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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

POMONA OAKS WELL CONTAMINATION
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, ATLANTIC COUNTY, NEW JERSEY


SUMMARY

The Pomona Oaks Well Contamination site is a residential community consisting of approximately 200 single family homes. Prior to 1985, all of these homes depended upon the use of shallow (50-60 foot) domestic wells utilizing the Cohansey Formation (depth 0-205 feet) for potable water supply. In 1982, residents complained to the Atlantic County Health Department (ACHD) regarding foul tasting well water, and subsequent investigation by the ACHD, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) confirmed ground-water contamination by volatile organic compounds (most notably; benzene, 1,2-dichloroethane) at concentrations exceeding standards for drinking water. In 1983, the NJDOH performed sampling identifying significant volatilization of organic groundwater contaminants into residential indoor air through showering. Contamination at the site is not associated with any environmental media other than groundwater. In August 1985, a municipal water supply was made available to residents of the Pomona Oaks subdivision and private wells were sealed. In 1989, a new production well for the sub-development came on-line. The USEPA conducted a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) of the site from October 1988 to March 1989. Results of the remedial investigation have indicated that ground-water contamination at the site no longer exists at concentrations constituting a public health concern. USEPA has concluded the original contamination was the result of a singular or point source release, and the contaminants have dispersed and/or biodegraded over time. A September 1990 Record of Decision (ROD) has recommended the no action alternative for the Pomona Oaks site. Based upon past exposure to site contaminants, The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) consider the Pomona Oaks site to have presented a public health hazard based upon past exposure. Review of the New Jersey State Cancer Registry data for Galloway Township did not reveal an elevated incidence of cancer as compared to New Jersey State rates. Currently, the site is considered a no apparent public health hazard. Should ATSDR expand the benzene subregistry of the National Exposure Registry, the Pomona Oaks site will be considered for inclusion in that subregistry. The NJDOH will contact individuals who expressed health concerns regarding past exposures to contaminated groundwater. The NJDOH will coordinate with ATSDR to determine what follow-up or resources are available to address these individuals concerns.

BACKGROUND

In cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will evaluate the public health significance of the Pomona Oaks Well Contamination site. More specifically, ATSDR will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible 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 Pomona Oaks well contamination site is comprised of a group of approximately 200 privately owned single family homes and an adjacent shopping area in Galloway Township, Atlantic County, New Jersey (see figure 1). The site occupies approximately 354 acres and is bounded by N.J. Route 30 (White Horse Pike), Willow Ave., Jimmie Leeds Road, and Pomona Port Republic Road (see figure 2). Located within the New Jersey Pinelands Protection Area, the site is surrounded by mixed residential, limited agricultural, and undeveloped tracts. The Pomona Oaks subdivision was constructed in 1972. Residents initially relied upon private wells and septic systems, but were connected to municipal sewers in 1980 and municipal water in 1985. The Pomona Plaza shopping center is located to the northwest (along the White Horse Pike) of the site and contains various commercial establishments identified as potential responsible parties (PRP).

In June 1982, residents living on Terry Lane reported foul tasting well water to the Atlantic County Health Department (ACHD). In October 1982, the ACHD sampled water from two homes on Terry Lane and detected benzene and other volatile organic compounds (VOC's) at concentrations exceeding 100 ppb. From November 1982 to January 1983, the ACHD sampled potable wells from 81 homes in the Pomona Oaks subdivision. Data indicated fifteen wells exceeded the existing N.J. drinking water criteria and residents were advised to refrain from using well water for drinking or cooking purposes. Bottled water was provided at the local firehouse for those residents with contaminated wells. In total, twenty VOC's were identified in 50 domestic wells during various sampling events conducted between 1982 and 1985 by the ACHD, the NJDOH and the USEPA (see figure 3).

In December 1982 and January 1983, the NJDOH performed an exposure assessment of 37 households in the Pomona Oaks subdivision. This assessment included sampling of air from bathroom showers and potable wells. In February 1984, the NJDOH advised residents with contaminated wells to shower in an alternate water supply if/when possible.

In February 1983, the ACHD retained a contractor to perform a hydrogeologic investigation of the site and determined that groundwater was flowing to the south-east at the relatively high rate of 1 foot per day. In 1985, as part of a investigation to explore alternatives for providing a long term potable water supply, the USEPA and the NJDEPE initiated the design of a new large capacity production well screened in the lower Cohansey aquifer. In August 1985, 193 homes in the Pomona Oaks Study area were connected to the Absecon municipal water supply. The contaminated domestic wells were reported in the RI as being sealed and abandoned. The new production well for the Pomona Oaks subdivision came on-line in August 1989.

