PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
RINCHEM COMPANY INCORPORATED
(a/k/a OLD RINCHEM INCORPORATED)
ALBUQUERQUE, BERNALILLO COUNTY, NEW MEXICO
Rinchem Company, Inc. once operated a chemical distribution business on a ½- to 2/3-acre industrial site at 5001 Edith Boulevard NE in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico. In 1983, the company moved 1 mile north to a new facility on the same street. From 1976 to 1983, Rinchem transported hazardous wastes from waste generators to its facility at 5001 Edith Boulevard for repackaging and storage. Rinchem stored the wastes in drums within the site and also used two 950-gallon, above-ground tanks to hold hazardous waste spilled from the drums when the drums were loaded to or unloaded from vehicles. Documents showed that Rinchem released hazardous waste into the environment during its operation at this site. On October 14, 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formally proposed the addition of the old Rinchem site to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The proposed NPL site excludes Rinchem's new facility.
Groundwater within the site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as trichloroethene. However, the contaminated groundwater on the site is not in use now. The company that currently occupies this site uses city water. The unlikely migration of VOCs from contaminated subsurface soil into the on-site building was examined and the VOC concentrations of indoor air were found to be well below the concentration of concern. However, precaution is needed if soil excavation is performed at some hot spots identified from soil gas survey.
Residents near the site voiced their concerns about the health effects of site-related contaminants at the public availability sessions ATSDR sponsored in June 1993. One of their concerns is whether frequent colds in children could be related to the consumption of water from private wells.
Based on the information reviewed, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has concluded that the old Rinchem site at 5001 Edith Boulevard NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico, is an indeterminate public health hazard. This conclusion is based on the fluctuating, low levels of VOC in a few on-site monitoring wells in the past decade. There are also no adequate data for evaluating off-site contamination in groundwater. ATSDR recommends the continued monitoring of on-site wells for VOC contamination and conduct a well survey in the surrounding residential area if VOC concentrations in monitoring wells rise again.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prepared this public health assessment to evaluate the public health significance of hazardous substances found in the waste site of old Rinchem Company, Inc. at 5001 Edith Boulevard NE in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Specifically, ATSDR reviewed available environmental data, health outcome data, and community health concerns to determine whether adverse health effects are possible. ATSDR recommends actions to reduce or prevent potential harm that these wastes can cause to the health of people.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to list this site on the National Priorities List (NPL) since October 14, 1992. Therefore, ATSDR has to conduct a public health assessment for this hazardous waste site. ATSDR is required to performed this duty by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) as amended by Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA). On August 11, 1997, EPA began the process to remove the site from the list of sites proposed for inclusion on the NPL. Based on current data, EPA recently issued a Record of Decision (09/30/98) and stated that no Federal action under Superfund was warranted at this site (27).
From 1976 to 1983, Rinchem Company, Inc. operated (26) on a site about ½ to 2/3 of an acre at 5001 Edith Boulevard NE in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico (Figure 1, Appendix D). Before 1976, this location was occupied by other operators for electronic assembly and hydraulics industry. At this site, Rinchem transported industrial wastes and distributed industrial solvents and resins. In December 1983, Rinchem moved its operations to 6133 Edith Boulevard NE; the new Rinchem facility is not a part of this proposed NPL site. The "Old Rinchem" property has been occupied by Janco Sheet Metal Co. since April 1984. Janco reportedly uses no hazardous materials in its operations.
In its 7-year operation at 5001 Edith Boulevard, Rinchem primarily transported hazardous waste from the locations of waste generators to the old Rinchem facility for repackaging or storage. In response to the requirement of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Rinchem submitted an application in 1980 for interim status as a transporter, generator, and treatment/storage/disposal (TSD) facility. The company later withdrew its applications for generator and TSD status and changed its operation procedures to hold waste on-site for less than 10 days (2). Rinchem received transporter status in April 1983 after correcting a number of RCRA violations cited by EPA (2). The company then moved its operations to 6133 Edith Boulevard.
Before 1983, Rinchem stored drums of industrial wastes on site at 5001 Edith Boulevard. In addition, Rinchem used two 4,000-gallon, above-ground tanks to store bulk liquids (e.g., automotive antifreeze and potassium hydroxide solution), which were packaged and distributed to local government and industry. Two 950-gallon fiberglass tanks used to hold hazardous waste unloaded from tanker trucks and any waste spilled from the drums when the drums were loaded to or unloaded from the vehicles. Rinchem repackaged and temporarily stored the wastes on the site before sending the wastes to the generators or to a disposal facility.
Rinchem Company, Inc. stated that the groundwater supply well on the site had been contaminated (1) during the period Rinchem Company occupied the property (Figure 2, Appendix D). However, there are no analytical data to support the assertion that the well was contaminated before Rinchem's occupancy, according to a written comment from the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). Rinchem employees were instructed not to drink the well water. The well water was, however, used in the rest rooms and for other noningestion purposes. The waste water from these uses was then released to a septic system leach field, which was adjacent to the southern edge of the on-site building. The supply well is no longer operational (2). The current owner at this site (Janco) receives tap water from the Albuquerque municipal water system.
