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PETITIONED PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

E.I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS
POMPTON LAKES, PASSAIC COUNTY, NEW JERSEY


SUMMARY

The E. I. Du Pont site is in Pompton Lakes, Passaic County, New Jersey. E. I. Du Pont, Pompton Lakes Works (PLW) is an explosives manufacturing operation that has been in operation since 1886. The site has been owned by Du Pont since 1902. Waste management practices during this time have resulted in significant contamination of surface water, soil and sediment, and groundwater contamination both on and off site. Elevated levels of lead and mercury were found in off-site soils in the Acid Brook flood plain, known as the Acid Brook Area. Private wells downgradient from PLW are contaminated with elevated levels of chlorinated solvents. Residents in the Acid Brook Area have been exposed to elevated levels of heavy metals in soil, and residents downgradient from PLW have been exposed to elevated levels of chlorinated solvents in groundwater. Exposures to contaminants in groundwater ceased in 1985, when two residents who had been using their private wells as their drinking water supply were provided alternative water supplies; however, exposures to heavy metals in soils may continue to occur until remediation of Acid Brook Area soils is complete. Therefore, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) concludes that this site was a past public health hazard, and will remain a public health hazard until off-site remediation is complete.

Exposure to lead- and mercury-contaminated soils in the Acid Brook Area may cause adverse health effects. Findings in the scientific literature indicate that chronic low level exposures to lead in soil have been associated with decreased learning ability in children. In addition, long-term exposures to trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, dichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride found in some private wells have resulted in a low to moderate increased risk for cancer for residents who have used the wells as a drinking water supply in the past. Long-term ingestion of those chlorinated solvents in groundwater may also affect the central nervous system, liver, kidneys, and skin.

Health outcome data were available from the State of New Jersey and from Lenox Elementary School. E.I. Du Pont biomonitoring tests of local residents were also reported, which included analyses of lead and mercury from blood and urine samples. However, the health outcome data currently available are inadequate to evaluate the relationship between environmental contamination and adverse health outcome among community members.

Residents of the Acid Brook Area expressed numerous concerns about the lead and mercury soil contamination in their yards, including cleanup levels and migration of contamination into the school water supply. Residents have also raised several health concerns including learning disabilities, blood diseases, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other unexplained illnesses and deaths. Detailed responses to these concerns appear in the Public Health Implications Section of this public health assessment.

Many public health activities have already taken place under the direction of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy (NJDEPE), the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and E.I. Du Pont. Some of these public health activities have included posting health advisories for the Acid Brook Area, and portions of Wanaque River, and Pompton Lake; providing biomonitoring for community members; community meetings; and relocation during remediation of residential properties. ATSDR recommends maintaining existing health advisories for Acid Brook, Wanaque River, and Pompton Lake until monitoring data indicate that exposures to soils, surface water, and fish are not a public health threat. The Agency also recommends continuing to restrict access to the PLW property and to post the Acid Brook Area until remediation is complete. In addition, ATSDR recommends (1) ensuring that all private wells downgradient from PLW are not being used as a drinking water supply; (2) continuing to monitor groundwater at and downgradient from PLW; and (3) conducting a community health investigation for Acid Brook residents to better evaluate health outcomes.

The ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel concurred with these recommendations, and recommended additional public health actions. Based on their recommendations, the public health assessment and the conclusions, ATSDR will implement the following actions: 1) conduct additional health profession education for local health care providers and Lenox Elementary School Learning Disability Staff as needed, and 2) address other public health issues as needed or if new data becomes available. Also, NJDOH is planning to conduct a community health investigation as recommended by HARP.


BACKGROUND

ATSDR will evaluate the public health significance of on- and off-site contamination, will determine whether health effects are possible, and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, headquartered 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.

A. Site Description and History

Pompton Lakes Works

The 600 acre E.I. Du Pont, Pompton Lake Works (PLW) site, an explosives manufacturing operation, is at the north end of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. The site lies to the south of a rural mountainous area near Wanaque River and north of Pompton Lake. The Acid Brook Area lies to the south of PLW. Acid Brook is a perennial stream running through the center of PLW and then continues south south-east until it empties into Pompton Lake (1). The Acid Brook Area contains Du Pont Village and an additional residential area that borders Acid Brook on the south (2). NJDEPE defined this area for remediation purposes through soil sampling (see Appendix A, Figure 1) (3). The public health assessment will focus on the PLW site and the Acid Brook Area, since environmental contamination has been characterized in both of those areas.

