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

HEALTH CONSULTATION

WILLIAMSON, WV SITES
(a/k/a WILLIAMSON AREA)
WILLIAMSON, MINGO COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

In response to the petition of a resident of the Lick Creek community, the West Virginia Departmentof Health and Human Resources evaluated possible exposures to hazardous chemicals in theunincorporated communities of Lick Creek, Rawl, Merrimac, and Sprigg, West Virginia (the area).The petitioner alleged that the residents in this area have been and are being exposed to toxicchemicals from the old Williamson Landfill (landfill), the Norfolk Southern Railroad railcar clean-out area, and coal mining activities from Rawl Sales and Processing (the sites). The petitioner claimsthat all these activities have contaminated the environment in these communities. The petitionersupplied photographs to ATSDR illustrating several of the concerns. The petitioner alleges thatcancer and tumors of all types, respiratory problems, and Alzheimer's disease are being caused byexposure to chemicals from these sites. This health consultation will evaluate if local residents havebeen, are being, or might be exposed to contaminants in the future from these facilities inconcentrations that could cause adverse health effects. This report is issued by the Agency for ToxicSubstances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) under the terms of the West Virginia CooperativeAgreement.

This area is about 1.9 miles southeast of Williamson, the county seat for Mingo County. Thecommunities lie along 6.9 miles of State Route 49 and the banks of the Tug Fork River except forthe Lick Creek community which extends for about 1.5 miles along either side of Lick Creek (Figure1). Rawl is about 0.75 mile upstream from the mouth of Lick Creek. Merrimac is about 1 mileupstream from the mouth of Lick Creek. Sprigg is about 3.5 mile upstream from the mouth of LickCreek. Three churches and five businesses are in this area. There are no schools in the area and noschools are within 0.5 mile of the landfill and railroad clean-out sites.

There are 27 residences in West Virginia within a 0.5 mile radius of the landfill, the railroad clean-out and the Pond Creek Mine sites. No additional residences are within a 1-mile radius of these sites.Three of the residences in the 0.5 mile radius are upstream from the mouth of Lick Creek along StateRoute 49 between Lick Creek and Rawl. The remainder of the residences (24) is on the lower portionof Lick Creek Road, upstream from the landfill and the railroad clean-out sites (Figure 1). (Note thatthese numbers do not count the number of residences in Kentucky within a 0.5 or 1 mile radius ofthe landfill.) The closest residences downstream from the mouth of Lick Creek are located in Aflex,KY. The community water in Aflex is supplied by the Williamson, WV water plant.

About 660 people in 255 residences are in Lick Creek, Rawl, Merrimac, and Sprigg. Children, ages19 and younger make up 29% of the residents; people ages 20 - 64 57% and people 65 and older,14% [1]. The average earnings per capita in Mingo County are $12,445 [2]. The residents in the areause water from drilled wells (88%), hand-dug wells (9%), springs (2%), and no water source (1%)[3]. No public sewers are in the area.

Only 42% of the households in the area reported that they used their household well water or springwater for drinking water due to poor water quality. The residents report rotten egg or sulfur smellsin addition to kerosene and sewer-like odors. Residents reported that the water stains appliances andclothing and is colored from orange to black [3]. Many people in the area haul water to their homes.A water line extension project has been approved by the WV Bureau for Public Health and isawaiting funding. When the project is completed, the area will be supplied with water from the Cityof Williamson [3]. The Williamson water intake is located on the Tug Fork River approximately 3miles downstream from the mouth of Lick Creek.

The Norfolk Southern railroad car clean-out site has limited public access as a result of its locationwithin a very large railroad yard (Figure 2). It is located about 0.33 mile from the nearest residenceon Lick Creek and within 0.10 mile from the mouth of Lick Creek. There are no roads, residences,or businesses, other than the railroad yard, between WV State Rt. 49 and the Tug Fork River.

The landfill site is located between West Virginia State Route 49 and Lick Creek Road (CR49-1)[Figure 2]. The landfill is bounded on the north by a church and the residences at the end of LickCreek Road, on the south by State Rt. 49 and the railyard, and on the east and west by steep, forestedmountainsides. The 10-acre landfill site was used for residential purposes prior to the 1964 purchaseby the City of Williamson. A municipal landfill of unknown size was located at this site fromapproximately 1976 until 1985. The landfill was operated as a municipal landfill except for theperiod in the aftermath of the 1977 flood when large quantities of flood-damaged goods from MingoCounty were accepted. Officials who were associated with the flood relief say that the landfill mighthave accepted electrical transformers during this time period. No official records could be foundregarding the materials that were accepted in this landfill. Since 1985 the City of Williamson hasoperated this site under a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Class D Permitfor a noncommercial Construction/Demolition Solid Waste Facility of no more than 2 acres. Thislandfill is on the north bank of Lick Creek near its mouth at the Tug Fork River. The landfill slopessteeply toward the northern bank of Lick Creek. The landfill is approximately 1,000 feet (or 0.25mile) from the nearest home, upstream along Lick Creek. State Route 49 was recently relocatedacross the southern portion of the landfill when a horseshoe curve was eliminated.

