Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content

PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER
ST. MARY'S COUNTY, MARYLAND

SUMMARY

The Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River is located in St. Mary's County Maryland, near thecity of Lexington Park, and covers an area of approximately 6800 acres (10.5 square miles)bounded on the north by the Patuxent River, on the east and south by the Chesapeake Bay, andon the west by State Highway 235. The base population is about 15,900 persons, includingmilitary personnel and dependents, Department of Defense civilian employees, contractors, andnonappropriated fund employees. NAS Patuxent River is surrounded by security fencing and isroutinely patrolled; access to the facility is through manned security gates.

Before the currently established environmental regulations, previously accepted hazardousmaterial handling and disposal practices resulted in environmental contamination at various areason base. As a result, NAS Patuxent River was listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List in June of 1994. The Navy had conducted an initial assessmentof potentially contaminated areas in 1982 and established 31 original Installation RestorationProgram (IRP) sites; 46 sites are currently included in the IRP. Base-wide investigations and siterestorations continue under this program.

ATSDR evaluated the environmental information on the IRP sites and assessed the potential forhuman exposure at each site. The IRP sites pose no current public health hazard. (Appendix Apresents information on ATSDR public health assessment hazard categories).

NO APPARENT PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD

ATSDR concluded that one situation involving fish on the NAS Patuxent River installation posesno apparent public health hazard.

Available data for Pond 3 demonstrated significant levels in fish of polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs) and of the chlorinated pesticide DDT and its degradation products DDE and DDD. Cancer-risk calculations based on an average concentration of 0.116 mg/kg PCBs yield aconsumption limit for Pond 3 fish of 19 meals/year for a period of 7 years. An 8-ounce portionconstitutes one meal.

INDETERMINATE PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD

To evaluate possible health effects, data are needed to determine whether edible aquatic faunaare contaminated in on-base ponds 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 and in the river, bay, and seaplane basinsadjacent to NAS Patuxent River.

Of the remaining five on-base ponds, Pond 6 is used as a brood pond for stocking the others andPonds 1, 2, 4, and 5 are fished. The limited data from these 5 ponds are insufficient to evaluatewhether sediment or fish are contaminated. There are no data on whether PCBs are present infish or sediment of ponds other than Pond 3. Because the source of PCBs in Pond 3 is unknown,it is recommended that a provisional consumption limit of 19 meals/year be instituted to includeall fish taken from Ponds 1 through 5, until pertinent data are available. This amounts to alifetime limit of 133 meals applied to fish caught from any of these ponds.

It is not known whether fish and shellfish in immediately adjacent areas of Patuxent River andChesapeake Bay might pose a health hazard. Limited data exist for possible contaminants insurface water, sediment, and biota in areas of the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay (includingthe seaplane basins) potentially impacted by on-base sites. Three such sites of interest areFishing Point Landfill, the Fuel Farm, and the DRMO Yard. ATSDR recommends samplingsediment and shellfish or other edible benthic fauna from areas of the bay adjacent to potentialon-site sources of contaminants. Sediment analysis would be an indicator of possiblecontamination migration from the installation, establishing whether contaminants correspondingto those found on base were detected in the immediately adjacent estuarial sediments atconcentrations significantly higher than "background" values seen in federal, state, and otheraquatic-environment databases. Shellfish results would indicate whether contaminants werelikely to exist in aquatic fauna at concentrations of public health concern.

NO PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD

ATSDR concluded that two situations on the NAS Patuxent River installation pose no publichealth hazard.

Future on-base well and deep aquifer contamination was evaluated and judged to pose no publichealth hazard so long as current prevention measures are continued. Some base wells arehydrogeologically downgradient from contaminated sites. The aged (up to 54-year-old) wellcasings have been evaluated to determine whether the wells and the deep aquifer they access arevulnerable to infiltration by contaminated groundwater from the shallow aquifer. ATSDR hasreviewed well-monitoring data, groundwater flow, and potential for groundwater contamination. We commend NAS Patuxent River's initiative to rehabilitate or abandon and seal older wellsbased on a variety of criteria, including age of well; extent of proximate, upgradient groundwatercontamination; results of down-well video camera inspection; and installation waterrequirements. We recommend the continuation of these practices to ensure the integrity of thewells and thereby the purity of the drinking water and the deep aquifers. This proactive approachis preferable to periodic analysis of well-water quality designed to detect analytes present innearby shallow groundwater, such as petroleum compounds near a site with past or present leaksfrom underground fuel tanks. The chemical monitoring approach requires that measurablecontamination enter the water supply before detection occurs and remediation can begin.

On-site physical hazards and verified or suspected surface contamination associated with the 46sites pose no public health hazard. Contamination may be present on installation sites from pastdisposal practices, but conditions exist that make it unlikely people would be exposed to thesecontaminants. Approach to many of the sites is effectively restricted by lack of access; fences;capping of the site; or posting to forbid hunting, fishing, or trespassing. Further, NAS PatuxentRiver has reviewed all IRP sites and posted additional signage on seven of these sites to informand warn of potential hazards. No offsite migration of contaminants to areas where surficialexposure might occur is expected. When sites are demonstrated to harbor no significant hazardsor are effectively remediated, postings for those sites may be removed.