Environmental concerns about this site began to surface in 1980. A resident near the site alleged that Rinchem was dumping liquid chemicals on the ground outside the building (2). The resident stated that odorous liquids had been accumulating on the site for approximately 2 months and described two or three tanks at the back of the property with hoses draining liquid into a natural depression. The resident also reportedly witnessed a truck emptying chemicals into the tanks one evening and saw waste spill from a leaking pipe into a bucket and overflow into a flooded area. The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Division (NMEID) of NMED investigated the waste spillage and concluded that the Rinchem property formed a catch basin for the area's storm water runoff (2). After this investigation, the managers of the Rinchem facility admitted to the spills and undertook several actions to confine the spills and eliminate standing water (2).
In December 1982, Rinchem informed EPA that the company would cease the operation of the transfer station at this facility. Rinchem submitted a draft operations plan to EPA and listed the hazardous wastes being handled at the facility. These wastes included organic solvents (major wastes), filter cake, aqueous solutions containing heavy metals, alkaline materials, and oil (2). The closure procedures in this plan included the removal of all waste materials and any contaminated media (e.g., water, soil, and equipment) for recycling or disposal at a permitted facility (2).
In November 1983, Rinchem identified the on-site locations where chemicals had been heavily used. NMEID used this information in formulating a soil sampling plan (1). Subsequently, NMEID took soil samples from five locations, including two on-site, 950-gallon tanks that held contaminated soil to be disposed at a permitted facility. Later, the NMEIDinstructed Rinchem that not to remove the soil from the tanks and ship it out of the site (1).
NMEID analyzed soil samples from the area previously occupied by the 4,000-gallon, above-ground storage tanks and from the natural basin that collected runoff water. These soil samples contained tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, and seven other solvents (3). During an assessment on this site in late 1983-early 1984, NMEID also found VOCs and ketones in the water samples from an abandoned water supply well located on the property (27).
In 1984, the NMEID found 800 drums on the site. Half of these drums contained caustic soda and various organic solvents. During the visual site inspection in 1985, NMEID staff observed the following substances in the drums: sodium hydroxide, toluene, trichloroethene, Freon, methyl alcohol, and methyl ethyl ketone (4).
Between 1985 and 1987, the new owner of the site reportedly took the soil out of the 950-gallon tanks and spread it in the western third of the site (1). He stated that NMEID staff had told him the soil was clean. However, there is no record that NMEID staff told the new property owner that the soil was clean and that it was permissible to spread the soil on the property, according to NMED.
EPA began to document the environmental contamination at Rinchem in a Site Inspection Report dated February 18, 1985 (2). The report indicated that 1,1,1-trichloroethane and three other chlorinated solvents were detected in groundwater at concentrations from 3 to 20 parts per billion (ppb). In addition, other contaminants, such as phthalate, toluene, 1,3-dimethyl benzene, and fluorobiphenyl, were found in subsurface soil (3 to 5 feet deep) at the site; their concentrations ranged from 60 to 1,000 ppb (2).
In 1988, NMEID installed five monitoring wells at a depth of about 100 feet. The screens were set immediately below the water table. NMEID sampled the well water at the upper portion of the aquifer and found elevated concentrations of VOCs such as acetone, 1,1-dichloroethane, 1,1-dichloroethene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and trichloroethene in monitoring wells on the site (4). Eight soil samples were also taken on the site and VOCs were detected in the subsurface soils (27).
In 1995, NMED drilled two monitoring wells (up to 180 feet in depth) to analyze groundwater for contamination at the deeper parts of the Santa Fe aquifer. The dense, undiluted waste of chlorinated solvent may sink to the deep part of the aquifer.
The Rinchem Company has been conducting site evaluation activities since 1988 to determine the extent and distribution of the contaminants released from the site. The company has sampled, analyzed and documented volatile and semi-volatile organic contaminants in the five NMEID monitoring wells. In addition, the company installed seven monitoring wells in 1992 and an additional well in 1993 (26). The company also conducted additional groundwater and soil sampling in 1992 and 1993 (1). With the exception of groundwater sampling events, the initial work was performed without the oversight or approval of NMED or EPA. However, all work after 1993 were under the oversight of NMED and U.S.EPA to ensure the quality of contamination data.
Rinchem conducted a remedial investigation (RI) between 1992 and 1996. The new data in the 1995 final RI report (26) were incorporated into this edition (final release) of the public health assessment(Tables 1, 2, 3, and 3A). VOC concentrations in groundwater (see Tables 3 and 3A) slightly exceeded Federal drinking water standard in several wells, including OR88-3A and OR92-3(27). VOC concentrations in these wells fluctuated, but in general declined during the period between 1992 and 1995 (27). In most of the monitoring wells, the concentrations of VOCs such as TCE decreased to trace levels (27).
The water table at the monitoring wells near this site dropped 12 feet during 1988-1995, about 2 feet per year in average. In June, 1998, NMED examined 15 monitoring wells. Four wells including OR 88-3A were dried. The NMED sampled the remaining wells (including 92-3) and found that their VOC concentrations at that time did not exceed drinking water standard (27).
Mark Rodriguez and Rosalyn Lee from ATSDR-Atlanta and Jennifer Lyke from ATSDR-Dallas, visited the site during the week of June 14, 1993 (5). They met with staff at local, state, and federal agencies to gather information for the preparation of this public health assessment. On June 15, 1993, the ATSDR team members, accompanied by a Rinchem Company manager, inspected the old Rinchem site at 5001 Edith Boulevard NE. They made the following observations:
- Janco Sheet Metal Company was using this property for the fabrication of metal ducts.