Rawl Sales and Processing, a subsidiary of A.T. Massey Coal Company, operated an undergroundmine called the Pond Creek Mine (the Pond Creek Mine Site). Mining is no longer taking place andthe portal along the lower portion of Lick Creek Road has been sealed. The Pond Creek Mine siteextends from the Lick Creek area to the southeast toward the community of Rawl. The mine islocated under the residences along lower Lick Creek Road and several residences near EstepCemetery. An arm of the mine extends further to the southeast and ends about 500 feet from aresidence at the head of Dick Williamson Branch Road (Figure 4) [4]. The Pond Creek Mine site liesunder a portion of the landfill and slopes gradually (50 feet per mile) to the northwest under LickCreek. [5]. In the 1980s coal mine slurry was injected into the Pond Creek mine site through a borehole at the head of Lick Creek. The slurry would have traveled no further than the Pond Creek Mineportal on Lick Creek Road because the mine was sealed at this point [4]. A spill of coal mine slurryoccurred on Lick Creek on June 9, 1984. Slurry was dredged from the creek. According to nearbyresidents, the slurry was placed on land near the Pond Creek Mine portal, upstream from theresidences along the lower portion of Lick Creek Road.

The Rawl Sales and Processing Strip Mine Site is located along the mountaintop above the area(Figure 1). All streams and creeks draining toward Rawl, Merrimac, and Sprigg and Lick Creekoriginate on this site [6].

Geology

This area is characterized by steeply sloped (35-80 percent) forested mountains and narrow valleys.The elevations in this area range from 650 to 1950 feet. The valleys near rivers and creeks are nearlylevel but are very narrow. Nearly all residential and commercial development is in these valleys. Thesoils in these valleys are very deep and well drained [7]. There are 10 mineable seams of coal in thisarea, most of which have been mined [3].

The major geologic structure in this study is the Lick Creek Syncline, a short shallow geologic foldthat begins at the mouth of Lick Creek and extends 4 miles to Pigeon Creek. The geologic fold riseson both sides of Lick Creek approximately 65 feet per mile. The presence of this fold suggests thatgroundwater would flow from the southeast and northwest toward Lick Creek. Lick Creek wouldbe a groundwater convergence zone (Figure 3) [4]. However, groundwater flow can be changed inareas where humans have disturbed the ground. Water can flow through the voids left from miningor where ground subsidence has caused vertical cracks in the rocks. In addition, much of the waterfrom drilled wells in this area moves through the ground through vertical fractures made in the rocksduring well drilling [3].

Site Visit

On July 1, 2002, staff from West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and the Agency for ToxicSubstances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a site visit to observe the location of thecommunities allegedly impacted by potentially hazardous chemicals and the sites noted by the petitioner. The following observations were made:

  • An orange-colored fluid was draining from the steep face of the landfill into Lick Creek at three places.
  • Minnows and crayfish were observed upstream from the landfill. No aquatic life wasobserved in Lick Creek near the landfill.
  • One apparently empty 55-gallon drum, two hot-water heaters, one large storage tank, and a power line insulator were observed in the stream channel.
  • Municipal wastes were seen throughout the entire edge of the landfill along Lick Creek.
  • An all terrain vehicle (ATV) trail went into Lick Creek and through the culvert underState Rt. 49.
  • All surface water drains from the Rawl Sales and Processing Strip Mine site toward theresidences in the area.
  • All surface water drains from the residences in the area toward the landfill and therailroad clean-out sites.

DISCUSSION

Environmental Sampling Data Evaluation

No soil or air test results were located for this area.

Water testing results for the Williamson water system from 1985 through 2001 were reviewed forthe purpose of determining whether possible contaminants from the sites were detected in the citywater. No test results reviewed showed any chemicals at levels at which human health would beaffected.

The results of the 1994-1995 Lick Creek well water testing from the West Virginia Department ofEnvironmental Protection (WV DEP) were reviewed (Table 1) [4]. Data from the WaterlineFeasibility Study Lick Creek Area Mingo County, prepared by E.L. Robinson Engineering Companyfor the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Abandoned Mine Lands in 2001,were also reviewed (Table 2). Data was collected by the WV DEP and Robinson Engineering for thepurpose of evaluating chemicals related to coal and coal mining. The data were not collected for thepurpose of making a determination of whether the landfill or the railroad clean-out sites haveaffected the water in the area.

Because the residents were concerned about the color, taste, and smell of the water from their wells,this document will review the presence of iron, manganese, and sulfate in the water. The testing dataalso showed that a couple of residences had tap water with elevated lead levels. Because of the public health implications of this finding, lead in the groundwater will also be discussed.

Exposure Pathways Evaluation

To answer the question of whether anyone is exposed to environmental contamination at a particularsite and under what conditions the exposure occurs, an analyst has to evaluate for the presence ofpathways by which an individual can be exposed. An exposure pathway consists of five elements:(1) a source of contamination, (2) movement of the contaminant(s) into and through theenvironment, (3) a place where humans could be exposed to the contaminant(s), (4) a way forhumans to be exposed to the contaminant(s) (such as by drinking the water or breathing the air), and(5) the existence of one or more persons who may have been in contact with the contaminant(s).Exposure pathways are considered "complete" when one or more of the site-related contaminantscan be shown to have reached, or can likely reach, humans. Exposure pathways are considered"potential" when information about one or more of the five parts of the exposure pathway aremissing or if the presence of a part is uncertain. Pathways are considered to be "eliminated" ifexposures to site-related chemicals are extremely unlikely. In this health consultation, exposurepathways will be considered for the past, present, and future.

