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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

TIBBETTS ROAD
BARRINGTON, STRAFFORD COUNTY, NEW HAMPSHIRE


SUMMARY

The Tibbetts Road National Priorities List site is a former residential property where the owner possessed at least 337 55-gallon drums of which 201 drums contained various materials. Initial sampling of the contents of these drums indicated the presence of acetone, benzene, toluene, xylenes, trichloroethene, and 4-methyl-2-pentanone. Subsequent sampling of these drums indicated high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). It is believed that the owner brought the barrels to his residence (the site) during the period of 1948-1953. The owner mainly used these materials as a fuel supplement for burning in automobile engines. In addition, the materials were used to burn the upholstery from the interior of automobiles on his property that were intended for salvage. Thirty to forty junk automobiles originally at the site have been removed. Because of past disposal and other activities at the site, about 10 former residents and children were exposed in the past to on-site contaminants. In addition, groundwater contamination at the site has resulted in past exposure of about 30 individuals through their use of private well water.

Based on information reviewed, the ATSDR has concluded that the Tibbetts Road site is a public health hazard primarily because of past exposure to hazardous substances at levels that may cause adverse health effects. Former residents of the building on the site, especially children who once played on the site, were exposed to PCBs and PCE through ingestion from either contaminated surface water or soil at levels that could cause neurological signs, blood problems and suppression of immunological functions. In addition, PCE and PCBs in soils on the site could result in a slightly low to high increased risk of cancer. The site currently represents a no apparent public health hazard.

Residents who used the residential well water one-half mile from the site were exposed to acetone (may be partly site-related), manganese (may not be site-related), and propylene glycol (probably not site-related) at levels that could cause adverse health effects. Based on animal studies, less serious anemia, liver and kidney problems could occur after less than one year of continuous exposure to acetone, and mild neurological signs and diminished brain function could occur after one to 50 years of continuous exposure to manganese. In addition, mild skin rashes could occur in infants and young children after acute/short duration of exposure to propylene glycol. These residents have been provided a permanent alternate water supply by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact exposure to benzene and TCE, through the past use of residential well water, within the immediate vicinity of the site is unlikely to result in any non-carcinogenic adverse health effects. However, we estimate that exposure to benzene through use of the most contaminated well within the immediate vicinity of the site may result in a low increased risk of cancer. Workers and campers who used the Len-Kay Campground well water are unlikely to suffer adverse health effects because of the low levels and short duration of past exposure to TCE in the well water. However, long term use of the Len-Kay Campground Well should be reconsidered because continuous exposure to even low levels of a suspect carcinogen should be avoided. The campground has been provided a permanent alternate water supply by the EPA.

Citizens raised several health concerns related to past exposure to site contaminants on-site and through the past use of contaminated private well water. Detailed answers to these concerns appear in the Public Health Implications section and the Response to Public Comments of this Public Health Assessment.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) made recommendations to reduce and prevent exposure to contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) selected remedial alternative (cleanup method), once implemented, will be protective of public health. ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) has determined that persons exposed to TCE and/or benzene contaminated drinking water be considered for inclusion in the subregistries for those contaminants and that further community involvement may be needed if public comments indicate an ongoing need for persons who have been exposed to understand their exposure. ATSDR has reviewed public comments and determined that additional education is needed for the residents of one household, that was exposed to manganese and acetone (may not be site-related), and their physician. This education will be provided by the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services (NHDPHS). The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the NHDPHS will continue to monitor drinking water wells and will provide health information to private well owners in the area, respectively. The EPA plans to identify potentially affected private wells in the area, establish regular monitoring programs, and implement institutional controls to restrict the use of contaminated well water in the area.


BACKGROUND

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will evaluate the public health significance of the Tibbetts Road Hazardous Waste site. More specifically, ATSDR will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), as amended, to conduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites. The CERCLA legislation is commonly called "Superfund".

A. SITE DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY

The Tibbetts Road site is in the Town of Barrington, Strafford County, New Hampshire about eight miles west of the City of Dover, New Hampshire (1). On July 10, 1986, the site was finalized for inclusion on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Priorities List of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (2).