- The original uncovered concrete pad, which had been used for storage of drums, had a cover and was converted into a warehouse for metal ductwork.
- There was a chain link fence surrounding the property. The gate of the fenced property was unlocked during working hours.
- The Alameda Lateral canal is approximately 5 feet west of the fence, with water flowing to the southwest. The banks of the canal were covered with plants.
- An east-west railroad spur is about 4 feet away from the southern fence line of the old Rinchem site.
- The grounds of the property were bare of vegetation.
- Road construction was under way south of the site along Edith Boulevard.
- Several homes on Edith Boulevard are approximately 1,000 feet north of the site. The site visitors saw many vegetable gardens at these residences and other properties west of Edith Boulevard.
- Within a half mile of the site, there was a mixture of industrial, residential, and business properties (5).
ATSDR held two public availability sessions, one in English and one in Spanish, on June 16, 1993, to gather information on community health concerns (5).
Albuquerque has about 384,736 people (6). The Rinchem site is in the Hahn Industrial area of Albuquerque's North Valley. Within a mile of this industrial area are residential areas, La Luz School, and a welfare home for girls (7). The welfare home at 4000 Edith Boulevard has a new name: Youth Diagnostic and Development Center-New Mexico Girls' School (New Mexico Girls' School).
The Rinchem site is in census tract 34, according to the 1990 Census. Seven census tracts are less than 1 mile away from the site. Together, these 7 census tracts had approximately 21,500 people and about 9,093 homes. However, only about 8,133 of these people live within a 1-mile radius of the site. The average home value ranges from $61,000 to $91,000 (8).
Based on the 1990 Census of Population and Housing of New Mexico, data tables were constructed for the populations within ½-mile and 1-mile radii around the Rinchem site (9). Within one-half mile of this site, approximately 2,018 people live in 754 households; each household has 2.83 persons on average. Approximately 71% of these people are white, with 1.7% black, 2.7% American Indian, and 25% in the "other" category, which could represent either black or white. Approximately 68% of the residents are of Hispanic origin.
In the area within a 1-mile radius of the site, approximately 8,133 persons live in 3,347 households; each household has 2.59 persons on average. The people who live within a 1-mile radius consist of approximately 72% white, 1.1% black, 2.5% American Indian, 0.3% Asian, and 24% in the "other" category, which could represent black or white.About 58% of the residents are of Hispanic origin (9). The population data are in Table 5, and the housing data are in Table 6, Appendix C.
The Hahn Industrial area contains a variety of businesses. Interspersed among these businesses are clusters of private homes. Many residents cultivate vegetables in their gardens. ATSDR staff were informed that some local residents also raised chickens (5).
Natural Resource Use
The Valley or Basin Fill Aquifer is the principal aquifer in the Albuquerque area. It consists mostly of unconsolidated and loosely consolidated gravel, silt, and clay. The aquifer includes two geological units: the Rio Grande alluvium and the Santa Fe Formation or Group. The alluvium is divided into the shallow and the intermediate aquifers. The alluvium and the Santa Fe Group are interconnected hydraulically. These two connected units make up a single aquifer. Approximately 440,000 persons obtain drinking water from this aquifer through city of Albuquerque wells. In addition, most of the irrigation and domestic wells along the Rio Grande draw water from the Rio Grande alluvium (3).
There are six municipal well fields within a 3-mile radius of the old Rinchem site: Candelaria (removed from service before 1988), Duranes, Griegos, Leyendecker, Santa Barbara, and Volandia (27). The transmissivities of these well fields are estimated to be in the range of 68,000 t0 512,000 gallons/day/foot (27). There are also 17 private wells within 4 miles of the site, 1 of them as close as 0.2 miles from the site (3,7). The only municipal well field within the 1-mile radius from the old Rinchem site is the Candelaria well field, which has been closed before 1988 (10). About 100,000 people in 1988 are served by municipal wells located within 3 miles of the site (7).
The La Luz School and New Mexico Girls' School, within a mile of the Rinchem site, are using city water (11). There are six private wells within one-quarter mile of the site (7). Only one of the six wells is known to be in use now. This upgradient well is about one-quarter mile northwest of the Rinchem site (12).
More than 150 cases of groundwater contamination have been documented in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. This contamination affects the quality of groundwater and makes the groundwater less desirable for people to drink. The NMED estimates that, so far, this pollution has affected about 20 public supply wells and 450 private wells in Bernalillo County. As much as 30 square miles of land area may overlie contaminated groundwater supplies. Septic-tank systems, underground storage tanks, landfills, industrial facilities, and releases of hazardous materials from other sources may be the causes of this pollution (13).
An irrigation channel (Alameda Lateral) flows by the west border of the site. Surface runoff from the site is reported to flow northwest and enter the channel through a breach in the dike in the Alameda Lateral. The Alameda Lateral flows generally west and southwest and enters the Rio Grande approximately 18 miles downstream from the site (7). Surface water is used for irrigating the crops, which are consumed by humans and cattle (7). It is unlikely that surface water within 3 miles of the old Rinchem site is used for domestic purposes, because groundwater of better quality is readily available.
Using state health databases, health assessors may be able to determine whether the incidence of certain diseases is higher than expected in the area surrounding a waste site. This section identifies the relevant, available databases; their evaluation will be addressed in the Public Health Implications section.