Chemicals from the sites could move into the groundwater and soil through leaching or throughvaporization. People could ingest the contaminants if the contaminants were present in the drinkingwater or if people ingested small amounts of contaminated soil. People could inhale contaminants if the chemicals vaporize, i.e., easily move into the air from contaminated water or soil. People could get the contaminants on their skin (dermal contact) by contact with contaminatedwater or soil.

Air exposure pathways

There is a potential for chemicals at these sites to vaporize and move through the groundwater and/orsoil. The chemicals could move into the air that people breathe when they are close to these sites.However, there are no data to show that chemicals with the potential to move into the air (vaporize)are associated with these sites or have contaminated the groundwater or air.

Even if there were chemicals present at these sites that could vaporize, the potential exposure topeople is very unlikely. Few people spend a lot of time at the landfill or the railroad car-clean outarea. If the chemicals in the slurry injected into the Pond Creek Mine were volatile, they could havemoved through the ground and into groundwater near the mine and into the air over the mine.However, the mine is located 100 feet below the homes on lower Lick Creek [3]. This distancemakes the potential for movement of chemicals from the mine through the soil and into the air ofthe homes unlikely. For these reasons, the air exposure pathway from these sites is eliminated forthe past, present, and future.

Norfolk Southern Railroad clean-out site

The petitioner said that a variety of hazardous substances, including batteries, asbestos, oils, anddiesel fuel have reportedly been discarded at the railroad clean-out site. The railroad clean-out sitehas limited public access given its location within the large railroad yard. Therefore, exposures toresidents in the area to chemicals through the dermal or inhalation routes are unlikely. Thesepathways are not likely to be a source of exposure to chemicals in amounts that could be hazardousto human health in the past, present and future.

Chemicals at this site, if any, could have leached into the groundwater. The natural movement of thegroundwater, however, is thought to be toward the Tug Fork River and away from all the residencesin the area (Figure 3). No underground coal mines or drilled wells are known to be near this site thatmight alter the natural movement of the groundwater. This pathway is not likely to be a source ofchemical exposure in amounts that could be hazardous to human health for the past, present andfuture.

Old Williamson Landfill site

It is possible that chemicals placed in the landfill site could have leached into the groundwater.Although the groundwater under the landfill should naturally move toward the Tug Fork River andaway from all the residences in the area (Figure 3), the presence of the Pond Creek Mine site underthe landfill and some of the nearby residences (Figure 4) indicates that there might be a potential formovement of contaminants from the landfill toward the drilled wells that might intersect with thePond Creek Mine site. Contamination would likely mix with and be diluted by the water in the mine.

Twenty private water wells are along the lower portion of Lick Creek. Of these twenty wells, fourwere thought to be deep enough to intersect the Pond Creek coal seam. These four wells also had sulfates measuring more than 100 milligrams per liter (mg/L) indicating possible influence from coalor coal mining. One of these wells was determined to be influenced by the Alma coal seam, one bythe Pond Creek Mine site, and two by unknown sources [4]. None of these wells are currently usedfor drinking water [3].

Three of the residences between Lick Creek and Rawl near the Estep Cemetery are located over thePond Creek Mine. Two of these residences use hand-dug wells that would not be deep enough tointersect the Pond Creek Mine works. The remaining well has a high sulfate content (308 mg/L)indicating possible influence from coal or coal mining [3]. The location and depth of this well, inconjunction with the high sulfate content, indicate that this well might be influenced by the PondCreek Mine works. This well is being used for drinking purposes [3].

Because of the natural movement of groundwater from this site toward the Tug Creek River, all wellwater in the area except for the wells known to intersect with the Pond Creek Mine was determinednot to be influenced by this site. The possibility that the wells that intersect the Pond Creek Mineare influenced by leachate moving from this site through the Pond Creek Mine is unlikely becausethe leachate would be diluted by water in the mine. This pathway is not likely to be a source ofexposure to chemicals in amounts that could be hazardous to the health of the people of this area.

Chemicals that might have been placed in the landfill could leach into the soil and/or surface water.The petitioner said that the construction to straighten Route 49 in 2000 cut into the landfill,disturbing the fill and causing additional leachate to run from the landfill into Lick Creek. Duringthe site visit, an orange substance was observed entering Lick Creek upstream from the crossingpoint of the all terrain vehicle (ATV) trail. The participants at the site visit could not determine ifthe road construction has allowed additional leachate to flow from the landfill. These chemicalscould be contacted by people who touched soil or drank water if the soil or water was contaminated.During the site visit, an ATV trail was observed on the landfill. The trail crossed Lick Creek in theculvert under State Route 49 downstream from the landfill. According to a local official, localresidents are using this trail to access the trail system for the Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Area andto reach other local communities without traveling on the highway. People may also access the sitefor other purposes. However, the potential for contact with contaminated soil on the landfill in thepresent, and in the future is considered unlikely because the landfill has accepted only constructionand demolition debris for the last 15 years. Moreover, any contaminated soil would be covered bythe later additions to the landfill. Any exposure would therefore be intermittent, and the amount ofchemicals in the water would have to be very high to cause health effects to a person on an ATVwhile crossing the stream. This pathway is not likely to be a source of dermal exposure to chemicalsin amounts that would be harmful to human health for the past, present or future.