On the basis of a complaint, the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services (NHDPHS) investigated the site in April and May of 1982. The owner of a residence on Tibbetts road possessed at least 337 55-gallon drums of which 201 drums contained various materials. Initial sampling of the contents of these drums indicated the presence of acetone, benzene, toluene, xylenes, trichloroethene, and 4-methyl-2-pentanone. Subsequent sampling of these drums indicated high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). It is believed that the owner brought the barrels to his residence (the site) during the period of 1948-1953. The owner mainly used these materials as a fuel supplement for burning in automobile engines. In addition, the owner used the liquids to burn the upholstery from the interior of automobiles on his property that were intended for salvage (1). Thirty to forty junk automobiles originally at the site have been removed.

Analysis of residential wells in the vicinity of the site by the New Hampshire Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission (NHWSPCC) in June 1982 indicated the presence of contamination in one of these residential wells. After June 1982, monitoring of other nearby residential wells was continued on a quarterly basis. In January 1984 Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in a second residential well located about 250 feet north of the site. In 1987, EPA began construction of a water supply system to provide drinking water for the residents affected by the site. A nearby lake, Swains Lake, was selected to be the source of this alternate water supply (1). This water system was completed in the Fall of 1987. Between 1985 and 1987, bottled water was provided to those residents with contaminated wells (3).

In March 1984, the NHDPHS and the NHWSPCC collected soil and surface water samples for analysis from three areas containing drums, known as Areas A, B, and C (Appendix A, Figures 1 and 2). The results of the analysis of these samples prompted the NHDPHS to request the EPA to intervene in an emergency removal of all drums, which was completed by May 1984. The 221 drums were analyzed for compatibility and consolidated into 82 drums prior to off-site transport to a disposal site. During EPA's removal action, soil samples were collected from three drum storage areas to determine the presence of residual soil contamination. The analysis of these soil samples indicated the presence of total VOCs up to 2,179 parts per million (ppm). In addition, because of the presence of PCBs in soil samples obtained in October 1985, the EPA included analyses for dioxins and furans during extensive soil sampling between July and August 1985 (1). It is believed that dioxins and furans were formed as combustion by-products when the interior of the salvaged automobiles were burned using waste liquids that contained PCBs from the on-site drums (1).

In July 1985, the NHDPHS and the New Hampshire Department of Public Works and Highways placed a snow fence around the highest levels of soil contamination at the site. Also, a temporary tarp was placed over the areas of soil exhibiting PCB, dioxin, and furan contamination. In October 1985, the EPA assigned a 24-hour guard to the site to prevent trespassing (1).

After the site was secured, on-site soils and standing water exhibiting high concentrations of contaminants were excavated and disposed of off-site. The EPA and NHDPHS conducted a joint soil removal operation in March and April 1986. Additional sampling was performed by NHDPHS to insure the removal of all highly contaminated soils. Excavated areas were regraded with clean fill, then covered with an impermeable liner material. Loam and seed were spread over the regraded areas, and a chain-link fence was erected around the site. The PCB and dioxin contaminated soil were temporarily contained in a well secured dumpster. EPA then brought in a mobile incinerator to provide on-site thermal destruction of the PCB and dioxin contaminated soils (1).

After the excavation and disposal of soil were completed, about five gallons of a herbicide was spilled on-site. Sampling and analyses by EPA of a residue and soil sample collected after the herbicide spill revealed elevated concentrations of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (28,000 ppm 2,4,5-T and 54,270 ppm 2,4-D in the residue sample; and 1,470 ppm 2,4,5-T and 2,420 2,4-D in the soil sample). The contaminated soil and container were disposed of properly by the NHDPHS (4).

The site currently consists of an unoccupied single family residence in which the former owner of the site and his family once lived (2). The house located on-site has been partially destroyed by a fire that occurred in October 1982. This fire did not affect the drums that were stored on-site. Currently, there are no remedial or other activities at the site. Access to the site is restricted by an eight foot fence with barbed-wire around the top perimeter. See the Site Visit section below for more information on the current status of site.

Between 1984 and 1987, ATSDR or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) performed six health consultations. On-site soil contamination and residential well contamination data, provided by EPA, were evaluated for their significance to public health. In addition, a brief health assessment, based on limited residential well data, was issued on January 7, 1986.

EPA issued a Remedial Investigation (RI) and Feasibility Study (FS) in June 1992. EPA signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for the site on September 28, 1992. EPA's selected cleanup alternative would include the following elements (5):

  • upgrading and expansion of the water supply system where necessary;
  • institutional controls, if possible, on groundwater use for those residences added to the drinking water supply;
  • long-term monitoring of the environment;
  • five-year reviews;
  • removal of the existing house, surrounding debris, twelve barrels of incinerator ash, and three contaminated carbon filtration units to an off-site disposal facility;
  • groundwater interception trenches or wells in the overburden aquifer;
  • groundwater recovery wells in the weathered portion of the bedrock aquifer;
  • a vacuum extraction system in the overburden aquifer;
  • a groundwater treatment plant to treat contaminated groundwater recovered from the interception system and the vacuum extraction system in the overburden aquifer, and contaminated groundwater from the weathered bedrock wells;
  • an air treatment system to treat contaminated air extracted from the dewatered portions of the overburden aquifer by the vacuum extraction system;
  • treatment of contaminated groundwater and air to levels protective of human health and the environment; and,
  • discharge of treated groundwater to bedrock and overburden injection wells, and the discharge of air from the vacuum extraction system to the atmosphere.

B. ACTIONS IMPLEMENTED DURING THE PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT PROCESS

The following actions were taken at the site while the public health assessment process was in progress:

  • The NHDPHS provided health information and recommendations to the owners of the Len-Kay Campground and other private wells in the area of the Tibbetts Road site concerning the results of sampling of water from their wells.
  • The EPA has provided a permanent alternate water source (Swain's Lake Water District) to the Len-Kay Campground and to the residents of the private well located one-half mile from the site.

C. SITE VISIT

On November 5, 1991, Gregory Ulirsch and Dr. Moses Kapu, ATSDR headquarters staff, and Susanne Simon and Edward Bazenas, ATSDR Region I Representatives, conducted a site visit of the Tibbetts Road site. The site visit was conducted with the EPA Remedial Project Manager (RPM). Also accompanying us on the visit were the Town Health Officer and Executive Administrator for Barrington, New Hampshire. About two hours were spent in the field conducting the visit.

The following observations and information were obtained during the site visit:

  1. the site is now completely surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence--three strands of barbed wire top the perimeter of the fence;
  2. the barbed wire at several locations appeared to have been moved to make it easier to climb over the fence; furthermore, it appears that a tire was placed on the outside of the fence to be used for baseball throwing practice. The EPA RPM indicated that he once found a baseball on-site. He also indicated that he believes that the site is not trespassed upon with any frequency; in fact, he has never seen evidence of trespass on the site.
  3. the site is mostly overgrown with grass and other vegetation;
  4. the old house on-site is vacant and is in a dilapidated condition;
  5. the areas from which contaminated soil was excavated is covered with a 100-mil thick, high density polyethylene (HDPE) liner;
  6. the ash from the incinerated soil is stored in 12 55-gallon sealed drums on-site. The RPM indicated that the ash contains no dioxin above detection limits and very low concentrations of PCBs (31 ppm maximum);
  7. the site is higher topographically and hydrogeologically than surrounding areas; hence, on-site contaminated groundwater is moving off-site. However, because there is an impervious layer of clay underlying the site and it appears that some attenuation of contaminants is occurring in groundwater, contamination of monitoring and residential wells, that are not being used for domestic purposes, has reduced considerably; and,
  8. the Town of Barrington officials indicated that they would like EPA to remove the house and the fence from the site.

According to the EPA RPM, the site conditions have not changed appreciably since the 1991 site visit (personal communication, June 11, 1993).

D. DEMOGRAPHICS, LAND USE, AND NATURAL RESOURCE USE

Demographics

Based on 1990 census information (6), about 6,164 persons reside in the town of Barrington, New Hampshire. Within Barrington there exists 2,217 housing units; hence, the number of persons per occupied housing unit is 2.78. Based on the number of residences located within 200 feet and one-mile of the site (see Land Use below), 14 and 556 persons reside within 200 feet and one-mile, respectively, of the site. The population of Strafford County is about 104,233.

Land Use

The 1.9 acre site is in an rural, moderately developed residential neighborhood. Five occupied, single family dwellings lie within 200 feet of the site. About 200 homes lie within a one mile radius of the site (2). Seasonal homes are located along Swains Lake.

Natural Resource Use

A drinking water supply system, installed in 1987 by the EPA and NHDES, supplies the residents of 46 of the approximately 70 homes within a one-half mile radius of the site. After the water supply system was established, all the residential wells that had been used were capped (1). All residents within one-quarter mile of the site receive their drinking water from this system. Prior to 1987, those residents received their drinking water from wells which draw water from either the bedrock or overburden aquifer wells. An aquifer consists of rock or rock materials that are sufficiently permeable to conduct groundwater and to yield sufficient quantities of water to wells or springs. Residences which still receive their drinking water from private wells (overburden and bedrock wells) are outside the one-quarter mile radius of the site. Some of these wells serve residences that abut Swains Lake on Hall Road, Stadig Road, and Acorn Point Road (2). These residences that abut Swains Lake have overburden (shallow) aquifer wells that draw primarily recharge water from the lake. The Len-Kay Campground has a bedrock (deep) aquifer well (7) that is no longer used as a source of water for the campground.

The closest major water body to the site is Swains Lake, which is about 900 feet north of the site. This lake serves as the source for the drinking water supply system. The State of New Hampshire has classified the Swain's Lake as "B", not suitable for drinking water without treatment (2). The Swains Lake is popular for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming and is the headwaters for the Bellamy River which feeds a reservoir that serves as the water supply source for Portsmouth, New Hampshire (8) (Appendix A, Figure 3).

The site is on the drainage divide for Swains Lake and the Oyster River. The site, as well as surrounding residential properties are poorly drained, and ponding occurs locally following rain storms or in times of a high water table (e.g., in springtime). The site has no definitive stream channels. An intermittent unnamed stream is about 500 feet southwest of the site and flows towards Oyster River, which is about one mile away from the site. The flow in the intermittent stream varies seasonally with the largest flow occurring in the spring (1).

E. Health Outcome Data

Health outcome data were not evaluated for this site because the population of concern (about 40 persons) is a very small population. Details of why they were not analyzed are presented in the Public Health Implications--Health Outcome Data Evaluation Sub-section.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

On November 4 and 5, 1991, ATSDR staff held two public availability meetings to gather community concerns. These sessions were held between 7-9 p.m. at the Barrington Elementary School. About 13 private citizens discussed community concerns with ATSDR staff. The availability sessions were announced through an ATSDR Press Release (10/21/91) and through the assistance of the Barrington Health Officer. In addition, this public health assessment has been placed for public comment. The details of this public comment period and ATSDR's response to comments are shown in Appendix B.

In general, citizens of Barrington who attended the meetings were concerned about health effects resulting from drinking contaminated well water, the presence of the old house on the site, and property values and taxes. A detailed description of their concerns is as follows:

  1. Residents are dissatisfied with the pace of the removal process under EPA control. They described the old house on-site and the fence on the site as an "eye-sore". Some home owners would like EPA to help them obtain tax abatements on their properties. They also reported that the location of the site in their neighborhood has brought down their property values. They would, therefore, like EPA to demolish the building.
  2. Some residents in the neighborhood of the Tibbetts Road Site regard it as a potential fire hazard. Neighbors feel that the on-site house contains chemicals and other poisonous substances which could burn and produce noxious gases and smoke. They are also concerned about the possibility of rodents which they say now inhabit the old house, spreading contaminants from the site into their homes.
  3. Water quality was a major concern for those residents whose wells were found to be contaminated by site contaminants. The Swain Lake Water District was created by EPA and the state to supply clean water to the affected residents. While this service was provided free to residents on the original EPA list, other residents who have wells, but are not connected to the water supply, are now required to pay a connection fee which many say they cannot afford. These residents would like EPA to connect their homes to the main pipeline for free.
  4. Several persons were concerned that their children who played on-site might suffer health effects. Particularly, they are concerned about liver cancer, learning disabilities, and neonatal death. It was determined through discussions with those who attended the availability sessions that children from only one other family played on site in the past.
  5. Some residents are concerned about health problems their children have suffered which they attribute to contaminants on the site. Some of the affected residents said they unknowingly drank contaminated well water for several months before they were provided with clean water. One resident whose family drank contaminated well water for 1 ½ months said that their child has suffered respiratory problems, and that despite numerous visits to several physicians, these problems have continued to plague her. Another resident said that the child of the previous occupant of their home died after suffering from meningitis. A resident, who said her household drank contaminated well water for about one year, is concerned about the health of their child, who vomited and complained of stomach pains when the child was 8 years old and still suffers from frequent stomach pains. Other health problems reported by the residents include kidney disease, high blood pressure, circulatory disorders and skin cancer.


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