New Mexico has a cancer registry that has been part of the Cancer Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) since 1973. This program, operated under the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aggregates cancer data from eight cooperating registries in New Mexico and other participating states. These aggregated data are used for estimating national cancer incidence. New Mexico has data that dates back to 1969. The cancer registry is updated monthly. The data on cancer incidence are available at the county level, with information on the location of residence when the cancer was diagnosed (14).
The New Mexico Department of Health also maintains vital statistics for birth certificates, death certificates, and fetal death reports (8,15). These databases contain health data at both county and state levels.
The birth certificates from 1970 to present are computerized. The database includes birth weight, birth defects, gestational age, sex, and ethnicity (8,15).
The death certificate database contains computerized data from 1970 to present. The death certificates state the underlying cause of death as well as the data on age, sex, and ethnicity (8,15).
The fetal death reports have been maintained on a computerized system since 1980. The fetal death reports include information on age, sex, ethnicity, underlying cause of death, fetal weight, gestational age, and congenital malformations. These data are updated quarterly, and a summary report is prepared yearly by the New Mexico Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics (8,15).
Representatives from the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDH) had not heard any community health concerns from the residents who live near the Rinchem site before the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) site visit. During the site visit, ATSDR staff met the representatives from the NMDH and the Environmental Health Department, City of Albuquerque (5). On June 16, 1993, ATSDR held public availability sessions to gather information on health concerns of the community. Six persons attended the meetings, and one citizen voiced health concerns. During the public availability sessions and conversations with government officials, the following health-related concerns were raised:
- Can the frequent colds in children be related to the use of residential well water?
- Can ingestion of well water be related to back problems?
During the public availability sessions, several citizens explained that they used private wells before the municipal water system extended to their area in 1983. Most residents stopped using residential wells after 1983.
Officials of the Environmental Health Department, City of Albuquerque, expressed their concerns about the proposed listing of the Rinchem site on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List.
After the site visit, ATSDR contacted the NMDH and the district health nurse in North Valley to check for any additional health concerns from the community. No additional comments were received (16).
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reviewed available contamination data for this site and selected the contaminants of concern for further evaluation. We evaluate these contaminants in a subsequent section of this public health assessment and determine whether exposure to the contaminants has public health significance. In this section, we discuss the quality of available environmental data, describe any potential physical and other hazards, identify the data gaps regarding the nature and extent of contamination, and provide data on the Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (TRI).
ATSDR bases its selection of contaminants of concern for further evaluation on the following factors:
- comparison of contaminant concentrations with substance comparison value;
- sampling design, field data quality, and laboratory data quality; and
- community health concerns.
Identification of contaminants of concern in the On-Site and Off-Site Contamination subsections does not mean that exposure to those substances will result in adverse health effects. Instead, the list indicates which contaminants will be evaluated further in the health assessment. The likelihood of exposure to the contaminants and its public health significance, if any, is evaluated in subsequent sections of the public health assessment.
Comparison values in a specific medium (e.g., water) are contaminant concentrations that are used as criteria to select contaminants for further evaluation in the public health assessment. Appendix E defines various comparison values.
ATSDR staff consulted the TRI database to see whether there were chemicals released from other facilities near this site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) TRI database was developed under Section 313 of Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986. TRI contains self-reported information on chemical releases from manufacturing facilities. ATSDR staff reviewed available TRI data for the period 1988-1991 in Albuquerque. The only reported releases were chlorine and ammonia released to the air. Neither constituent is a contaminant of concern at this site, and they will not be evaluated further in this public health assessment. TRI data for the 1992-1994 period showed no new substances being released in the area near old Rinchem site.
In 1988, the NMEID sampled the groundwater and soil at the Rinchem site. Rinchem conducted follow-up sampling in 1992 and 1993. Groundwater on the site was contaminated with organic solvents such as 1,1-dichloroethene; trichloroethene; and tetrachloroethene. In the past, hazardous wastes spilled to the ground from tanks and drums. These waste drums were stored in the building, on the concrete pad, underneath the canopy, or along the dirt road on the west side of the building. There were also two 950-gallon, above-ground fiberglass tanks attached to the dock to store waste spilled during unloading. There were no adequate containment systems to hold the wastes in the identified source areas.
No surface soil samples of specified depth were analyzed for contaminant concentrations. Contaminant concentrations in soil from unspecified depth did not exceed any known comparison values (Table 1, Appendix A). There is no comparison value for 1,1,1-trichloroethane.
In on-site soil samples collected by The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Division in 1984, the concentrations of the substances on Table 1 exceeded their background levels (4,7). These samples were collected in the approximate location of the two 4,000-gallon steel tanks and the natural collection basin. Data on the depth of these soil samples were unavailable.
In 1988, the NMEID bored eight holes and collected soil samples on the site. Samples from three of these holes were sent to a laboratory and analyzed for organic compounds. These samples were taken from depths of 15 inches to 120 inches at locations on the west part of the site and south of the concrete pad. One soil sample at a depth of 38 inches contained 8.1 parts per million of acetone (7).
In 1992, Rinchem took on-site soil samples from the areas not covered by buildings or the concrete pad. A grid was laid in 20 foot increments, and 14-foot soil cores were taken from 25 of the 70 possible grid corners. Rinchem stated that these sampling locations were chosen to increase the chance of finding contamination and to gather contamination data on the perimeter of the site (1).
