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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

MARCH AIR FORCE BASE
(a.k.a. MARCH AIR FORCE BASE)
MARCH AIR FORCE BASE, RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA


SUMMARY

This public health assessment (PHA) evaluates March Air Force Base (March AFB) and the properties previously part of March AFB before its realignment on April 1, 1996 (CEDAR 1997). Before realignment, the base consisted of 7,123 acres (Tetra Tech 1994). Its mission was primarily air refueling operations. March AFB is located in Riverside County, California, 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed March AFB on the U.S. EPA's National Priorities List (NPL) because of contaminated groundwater found in a base drinking water well and contaminated soils at several on-base areas. In response to this listing, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted this public health assessment (PHA) by reviewing environmental data and reports and visiting March AFB in 1991 and 1997. From this review, we determined that past, current, and future contact with chemicals (ingesting, breathing, touching) at March AFB in the situations listed below, pose no (apparent) public health hazards.

SITUATION CONCLUSION CATEGORY* RECOMMENDATIONS
Green Acres Military Family Housing
  1. Past, current, and future exposure to pesticides in indoor air and crawl spaces.


  2. Past, current, and future exposure to lead in paint and soils.


  3. Past, current, and future exposure to asbestos in building materials.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard The Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) or March Joint Powers Authority (MJPA) should place barriers in the crawl space to prevent or lower pesticide vapor migration into the houses to prevent and lower exposure and to keep the crawl spaces doors locked to prevent access.

The AFBCA or MJPA should not allow children to play next to the homes because of lead contaminated soils identified in the roof driplines. Playground equipment or fenced areas for children should not be located next to the homes. The AFBCA or MJPA should maintain lawns and shrubs adjacent to the houses including the roof driplines to prevent access to the lead in the soils by children. Gardens adjacent to the houses should be prohibited to limit contact with the lead in the soil or potential lead uptake in fruits or vegetables.

ATSDR also recommends that MJPA and AFBCA follow the protective public health measures identified in 66 Federal Register 1206 for lead in residential soils.

The AFBCA or MJPA should maintain and routinely inspect the asbestos in the houses.

On- and Off-site Ground Water Used for Drinking Water, Irrigation, or Other Uses
  1. Past exposure to volatile organic compounds and boron on-base.
  2. Past and potential current and future exposure to volatile organic compounds off-base.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard To confirm the presence or absence of used private wells in the OU1 area, ATSDR recommends that AFBCA or AFRC send all parcel owners in the OU1 area letters asking about the presence of wells and their use. ATSDR recommends that AFBCA or AFRC sample previously unknown private wells if they are still in use. These wells should be sampled quarterly for one year. With the results of the first sample and each subsequent sample, AFBCA or AFRC should evaluate whether the sampled wells should be closed because of public health. AFBCA or AFRC should also provide information on the status of the investigated wells to State Department of Water Resources, Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Department of Health Services (Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management), and the Riverside County Health Department.

The AFBCA, AFRC, State, County, or private owners should close those wells that are no longer used or inadequately constructed within the plume or adjacent to the downgradient edge of the plume to prevent exposure and the spreading of contamination.

The AFBCA or AFRC should confirm with the County of Riverside that well permits should not be issued in the OU1 area.

Arnold Heights Military Family Housing
  1. Past and potential future exposure to lead and oils.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard If the land is to be reused for outdoor activities such as playgrounds or parks, we recommend that AFBCA, MJPA, or future owners sample the soils for lead and PCBs after demolition and site preparation to evaluate these potential soil contaminants and potential health risks, if any.
Past Runoff from Site 40 (Landfill #8) near Arnold Heights
  1. Past exposure to runoff.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard No recommendations.
Mercury in Hospital Plumbing
  1. Past and future exposures.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard People working on the plumbing and sewers should be informed of the hazard and they should take appropriate safety measures to prevent exposure.
Sampling for Potential Radioactive Contamination at the Weapons Storage Area or Other Basewide Areas.
  1. Potential building contamination.
No Public Health Hazard No recommendations
* Conclusion Categories are explained in Appendix C.


Green Acres Military Family Housing (No Apparent Public Health Hazard)

The Green Acres Military Family Housing Area consists of 130 multi-bedroom houses with indoor air pesticide residues, lead-based paint, and asbestos. One hundred and eleven of the houses are targeted for transfer to the private sector and are currently leased to the March Joint Powers Authority (MJPA). In turn, MJPA is renting the houses to individuals and families. The remaining 19 houses have been retained by March Air Reserve Base for billeting, offices, and a museum.

People living in Green Acres were exposed to pesticides from indoor air and potentially exposed to pesticides in the crawl space soils, lead from paint in the houses, lead in soils outside of the houses, and asbestos from building materials.