Pond Creek Mine Site

Coal processing plant sludge was injected into this site in the 1980s through a bore hole at the headof Lick Creek [4]. A spill of sludge occurred in 1984 and moved down Lick Creek. The residue fromthe spill was removed from the creek and placed on land near the Pond Creek Mine portal. Sludgefrom coal processing plants contains chemicals used for processing the coal. Coal processing uses a variety of chemicals. There are no known records of what was used in this sludgeand no testing data was located.

Chemicals from this sludge could have contaminated the water in the mine and moved into thegroundwater that is tapped by drilled wells in the area. Even though water quality data prior to theslurry injection are not available, a study by the West Virginia Department of EnvironmentalProtection, Mining and Reclamation Division (WV DEP) in July 1995 concluded that any wellaffected by the slurry (either from the slurry injection or the slurry spill) would have an elevatedsulfate level. The wells below an elevation of 640 feet along the lower portion of Lick Creek couldpotentially have some residue from the slurry injection [4]. Although several of the wells along LickCreek showed elevated sulfate levels, the conclusion of the report was that only one of the wells wasaffected by the Pond Creek Mine Site [4]. The study did not include wells outside the Lick Creekarea. One drilled well near the Estep Cemetery might intersect with the Pond Creek Mine Site,according to self- reported well-depth figures. There are no data on the chemicals found in this well.However, chemicals in the Pond Creek Mine would be diluted with the mine water, and the longerthe sludge is in the mine, the greater the potential for dilution. Exposure to chemicals in harmfulamounts would therefore be unlikely. Therefore, the ingestion of chemicals from this site in amountsthat could cause harmful health effects in humans is unlikely for the past, present, and future.

The nature of chemicals, if any, in the sludge that spilled into Lick Creek is unknown. The sludgewas present in the stream for a short period of time, making any dermal, inhalation, or incidentalingestion exposures occur over a short period of time. Chemical exposures would have to be veryhigh over the short term to cause health effects. Therefore, the exposure of humans to chemicalsfrom this sludge spill through the skin, incidental ingestion, or inhalation in amounts that could causeadverse health effects is highly unlikely.

Rawl Sales and Processing Strip Mine Site

Surface water drainage from this site flows toward all the residences in the area. Residents of theLick Creek community have reported large subsidence cracks in the hillsides above Lick Creek.They claim that these cracks occurred during blasting operations at this site. Subsidence crackingcould increase the water flow from the surface into the groundwater used by the residents in this area[3]. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Mining and Reclamation Divisioncompleted a well water study. The results of the study did not associate any water wellcontamination on Lick Creek with this site [4]. The study, however, assessed only the wells in theLick Creek portion of the area. There are no data to show that hazardous chemicals are associatedwith this site other than an alleged spill of PCBs in July 1995 at the head of Lick Creek. Localresidents said that transformers were being cut open and that the oil, containing PCBs, spilled on theground. An investigation was requested. No official investigation reports could be found regardingthis incident. PCBs are strongly attracted to soil and sediment and less so to water [8]. Surfacedrainage from this site flows toward all the residences in the area.

Although there could be some movement of PCBs into the Lick Creek drainage as a result of soilerosion, the normal movement of water (moving without sediment) through the ground would notbe expected to result in PCB contamination. Therefore, the contamination of groundwater from PCBs spilled on the ground at the head of Lick Creek is highly unlikely. The potential foringestion of PCBs from this site is highly unlikely for the past, present, and future.

Because of the remote nature of the site, any dermal or inhalation exposures to hazardous chemicalson the site would be to trespassers. Trespassers would not likely spend a lot of time at the spill siteand therefore would have a minimal potential for contact with PCBs. The possible exposure ofhumans to chemicals at this site in amounts that could cause harmful health effects is unlikely forthe past, present, and future.

Potential Health Effects Evaluation

The first step in assessing the potential health risks associated with the water was to compare thewater test results with comparison values for drinking water (media-specific comparisonvalues)(Tables 1 and 2). Any chemical found to be in an amount under the relevant media-specificcomparison value was considered to be at a level at which there was no health risk from drinkingwater containing this level of chemical existed. However, the fact that chemicals are found at levelsabove the media-specific comparison value does not necessarily indicate that these chemicals havecaused harmful health effects, but rather that the test results should be reviewed further.

The chemicals noted in Tables 1 and 2 (see the end of this report) were evaluated by calculation ofan estimated exposure dose for drinking water and comparison of that estimated exposure dose tohealth guideline comparison values (Table 3). Several health guideline comparison values were used.The ATSDR Chronic Oral Minimal Risk Level (MRL) sets a level of a contaminant that a personcould ingest in drinking water (expressed as milligrams per kilogram per day) that would not resultin health problems if that person was exposed for 365 days or longer. The ATSDR IntermediateMRL sets a level of a contaminant that a person could ingest by drinking water for 15 - 365 dayswithout incurring health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chronic ReferenceDose (RfD) sets levels of daily exposures at which there is no effect to human health even whenexposures occur every day for a lifetime. The number of people who might get cancer if exposed toa particular amount of a contaminant can be calculated for chemicals that have a health guidelinecomparison value for carcinogenic effects. None of the chemicals found to be over the media specificcomparison values had any health-based guidelines for carcinogenic effects.

The calculation of estimated exposure doses noted in Table 3 and in the section below assume thata child weighs 10 kilograms (kg) (about 22 lb.) and drinks 1 liter of water a day (about 1 quart). Thecalculation assumes that an adult weighs 70 kg (about 154 lb.) and drinks 2 liters of water a day(about 2 quarts). The calculation assumed that exposure to the chemical occurred every day(meaning that the exposure factor was 1). The estimated exposure dose, in milligrams per kilogramper day (mg/kg/day), was calculated by multiplying the maximum concentration of the contaminantdetected (in milligrams per liter) by the amount of water ingested in a day (in liters) divided by thebody weight (in kilograms).