The data of 1992 sampling (1,17,26,27) indicated that the PCE and TCE contamination in subsurface soil was limited to the top silty layer of the valley fill (26). All detectable PCE and TCE contaminants were found in the silty layer of valley fill at the depth of 2,4,6, and 8 feet (26). No PCE or TCE were detected at the depth of 12 and 14 feet in the sand layer (26). These contaminant concentrations in subsurface soil did not exceed any known comparison values (Table 2, Appendix A). However, comparison values are unavailable for 1,1,1-trichloroethane and petroleum hydrocarbons. The cancer potency factor is also unavailable for the carcinogen styrene. These contaminants of concern will be evaluated further.
In October 1993 two soil cores were sampled and analyzed for VOCs. PCE was found at the depth 1 and 5 feet in the silty layer of valley fill. PCE and TCE were not detected in the sand layer from 10 to 50 feet below ground surface. Two soil cores were taken in August 1993 from this sand layer without the silty layer at the top, neither PCE nor TCE was detected at the depth between 10 and 50 feet. However, the water soluble acetone was found in both soil cores at the depth of 30, 40, and 50 feet.
In 1995 two soil cores were taken at the depth between 2.5 to 25 feet. PCE and TCE concentrations were below their detection limits of 0.005 ppm (Table 2). None of the other VOCs were detected in these two subsurface soil cores (27).
Soil gas samples were taken in December 13-28, 1994 to measure relative concentration of VOC (include TCE) in various locations on the site. Although the methodology is unable to measure the actual concentration of individual contaminant, the data indicated elevated levels of VOC in some hot spots on the site. Relative concentrations of VOC ranged from non-detectable (at northwestern corner) through 973 at (southwestern corner) to 1,921,310 at a hot spot on the east side of the building (26).
Groundwater samples were taken in 1988 from five monitoring wells placed upgradient to the west and downgradient of the site to the south and east. They are screened at about 100 feet below ground level in the Valley Fill Aquifer. The valley fill is made up of the alluvium and the Santa Fe Group, which are hydraulically interconnected and function as a single aquifer (Figure 3, Appendix D). The following substances were detected in groundwater samples: Trichloroethene; 1,1-dichloroethene; 1,1-dichloroethane; and 1,1,1-trichloroethane.
In sampling events in October 1992 and April 1993, tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene exceeded their comparison values and the carcinogen 1,1-dichloroethane was detected in groundwater samples on the site (Table 3, Appendix A). In the subsequent sampling in 1994 and 1995, TCE and PCE also exceeded their respective comparison values (Table 3A).
Rinchem sampled groundwater from the wells in October 1992. However, no general trend on the change of contaminant concentrations over the time can be established from the data. For example, Rinchem reported (1,17) that the water flow and contaminant concentration were shifted with time. Based on the 1992 sampling, Rinchem made the following statements:
- Contaminant levels in two previously contaminated wells (OR 88-2 and OR 88-4) were below detection limits.
- A previously clean well (OR 88-5) was found to be contaminated.
- Direction of groundwater flow shifted from southeast to southwest.
In addition, the trichloroethene (TCE) concentration in one well (OR 88-3A) increased from 28 parts per billion (ppb) in October 1992 to 45 ppb in April 1993 (18). These concentrations exceed EPA's drinking water standard. The fluctuation in TCE concentration over the time continued into 1994 and 1995 even though the concentration decreased in general (Tables 3 and 3A).
In 1995, NMED drilled two deep wells (down to 180 feet) to look for contamination in the deep part of the groundwater (i.e., Santa Fe aquifer). NMED examined the well water and found no VOC concentrations above drinking water standard (27). No evidence was found to support the possibility that dense, undiluted solvents (e.g., TCE) may sink through the water body and reach the deep part of the aquifer (27).
ATSDR is not aware of any available data about the contaminants in surface water.
ATSDR is not aware of off-site sampling other than sampling from the five monitoring wells very close to the south fence and the one near the north fence.
In preparing this public health assessment, ATSDR relies on the information provided in the referenced documents. We assume that adequate quality assurance and quality control measures were followed regarding chain of custody, laboratory procedures, and data reporting. The analyses, conclusions, and recommendations in this public health assessment are valid only if the referenced documents are complete and reliable.
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) or EPA did not oversee or approve all Rinchem's initial sampling efforts. In 1992, the groundwater sampling had government oversight but the other sampling efforts did not. However, all Rinchem's sampling efforts after 1993 had government oversight to ensure data quality.
There were no physical hazards other than those normally associated with sheet metal manufacturing.
Although several sampling efforts have been undertaken on the site, there were fluctuation in water tables and TCE concentrations in on-site monitoring wells over the years. Off-site groundwater has not been characterized. There may be private wells in the residential areas near the site. Although it is unlikely that anyone is using residential wells for domestic purposes, it is prudent to have an inventory of the active wells near the site. Contaminant concentration data is needed for drinking water from any private wells in use.
To determine whether nearby residents have been, are, or will be exposed to contaminants migrating from the site, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry evaluates the environmental and human components that lead to human exposure. This pathways analyses consists of five elements:
- identifying a source of contaminants;
- determining the possible transport through environmental media;
- identifying a point of exposure (i.e., a place or situation where humans might be in contact with the contaminated media);
- determining any plausible route of human exposure (e.g., ingestion or inhalation); and
- identifying an exposed population (i.e., the number of people at the point of exposure).