Indoor Air
People living in Green Acres were exposed to pesticides through inhalation of indoor air. These pesticides apparently evaporated from the crawl space soils and migrated into the living space. This is not uncommon with houses treated with pesticides. ATSDR reviewed the pesticide sampling data together with past, current, and future exposure scenarios, uses of the Green Acre Houses, and the toxicology of the pesticides. Based on this review, we have concluded that past, current, and future exposure to indoor air contaminated with pesticides poses no (apparent) public health hazard. Although we have made this conclusion, ATSDR recommends exposure prevention when possible to reduce or eliminate exposure and any potential for disease. Therefore, the placement of barriers in the crawl spaces at Green Acres to prevent or lower pesticide migration is recommended.

Crawl Space Soils
ATSDR reviewed the data for the pesticides in crawl space soils. The soil was sampled in 20 houses and pesticides were detected in 20 houses. Access to the crawl space and contact with the soils is assumed be very limited in the past and is currently restricted by locked doors and limited to the maintenance staff. The levels of contaminants detected are not likely to present a health hazard from short-term and infrequent contact. Therefore, the soils pose no apparent public health hazard for past, current, and future exposures.

Lead
March AFB has found leaded paint on the interior and exterior surfaces at the Green Acres Military Family Housing. In addition, soils collected at the roof dripline have been found to contain lead above levels of concern. Based on several exposure scenarios, ATSDR has concluded that the potential exposure is limited and the lead poses no apparent public health hazard for past, current, and future exposures.

Although we have made this conclusion, ATSDR recommends the future prevention of exposure to the contaminated soil through the use of groundcover such as lawns or shrubs and replanting of bare soils to prevent access to the soils and prohibitions on growing foodstuffs around the houses. Exposure prevention would also include prohibiting children from playing next to the homes because of lead contaminated soils identified in samples located adjacent to the homes. This means that playground equipment or fenced areas for children should not be located next to the homes. ATSDR also recommends that MJPA and AFBCA follow the protective public health measures identified in 66 Federal Register 1206 for lead in residential soils.

Asbestos
March AFB identified building materials in Green Acres that potentially contain asbestos. In the past, March AFB has removed friable asbestos from the houses. The remaining suspected asbestos-containing materials have been inspected and found to be in good condition and not damaged or deteriorated to the extent that they create a potential source of fibers. The rental agreement contains provisions for monitoring the ACM and not renting the houses if asbestos containing material (ACM) is found damaged or deteriorated. The rental agreements also include monetary penalties if the tenants damage the ACM.

Therefore, ATSDR concludes that asbestos is not a public health hazard at the Green Acres Houses for the past, current and future but should be maintained and routinely inspected. The AFBCA or MJPA should maintain and routinely inspect the asbestos in the houses.

On- and Off-site Ground Water Contamination (No Apparent Public Health Hazard)

ATSDR evaluated past uses of on-base and off-base contaminated ground water as a drinking water source. On-base water was supplied by wells which were contaminated with volatile organic compounds and boron. ATSDR reviewed the concentrations and time of use and determined that exposure to the contaminated water posed no (apparent) public health hazards because the levels were low. March AFB is currently using a municipal water source.

Some of the residents living east of the base used ground water in the past contaminated with trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene. Some residents began using municipal water in 1988. ATSDR reviewed the concentrations and use of the ground water and determined that exposure to the contaminated water was not a public health hazard because exposure was of short duration and below levels of concern. ATSDR understands that the groundwater is currently not being used.

To confirm the presence or absence of wells in the OU1 area, ATSDR recommends that AFBCA or AFRC send all parcel owners in the OU1 area letters asking about the presence of wells and their use. ATSDR recommends that AFBCA or AFRC sample previously unknown private wells if they are still in use. These wells should be sampled quarterly for one year. With the results of the first sample and each subsequent sample, AFBCA or AFRC should evaluate whether the sampled wells should be closed because of public health. AFBCA or AFRC should also provide information on the status of the investigated wells to the State Department of Water Resources, Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Department of Health Services (Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management), and the Riverside County Health Department.

The AFBCA, AFRC, State, County, or private owners should close those wells that are no longer used or inadequately constructed within the plume or adjacent to the downgradient edge of the plume to prevent exposure and the spreading of contamination.

The AFBCA should confirm with the County of Riverside that well permits should not be issued in the OU1 area.

Arnold Heights Military Family Housing (No Apparent Public Health Hazard)

The Arnold Heights Family Housing Area of 542 houses is vacant pending demolition and land reuse. The reuse plan has not been finalized but includes a mixture of uses including commercial, business parks, medical and educational facilities, and recreational areas.