Iron

The highest amount of iron found in the well water tested was 88.1 mg/L. Assuming that a 10 kgchild would drink 1 liter of water a day, a child would ingest an estimated maximum amount of ironfrom the well water of 8.8 mg/kg/day. This amount of iron intake is far below the levels known tocause health problems.

Lead

The estimated exposure dose level of 0.004 mg/kg/day of lead for a child based on the maximumconcentration of lead found in the water (0.044 mg/L) is below any observed adverse health effectsin humans (Table 3). This amount of lead in the drinking water would not be expected to causeharmful health effects if there were no other significant sources of lead exposure [9].

The presence of this chemical in only two of the nearly 100 well water samples taken in this areaindicates that lead is not widespread in the groundwater. These samples were taken from residentialwater faucets and could have been influenced by leaching from lead-containing pipes, faucets, andsolder, which can be found in plumbing of older buildings.

Manganese

The media-based comparison value used for manganese was the Reference Media Evaluation Guide(RMEG) for manganese. RMEGs represent the concentration of a chemical in water or soil at whichdaily human exposure is unlikely to result in harmful noncarcinogenic effects. There are no data toshow that manganese is carcinogenic in humans[10].

Manganese levels in the data reviewed were found to be greater than the manganese RMEG forchildren (in about 22% of the wells tested) and the manganese RMEG for adults (in about 5% of thewells tested). Manganese was found in a range of 2.08 - 3.24 mg/L in this area (Table 1 & 2). Theestimated exposure dose for a child drinking water containing 3.24 mg/L would be 0.324 mg/kg/day;for an adult, 0.093 mg/kg/day. Mild neurological signs have been reported in humans at an ingestionrate of 0.059 mg/kg/day of manganese in water, when exposed every day for a 50 year period.Research has shown that a higher-than-usual oral exposure to manganese, at levels similar to thosefound in this area, might contribute to an increased prevalence of neurological effects in the elderly[11]. There is some concern that a lifetime exposure to water containing about 2 mg/L manganese,a level found in the well water in this area, could result in adverse health effects. Recent researchindicates that there may be a developmental effect in infants fed infant formula that is reconstitutedby use of water high in manganese [10].

Individual responses to manganese are highly variable, and assessing exposure to manganese iscomplex because people are exposed to this chemical from food, water, and some mineral andvitamin supplements. Persons with liver disease and/or gastrointestinal illness that affects theirmanganese metabolism may be at higher risk for adverse health effects from the buildup ofmanganese in their bodies [11].

Manganese in the groundwater may be naturally occurring or may be a result of coal mining. Thesource of the manganese could not be associated with any particular mining operation, such as RawlSales and Processing.

Sulfates

The media-based comparison value used for sulfates was the EPA National Drinking Water Standard(NSDWR) for sulfates. The NSDWR sets levels of chemicals that primarily affect the taste, smell,and appearance of drinking water. The levels of sulfate found, up to 408 mg/L, are not expected tocause any harmful health effects in the general population. However, some people who are notaccustomed drinking water with this level of sulfates might experience diarrhea. This effect mightoccur in people moving into or visiting the area or in infants drinking formula reconstituted by useof water high in sulfates [12].

Sulfates in the groundwater may be naturally occurring or may be a result of coal mining. The sourceof the sulfates could not be associated with any particular mining operation, such as Rawl Sales and Processing.


COMMUNITY CONCERNS

Much of the water from the wells in the area contains black flakes, is slimy and has off colors andflavors

Coal mine maps show more than 100 instances of surface and deep coal mining in the area prior to1977 and 29 after 1977. Comparison of the chemical composition of water from more than 60residential wells to the analysis from coal mining discharges showed that 64% of the wells in thearea have been affected by coal mining done before 1977 [3]. Coal mining activities can add manyminerals to the groundwater, such as iron, manganese, and sulfur.

Iron at levels that can cause metallic and bitter tastes in water, water discoloration, and staining ofclothes and appliances was found in more than 70% of the wells tested. Water that is high in ironoften contains iron bacteria that affect the taste and odor of the water but do not cause any healthproblems. Water containing a type of iron called "ferric iron" appears to have black or rust coloredparticles, which are small particles of iron [13]. It is unknown if the water in this area contains "ferriciron." A survey of residents in the area performed by the E.L. Robinson company indicated thatmuch of the well water in the area contains specks and flakes of material [3]. Iron at levels found inthe well water in this area is unlikely to cause adverse health effects.

Manganese at the levels found in the area can cause metallic and bitter tastes in water, waterdiscoloration, and staining of clothes and appliances. Manganese in the drinking water at the levelsfound could cause adverse health effects in people with liver or gastrointestinal disease and in infantsfed formula reconstituted with this water.

Water containing sulfates at levels found in much of the well water in this area is likely to smell bad.Sulfates at the levels found in the drinking water could cause diarrhea in infants drinking formulareconstituted with this water and in people not accustomed to drinking this water.