E.I. Du Pont acquired PLW in 1902. PLW had been in operation since 1886. In 1989, Du Pont scaled down operations by 60% (4). During its lengthy history (see the table on the next page) PLW produced black powder, smokeless powder, blasting caps, detonating fuses, mercury fulminate, boosters, primers, rocket igniters, bullets, grenades, and lead azide. Primary substances used on site have been explosives manufactured from salts of lead, mercury, and sodium; organic explosives; metal wire and blasting cap components, and solvents for raw material and product cleaning (3).

Production of those materials generated various wastes. Wastes disposed of on site included lead salts, mercury compounds, explosive powders, chlorinated solvents, waste wire drawing solution, and detonated blasting caps. In 1988, Du Pont identified 119 possible waste disposal areas scattered throughout PLW; however, only 23 were active at the time (3). For a complete history of activities at PLW, see Appendix D (4).

PLW Site Operational Chronology (10)

Operation Chemicals Involved in Process Dates of Operation
mercury fulminate production mercury fulminate powder, ethyl alcohol, nitric acid 1912 - 1950's
lead azide production sodium azide, lead nitrate, lead carbonate sludge, lead azide powder 1930 - present
powder processing waste solvents 1906 - present
boron/red lead delays lead, boron, 1,1,1-TCA, Thiokol, red lead powders, lead tubing 1929 - present
loading operations solvents 1906 - present
shell production animal fat lubricants, solvents, metal scrap 1910 - present
wire production lubricants, spent solvents, scrap iron and copper, scrap wire 1900 - present
cordline production acetone, hydraulic oil late 1970's - present
jet tapper production RDX, pentolite, tetryl, acetone, alcohol late 1940's - present
rivet production solvents, degreaser 1937 - 1970
metal cladding amatol residues, cholorothene, metal waste 1966 - 1973
assembly operations solvents 1906 - present
control laboratory operation powder residues, metal waste, waste solvents unknown - present

On September 15, 1988, Du Pont entered into an Administrative Consent Order with NJDEPE, which required investigation and remediation of all contamination on and emanating from the PLW property (43).

On July 5, 1990, PLW was issued a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit by NJDEPE for five on-site areas, including those used for storing and burning wastes. On August 24, 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered corrective actions at all waste management operations throughout the site under the Hazardous Substance and Waste Amendment (41).

Off site and Acid Brook Area

Environmental investigations began for this area in 1984, when Du Pont reportedly suspected that a plume of contaminated groundwater may have migrated off site. In October 1985, Du Pont sampled private wells of nearby residents and connected two residences to the municipal water system later that same year (4). These two homes were the only two using the private well water for drinking water purposes at that time (43). In May 1990, Du Pont discovered other off-site contamination, primarily heavy metals, in the soil and sediments along Acid Brook and the Wanaque River.

The Acid Brook Area residential history dates from 1920 when the first deeds were issued for property along the southern bank. However, development took place primarily from 1940 to the present. The most recent development took place on the northern end of Acid Brook in 1951 (3).

A health advisory was issued jointly by E.I. Du Pont and the Borough of Pompton Lakes advising against eating fish caught in Acid Brook, the Wanaque River or Pompton Lake, and advising against disturbing the soil along the stream beds (5). In December 1990, 5500 soil samples and stream bank samples, taken in and around Acid Brook, indicated elevated levels of lead and mercury (4). Subsequently, a Remedial Action Work Plan for PLW Acid Brook Cleanup became final in March 1991 (3).

On April 1, 1991, based on health concerns of citizens, NJDOH petitioned ATSDR for a health assessment of the Acid Brook Area (6). Also, upon request of the NJDOH, ATSDR issued two health consultations. The first was to evaluate the threat to public health posed by off-site soil and sediment contamination in the Borough of Pompton Lake, and the second was to review the work plan for remediation of the off-site contamination (2, 41). Also, after a request from the NJDOH, ATSDR recommended that some residents temporarily move during clean up of Acid Brook and that criteria be developed to determine who should move and when. Du Pont offered and provided relocation to all residents. On June 4, 1991, following a visit to the Acid Brook site, ATSDR accepted NJDOH's request for a public health assessment of the Acid Brook Area.

B. Site Visits

From April 6 - 10, 1992, ATSDR environmental health scientist, Ms. Lynelle Neufer, and Region II Representative, Mr. Arthur Block, visited the site. They toured the Acid Brook area on April 8, 1992. A Du Pont representative and the county health officer accompanied ATSDR personnel on the site visit.