A completed exposure pathway requires that all five elements exist. The presence of a completed pathway indicates that human exposure to contaminants has occurred in the past, is occurring, or will occur in the future. A potential pathway, however, requires that at least one of the five elements be missing, but that it could exist. The presence of a potential exposure pathway indicates that human exposure to contaminants could have occurred in the past, could be occurring, or could occur in the future. An exposure pathway can be eliminated if at least one of the five elements is missing and will never be present. The potential exposure pathways are presented in Table 5, Appendix B. We cannot determine the estimated number of potentially exposed persons from the data available at this time.
There are no known completed pathways at this site.
We do not know whether subsurface soil contamination extends to off-site properties. Workers could inhale or ingest contaminated soil particles incidentally if contaminated subsurface soil is disturbed during construction or remedial activities. Because there are currently no construction or remedial activities, this is considered a potential exposure pathway on this site in the future.
On-site groundwater is contaminated with chlorinated organic solvents such as trichloroethene, tetrachloroethene, and other VOCs (Tables 3 and 3A, Appendix A). However, the building on the site is currently connected to the Albuquerque public water system. The extent of off-site groundwater contamination has not been determined. Residents may currently use off-site groundwater in residential wells even though the city provides clean water to nearby institutions such as La Luz School and the New Mexico Girls' School. The potential use of VOC-contaminated water by off-site residents could lead to exposures by ingestion, dermal contact, or inhalation of VOCs that volatilize to indoor air. Because the extent of off-site contamination is not known, this contaminated groundwater is considered an off-site, potential pathway for past, present, and future exposure.
Data on surface water contamination are unavailable. It may, however, be possible that residents in the area used surface water to irrigate their gardens. This pathway, however, cannot be further evaluated without information on the nature and extent of contamination in this medium.
Indoor VOC concentrations on the site were examined and found to be well below concentration of concern, based on monitoring data collected during drilling through concrete slab floor inside a building. However, soil gas survey indicated some hot spots with elevated VOC levels in soils. VOCs could be released into confined structures during excavation of buried, contaminated soil. Workers may be exposed during construction or remedial activities. Remediation is not currently occurring on site; this is considered an on-site, potential exposure pathway in the future.
The Toxicological Evaluation portion will cover the possible health hazard from exposure to specific contaminants in on-site groundwater and other environmental media.
To evaluate health effects, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has developed minimum risk levels (MRLs) for contaminants commonly found at hazardous waste sites. The MRL, similar to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) reference dose (RfD), is an estimate of daily human exposure to a contaminant below which noncancer, adverse health effects are unlikely to occur (19). In the health assessment, we estimated the dose of a contaminant to individual persons and compared the dose at this site with ATSDR's MRL or EPA's RfD. Any exposure dose below the appropriate MRL or RfD is unlikely to cause a noncancer health hazard to humans. ATSDR presents the MRLs in toxicological profiles. These chemical-specific profiles provide information on health effects, environmental transport, human exposure, and regulatory status. To address the health impacts of contaminants at this site, we used the toxicological information in ATSDR's toxicological profiles for 1,1-dichloroethene; trichloroethylene; tetrachloroethylene; 1,1,1-trichloroethane; and 1,2-dichloroethene.
Current residents and former workers may be exposed to trichloroethene (TCE) from ingesting contaminated groundwater and soil at this site. Elevated levels of TCE were found in monitoring wells and soils on the site (Tables 1, 3, and 3A). No data are available for TCE concentrations at nearby private wells off site.
ATSDR staff estimated the amount of TCE that people could ingest (i.e., oral dose) through contaminated well water and surface soil on the site. The estimated dose was then compared with the health guideline (e.g., MRL for TCE) to determine whether TCE at the site can hurt the organs (e.g., liver) in the human body (21). The oral dose of TCE at this waste site is only a small fraction of the acceptable health standard, which is protective to human organs against all harmful health effects other than cancers. Because of this large safety margin, TCE at this site is not likely to cause noncancer diseases in people.
TCE at very high doses--much higher than potentially received here--caused liver cancer in mice. However, we do not have any clear evidence that TCE alone can cause cancers in humans. If the TCE in contaminated groundwater (45 parts per billion [ppb]) eventually migrates to private wells, and the residents actually consume the contaminated groundwater for a lifetime, then they are expected to receive an exposure dose that is associated with a "no apparent increased" risk of cancer. This estimated risk is based on the assumption that a 70-kilogram (kg) man consumed 2 liters of water and ingested 100 milligrams (mg) of soil each day for his lifetime.
Elevated levels of tetrachloroethene (PCE) were found in monitoring wells and in surface soils on the site (Tables 1 and 3). Potential exposures from ingestion of contaminated groundwater cannot be ruled out, even though the city provides clean water to the current business on the site and the nearby institutions such as the La Luz School and the New Mexico Girls' School. Data on PCE concentrations are unavailable for private wells nearby. Therefore, PCE exposure to current residents and past on-site workers could have occurred.
ATSDR staff estimated the amount of PCE (i.e., oral dose) that may enter the bodies of people who may have ingested contaminated groundwater and surface soil at the site. The oral dose for PCE was then compared with the health guidelines to determine whether this dose could be harmful. The assessors determined that the PCE dose from potential ingestion of contaminated groundwater and soil did not exceed the health guideline for PCE (EPA's RfD). Therefore, based on the available information, the PCE levels at this site are not likely to cause noncancer diseases.
