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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

FEDERAL CREOSOTE
MANVILLE, SOMERSET COUNTY, NEW JERSEY


SUMMARY

The Federal Creosote site is a 53-acre site which includes a 15-acre shopping/commercial area and a35-acre housing development. These two areas were built over a former wood treatment facility inwhich railroad ties were treated with coal tar creosote from approximately 1910 to 1956. Afteroperations ceased, two lagoons and two canals containing used coal tar creosote were covered withfill, the site was graded, and the area developed for commercial and residential purposes. Theresidential portion, built in the mid-1960s, is known as the Claremont Development.

Contaminants consistent with the components of creosote were first discovered in a residential sumppump in 1996. Investigations by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection(NJDEP), and later the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), found polycyclicaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in surface and subsurface soils from residential properties within theClaremont Development. The source of these compounds is suspected to be the former canals andlagoons, which still contain a concentrated creosote sludge, and underlie or abut several residences.

The USEPA has conducted surface and subsurface soil sampling, indoor air monitoring, lagoon andcanal delineation, and installed monitoring wells. In July 1998, approximately 16 homes with thehighest levels of PAHs in surface soil were temporarily remediated (i.e., ground cover was put inplace to eliminate exposure to contaminated soils). Residents of at least 17 homes are expected to bepermanently relocated in order to remove canal and lagoon material. Other residents may also betemporarily relocated at a later time to remove other areas of canal and lagoon material, andcreosote-contaminated soils.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has performed several healthconsultations on the site which indicate that long term exposure to contaminants found in surfacesoil are not likely to result in health effects. However, sub-surface soils contain higher levels ofPAHs, and residents should avoid activities that may result in contact with sub-surface soil. Exposures to creosote and its constituents in soil can occur through dermal exposure, and throughinhalation and ingestion of soil-borne contaminants. Exposure is unlikely to occur through ingestionof vegetables grown at the residences.

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) and the ATSDR concludethat exposure to surface soil represents no apparent public health hazard. Although levels of coal tarcreosote constituents found in surface soil do not pose a public health hazard for routine land useand outdoor activities, any activities that would disturb deeper soil as near as 2 feet below groundlevel could result in exposures that may pose a health risk. The NJDHSS and ATSDR concur withthe USEPA's plan to relocate residents to remediate the site. The NJDHSS and the ATSDRrecommend that, as source material and sub-surface soil is removed or otherwise remediated,precautions should be taken to ensure that contaminants do not migrate to non-contaminatedproperties. The NJDHSS and ATSDR will further evaluate public health risks from exposures togroundwater as data becomes available.

The ATSDR has provided consultation to the USEPA and to area residents on health issues relatingto the site. The ATSDR and the NJDHSS will continue to evaluate environmental data in thecontext of public health concerns, and ensure that residents and health care providers are keptinformed of these issues.


PURPOSE AND HEALTH ISSUES

This Public Health Assessment evaluates actual and potential human exposures to contaminantsmeasured on the residential portion of the Federal Creosote site. It also serves to documentcommunity health concerns relating to the site. In addition, this Public Health Assessment is beingconducted because the Federal Creosote site was proposed to USEPA's National Priorities List in July 1998. The USEPA subsequently finalized the site on the NPL in January 1999.

Housing was built over buried canals and lagoons containing coal tar creosote, which can result inresidents being exposed to creosote and its constituent components. Coal tar creosote is a mixture ofhundreds of individual components, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) andvolatile organic compounds (VOCs). These contaminants have been detected in surface andsubsurface soils.

Creosote exposure can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or dermal contact with soil. It may alsooccur through inhalation of volatile PAHs in indoor air, or through ingestion of vegetables grown incontaminated soil. Because this is a residential site, it is reasonable to expect that people may comein contact with contaminants. Health effects of exposure are more fully described below under"Discussion."


BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

Figure 1. Federal Creosote (FC) site occupies 53 acres in a residential/commercial area in Manville, Somerset County, NJThe Federal Creosote (FC) site occupies 53 acres in a residential/commercial area in Manville, Somerset County, NJ (see Figure 1). Between 1910 and 1956 the Federal Creosoting Company operated a wood treatment plant on the site. Specifically, railroad ties and telephone poles were treated with coal tar creosote, which acts as a wood preservative and water-proofing agent. These activities generated process waste, including creosote-contaminated sludges, sediments, process residuals, preservative drippings, and spent process liquids. Area soil was also contaminated. Two canals and two buried lagoons were used to transport and hold, respectively, spent creosote during operations.

Sometime after the plant ceased operations, the site was sold toa developer. Fill material was used to cover the canals and lagoon areas, although the original coal tar creosote andassociated wastes were not removed. In the early 1960s, aparcel of approximately 15 acres of the site was developed as ashopping mall and commercial area. In the mid-1960s, 137houses were built on another 35 acres of the site. Thisdevelopment is known as the Claremont Development. TheFederal Creosote site is roughly triangular in shape. It isbordered on the west by the borough's Main Street and on thenorth and east by railroad tracks (see Figure 2).

In April 1996, the New Jersey Department of EnvironmentalProtection (NJDEP) was notified that a sump pump located in aresidence in the Claremont Development was discharging an unknown liquid with a strong chemicalodor. The NJDEP reported the presence of a thick, dark brown, tar or oil-like substance flowingfrom the sump pump. The substance was found to be petroleum based, ignitable, and soluble inalcohol. The following January, excavation of a sinkhole which had formed around a storm sewerpipe in the development revealed a black tar-like substance in the soil. Analysis of this materialindicated that it contained contaminants consistent with the composition of creosote.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) conducted subsurface and surface soilsampling in October 1997 and February 1998, and found polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)at 37 residences. PAHs are the largest group of compounds found in coal tar creosote. The USEPAdetermined that levels of PAHs at 19 of the properties posed an unacceptable long-term health risk. In July 1998, the USEPA placed sod, mulch, or other ground cover at these 19 residences over anyexisting areas of bare soil to act as a barrier to direct contact with soil.