INTRODUCTION

This report is organized by exposure situations. These situations and the sites at which theyoccurred are listed below. The term site is used to describe a distinct area to which theinstallation NAS Patuxent River has assigned a reference number. Exposure situation is used todescribe conditions and circumstances by which people could come in contact withcontaminants.

In preparing this public health assessment, ATSDR relied on the information provided in thereferenced documents. ATSDR assumes that adequate quality-assurance and quality-controlmeasures were followed with regard to chain-of-custody, laboratory procedures, and datareporting. The validity of the analyses and conclusions drawn for this health assessment aredetermined by the reliability of the referenced information.

During the environmental investigations at NAS Patuxent River, base personnel identifiedInstallation Restoration Program (IRP) sites from old documents and interviews with past andcurrent employees. Environmental sampling was conducted at those sites where evidencesuggested chemical contamination. From these data and from information gathered during ourinstallation visit and from our visual inspections, we identified a number of sites that suggestedthe possibility of human exposure. The Figure shows the location of the 46 current IRP sites, and identifies the sites by name. Potential exposures associated with certain of thesesites fall into the following situational categories:

    1. Demonstrated contamination of edible aquatic fauna in an on-base pond
    2. Potential contamination of edible aquatic fauna in on-base ponds
    3. Potential contamination of edible aquatic fauna in the river, bay, and seaplane basins adjacent to NAS Patuxent River

These possible exposure situations are summarized in Table 1 and discussed in the body of thereport. A fourth situation, possible future contamination of deep aquifers, and a fifth, physicaldangers and/or verified or suspected surface contamination on installation restoration program(IRP) sites, represent no public health hazard.

BACKGROUND

A. Site Description, History, and Demographics

Naval Air Station Patuxent River is an active 6,800-acre installation on Cedar Point Peninsula inSt. Mary's County, Maryland, 65 miles southeast of Washington D.C. The base wascommissioned on April 1, 1943 and is located at the confluence of the Patuxent River andChesapeake Bay.

The mission of NAS Patuxent River is to maintain and operate facilities and provide services andmaterials to support operations of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division (NAWCAD)and other activities and units as designated by appropriate authority. The NAWCAD is aresearch, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E), engineering, and support center of airplatforms (1).

In February 1997, NAS Patuxent River reported a population that comprised approximately2,450 military personnel, 4,700 Department of Defense civilian employees, 6,250 contractors andnonappropriated fund employees, and 2,500 military dependents (2).

The census tract that includes the unincorporated community of Lexington Park is adjacent to thewestern edge of the base and contained about 10,000 persons in 1990. This tract contained74.1% whites and 21.5% blacks in 1990; 3.2% of persons were of Hispanic origin, and 51.8%were male. Approximately 23% of the 1990 population was under age 10, with about 2.9% age65 and over. The median frequency of change of domicile for heads of household in this tractwas 2.1 years. The corresponding frequency for the adjacent census tract that encloses NASPatuxent River was 5.0 years. Population densities for the two tracts were between 300 and 400persons per square mile (3).

St Mary's County had a 1990 population of approximately 76,000 persons. Whites constituted84.4% of the county's population; blacks, 13.5%; Hispanics, 1.6%; and 50.1% was male. About17.1% of persons were under age 10 years and 8.3%, over 65 years. The median length of timethat householders had been in their current household was 5.4 years. Population density was 210persons per square mile (3).

Past waste disposal and storage practices at NAS Patuxent River have resulted in environmental contamination at multiple sites. Environmental investigations at the base have been conductedunder the Department of the Navy Assessment and Control of Installation Pollutants (NACIP)Program, the Installation Restoration Program (IRP), and the Underground Storage TankProgram, among others. NAS Patuxent River personnel have taken numerous actions toremediate the areas of contamination on the station and to mitigate contaminant migration. Adetailed discussion of IRP data and actions is provided in the station's IRP documents at thestation library and at the Lexington Park Public Library.

B. ATSDR Involvement

NAS Patuxent River was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) NationalPriorities List (NPL) in June 1994. The NPL, also known as the Superfund List, is a list ofhazardous waste sites slated for cleanup. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR) is mandated to conduct a public health assessment at each site proposed for or listed onthe NPL.

ATSDR identifies ways in which people have been, are, or could be exposed to contaminants atan installation and, if such exposure situations are identified, determines whether they representpublic health hazards. Determinations described below were arrived at based on observationsmade during a September 1995 installation tour that included a review of environmental data anddiscussions with officials of NAS Patuxent River, the Maryland Department of the Environment,and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ATSDR staff returned to NAS Patuxent River inNovember 1996 to revisit selected sites and discuss issues raised subsequent to the August 1996release of the Public Comment issuance of the Public Health Assessment.


Figure 1
Figure 1



Next Section       Table of Contents

  
 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #