PETITIONED HEALTH CONSULTATION
SIKES OIL SERVICE
JEFFERSON, JACKSON COUNTY, GEORGIA
In February 2000, a citizen residing near Sikes Oil Service in Jackson County, Georgia, petitioned the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) for an investigation to determine whether exposure to air emissions from the tanker cleaning operation at the facility might be causing or exacerbating relatives' and neighbors' health problems. Specifically, the resident stated that odors from the facility occur mostly at night, and that the odors cause itching and burning eyes, and coughing, and seem to cause an increase in the frequency and severity of respiratory-related health complaints. In response to the request, the Georgia Division of Public Health (GDPH), under a cooperative agreement with ATSDR, has completed this health consultation.
Because oil processing operations, including the tanker cleaning operation, were discontinued in late 1999, there are no current exposures from these activities. There is limited data regarding past exposures and we can not conclusively determine whether emissions from the oil processing operations could have contributed to health effects. However, based on the limited data that is available, (e.g., emissions data, inspection reports and community complaint/concern information) we do not believe that past exposures represent a chronic health threat.
It is likely that residents were exposed in the past to fugitive emissions and odors. However, based on the nature of the historic operations at the site, we believe these exposures, if they occurred, were likely intermittent and at relatively low levels. Such releases may have caused or contributed to acute health effects (e.g., coughing, eye irritation, etc.) and exacerbated existing conditions in some exposed individuals but the effects would likely have been transient.
GDPH classifies past exposure to tanker cleaning emissions at the site as no apparent public health hazard and makes no public health recommendations at this time. GDPH will review additional information as it becomes available, and will respond to community health concerns about the facility should they arise.
Sikes Oil Service is a used oil recycling facility that has been in its present location since 1992. It is located on U.S. Highway 129 in Jefferson, Jackson County, Georgia. The facility is bordered by residential homes on three sides, and these homes use individual wells for their domestic water supply. Compliance inspections conducted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GEPD) have consistently recorded that no odors or visible emissions at the time of the inspections. There were no reports of leaking tanks or spill stains. There has been no evidence of stressed vegetation near the facility .
According to the foreman of Sikes Oil Service, oil has not been processed at the facility since fall of 1999. Currently, Sikes Oil Service receives various types of waste oil for storage from industrial (nonautomotive) sources until it can be transported to processing facilities. The facility has recently been granted a solid waste handling permit for storage of municipal solid waste until it is transported off site for disposal.
Prior to discontinuing the oil processing operation, used oil was delivered by truck to Sikes Oil Services and production was 10,000 - 20,000 gallons per week [1,2]. The used oil was processed by heating it to 215 degrees Fahrenheit (ºF) and then a vacuum system pulled off the water and steam, which then condensed at a lower temperature. As the oil is heated, it produces a strong odor similar to that of very hot motor oil. Condensate from the waste oil processing operation was used as the coolant water, and a pungent fuel odor was often emitted from the cooling tower. The water was stored in tanks and then taken to customers for off-site treatment. The residual oil product was directed into holding tanks where it was later sold to customers for reuse. All of the holding tanks rest on a 50 by 55 foot concrete pad surrounded by a 32 inch high wall. In the event of a leak, this area can contain 45,000 gallons of used oil. A storm drain in the middle connects to a underground oil/water separator. Storm water is constantly recycled.
The vapors that escaped the steam condenser tank were routed to a volatile organic compound (VOC) condenser. Condensed VOCs were stored in a tank until they were added to the processed oil for export. The air quality permit also required the condenser to be used at all times during the waste oil processing operation and the capture and reduction efficiency of the control system to be maintained at no less than 90 %. A review of Source Test Reports has shown that the removal efficiency has exceeded 98 % during sampling and analyses conducted between November 1995 and September 1998 [3, 4]. In November 1995, this condensate was analyzed for VOCs, and none were detected . As required under the permit, Sikes Oil Service submitted VOC emission reports to GEPD, and VOC emissions were consistently within regulatory limits. VOC emission levels are summarized in Table 1.
The contaminants of concern at this facility, based on the nature of the operation, are volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are a group of chemicals (e.g., benzene, perchloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride) that have similar physical properties. VOCs readily evaporate or volatilize into gases when exposed to air and may be inhaled. The major health concerns from long term exposure to VOCs in air are birth defects and cancer in children exposed in utero. With acute exposures, these chemicals can cause eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation; coughing, and dizziness. Most VOCs are metabolized and eliminated from the blood within a few days, and symptoms usually cease when the exposure are stops.
At Sikes Oil Service, releases of VOCs to air could have occurred through the following activities: (1) the heating of the oil without the use of, or with faulty, emissions equipment; (2) the storage and transfer of oil products,(3) routine vehicle maintenance, and (4) the storage of solid waste.
