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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

WEST SITE/HOWS CORNER
PLYMOUTH, PENOBSCOT COUNTY, MAINE


SUMMARY

The West Site/Hows Corner National Priorities List site is a former waste oil storage and transfer facility. It consists of two acres in a rural area of Plymouth, Penobscot County, Maine. A waste oil storage and transfer facility operated at the site from 1965 until 1980.

The site was identified in 1987, when nearby residential wells were found to be contaminatedwith chlorinated solvents. Residents with affected wells were supplied bottled drinking water by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP also provided andmaintained carbon filters to treat the well water for other domestic purposes. The DEP and theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have recently completed the formation of a newwater district to provide a municipal water supply to 36 homes in the vicinity of the Hows Corner site.

On-site soils were found to be contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The EPA constructed a fence around much of the site in 1990, and removed several tons of contaminated soil in 1991. The site was added to the National Priorities List (Superfund) in 1995, based on groundwater contamination.

Members of the community have expressed concerns about their health following exposure tocontamination in their residential wells.

The Hows Corner site is classified as a public health hazard based on past exposure of residentsto contamination in their residential wells, and also past exposure to contaminated soils ofworkers and others who may have come onto the site. Both of these exposures are believed tohave ended as a result of actions taken by the Maine DEP and the EPA. However, recentsampling data may indicate that contaminated groundwater is migrating further from the sitewhich could eventually impact private wells used for domestic purposes. More sampling data isneeded to confirm if this contamination could affect potable water sources.

The site is also classified as a current indeterminate public health hazard, based upon thepossibility that contaminants in the groundwater may volatilize and affect the ambient air abovethe ground surface and because of possible increased migration of contaminated groundwater offthe site.

ATSDR recommends that air or soil gases be sampled, and that area residents who continue touse their residential well for domestic purposes and who are concerned about the quality of their water contact the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (207-287-2651) for moreinformation.


BACKGROUND

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will evaluate the public healthsignificance of contamination at the West Site/Hows Corner National Priorities List site (HowsCorner). More specifically, ATSDR will determine whether health effects are possible, and willrecommend and implement actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, locatedin Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and HumanServices, and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, andLiability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

The Hows Corner hazardous waste site is a former waste oil storage and transfer facility. It consists of two acres in a rural area of Plymouth, Penobscot County, Maine (figure 1). The site consists of a grassy clearing; all of the equipment and storage tanks were removed when operations ceased in 1980. The town of Plymouth currently owns the site as a result of delinquent taxes.

A waste oil storage and transfer facility operated at this site from 1965 until 1980. Waste oil was delivered by tank trucks, and stored on-site in eight 1,000 to 20,000 gallon storage tanks. Waste oil was received from military bases, garages, industries, utilities, and bulk transportation facilities. Oil was stored in tanks, and allowed to settle. The lighter oil from the top of the tanks was sold for fuel. The heavier oils were sold for dust control on dirt roads.

The site was identified in 1987, when a nearby residential well was found to be contaminatedwith chlorinated solvents. Several residential wells were subsequently found to also becontaminated. Residents with affected wells were supplied bottled drinking water by the MaineDepartment of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP also provided and maintained carbonfilters to treat the well water for other domestic purposes, such as bathing (1). The DEP hasrecently helped the town of Plymouth with the formation of a new water district to administerand oversee a municipal water supply providing service to 36 homes in the vicinity of the HowsCorner site.

An investigation of the contamination at the site was conducted by the DEP and the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and on-site soils were found to be contaminated withchlorinated hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In 1991, the EPA removedseveral tons of contaminated soil from the site.

The site was added to the National Priorities List (Superfund) in 1995, based on the groundwater contamination associated with the site.


Figure 1: Location of West Site/Hows Corner National Priorities ListSite.

B. Site Visit by ATSDR

ATSDR staff visited the site on September 26, 1995. Dana Abouelnasr, Déborah Boling, and Shan-Ching Tsai from ATSDR headquarters in Atlanta, and Susanne Simon from ATSDRregional operations in Boston held discussions with a representative of the Plymouth WaterDistrict, and with the selectman of Plymouth about the site and the surrounding community

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

The Hows Corner site is located in a rural residential area. An estimate of the number of people who live within one mile of the site is approximately 240 (2). All of these people identified themselves as white in the 1990 census. There has been some movement of people into and out of the vicinity of the site.

Land Use

The area surrounding the site is mainly rural residential. Livestock, particularly horses, are raised nearby. In the past, cattle were kept on a nearby dairy farm. A few businesses also operate within the area.

Natural Resource Use

The Plymouth Water District supplies many of the homes in the immediate vicinity of the site. Water for the district comes from supply wells in an unaffected area to the west of the site. Before the establishment of the Plymouth Water District, all of the residences and businesses used private wells for their water supply.

Plymouth Pond, which is to the north of the site, is used for recreational purposes, including swimming, boating, and fishing. It has also been used in the past to water livestock on a dairy farm. People in the area hunt the ducks and geese which feed on the pond. The area also supports deer and moose hunting.

Other, smaller ponds which are on private property are also used for raising fish for food. These ponds are fed from surface water and from springs.

D. Community Health Concerns

As part of the development of this public health assessment, ATSDR staff mailed out letters to area residents and concerned community members to solicit their health concerns and explain the purpose of a public health assessment. Several area residents responded to the letter.

Area residents have expressed concerns about how their health may be affected by the HowsCorner site. A few people mentioned concern about the incidence of cancer in people who usedcontaminated groundwater, and in people who worked at the site, helping to remove thecontaminated soil. Another person expressed a concern about people, particularly children, wholive in the vicinity of the site and have not hooked up to the Plymouth Water District supply. This person wanted to know whether these wells, which are still in use, would be tested forcontamination.



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