PCE caused cancers in experimental animals. It caused liver cancer in mice and leukemia in rats. However, available data are not adequate to demonstrate that PCE actually caused cancer in humans. If the PCE in contaminated groundwater (6 ppb) eventually migrates to private wells, and the residents actually consume the contaminated groundwater and surface soil for their lifetimes, then they are expected to receive an exposure dose that is associated with a "no apparent increased risk" of cancer. This estimated risk is based on the assumption that a 70-kg man consumed 2 liters of water and ingested 100 mg of soil each day for his lifetime.
The 1,1,1-trichloroethane level found in groundwater at this site is below the health criteria (i.e., the maximum contaminant level goal) of 200 ppb. Therefore, it is not a health concern. The 1,1,1-trichloroethane dose from ingesting surface soil is even smaller than the oral dose associated with the groundwater on the site, assuming that a 10-kg pica child ingests 5 grams of soil each day and a 70-kg man ingests 2 liters of water each day. Therefore, at the expected doses, the 1,1,1-trichloroethane is unlikely to cause adverse health effects in people, according to the available information on the extent of soil and groundwater contamination.
Methyl isobutyl ketone
The Hazardous Substance Data Bank of the National Library of Medicine (23) provided information on health effects of methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK). MIBK is used in adhesives, pesticides, solvents for paints, in the manufacture of medicinal drugs, and as a synthetic flavoring adjuvant in fruit flavors.
The levels of MIBK found on site in 1984 were noted as less than 1 part per million in soil. The estimated dose from ingesting the contaminated soil on the site is only a small fraction (about one thousandth) of a harmless dose (i.e., NOAEL) found in tests with rats. This dose is estimated under the assumption that a 10-kg child ingests 5 grams of soil each day. Therefore, based on the available environmental data, the MIBK in the surface soil on this site does not represent a health concern.
The potential exposure of 1,1-dichloroethane in on-site groundwater is only a tiny fraction (less than 1/20,000) of the harmless dose (i.e., NOAEL) in animal testing and probably will not cause noncancer health effects to humans.
There is only limited evidence showing that 1,1-dichloroethane caused cancers in mice and rats. There are no human data to show the carcinogenicity of this compound (24). The cancer risk of 1,1-dichloroethane in groundwater cannot be assessed, because a cancer potency factor for this compound has not being developed yet.
The potential exposure of 1,1-dichloroethene in on-site groundwater is below the noncancer health guideline (i.e., MRL value of 0.009 mg/kg/day). Therefore, it is unlikely to cause noncancer health effects.
There is limited evidence showing that 1,1-dichloroethene caused cancers in a sensitive type of mice. There are no human data to show the carcinogenicity of this compound (25). The potential cancer risk of 1,1-dichloroethene in groundwater can be estimated under certain assumptions. If the 1,1-dichloroethene in contaminated groundwater (28 ppb) eventually migrates to private wells, and the residents actually consume the contaminated groundwater for their lifetimes, then they are expected to receive an exposure dose that is associated with a "low increased risk" of cancer. This estimated risk is based on the assumption that a 70-kg man consumed 2 liters per day of contaminated water for his lifetime.
The petroleum hydrocarbons in the subsurface soil on the site cannot be accurately assessed, because the composition of this mixture is unknown. However, the health risk associated with the ingestion of contaminated subsurface soil may be insignificant, because these low levels of contaminants are not in direct contact with people unless the subsurface soils are disturbed.
The main concern on petroleum mixture is that some semi-volatile organic compounds in the petroleum hydrocarbons may migrate from subsurface soils into the groundwater at the site. There are no monitoring data on the semi-volatile organic compounds in groundwater at this site. The 8.5 ppb of total xylene (a component of petroleum hydrocarbons)found in a monitoring well is well below its drinking water standard.
In a public health assessment, available health outcome databases are identified for the area near the site. From those data, ATSDR selects health outcomes for further evaluation based on biological plausibility or community health concerns. Although a review of the available databases in New Mexico was completed, no health outcome databases were evaluated for this site, because there are no completed exposure pathways.
Residents near the site voiced their health concerns at the 1993 public availability sessions sponsored by ATSDR. We addressed each of the community concerns as follows:
- Could the frequent colds my children had be related to private well water?
The citizen who asked this question also explained that the family's home was connected to city water in 1983. Since no off-site groundwater sampling data are available, it would be difficult to determine whether exposure has occurred in the past. The use of environmental data to determine exposure and the potential health effects is based on the concentration of the contaminant, the duration of exposure, and the route of exposure. Colds are common respiratory syndromes associated with infections. They may appear seasonally and probably are unrelated to the contaminants at the site.
- Could drinking well water be related to the back problems I am currently experiencing?
The citizen who asked this question has been on city water since 1983. Past exposure, if any, would be difficult to quantify. In addition, the contaminants located at the Rinchem site are not known to cause musculoskeletal (e.g., back) problems at the levels observed in the on-site monitoring well. The citizen who presents these health problems should continue to see a physician for diagnosis and treatment.
- Could the contamination affect the property value in this area?
Local officials and residents raised several questions about property values and liability issues. Those questions go beyond the scope of ATSDR's mission. The agency's focus is to evaluate the public health implications of the site. We suggest that residents discuss those issues with EPA or other responsible agencies.
