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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

GRAND STREET MERCURY SITE
HOBOKEN, HUDSON COUNTY, NEW JERSEY


SUMMARY

This Public Health Assessment serves to evaluate the public health issues associated with the GrandStreet Mercury Site (GSMS), which has recently been proposed for addition to the National PriorityList (NPL). NPL or "Superfund" Sites represent those hazardous waste sites which are associatedwith significant public health concern in terms of the nature and magnitude of contamination present,and the potential to adversely impact the health of populations in their vicinity.

The human exposure pathways associated with known contaminated environmental media within orassociated with the GSMS have been evaluated and actions have been taken and/or planned that areconsistent with the protection of the public health. At the GSMS, the known contaminated mediainclude: soil; indoor air; and building.

The Grand Street Mercury Site (GSMS) is located at 720 and 722-732 Grand Street, Hoboken,Hudson County, New Jersey. The Site consists of a former industrial building converted into 16residential/studio spaces (722-732 Grand Street), one townhouse previously used as office space (720Grand Street), and a parking lot.

During renovation of a fifth floor unit in January 1995, puddles of mercury were observed in thesubfloor. The Grand Street Artists Partnership (GSAP) hired an environmental company to conduct air monitoring of the building for mercury contamination. Based upon the results of air monitoring,the company recommended remediation of mercury contamination in the building. From Marchthrough October 1995, the GSAP initiated measures to clean up the mercury contamination foundon the fifth floor. In September 1995, a representative of the Hudson Regional Health Commission(HRHC) visited the site and observed the mercury contamination and on-going remediation on thefifth floor of the building.

On November 2, 1995, a resident reported mercury contamination on the fourth floor of the buildingto the Hoboken Board of Health (HBH). On November 8, air monitoring for mercury was performedin two units located on the fourth floor. Mercury was detected in air at levels exceeding USEPAstandards for mercury. On December 22, 1995, representatives of the Hudson Regional HealthCommission (HRHC) and the HBH requested the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR) and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) to assist inevaluating the public health impact of mercury contamination in a condominium building located at722 Grand Street in Hoboken, New Jersey. A site visit was conducted by representatives from theNJDHSS. During the site visit, air monitoring was conducted using a real time mercury vapormonitoring instrument.

On December 27, 1995, personnel from the HBH and HRHC collected urine samples from 31 people. Samples were analyzed for total mercury, specific gravity, and creatinine by the NJDHSS laboratory. Mercury concentrations in the samples ranged from 3-102 µg/L, and 20 of 29 samples from residents(69%) had mercury concentrations equal to or greater than 20 µg/L. Mercury levels in urine samplesfrom six children ranged from 7.0-67.3 µg/L; five of these samples contained mercury above 20µg/L.

On December 29, the HBH, HRHC, and the NJDHSS/ATSDR met with residents to provide themwith results of the urine tests and to assist them in interpreting the urine and air mercury results.Based on the levels of contaminants observed, residents were urged to relocate as soon as possible. The ATSDR/NJDHSS completed a Health Consultation for the GSMS on January 3, 1996. The HBHissued an order which resulted in evacuation of the building and relocation of the residents byUSEPA. All residents had vacated the building by January 11, 1996.

On January 22, 1996, ATSDR issued a Public Health Advisory proclaiming an imminent public healthhazard posed to residents of 722 Grand Street from past, current, and potential future exposures viainhalation, direct dermal contact and possible ingestion of metallic (elemental) mercury and mercuryvapor. ATSDR recommended that the following actions should be taken: 1) Dissociate the public assoon as possible from mercury exposure in the 722 Grand Street building; 2) Ensure that residents'belongings would be free of mercury contamination before they were to be removed from thebuilding; such possessions could have continued to expose residents of 722 Grand Street,contaminate other areas, and expose other members of the public.

On March 21, 1996, the USEPA approved an Action Memorandum to conduct an emergencyremoval action at the GSMS in Hoboken, New Jersey. On December 23, 1996, USEPA proposedthe Grand Street Mercury Site (GSMS) for inclusion on its National Priorities List (NPL). In April1997, USEPA completed a Baseline Risk Assessment for the GSMS. USEPA completed a FocussedFeasibility Study in July 1997, that analyzed remedial alternatives for the GSMS. On September 30,1997, USEPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD). The major components of the selected remedyinclude: 1) permanent relocation of the former residents of the GSMS; 2) continuation of temporaryrelocation of the former residents until permanent relocation has been implemented.