Arsenic poisoning from drinking water

Local residents claim that a child living at Rawl was poisoned by drinking water that containedarsenic. The drinking water source was water that came from a stream or spring and not from a well.The water was collected in a tank of unknown composition. The mother of the child said that thewater source served two households. Three adults and one child lived in these two households. Bothhouseholds are now using water from wells. The child has moved away from the area with hisfamily. No data could be obtained to assess this claim. No data on the chemical composition of waterfrom springs or surface drainage could be found. In any case, this alleged exposure pathway nolonger exists for these two families.

The potential for chemical and biological contamination from surface or spring water is verydifferent from the contamination risk of groundwater that fills drilled or hand-dug wells. The sourceof the arsenic in the water used by this family was not determined. There were many potentialsources of contamination in the individual water distribution system or along the surface waterdrainage pathway.

Use of fill dirt from a cemetery in the landfill

The petitioner said that cemetery dirt and human remains were moved to the landfill with the fill dirtused in the construction to straighten State Route 49. The WV DEP gave its approval to thestraightening project, stating that the construction might uncover some old material, such as wood,that might decompose [14]. The project used fill dirt from the rock cliff and some overburdenadjacent to the church property at the head of Lick Creek. The West Virginia Division of Culture andHistory reviewed this location to see if it's use would affect the cultural resources of the state,including cemeteries. There was no evidence that fill from a cemetery was used in this road project[15].

Smoke from coal fires

Local residents indicated that smoke from coal fires in the mountains routinely fills the air in LickCreek. According to a local official, the current coal fire is located over the mountain from LickCreek near Lincoln City and Taylorville. The fire was not associated with any of the sites reviewedfor this report. This situation is outside the scope of this health consultation and should be reportedto the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Mining and Reclamation Division.

Raw sewage

The petitioner stated that there was raw sewage in his yard. Fecal coliform bacteria have been foundin many wells, in the deep mine discharges and in Lick Creek [3,4]. This health consultation focuseson the potential for exposure to hazardous chemicals and does not cover microbiological hazards.Microbiological hazards are not associated with any of the sites reviewed for this report. This issueshould be reported to the Mingo County Health Department.

Sludge pond

The community is concerned that a sludge pond at the head of the hollow is ready to break. Thissituation is outside the scope of this health consultation and should be reported to the West VirginiaDepartment of Environmental Protection, Mining and Reclamation Division.

Cancer and tumors

The community is concerned about the number of people in the area with cancers and tumors ofevery type. Consultation with the West Virginia Cancer Registry indicates that the types of cancersin this area are similar to those in Mingo County as a whole. The 5-year average annual age-adjustedrates of cancers of the lung in Mingo County are high compared to the incidence in the state of WestVirginia and in the United States as a whole. Other types of cancers in Mingo County for which theWest Virginia Cancer Registry publishes average annual age-adjusted rates (breast, colon, andprostrate) do not show rates significantly higher than those in the United States as a whole. (The 5-year average annual age-adjusted rate is found by taking the number of people diagnosed in a five-year period and averaging the number into a one-year time frame. The numbers are adjusted to takeinto account the fact that more people get cancer as they age. No additional comment can be madeabout these issues without more information.

Breathing problems.

The community is concerned that a large number of people in the area have breathing problems.Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumoconiosis (black lung) and lung cancer areconditions that cause breathing problems in the area.

Asthma is a chronic disease in which airflow in and out of the lungs may be blocked by musclesqueezing, swelling and excess mucus. Patients with asthma may respond to factors in theenvironment, called triggers, that do not affect non-asthmatics. In response to a trigger, an ashmatic'sairways become narrowed and inflamed, resulting in wheezing and/or coughing symptoms [16].There are many kinds of triggers. They can range from viruses (such as those that can cause colds)to gases and particles in the air. In some individuals the trigger could be exposure to a particularsubstance or chemical, including cigarette smoke, ozone, sulfur dioxide and automobile exhaust [17].None of the chemicals identified at these sites are common triggers for asthma.

The Mingo County rate of death from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), 87.1 peoplein a population of 100,000, is more than twice the rate for the United States as a whole (40.5 peoplein a population of 100,000) [18]. Risk factors for this disease are long-term smoking, heredity,exposure to second-hand smoke, and exposure to air pollution. No exposures were identified thatwould link likely exposures from these sites to COPD [19].

Pneumoconiosis (black lung) is a chronic lung disease from exposure to dusts. The disease isgenerally found in people exposed to coal dust, silica dust or iron oxide dust while working. Occupational exposure to these dusts is a risk factor for developing this disease. Occupationalexposure to dusts is not an issue considered in this health consultation.

The rate of lung cancer in Mingo County (87.1 people per 100,000) is more than twice the rate inthe United States (40.5 per 100,000) [18]. The major risk factors for lung cancer are tobacco use(87% of the cases) and exposure to radon gas. These risk factors are not associated with these sites.

Alzheimer's disease.

The community is concerned about the number of people in the area who have Alzheimer's disease,one form of dementia. It is assumed that the petitioner was including all people with dementia(deterioration of memory, concentration or judgement) when using the term Alzheimer's disease.There are many causes of dementia, including the use of some drugs, excessive consumption ofalcohol, and factors that cause strokes and heart disease (high cholesterol and high bloodpressure)[20,21]. There is no evidence that dementia is related to chemical exposure in non-occupational settings.