Past residents (i.e., families) of Arnold Heights could have been exposed to contaminants present in the interior and exterior areas of these houses. Possible contaminants could have included lead in interior and exterior surfaces, pesticides and asbestos similar to those found in the Green Acres. ATSDR suspects these contaminants are present because maintenance procedures, such as pesticide application, were probably similar to Green Acres. Also, houses built during the early 1950s were typically constructed with materials containing lead and asbestos. Additionally, we suspect that oils, spread to control dust and weeds from 1941-1945, could be present in "oil mats" located in this housing area. These oil mats were identified in the Environmental Baseline Survey (EBS, Tetra Tech 1996b). PCB contamination could be present since PCBs was a typical contaminant of oil in the past. One documented "oil mat," EBS Site P-2,7, is located at Arnold Heights. However, no data exists to confirm the presence of lead, pesticides, asbestos, or PCBs.

Although we do not have data on these houses, we are concluding that there is no apparent public health hazard for potential past exposure based on our review and conclusions at the Green Acres Houses. Although the houses are of different construction, we are assuming that maintenance, painting, and pesticide applications were similar to Green Acres (except oil mats were not identified at Green Acres). We are also assuming that the construction of the houses in the 1950s after the use of the oils (1941 to 1945) removed the exposure potential. Current and future use of these houses pose no public health hazard since they are not occupied and will be removed for future development under the reuse plan. The reuse plan specifies a mixed use including mostly commercial with recreation and parks (March AFB Joint Powers Authority 1996).

For future exposure, if the land is to be reused for outdoor activities such as playgrounds or parks, we recommend that AFBCA, MJPA, or future owners sample the soils for lead and PCBs after demolition and site preparation to evaluate the possible soil contaminants and potential health risks, if any.

Runoff from Site 40 (Landfill #8) near Arnold Heights

Runoff from Landfill #8 reportedly flowed into base housing and a schoolyard during a one-time event (ATSDR 1992a). This incident was of public concern and reported in The Press-Enterprise (1992, Riverside, California) with press releases produced by March Air Force Base (Sprester 1992). March AFB investigated and removed waste from the landfill. March AFB collected confirmation samples from the creek bed that runs through the landfill and from exploratory trenches. Some of these samples contained metals and pesticides but they were all below ATSDR's soil comparison values (Tetra Tech 1997a). ATSDR reviewed the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) and found that contaminants did not migrate away from the landfill before the removal action via the runoff. The removal actions have reduced the on-site contamination to levels below public health concerns. Hence, ATSDR concluded that the runoff from the landfill posed no apparent public health hazard.

Mercury in Hospital Plumbing

March AFB identified the presence of mercury in the plumbing and hospital sewers. Based on the location and inaccessibility of the mercury in the pipes, ATSDR concludes that past exposure is not a public health concern. People working on the plumbing and sewers should take appropriate safety measures to prevent exposure.

Sampling for Potential Radioactive Contamination at the Weapons Storage Area or Other Basewide Areas.

A citizen expressed concern about potential radioactive contamination at the base because of the alleged former handling of nuclear weapons. At March AFB, conventional and alleged nuclear weapons were stored at the Weapons Storage Area (WSA). The WSA was constructed in 1953 to 1956 and ceased being used in 1980. March AFB completed a radiological survey of the Weapons Storage Area (WSA) in 1998. The survey results were below levels of concern (Earth Tech 1999). Currently, the WSA is fenced and off limits to the public. Reuse plans of the WSA specify a business park and open space (March AFB Joint Powers Authority 1996). ATSDR assumes that the survey of the WSA is representative of other places at March AFB which may have handled nuclear weapons such as any area used to load and unload them from the airplanes. Since no radioactive contamination has been found, ATSDR concludes that this situation does not pose a public health hazard.


I. BACKGROUND

This public health assessment (PHA) evaluated March Air Force Base (March AFB) and the property previously part of March AFB before its realignment on April 1, 1996 (AFBCA 1997). Before realignment, the base consisted of 7,123 acres (Tetra Tech 1994). Its mission was primarily air refueling operations.

March AFB is in Riverside County, California, 60 miles east of Los Angeles (see Figure 1). The cities of Moreno Valley, Perris and Riverside border the base. California Highway 395 (U.S. Interstate 215) bisects the base.

Up to 1997, March AFB also owned and operated three noncontiguous parcels. The first parcel, Water Supply Annex One, consists of right-of-way easements and permits for a water pipeline extending from the base to Lake Mathews, approximately 10 miles to the west. The second parcel, Water Supply Annex Two, is one mile southeast of the base and consists of 2.35 acres formerly used for radio equipment and two water supply wells. The third parcel is 70 miles north of March AFB in San Bernardino County and was operated as a radio relay station from 1962 to 1986. These parcels will or have been conveyed to new owners and are not part of this PHA.