Acid Brook flows through various yards in a residential area of Pompton Lakes. At some points, the brook is lined by cement block walls about four feet high. These walls are in various stages of disrepair. The following observations were made:

  • Warning signs were posted at intervals along the brook and Pompton Lake that read: CAUTION DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN TO PLAY IN THIS AREA in both English and Spanish. The visitors did not see any "no fishing" signs.


  • Evidence of children playing was noted at several locations along Acid Brook. Evidence included toys, a shovel, a ball, and a broken bicycle found in the brook. Bike tracks, food wrappers, and soda cans were noted in the sediment around the banks of the brook. During the site visit, residents with whom ATSDR staff members spoke also reported seeing children playing in the brook despite warnings. One resident found children building a dam in the brook out of rocks found in the nearby sediments. She instructed them not to play there and told them to go home and take showers.


  • The Lakeside School is next to the delta of Acid Brook to Pompton Lake. Signs, in both English and Spanish, are posted warning children not to play in the water or around sediments. Access is not restricted.


  • ATSDR staff members observed a man fishing on Pompton Lake. He communicated that he fishes for carp for personal consumption; however, he spoke very little English and no Spanish. He was unaware of the fish advisory.


  • Residences closest to PLW were older, middle-income homes. Some yards had relatively poor vegetative cover. Yards next to the site were fenced; however, access to the site was available through open gates and broken fences.


  • Some residences had already had contaminated soil removed and their yards and landscaping completed. Others were in the soil removal process. Access to these homes was restricted with 24-hour security to prevent theft. Windows were sealed with plastic and tape. Yards were restricted by bright orange snow fencing, signs, and cones.


  • Throughout the representatives' tour of Acid Brook, young children were observed playing in yards and in the street.


  • A couple of small industries were observed along Acid Brook, including a film developer. Incidents of chemical spills in the brook were reported by residents during the site visit. These spills were accompanied by pungent odors. The residents suspected that the spilled 55-gallon drums on the film developer property may have been the source.

The following observations were made at the PLW site:

  • The entrance area to PLW was being remediated extensively. The site abuts the back yards of about ten residences. Access was restricted by six-foot chain link fences, orange snow fences, and signs. The Du Pont representative reported that the contamination has been removed and that the area is being landscaped and restored.


  • Access to the site, although restricted by six-foot chain link barbed wire fences and no trespassing signs, is still easy through open gates and breaks in the fence. Guards at the gate checked all visitors. The Du Pont plant manager reported that trespassing is rare to nonexistent, and gates and fences are monitored 24 hours by security guards.

C. Demographics, Land Use and Natural Resource Use

In order to evaluate potential health effects associated with exposure to hazardous substances in the environment, ATSDR obtains information on the population in the vicinity of the site ("demographics"), the types of land use near the site, and natural resource use in the area.

Population information is needed because some types of illnesses and diseases are more common in certain age groups such as the elderly or children, in certain ethnic groups, or in groups of people with low income. In addition, some groups may be more sensitive to the presence of hazardous substances in the environment. Information on education levels provides ATSDR some guidance on what types of health communication programs may be useful near the site in the future. Land use information is important because sensitive groups of people, such as schoolchildren or residents of health care facilities, may be located near the site. Use of some natural resources, such as groundwater, may have an effect on the potential for human exposure to hazardous substances.

Demographics

According to 1990 United States Census data, 10,539 people reside in Pompton Lakes, a community in northwest Passaic County (29). The community is predominantly white (97.2%) with a relatively even distribution of ages (23.2% of residents under the age of 18, and 14% above 65) (29). Census tract 1964 encompasses Pompton Lake. Block groups 2, 3, and 9 are those census block groups that surround Acid Brook (see Figure 3 in Appendix A). A total of 3013 persons reside within these three block groups. Demographic age data for block groups 2, 3, and 9 appear in the table below.

A survey of homes in the Acid Brook area was given to ATSDR by Du Pont. Du Pont reports that they either spoke in person or over the phone with every family in compiling these data (44). The Acid Brook Area is smaller than the block group area and is contained within it (see Figures 1 and 2 in Appendix A). A total of 418 people reside in the Acid Brook Area. For an age breakdown, see the table below.

Summary Demographic Data for the Acid Brook Area

Age Number of persons
Census Block Groups 2,3, and 9 Survey of Acid Brook Area
under 1 37 10
1 - 6 199 45
7 - 11 152 32
12 up 2625 331

Pompton Lakes is primarily a middle-income community. The median value of homes is about $160,000 in census blocks 2,3, and 9, according to 1990 US Census Data (29).