Ambient air in the vicinity of Sikes Oil Service has not been sampled and analyzed; therefore, no data are available to make a definitive determination about the potential for adverse health effects from exposure to emissions from the facility. Emissions reports, summarized in table 1, and compliance inspection reports indicate that the levels of contaminants released to air are within state regulatory requirements. However, the emissions data is not specific enough (it does not provide concentrations for specific VOCs) to be useful in assessing possible past completed pathways for neighboring residents.
The storage and transfer of oil products and solid waste and routine vehicle maintenance at this facility may have caused fugitive emissions and unpleasant odors. The influence of odors on the comfort and welfare of individuals is difficult to evaluate. Odors can result in social and behavioral changes in some people. However, odor perception is subjective, and different individuals may react differently to the same type and intensity of odor. Also, the level at which an odor can be detected is not necessarily a level of health concern. We can "smell" some chemicals at a level many times lower than the level that will produce any health effect. People who live near a used oil recycling facility may become sensitized to odors and report odors as much more intense than someone who only visits the site occasionally or someone who is expecting a certain odor from the facility . Fugitive emissions and odors are difficult to regulate, and may have caused or contributed to acute health effects and exacerbated existing conditions in exposed individuals. These effects, for the chemicals that were most likely present in the past at Sikes, are not likely to be permanent. Rather we would expect the symptoms, if any to cease when exposure is discontinued.
B. Health Outcome Data
No health outcome databases, such as mortality, cancer incidence, or birth defects, were evaluated for this health consultation because the data bases do not provide information on a small enough scale. In other words, the number of people exposed (fewer than 30) is too small to compare in a meaningful way with the health outcome data available. Further, no site-specific health outcome data related to this site were identified. According to the local health department, no health studies pertaining to this facility have been performed in the community.
C. Child Health Initiative
The Child Health Initiative recognizes that the unique vulnerabilities of infants and children demand special emphasis in communities faced with contamination of their water, soil, air, or food. Children are at a greater risk than adults from certain kinds of exposures to hazardous substances emitted from waste sites and emergency events. They are more likely than adults to be exposed because they play outdoors and they often bring food into contaminated areas. They are more likely to come into contact with dust, soil, and heavy vapors close to the ground. Also, they receive higher doses of chemical exposure due to lower body weights. The developing body systems of children can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occur during critical growth stages.
GDPH evaluated the likelihood that children living in the vicinity of the facility could be exposed to airborne chemical releases at levels of public health concern. However, GDPH was not able to evaluate potential past exposures to children due to the lack of data regarding specific air emissions.
GDPH has categorized past exposures from the tanker cleaning operation at this site to be no apparent public health hazard because the limited available data do not indicate that people were exposed in the past, nor are they being exposed currently, to levels of contamination that would be expected to cause adverse health effects. Specifically we conclude the following:
- Currently, people who live near Sikes Oil Service are not being exposed to contaminants in air from tanker washing operations because the operation that produced these emissions was discontinued in late 1999.
- Based on the limited data available and likely exposure scenarios, exposures from tanker cleaning operations in the past are not expected to result in chronic illnesses.
- Fugitive emissions and odors from tanker operations, if they occurred, may have caused or contributed to acute, transient, health effects and exacerbated existing conditions in exposed individuals during the oil processing operation.
GDPH recommends no further action at this time.
GDPH staff accompanied GEPD staff on a compliance inspection in May, 2000, and no threats to public health were observed. This and all other inspection reports can be obtained by contacting the Regional GEPD office at (706) 369-6376.
GDPH will review additional data if it becomes available, and will respond to community health concerns should they arise.
- Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GEPD) public record files.
- GEPD, internal memorandum, 12/18/92.
- GEPD, internal memorandum, 11/28/95.
- GEPD, letter to Joe Sikes, RE: VOC Emission Test, 3/2/98.
- Joe Sikes Oil Service, Letter to GEPD, RE: Calculation of VOC Emission Levels, 10/19/98.
- Environmental Testing and Consulting, Inc., Organic Analysis Data Sheet: Joe Sikes Oil Service, Sample ID: Cooling Tower, 11/10/95.
- Dalton, Pamela. Odor Perception and Beliefs about Risk, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA. Oxford University Press
Jane Perry, MPH
Georgia Division of Public Health
ATSDR Regional Representative
ATSDR Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
This Sikes Oil Service Petitioned Health Consultation was prepared by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) with the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health. It was written in accordance with ATSDR policies and guidelines available at the time of publication.
Technical Project Officer
ATSDR has reviewed this health consultation and concurs with its contents.
Chief, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR
*These figures were calculated using state-approved sampling and analytical procedures.