Access to all buildings on the GSMS has been secured by USEPA and remediation is on-going. TheATSDR and the NJDHSS consider the GSMS to have represented a public health hazard in the past.Based upon the site data, adults and children were likely exposed to mercury in the building at levelsof public health concern. Subsequent to interim remedial measures conducted by the USEPA andrelocation of residents, the site is evaluated by the ATSDR and the NJDHSS to present no apparentpublic health hazard, as currently the exposure pathway has been interrupted. The remedial activitiesspecified in the USEPA's work plan, when implemented and completed, are sufficient to addressremaining concerns of the ATSDR and the NJDHSS regarding the GSMS and are consistent with protection of the public health.


BACKGROUND

The ATSDR and the NJDHSS have completed several health consultations for the GSMS between1995 and 1996. This public health assessment will evaluate and summarize the activities undertakenand or planned by the ATSDR and the NJDHSS.

A. Site Description And History

Figure 1. The Grand Street Mercury SiteThe Grand Street Mercury Site (GSMS) is located at 720 and 722-732 Grand Street, Hoboken,Hudson County, New Jersey (see inset). The Site consistsof a former industrial building converted into 16residential/studio spaces (722-732 Grand Street), onetownhouse previously used as office space (720 GrandStreet), and a parking lot. The building is approximately100 feet by 175 feet, five stories high and hasapproximately 55,000 square feet of interior floor space.The townhouse has approximately 4,000 square feet ofinterior floor space.

The Site was the location of various manufacturing andindustrial businesses prior to 1993. Previous owners of theproperty have included the General Electric Vapor LampCompany (1911 to 1939), the General Electric Company(1939 to 1948), the Cooper-Hewitt Electric Company(1910 to 1911 and 1948 to 1955, tenant from 1955 to1965), and the Quality Tool and Die Company (1955 to1979).

The Cooper-Hewitt and General Electric Companymanufactured mercury vapor lamps at the Site. Mercuryassociated with the manufacture of the vapor lamps ispresumed to have been the primary source of mercurycontamination throughout the building. Lamps of this typewere produced at the site from 1910 to 1965.

The Quality Tool and Die Company manufactured precision tools at the Site. In 1990, the owner ofQuality Tool and Die Company filed for a cessation of operations under the New JerseyEnvironmental Cleanup and Responsibility Act (ECRA) statute. The remediation included removalof an underground storage tank and surrounding soil which contained petroleum hydrocarbons andcovering the parking lot with an asphalt cap. The property was sold to the Grand Street ArtistsPartnership (GSAP). The GSAP divided the building into 16 units and sold the units to individualpartners. Residents moved into newly renovated apartments and artist studios in mid- to late- 1994.During renovation of a fifth floor unit in January 1995, puddles of mercury were observed in thesubfloor. The GSAP hired an environmental company to conduct air monitoring of the building formercury contamination. Based upon the results of air monitoring, the company recommended remediation of mercury contamination in the building. From March through October 1995, the GSAPinitiated measures to clean up the mercury contamination found on the fifth floor.

In September 1995, the Hudson Regional Health Commission (HRHC) inspected the site to observemercury remediation activities. On November 2, 1995, a resident on the fourth floor reported mercurycontamination. On November 8, air monitoring for mercury was performed by GSAP's environmentalcontractor in two units located on the fourth floor. Mercury was detected in air at levels exceedingUSEPA standards for mercury.

In November and December 1995, urine samples were taken from five residents by their privatephysicians. Results from three of the tests were provided to ATSDR on December 15 for review.Two of these samples had elevated mercury concentrations (36 µg/L and 65 µg/L) that exceed thosefound in unexposed populations (<20 µg/L). Both of these elevated samples were from young children.

In November 1995, the Hoboken Board of Health (HBH) was notified by one of the residents thata mercury contamination problem existed and the HBH's assistance was requested. On December 22,1995, representatives of the HRHC and the HBH requested the Agency for Toxic Substances andDisease Registry (ATSDR) and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS)to assist in evaluating the public health impact of mercury contamination in the condominium building.A site visit was conducted by representatives from NJDHSS. During the site visit, air monitoring wasconducted using a real time mercury vapor monitoring instrument.

On December 27, 1995, personnel from the HBH and HRHC collected urine samples from 31 people; 29 samples were from individuals who lived in the building, and 2 samples were obtained from owners of one unit who had worked in their unit but had never lived there. Samples were analyzed for totalmercury, specific gravity, and creatinine by the NJDHSS laboratory. Mercury concentrations in thesamples ranged from 3-102 µg/L, and 20 of 29 samples from residents (69%) had mercuryconcentrations equal to or greater than 20 µg/L. Mercury levels in urine samples from six childrenranged from 7.0-67.3 µg/L; five of these samples contained mercury above 20 µg/L. On December27, 1995, USEPA surveyed 15 units, the attached townhouse, and hallways on each floor. Airconcentrations of mercury were measured at several locations in each unit at heights of six inches andfive feet above the floor.

The HBH issued an order which resulted in the evacuation and relocation of the building's residentsby the USEPA. All residents had vacated the building by January 11, 1996.

On March 21, 1996, the USEPA approved an Action Memorandum to conduct an emergencyremoval action at the GSMS in Hoboken, New Jersey. On December 23, 1996, USEPA proposedthe Grand Street Mercury Site (GSMS) for inclusion on its National Priorities List (NPL). Inaddition, in April 1997, USEPA completed a Baseline Risk Assessment for the GSMS. USEPAcompleted a Focussed Feasibility Study in July 1997, that analyzed remedial alternatives for theGSMS. On September 30, 1997, USEPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD). The major componentsof the selected remedy include: 1) permanent relocation of the former residents of the GSMS; 2)continuation of temporary relocation of the former residents until permanent relocation has beenimplemented; 3) historic preservation mitigation measures for the building at the Site, as appropriate; 4) gross mercury decontamination of the buildings at the Site including recovery of available mercury,whenever possible; 5) abatement of friable asbestos in all buildings at the Site; 6) removal andrecovery of reusable fixtures and recyclable scrap metal and other building components;7) demolitionof the two buildings at the Site using measures to minimize releases of mercury into the environment; 8) removal and off-site disposal of all demolition debris; 9) sampling of soils at the Site; 10)excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated soils; 11) sampling of soils at off-site adjacentlocations; 12) sampling of groundwater at the Site; and, 13) assessment of off-site soil andgroundwater data to evaluate future remedial action.

Previous ATSDR/NJDHSS Activity:

    Health Consultation by ATSDR/NJDHSS:

The ATSDR and the NJDHSS completed a Health Consultation for the GSMS on January 3, 1996 (please refer to Appendix 3).

The following conclusions were made in the Health Consultation: " 1) Based on the results of indoorair mercury surveys, urine mercury analyses, and the presence of pools of elemental mercury in thefloors, ATSDR and NJDHSS conclude that the building at 722 Grand Street poses an imminentpublic health hazard; 2) Visible mercury contamination has been detected under the fifth floor of thebuilding. Testing of the air space above cracks and holes in floors and walls of lower units indicatesthat mercury contamination may have migrated further throughout the building; 3) Mercury has beendetected in indoor air samples at concentrations that exceed a level of public health concern; 4)Elevated concentrations of mercury have been detected in urine samples from residents. The urinarymercury concentrations in 20 of 29 residents exceeded the range (0-20 µg/L) for an unexposed adultpopulation. The elevated concentrations of mercury detected in the residents may be associated withsubtle neurological changes." In summary, the ATSDR/NJDHSS categorized the GSMS in 1996 asan imminent public health hazard because of the risk to human health resulting from exposure tomercury at concentrations that may result in adverse health effects. Recommendations were made toconduct the following activities: " 1) ATSDR and NJDHSS recommend that the residents be disassociated from further residential exposure to mercury; 2) Federal, State, and local health andenvironmental agencies should assist the residents in complying with the HBH and HRHCrecommendation to relocate residents of the building in a safe and orderly manner; 3) Current andformer residents who have not yet had their urine mercury level tested should do so in order to assesstheir degree of exposure."

In addition to the 1996 Health Consultation, on January 27, 1996, ATSDR at the request of EPA, evaluated the level of mercury in indoor air for occupational use of the building. ATSDRrecommended 0.025 mg per cubic meter of mercury in air to be protective of human health foroccupational exposure.

    Public Health Advisory by ATSDR:

On January 22, 1996, ATSDR issued a Public Health Advisory proclaiming an imminent public healthhazard posed to residents of 722 Grand Street from past, current, and potential future exposures viainhalation, direct dermal contact and possible ingestion of metallic (elemental) mercury and mercuryvapor (please refer to Appendix 2).

This public health advisory was issued by the ATSDR in response to a request for assistance fromRegion II USEPA, the NJDEP, the NJDHSS, the HRHC, and the HBH. As a result of this request, ATSDR and NJDHSS provided technical support in reviewing environmental and biological data andprovided a health consultation for the HRHC and the HBH. ATSDR and NJDHSS, with concurrencefrom HRHC and HBH, had concluded that the presence of visible metallic mercury in one of thebuilding unit's subflooring, the levels of mercury vapor detected in living space air, and elevatedmercury levels in occupants' urine samples, warrant the issuance of a public health advisory.

ATSDR had determined that an imminent health hazard was posed to occupants of this building. ATSDR recommended that following actions should be taken: "1) Dissociate the public as soon aspossible from mercury exposure in the 722 Grand Street building; 2) Ensure that residents' belongingsare free of mercury contamination before they are removed from the building; such possessions cancontinue to expose residents of 722 Grand Street, contaminate other areas, and expose othermembers of the public."

B. Site Visit

On December 22, 1995, NJDHSS officials conducted a site visit to the 722 Grand Street building. During the visit, the officials observed pools of mercury at several locations in the subflooring of thefifth floor. A survey of mercury vapors was performed during the visit using a Bacarach MercuryVapor Analyzer. Surveying was performed on floors 3, 4, and 5. The maximum levels of mercuryvapor detected for floors 3, 4, and 5 were .01 mg/cubic meter, 0.045 mg/cubic meter, and 0.050mg/cubic meter, respectively (instrument detection limit: 0.01 mg/cubic meter) indicating the presenceof mercury vapor at levels of public health concern.

C. Demographics, Land Use, And Natural Resource Use

The Grand Street Mercury Site (GSMS) is located at 720 and 722-732 Grand Street, Hoboken,Hudson County, New Jersey. There were 37 people living in the building as of December, 1995. Thesurrounding area is primarily residential in character, lightly mixed with commercial and industrialproperties. Hoboken High School is located across the street to the northeast. The populationsurrounding the Site is approximately 80,000 within a mile radius. Residents in the vicinity of the Siteuse public water as their source of drinking water. A summary of population statistics calculatedusing an area-proportion spatial analysis technique, within one mile of the GSMS is presented inAppendix 1.

D. Community Health Concern Evaluation

In order to gather information on community health concerns, NJDHSS contacted the HBH, HRHC,and the USEPA.

The community concerns related to GSMS were many including effects of site related contaminantson neighboring properties, potential health effects associated with exposure to site relatedcontaminants, especially for children living at GSMS, and potential mercury contamination at 410Eighth Street, an industrial building across the street from the GSMS.

On December 29, 1995, the HBH, HRHC, and the NJDHSS/ATSDR met with residents to providethem with results of the urine tests and to assist them in interpreting the urine and air mercury results.Based on the levels of contaminants observed, the health agencies urged residents to relocate as soonas possible. On January 4, a fact sheet (Mercury Exposure and Health, 722 Grand Street, Hoboken),prepared by NJDHSS, was provided to each resident. The fact sheet included information on thetypes of mercury, how the residents' of 722 Grand Street were exposed to elemental mercury, healtheffects of elemental mercury exposure, medical follow-up planned by ATSDR/NJDHSS, and possibleactivities to be conducted by ATSDR/NJDHSS (please refer to Appendix 4). On February 2, 1996,Physician Education was conducted by NJDHSS at Bayonne Hospital for Grand Street Mercury Site,Hoboken. Approximately thirty five physicians attended the seminar. The Hudson County ResourceGuide prepared by NJDHSS and Case Studies in Environmental Medicine (Exposure History andMercury) prepared by ATSDR was given to physicians.

There is a potential for exposure to mercury at a building located across the road from GSMS at 410-8th Street. The building was tested by the USEPA in the summer of 1996 and high levels of elementalmercury vapor were detected.The four story building contains several small businesses. Additionalinformation is needed to adequately address the exposure pathway at this site. Should future dataindicate a need, this pathway will be evaluated.

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