Field work for the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) took place from October 1988 to March 1989 and included a soil gas survey, sediment sampling, and a groundwater (including domestic and monitoring wells) investigation. The Remedial Investigation (RI) report has concluded that the groundwater contamination associated with the site no longer exists at levels exceeding N.J. drinking water standards. Additionally the RI report concluded that contaminants identified in the 1982-1985 sampling were likely the result of a singular event and cited local gas stations (three retail gasoline stations are located upgradient of the site), septic tanks (commercial and residential), and spills as the probable source of contamination. It is believed that the plume which previously existed has dispersed and/or biodegraded over time. The Record of Decision for the Pomona Oaks Well Contamination site has concluded that no further remedial action at the site is necessary beyond continued groundwater monitoring.

B. Site Visit

An initial visit to the Pomona Oaks Well Contamination site was conducted by NJDOH personnel (J.Pasqualo, F. Bove) in the spring of 1989. An additional site visit by NJDOH personnel (J.Pasqualo) and the ACHD was conducted in May 1992. The site is a residential neighborhood of single family homes with no definitive site boundaries other than municipal streets. The Pomona Oaks subdivision is in close proximity to various commercial establishments located along N.J. Route 30, and to the Federal Aviation Administration training center, an active airport.

The site contained no apparent or discernable physical hazards. No environmental monitoring was conducted by the NJDOH during 1989 or 1992 site visits.

C. Demographics, Land Use, And Natural Resource Use

The Pomona Oaks subdivision was constructed in 1972 and presently contains approximately 200 single family homes. Assuming 3.8 persons per household, approximately 760 persons live in the study area. Prior to 1985 all homes in the subdivision relied upon domestic wells for potable water supply. Available information from the 1982-1985 sampling events indicates 50 households experienced well contamination above N.J. drinking water criteria; thus, approximately 190 residents were potentially exposed to site contaminants. The population of Galloway Township is estimated to be approximately 13,000 according to 1980 U.S. census data. The subdivision is proximal to Atlantic City and continued residential and commercial development in the area is likely.

Land use in the area of the site is residential, light agricultural, and light commercial in nature. The nearest major surface water features are the Atlantic City reservoirs located 2.5 miles to the southeast of the site. These reservoirs were not threatened by site contaminants. Areas of swamp and fresh water marshlands occur in the environs of the site and serve as recharge/discharge areas for the unconfined shallow aquifer underlying the site. There are no surface water features (creeks, brooks, streams, etc.) within the Pomona Oaks Well Contamination study area. There are no recreational or park/refuge areas which have been adversely impacted by the site. There are no agricultural areas or enterprises in the environs of the Pomona Oaks subdivision which have been adversely impacted by the site. While there are schools proximal to the Pomona Oaks subdivision, sampling of potable supply wells (ACHD; January 21, 1983) indicated no site-related contamination and all results were <10 ppb total VOC's. No other sensitive populations exist within the environs of the site.

D. Health Outcome Data

There are multiple sources of health outcome data in New Jersey. State and local data for health outcome information include the New Jersey State Cancer registry, Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Registry, Vital Statistics Records, Renal Dialysis Network, and hospital discharge reports. Federal databases such as those maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services (National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and ATSDR) are not site-specific but may be used for comparison and evaluation purposes.

Cancer might be possible from long-term exposure to at least one site contaminant. Please reference the Toxicological Evaluation subsection of the Public Health Implications section for more information on potential carcinogenic effects. Cancer incidence data from the New Jersey Cancer Registry (NJCR) were analyzed for the Pomona Oaks site. A discussion of the results of the NJCR data is presented in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation subsection of the Public Health Implications section.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

A public meeting to discuss the proposed workplan for the Pomona Oaks Remedial Investigation was conducted by USEPA on September 20, 1988. Additionally, on July 31, 1990, a subsequent meeting was conducted by USEPA to discuss the results of the RI. NJDOH personnel attended both these sessions and summarized the concerns expressed by the community regarding the groundwater contamination situation in the Pomona Oaks sub-development. Both meetings were well attended (approximately 150 persons) and demonstrated an active interest on the part of the community. In addition, concerns of the community are documented in the final Community Relations Plan for the Pomona Oaks well contamination site (EBASCO; September 1988).

Community health concerns associated with the Pomona Oaks site have been documented since 1982 when residents first notified the ACHD of foul tasting domestic well water. The primary community health concerns associated with the Pomona Oaks site include:

  1. The length of time that the community may have been potentially exposed to site related contaminants prior to 1982.


  2. The potential for long term adverse health effects in the Pomona Oaks community and the need for follow-up health study and investigation. Concerns consistently expressed by residents pertain specifically to the possibility of increased incidence of cancer in the community, potential adverse pregnancy outcomes, and whether a program of long term medical monitoring was feasible.

Other concerns related to health issues at the site included questions regarding the source(s) of the contamination, the current status of the plume, and the status of State and Federal standards for drinking water contaminants.

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