Other health problems

The community claims that many health problems are caused by the water: typhoid, hepatitis, strepthroat, dry skin, rotten tonsils, ulcers, cancer, blood in urine and stools, and stomach illness(parasites) [3]. Typhoid, hepatitis, strep throat, rotten tonsils and stomach illness (parasites) areassociated with inadequate water purification and not with exposure to hazardous chemicals. Dryskin, ulcers, and blood in urine and stools are terms that encompass many conditions of variouscauses. These conditions cannot be attributed to any of these sites without more information.


PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

The public comment period version of this report was issued on September 30, 2003. Copies of thereport were sent to the petitioner, local officials, and other interested parties. The document wasavailable for review at the Williamson City Library. The public comment period ended on December 15, 2003. No comments were received.


CHILD HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS

Although this area has a significant older population, children live in the area. Children are at greaterrisk than adults from certain kinds of exposure to hazardous substances released from waste sites.They are more likely to be exposed for several reasons. Children are smaller than adults, resultingin higher doses of chemical exposure per body weight. Children are often more sensitive to theeffects of chemical exposures than adults and can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occurduring critical growing stages. Children play outside more often than adults, increasing thelikelihood that they will come into contact with chemicals in the environment. Finally, childrendepend on adults for risk identification and avoidance. For these reasons, this health consultationconsidered possible child exposure scenarios and possible health effects in children for all the sites reviewed.


CONCLUSIONS

There is no indication that there are exposures to potentially hazardous chemicals from the NorfolkSouthern Railroad railcar clean-out site or the Rawl Sales and Processing Strip Mine site. Theexposure pathways from both sites were not likely to be the source of chemical exposures that could cause adverse health effects for the past, present, and future.

There are limited opportunities for exposure to chemicals at the Old Williamson Landfill site.Dermal and inhalation exposures are unlikely. The potential ingestion of water containing hazardousquantities of chemicals from this site is unlikely because of the potential for dilution of leachate inthe Pond Creek Mine. The exposure pathways from this site were not likely to be a source ofexposure to chemicals in hazardous amounts for the past, present, and future.

There are no indications that there have been harmful exposures to potentially hazardous chemicalsfrom the Pond Creek Mine site or the Rawl Sales and Processing Strip Mine site.

There are no completed or potential exposure pathways from these two sites.

These sites have been categorized as no public health hazard.

The groundwater in this area contains high levels of manganese and sulfates at levels that may beof concern for some persons. However, these chemicals could not be associated with any of these sites.


RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Persons drinking groundwater from this area should consult with a doctor to see if they should restrict manganese in their diets or from other sources, such as multivitamins or mineral supplements.

  • Persons with liver or gastrointestinal disease should consult a doctor to see if they should avoid ingestion of water in this area, water that is high in manganese.

  • Infants should not be fed dry formula mixed with groundwater that is high in manganeseand/or sulfates.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

  • Public education activities will be available to the residents to answer the questions about possible health risks associated with these sites.

  • Public education activities will be offered to the doctors in this area to help them answer questions about possible health effects of high manganese and sulfates in the drinking water.

PREPARERS OF REPORT

Barbara J. Smith MS
Epidemiologist II
Public Health Sanitation Division
Office of Environmental Health Services
Bureau for Public Health, WV DHHR

Alrena V. Lightbourn REM, MS
Environmental Toxicologist
Public Health Sanitation Division
Office of Environmental Health Services
Bureau for Public Health, WV DHHR


Reviewer of Report

Joseph A. Wyatt, RS
Acting Director
Public Health Sanitation Division
Office of Environmental Health Services
Bureau for Public Health, WV DHHR


ATSDR Technical Project Officer

LCDR Alan G. Parham, REHS, MPH
Technical Project Officer
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
1600 Clifton Road, N.E. MS-E32
Atlanta, GA 30333


ATSDR Regional Representatives

Lora Siegmann-Werner
ATSDR Region III Regional Representative
1650 Arch Street Mail Stop 3HS00
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Tom Stukas
ATSDR Region III Regional Representative
1650 Arch Street Mail Stop 3HS00
Philadelphia, PA 19103


CERTIFICATION

The Health Consultation on the Williamson WV Sites, a/k/a Williamson Area, in Williamson, MingoCounty, West Virginia was prepared by the West Virginia Department of Health and HumanResources under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and DiseaseRegistry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the Health Consultation was begun.

Alan G. Parham, REHS, MPH
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)
ATSDR


The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this HealthConsultation and concurs with its findings.

Roberta Erlwein
Section Chief, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


REFERENCES

  1. Bureau of the Census. 2000 Summary file. US Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.;[cited 2002 Dec 10] Available from URL: http://factfinder.census.gov .

  2. Bureau of the Census. Mingo County Quick facts. US Department of Commerce, Washington,D.C.; [cited 2003 Jan 10] Available from URL: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/54/54059.html .

  3. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Phase II waterline feasibility study LickCreek Area Mingo County: prepared by E.L. Robinson Engineering Company. Charleston: WestVirginia Department of Environmental Protection, Abandoned Mine Lands; 2001 Jun.

  4. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Lick Creek well complaint study.Logan,WV: West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Mining and ReclamationDivision; 1995 Jul.

  5. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Phase I waterline feasibility study LickCreek Area Mingo County: prepared by E.L. Robinson Engineering Company. Charleston, WV:West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Abandoned Mine Lands; 2001 Mar.

  6. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Interactive Map Site, West VirginiaDivision of Mining and Reclamation, Charleston, West Virginia. [cited 2002, Dec 11] Available from URL: http://www.dep.state.wv.us/ .