Land Use

The Acid Brook Area and the surrounding neighborhood are primarily residential areas, concentrated south and southeast of Acid Brook, (see Figure 2 in Appendix A for the definition of the Acid Brook Area). A few residences are located within a mile north of Acid Brook and PLW in a narrow valley. There are approximately 1000 homes within a mile of Acid Brook (1). There are currently 137 properties, both residential and commercial, within the Acid Brook Area.

A mix of commercial businesses and homes is centralized 1000 - 2000 feet southwest and west of the southern end of Acid Brook (see Figure 1 in Appendix A) (1). Twelve businesses lie within the Acid Brook Area on Cannonball Road (8).

PLW is the main industry in Pompton Lakes, located directly north and next to the Acid Brook Area on Cannonball Road. PLW occupies 600 acres in two valleys between Pompton Lake (to the east) and two mountainous ridges (to the west and north). PLW contains approximately 100 buildings on site (see Figure 1 in Appendix A) (1).

Four domestic gardens were tested within the Acid Brook Area. These gardens consisted of carrots, tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, eggplants, and cabbages (9). Residents report that there were many more gardens present in the area.

Schools are located 1000, 1500, and 2000 feet southeast of the southern end of Acid Brook (1). An elementary school is situated 450 feet from where Acid Brook empties into Pompton Lake (2). The closest hospital is three and a half miles away in Pompton Plains (1), (See figure 1 in Appendix A).

Natural Resources

Pompton Lakes residents receive their water supply from three municipal groundwater wells. The closest is half a mile southwest of PLW near the southern border of Twin Lake; the other two are located three quarters of a mile and a mile and a half south and southwest of Acid Brook respectively (1,10).

Twenty-six private wells were identified south of PLW and sampling began in 1985. Two residences with contaminated wells were connected to the municipal water supply in 1985, and by 1989, all private wells identified in the Pompton Lakes community, whether contaminated or not, were connected to the municipal water supply (10,4).

There are four main surface water bodies in Pompton Lake: Acid Brook, Wanaque River, Pequannok River, and Pompton Lake. First, Acid Brook is a very shallow stream originating in a mountainous ridge north of PLW, flowing south through residential areas, and discharging into Pompton Lake. Acid Brook flows year around and flows through the center of the PLW property (1,9).

Second, Wanaque River is a shallow stream flowing in a southerly direction through the center of Pompton Lakes, parallel to Acid Brook. Wanaque River originates from the large Wanaque Reservoir 2.5 miles due north of Pompton Lake. Wanaque River empties into the Pequannok River at the Riverdale-Pompton Lakes municipal boundary. Wanaque River lies 500 feet east of the current PLW property and through Du Pont property (10,1). The river used to be dammed to form Lake Inez (as pictured in Figure 1 in Appendix A); however, the dam was removed in 1984. PLW plant storage facilities were located along the banks of the former Lake Inez, and reportedly foundations from past PLW operations are still evident (10).

Third, the Pequannok River originates from the Charlotteburg and Oak Ridge Reservoirs west of Pompton Lakes, and flows down the western border of Pompton Lakes through a residential neighborhood (1,9). The Pequannok River is similar in size to the Wanaque River, and is a mile and a half south west of PLW (1).

Finally, Pompton Lake is a small urban lake formed by a dam on the Ramapo River (9). It is approximately two miles long and a half mile wide. Residential areas of the Pompton Lake community border the lake on the west, while rural mountainous areas make up the eastern and southern borders. The lake lies 2000 feet southeast of PLW, with residential areas in between. Acid Brook empties into the western end of the lake at the lakes widest point (1), (see Figure 1 in Appendix A for location of these four water bodies and their relation to the site and the Acid Brook Area).

Currently, health advisories are in effect for Acid Brook, Wanaque River, and Pompton Lake (5). The health advisories were issued jointly by Du Pont and the Borough of Pompton Lakes in 1990. Specifically, these precautionary measures were suggested to the citizens of Pompton Lake:

- Avoid direct contact with soil.
- If contact with soil is unavoidable, wash dirt off as soon as possible.
- Encourage children to play in other areas.
- Do not garden in the area near Acid Brook or the Wanaque River.
- Do not eat fish from Acid Brook, Wanaque River, or Pompton Lake.
- Do not disturb soil adjacent to Acid Brook or Wanaque River.

The extent of community compliance with the health advisory is unknown. During a previous site visit, ATSDR personnel observed children playing and wading in Acid Brook (4). On the most recent site visit, further evidence of noncompliance with warnings was noted, (see the Site Visit section).

