaminated with industrial wastes. An abundance of blackberry bushes were growing in the area north of Company Lake.

C. SUPPORTING INFORMATION

Demographics

The Reynolds Metals Company facility is in a very sparsely populated area. Approximately 300 people live within one mile of the site, most of them on the fringe of the city of Troutdale. Troutdale lies 1.25 miles to the south and has a population of 10,500. Most of the population of Multnomah County is white, with 5% identifying themselves as black and another 4% identifying themselves as "other" [US Bureau of the Census, 1991].

Land Use

The area surrounding the Reynolds Metals Company is primarily rural. A wetland is to the south between the site and the Troutdale airport. Salmon Creek flows adjacent to the wetland to the west, and through Fairview Farms, where it has been used to water beef cattle in the past. A small marina lies to the west on the Columbia River.

Natural Resource Use

Homes and industries in the area obtain their water primarily from the municipal water supply, although several receive water from private wells. Eighteen wells are on the site, five of which are currently used for process and drinking water; two are on standby, and ten are no longer in use. In addition to the eighteen wells on the site, nineteen private wells have been identified within one mile of the site. The city of Portland also operates a well field between 1.5 and 3.5 miles to the west [PRC Environmental Management, 1993].

The Columbia River and the Sandy River are used for recreational boating and swimming and are a source of game and commercial fish.

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