  7. Unpublished general soil map Logan and Mingo Counties, West Virginia, SCS.

  8. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for polychlorinatedbiphenyls. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services; 1997 Sep; Contract No:205-93-0606.

  9. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for lead. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Resources; 1999 Jul; Contract No:205-93-0606.

  10. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Integrated Risk Information System forManganese. [cited 2003 Jan 3]. Available from URL: http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0373.htm .

  11. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for manganese.Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Resources; 2000 Sep; Contract No:205-93-0606.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health effects from exposure to high levels ofsulfate in drinking water study. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 1999 Jan; USEnvironmental Protection Pub. No:815-R-99-001.

  13. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Iron and manganese in household water. Blacksburg, VA: 2000 Jan [cited 2003 Jan 3] Available from URL: http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/housing/356-478/356-478.html .

  14. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Letter to the Division of Highways fromB.F. Smith concerning the Lick Creek relocation project. Charleston, WV: July 23, 1999.

  15. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Letter to Kanawha Stone Company from Susan M. Pierce concerning the Lick Creek relocation project. Charleston, WV: December 7, 1999.

  16. American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. Allergic conditions. Asthma. Milwaukee, WI: [cited 2003 Jan 9] Available from URL: http://www.aaaai.org/patients/allergic_conditions/asthma.stm .

  17. American Lung Association. Facts about asthma. New York, NY: 2001 Nov [cited 2003 Jan 9] Available from URL: http://www.lungusa.org/asthma/astasthma.html#whatis .

  18. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. West Virginia 2000 County healthprofiles. Charleston, WV: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau forPublic Health, Office of Epidemiology and Health Promotion; 2001 Mar

  19. American Lung Association. Breathlessness in America. Background on COPD. New York, NY: 2001 Feb [cited 2003 Jan 10] Available at URL: http://www.lungusa.org/press/lung_dis/asn_copdback.html .

  20. Alzheimer's Society. Alzheimer's dementia care and research. London: Alzheimer's Society; [cited 2003 April 1] Available at URL: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about/causes.html#alcohol

  21. Alzheimer's Association. Causes and risk factors. Chicago, IL; 2002 Feb [cited 2003 Jan 3] Available at URL: http://www.alz.org/AboutAD/Risk.asp .

FIGURES

Site Vicinity Map
Figure 1. Site Vicinity Map

Site Location Map
Figure 2. Site Location Map

Groundwater flow toward the Lick Creek Syncline
Figure 3. Groundwater flow toward the Lick Creek Syncline

Location of Pond Creek Mine
Figure 4. Location of Pond Creek Mine


TABLES

Table 1.

WV DEP Water sample data for Lick Creek wells
  Number Number Range of concentrations Environmental Guideline Number
Contaminant Samples Detections measured over the CV Comparison Values (CV) detections
        (mg/L) Type of CV greater than
      milligram/Liter (mg/L)     CV
Iron 40 34 0.38 - 88.1 0.3 NSDWR 28
Manganese 55 47 0.57 - 3.24 0.5 RMEG-child 12
Sulfate 38 21 273 250 NSDWR 1
NSDWR: EPA National Secondary Drinking Water Standards
 
RMEG-child: Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guide for a child
Note: Some wells were sampled more than once
The Manganese samples over the CV represent 7 households with at least
one test over 0.5 mgL and 3 households with at least one test over 2 mg/L


Table 2.

Robinson Engineering water sample data for wells in Lick Creek, Rawl, Sprigg, Merrimac
  Number Number Range of concentrations Environmental Guideline Number
Contaminant Samples Detections measured over CV Comparison Values (CV) detections
        (mg/L) Type of CV greater than
      milligram/Liter (mg/L)     CV
Iron 59 58 0.31 - 30.5 0.3 NSDWS 45
Lead 59 19 0.042 - 0.044 0.015 EPA Action Level 2
Manganese 59 58 0.513 - 2.94 0.5 RMEG-child 15
Sulfate 59 55 308 - 408 250 NSDWS 4
EPA Action Limit is the point at which a public water supply would be required to take action
NSDWR: EPA National Secondary Drinking Water Standards
RMEG-child: Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guide for a child
One sample was rejected because the data were so high that the sample was considered
to be in error. Results: iron (5750 mg/L), manganese (35.2 mg/L), lead (0.306 mg/L)


Table 3.

Comparison of Estimated Exposure Doses to Health Guideline Comparison Values
Contaminant Maximum detected Estimated Exposure Dose Health Guideline Comparison Values
  contaminant concentration for a child for an adult    
  mg/L mg/kg/day mg/kg/day mg/kg/day Type
Iron 88.1 8.810 2.517   None
Lead 0.044 0.004 0.001   None
Manganese 3.24 0.324 0.093 0.05 Rfd for environmental exposures
Sulfate 408 40.800 11.657   None
Estimated Exposure Dose = ((max contaminant concentration)*(Liter/day))/body weight (kg)* Exposure Factor (1)
Assumptions: A child weighs 10 kg (about 22 lb) and drinks 1 Liter (about 1 quart) of water a day and
an adult weighs 70 kg (about 154 lb) and drinks 2 Liter (about 2 quarts) of water a day
mg/L = milligram per Liter
mg/kg/day = milligram per kilogram per day
MRL = Minimal Risk Level
RfD = Chronic Reference Dose


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. #