Land adjacent to the base is used for light industrial, agricultural, commercial, and residential purposes. House construction continues west and east of the base (ATSDR 1997). Appendix A includes information on the demographic make-up of the base and surrounding community.

March AFB opened in 1918 for training pilots and consisted of 640 acres east of Highway 395. In 1940, Camp Haan was constructed west of Highway 395 primarily as an anti-aircraft gunnery training encampment and a staging area for tank forces during World War II. After World War II, Camp Haan became part of March AFB and the area became known as West March.

From 1918 to 1949, the base was used primarily for aircrew (pilot, bombing and gunnery) training. In 1949, the Strategic Air Command took control of March AFB primarily to support bombers and refueling tankers (Tetra Tech 1994). After 1982, the base's primary mission became aircraft refueling.

The U.S. Defense Secretary's Commission on Base Closure and Realignment announced March AFB for base closure and realignment in the third round of closures in 1993. March AFB was closed and realigned on April 1, 1996. In the realignment, the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command retained 2,258 acres for March Air Reserve Base as the predominant operating entity (CEDAR 1997) with tenants including the Air National Guard. The Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) in conjunction with the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) is managing the remaining property for distribution by lease or transfer to public or private entities. The March AFB LRA is called the March Joint Powers Authority (MJPA). MJPA has provided leases for the following:

  • The General Archie J. Old Golf Course, now operating as a public golf course under the same name
  • March Field Museum
  • Arnold Heights Public School within the Moreno Valley Unified School District
  • Public chapel

The first deed transfer was in December 1999 to the County of Riverside County for the Sheriff Department's Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center which opened in 1996.

Before realignment, March AFB transferred approximately 750 acres of its property to the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Riverside National Cemetery.

A current list of leased or transferred property can be obtained from the MJPA at http://www.marchjpa.com or (909) 656-7000.

Concurrent with base redevelopment activities, the AFBCA and Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) are conducting environmental characterization and clean up activities to address chemical contamination of the environment. The chemical contamination is the result of past disposal, accidental spills, and routine releases of waste and materials. Wastes from base operations have included spent solvents, cleaners, waste and recoverable fuels, waste oils, refuse, and small-scale munitions (Earth Technology, 1989, Tetra Tech 1994, 1997b).

In 1989, U.S. EPA listed March AFB as a National Priorities List (NPL) site for cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) because of contaminated groundwater found in a base drinking water well and contaminated soils at several on-base areas.

To carry out the investigation and cleanup, the AFBCA has been operating under the Department of Defense Installation Restoration Program (IRP), and the authorities of CERCLA and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) To date, the IRP program has identified and investigated 43 sites under CERCLA and 105 Solid Waste Management Units and 50 Areas of Concern under RCRA through a base wide Expanded Source Investigation/RCRA Facility Assessment. Through an Environmental Baseline Survey (EBS) of the entire base, March AFB identified an additional 35 sites. Appendix B includes a list of these sites and their status.

For the purposes of this document, the entire area formerly operated as March AFB and now owned and operated by the entities described above, will be referred to as March AFB. We show this area in Figure 1.

ATSDR Involvement
As required by CERCLA, ATSDR is preparing this PHA report to evaluate the potential human health effects associated with exposure to environmental pollution at the base. To prepare this report, ATSDR visited March AFB in March 1991 and April 1997 to collect environmental information and to identify community health concerns.

During our visits, we toured the base to look for environmental hazards, reviewed the locations where contamination was found, and met with the AFBCA, March Air Reserve personnel, representatives from the federal and state agencies, and community members. Our discussions addressed the nature and extent of chemical contamination at the base, the proximity of chemically contaminated areas to on- and off-base populations, and the types of human activities that could lead to exposures to the contamination. We have integrated this information with our review of environmental sampling data to draw the conclusions about public health issues at the base. This PHA presents our conclusions.

Quality Assurance and Quality Control
In preparing this public health assessment (PHA), ATSDR relied on information provided in the referenced documents and contacts. The agency assumes quality assurance and control measures were followed with regard to chain of custody, laboratory procedures, and data reporting. The validity of analyses and conclusions drawn in this document is determined by the reliability of the information referenced in this report. A major portion of this health assessment was based on indoor air sampling at Green Acres Housing. A quality assurance project plan (QAPP) and quality assurance evaluation of the project was not available to ATSDR for this sampling. Hence, some uncertainty is introduced into our evaluation of the indoor air.

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