D. Health Outcome Data

Government agencies routinely collect information on the health of the population within their areas of jurisdiction. The federal government collects general health information on the entire nation. Many state health departments have developed registries of illnesses and diseases. Some county and local health departments also routinely collect health information. Concerned citizens and citizen action groups may also collect health information in areas of interest. This section identifies the available databases. The Public Health Implications Section evaluates the relevance of these databases to this public health assessment. The following is a list of available databases.

Sources of state and local data for health outcome information include:

  1. The NJDOH Cancer Registry
  2. Vital Statistics Records
  3. Birth Defects Registry
  4. Renal Dialysis Network
  5. Hospital Discharge Reports

Of relevance to this public health assessment is the New Jersey State Cancer Registry, the Birth Defects Registry, hospital discharge reports, and the Vital Statistics Records.

  • The NJDOH Cancer Registry is a population-based incidence registry that includes cancer cases among New Jersey residents diagnosed since October 1, 1978. New Jersey Regulation (N.J.A.C. 8:57-6) requires the reporting of all newly-diagnosed cancer cases (incidence) to the registry within three months of hospital discharge or six months of diagnosis. The basic source of information is the patient's medical records. Demographic data and medical data are abstracted from those records and do not include information on modes of treatment or on survival. The only follow-up information included is the date of death.

Cancer might be possible from long-term exposure to at least one site contaminant. Please refer to the Toxicological Implications subsection of the Public Health Implications section for more information on cancer. Cancer incidence for the E.I. Du Pont site has been requested from the cancer registry and is not available for review and evaluation at the time of the writing of this public health assessment. Data will be reviewed and incorporated into the public health assessment as soon as they become available.

  • To address community concerns regarding exposure to environmental lead and mercury, Du Pont funded health screening activities for residents in the Acid Brook area. The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) was subcontracted by Du Pont to provide medical services and counseling to individuals who live on or near a property with elevated levels of lead and mercury in the soil, and guidance to private physicians. The screening consisted of laboratory testing of blood and urine for lead and mercury exposure. Biological investigation included tests for measuring blood and urinary lead, blood and urinary mercury, erythrocyte protoporphyrin, and urinary creatinine. Results of the biological investigations were provided to ATSDR in February 1992, and will be discussed in the health outcome evaluation section.


  • Learning disability records are maintained by local schools until a student has been out of the school system for two years; then, these records are either forwarded to the student's family or destroyed. The principal of Lenox Elementary school reported the percentage of children with learning disabilities in his school. District and federal data on learning disabilities were used for comparison (37).


  • The Birth Defects Registry established in 1985 is a population-based surveillance registry maintained by the Special Child Health Services Program at the NJDOH. Any infant who is born to a resident of the State of New Jersey, or who becomes a resident of the state before one year of age, and who shows evidence of a birth defect either at birth or any time during the first year of life is reported to the State Department of Health, Special Child Health Services Program. For reporting purposes, Congenital Anomalies (Diagnostic Codes 740.00 through 759.90) in the most recent revision of the International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification, and other congenital defects specified by the Commissioner of Health constitute reportable defects.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

ATSDR believes identifying and addressing community health concerns relevant to this site is critically important to the public health assessment. Community concerns were communicated during the several community meetings attended by ATSDR, through phone contact and letters, and informally during site visits. This section identifies community health concerns regarding possible health effects of this site. The Public Health Implications Section will address these concerns.

Residents and officials raised the following health-related concerns:

  1. Citizens of Pompton Lake are concerned about the availability of physicians for monitoring lead and mercury exposures during remediation of Acid Brook area yards.


  2. Citizens perceive an excess of unexplained illnesses among community members.


  3. Citizens worry that their children are not doing well in school and want their children's elementary school health unit educated for signs of learning disabilities.


  4. Citizens are concerned about lead contamination of the school water supply. They want the school water tested for lead.


  5. Citizens are concerned about exposure to mercury-contaminated soils. They want clean-up levels for mercury to be lower, more surface samples to be taken, and more biomonitoring to be done.


  6. NJDOH relayed concerns from residents about the effect that exposure to site contaminants might have on residents' health. Residents are specifically concerned about:


    1. the current health status of all of the residents in the affected area;


    2. lead and mercury levels of residents and assuring treatment where appropriate, and


    3. illnesses or deaths that may have resulted from chronic exposures to environmental contamination (13).


  7. Former Mayor John Sinsimer of Pompton Lakes wanted to know if an increase has occurred in multiple sclerosis, learning disabilities, and in such blood diseases as anemia, because of exposure to chemicals at the site.


  8. Several residents expressed concern regarding increased rates of some kinds of cancer (breast, interstitial, brain) and learning problems (12).

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