The former lagoons and canals continue to be a source of contamination. The USEPA estimates thatthe lagoons and canals contain approximately 43,900 cubic yards of source material. It alsoestimates that there is approximately 78,900 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has prepared several Health Consultations at the request of the USEPA and residents. These are summarized below:


Date of Health
Consultation
Issues of Concern

Conclusions and
Recommendation

May 1, 1997 ATSDR was asked to evaluate the public health implications of exposure to creosote and its constituents (PAHs, VOCs) at the levels found on site during the USEPA's preliminary site investigation.

The Health Consultation describes the general effects of exposure to coal tar creosote and the most likely route of exposure in a residential setting. It concluded the following:
•     PAHs detected in subsurface soils pose a threat to residents if the material is unearthed;
•     creosote entering one residence through the sump pump may pose a skin contact hazard.
The consultation recommended further site characterization through additional surface soil (0 to 3 inches depth) sampling. It also recommended that the presence of private potable wells be determined.

May 15, 1997 ATSDR was asked to provide action levels for indoor air contaminants relative to the site. ATSDR provided health-based guidelines for benzene and naphthalene, suggesting levels at which action would need to be taken. Three levels were provided: evacuation (immediately hazardous and unsafe for habitation), short-term (less than 14 days), and long-term (more than 1 year) exposures. Benzene and naphthalene were chosen as the basis for developing health-based guidelines because they are components of coal tar creosote, and because of their toxicity and volatility.
January 16, 1998 The USEPA conducted surface soil sampling, as recommended in the 5/1/97 health consultation, and requested an evaluation of the data.

Several residences had elevated levels of PAHs in surface soil. Using a worst-case scenario, ATSDR concluded that the PAHs in surface soil did not present an acute health threat, but did present a potential long-term health threat on some properties. It recommended the following:
•     additional sampling be conducted (the data used for this consultation was from only one sample per yard, and might not represent the true extent of contamination)
•     residents should be advised not to dig into areas of creosote contamination.

April 24, 1998 A resident requested information about the safety of eating home grown vegetables.

Based upon assumptions regarding the uptake of contaminants from soil into plants, and the amount of home-grown vegetables typically consumed, ATSDR concluded that:
•     there is a potential for toxicologically relevant levels of PAHs to adhere to or be taken up by the edible portions of vegetables grown on the site,
•     the consumption of these vegetables may add to the risks already present from exposure to PAHs in soil.
Because these conclusions were based on studies in other places and not on actual testing of produce at this site, ATSDR recommended that future sampling include areas where residents have vegetable gardens.

February 11, 1999 This consultation evaluated additional surface soil sampling results recommended in the 1/16/98 health consultation.

Approximately 10 to 12 surface soil samples were collected at each of 133 properties in the development. PAHs, lead and arsenic detected in surface soil were found at concentrations below those associated with acute or chronic health effects. ATSDR concluded that PAHs, lead and arsenic found in surface soil at this site do not pose a public health hazard.

In October 1998, several residents also spoke with an ATSDR medical officer regarding specific health concerns, including cancer risk and long-term health effects.

The USEPA and the NJDEP conducted indoor air monitoring at 126 residential and commercialproperties in the Claremont Development in 1997. Although several residences exhibited low levelsof volatile organic compounds, including naphthalene, these contaminants were determined to be aresult of storage and use of household products, and were not volatilizing from the site.

The USEPA has been and continues to monitor the municipal water supply for migration of sitecontaminants. There is no evidence that the plume has spread to the municipal wells; however,groundwater from monitoring wells is contaminated with components of creosote. The USEPA haslargely delineated the extent of subsurface soil contamination and defined the boundaries of theformer canals and lagoons. The USEPA has installed additional groundwater monitoring wells, andwill be sampling sediments from the Millstone and Raritan Rivers. The USEPA is also working withresidents to develop a schedule to remediate properties that is both acceptable to the community andprotective of public health.

B. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resources

The Federal Creosote site is in a residential and commercial area of the Borough of Manville inSomerset County. Population data from 1990 indicate that there are 10,567 residents occupying4,119 households in the Borough of Manville. The Claremont Development has 137 households, withan estimated population of approximately 350 persons.

Figure 2. ManvilleTwo municipal wells are located approximately 1/4 mile northeast from the site. These wells serve asa potable water source for both the immediate community and the surrounding area. The remainder ofthe community's water supply is from the Elizabethtown Water Company, which draws from wellsnear the confluence of the Millstone and the Raritan Rivers.

The area surrounding the site is used for a variety of purposes, including commercial and retail usesalong Main Street, and other residential areas to the southeast across railroad tracks. The formerJohns Manville asbestos product manufacturing facilityoccupied the area immediately north of the northernrailroad line. There are no surface water featureswithin the Claremont development other than stormdrains. The Millstone River is located approximately1/4 mile south east of the site, and the Raritan River isapproximately ½ mile to the north.

C. Site Visit

Representatives of the NJDHSS (S. Kubiak) and theATSDR (T. Mignone) conducted a site visit on April20, 1999. The site is a residential area of 137 single-family homes. The Norfolk Southern Railroad tracksare adjacent to approximately 16 backyards on thenorthwest side of Valerie Drive and three properties onEast Camplain Road. CSX Railroad tracks lie along22 properties on East Camplain Road, and severalproperties on N. Park St. and N. Bank Street.

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