Based on the information reviewed, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry considers the Rinchem site at 5001 Edith Boulevard NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico, to be an indeterminate public health hazard. This conclusion is based on the presence of volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination in groundwater on the site and the lack of information on contamination in off-site groundwater.
On-site groundwater is contaminated with VOCs with unstable concentration over the time. However, the company that currently occupies this site uses city water, and the contaminated water well on the site is not in use.
Off-site groundwater have not been analyzed for contaminants.
VOC contaminants could be released during the excavation of contaminated soil. However, current known levels of soil contamination are not expected to cause adverse health effects in people through soil ingestion.
Site Characterization Recommendations
- Monitor the contaminants in on-site wells to see if VOC concentration remains below drinking water standard.
- Survey the area for private wells and monitor the active wells for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) if the VOC levels in on-site wells rise above the drinking water standard.
Cease/Reduce Exposure Recommendation
Protect nearby residents and on-site workers from exposure to contaminants in case of excavation at hot spots, the areas with high VOC in soil gas.
Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Recommendations
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended, requires the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to perform public health actions needed at hazardous waste sites. To determine whether public health actions are needed, ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) has evaluated the data and information developed in the public health assessment for the old Rinchem site. HARP has determined that no follow-up health activities are indicated at this time because of the following reasons:
- Available information is insufficient to demonstrate any groundwater contamination off the site or any use of a private well for irrigation or human consumption.
- Current exposures to surface soil and soil gas are not expected to cause adverse health effects.
However, ATSDR will reevaluate the site for appropriate follow-up actions if new information indicates that people are exposed to site-related contaminants at exposure levels of public health concern.
The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for a National Priorities List site contains a description of actions under consideration by federal, state, and local agencies. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards, but also provides a plan of action designed to prevent and mitigate adverse health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.
At this time, ATSDR's HARP has not identified any public health actions to be implemented.
ATSDR will collaborate with appropriate federal, state, and local agencies to pursue the implementation of the recommendations outlined in this public health assessment.
ATSDR will evaluate the final PHAP annually unless additional information warrants more frequent evaluation.
Shan-Ching Tsai, PhD
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
Environmental Science Section
Remedial Program Branch
Mark Rodriguez1, MD, MPH
Health Science Section
Remedial Program Branch
Environmental Protection Specialist
Office of Regional Operations
- Rinchem Company, Inc. Memorandum to Curt Montman, Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, from Bill Moore, President, Rinchem Company, Inc., December 1, 1992.
- DPRA. "Rinchem Comp., Inc. PRP Search: Operations History Work Assignment No. C06076" to Ms. Janice Powell, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6. April 24, 1992.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region VI, Dallas, Texas. Hazard Ranking System Document, Rinchem Company, Inc. Site, February 24, 1992.
- Randy Merker, New Mexico Environmental Improvement Division. "Site Inspection Follow-up", Rinchem Company, Inc., December 31, 1988. p.2.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Trip Report, Rinchem Company, Inc., Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico. June 14-17, 1993.
- New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia. Composed of 21 volumes on CD-ROM via computer access. Search done for Albuquerque, New Mexico. Grolier Incorporated. 1991.
- Randy Merker. New Mexico Environmental Improvement Division. "Listing Site Inspection Completion Support Document", Rinchem Company, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico. August 31, 1989.
- New Mexico Department of Health, Division of Epidemiology. Letter with epidemiological data to Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Region VI Representative. June, 1993.
- U.S. Census Bureau. 1990 Census of Population and Housing, Summary Tape File 1B Extract on CD-ROM (New Mexico). Washington, D.C., 1991.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for telephone communication with City of Albuquerque, Public Works Department. June 25, 1993 and July 21, 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for telephone communication with City of Albuquerque, Public Works Department. August 5, 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for telephone communication with New Mexico State Engineer's Office. August 5, 1993.
- Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Final Draft Ground-water Protection Policy and Action Plan, prepared by Policy Coordinating Committee. October 1992.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for telephone communication with Director of New Mexico Tumor Registry. August 3, 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for telephone communication with New Mexico Department of Health, Vital Statistics. August 9, 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for telephone communication with ATSDR Region VI Representative. July 19, 1993.
- Rinchem Company, Inc.; Work Plan, Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study for 5001 Edith Boulevard NE. June, 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for letter received by ATSDR Region VI Representative from William Moore, Rinchem Company, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico. June 29, 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual. Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, MI. 1992.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR record of activity for telephone communication with Albuquerque Environmental Health Department. September 21, 1993.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Trichloroethylene (Update). ATSDR, Atlanta, GA. September, 1997.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, ATSDR, Atlanta, GA, December, 1990.
- Hazardous Substance Data Bank. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland (CD ROM Version). Micromedex, Inc., Denver, Colorado, Vol 18, 1987-93.
- IRIS. Integrated Risk Information System. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington D.C., 1995.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for 1,1-Dichloroethene, ATSDR, Atlanta, GA, May, 1994.
- Canonie/Smith Environmental. Final report, Old Rinchem Site Remedial Investigation, Project 94-164-01, 1995.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region VI, Dallas, Texas. Record of Decision, Old Rinchem, Incorporated Site, September 1998.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Tetrachloroethylene (Update). ATSDR, Atlanta, GA. September, 1997.
1. Ms. Lee and Dr. Rodriguez no longer work at ATSDR.