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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

ODESSA SUPER SITE
(a/k/a SPRAGUE ROAD GROUND WATER PLUME)
ECTOR, ECTOR COUNTY, TEXAS


SUMMARY

The Sprague Road Groundwater Plume National Priorities List site, consists of three plumes ofchromium contaminated water just outside the northern city limits of Odessa, Ector County,Texas. The chromium contamination in the groundwater is due to the past operations of threeseparate chrome plating facilities: Leigh Metal Plating, National Chromium Corporation, andMachine and Casting, Inc. Each facility operated during the late 1970s until the late 1980s andearly 1990s.

In September 1993 individuals whose wells were identified as having chromium concentrationsabove the drinking water standard were connected to an alternative water source. Someindividuals opted not to switch to an alternative source and continue to use their well water fordrinking and other household purposes. Since September 1993, additional wells have beenidentified with elevated chromium concentrations; therefore, further action to provide an alternatewater source is needed until the chromium in the groundwater can be lowered to a safe level. Thechromium in the groundwater is a public health hazard to people who continue to use thechromium-contaminated water wells for drinking. TDH and ATSDR have recommended thatindividuals using chromium contaminated water be encouraged to switch to an alternative sourceof drinking water.

Chromium in soil at Leigh Metal Plating Inc. presents a potential public health hazard. Althoughthis facility is surrounded by a fence, access to the site is not entirely restricted. Access to the siteis possible through the main office building which appeared to have been broken open. TDH andATSDR have recommended that institutional controls be employed to further restrict access tothis facility.

There is a five-foot pit on the National Chromium Corporation site that could present a physicalhazard to children trespassing on the site. TDH and ATSDR have recommended that access tothis site be restricted.

Citizens raised questions about the safety of their drinking water and whether vegetables grownusing the well water for watering the garden were safe to eat. Other health concerns includedwhether the site could be responsible for breast cancer, kidney health problems, diabetes, orbronchial asthma. Detailed answers to these questions are in the Community Health Concernssection of this public health assessment.


INTRODUCTION

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was established under themandate of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act(CERCLA) of 1980. This act, also known as the "Superfund" law, authorized the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct clean-up activities at hazardous waste sites. EPA was directed to compile a list of sites considered hazardous to public health. This list istermed the National Priorities List (NPL). The 1986 Superfund Amendments andReauthorization Act (SARA) directed ATSDR to prepare a Public Health Assessment (PHA) foreach NPL site. In 1990, federal facilities were included on the NPL. (Note: Appendix A providesa listing of abbreviations and acronyms used in this report.)

In conducting the PHA, three types of information are used: environmental data, communityhealth concerns and health outcome data. The environmental data are reviewed to determinewhether people in the community might be exposed to hazardous materials from the NPL facility. If people are being exposed to these chemicals, ATSDR will determine whether the exposure is atlevels which might cause harm. Community health concerns are collected to determine whetherhealth concerns expressed by community members could be related to exposure to chemicalsreleased from the NPL facility. If the community raises concerns about specific diseases in thecommunity, health outcome data (information from state and local databases or health careproviders) can be used to address the community concerns. Also, if ATSDR finds that harmfulexposures have occurred, health outcome data can be used to determine if illnesses are occurringwhich could be associated with the hazardous chemicals released from the NPL facility.

In accordance with the Interagency Cooperative Agreement between ATSDR and the TexasDepartment of Health (TDH), ATSDR and TDH have prepared this PHA for the Sprague RoadGroundwater Plume NPL site. This PHA presents conclusions about whether exposures areoccurring, and whether a health threat is present. In some cases, it is possible to determinewhether exposures occurred in the past; however, often a lack of appropriate historical datamakes it difficult to quantify past exposures. If it is found that a threat to public health exists,recommendations are made to stop or reduce the threat to public health.


BACKGROUND

Site Description

The Sprague Road Groundwater Plume Site is just outside the northern city limits of Odessa,Ector County, Texas (Figure 1). The total population within a four-mile radius of the site isestimated to be 18,600 people [1]. The population within a ½ mile of the site is approximately400 and the population within one mile of the site is approximately 950.

The site consists of three plumes of chromium contaminated groundwater within one-mile of eachother (Figure 2a). The largest of the three plumes is associated with the Leigh Metal Plating Inc.facility; the next largest plume is associated with the National Chromium Corporation; and thesmallest of the three plumes is associated with Machine and Casting, Inc. The Leigh MetalPlating plume extends east to Beeson Avenue (Figures 2a and 2b); most of this plume is under thearea intersecting Mary Francis Street and West 81st Street. The National Chromium Corporationplume extends southeast under the area where Mary Francis Street runs into Stevens Road. TheMachine and Casting, Inc. plume extends under the area intersected by Hillmont and SpragueRoad.

The area around the site is a mixture of light industrial, commercial, and residential. Theneighborhood is of low to middle socioeconomic status. The housing in the area ranges fromlarge brick homes to small wooden structures or mobile homes. Within a mile of these facilitiesare numerous domestic, industrial, and public water supply wells (see Appendix B). Althoughmany people now are connected to an alternative water system, some people within the chromiumplume area still use the groundwater for domestic purposes.

The Sprague Road site was proposed to the National Priorities List of Superfund Sites in April of1997. In the Summer of 1996 EPA removed some of the waste sources from National Chromiumand from Leigh Metal Plating. EPA did additional groundwater sampling around all three sites inOctober 1996 [2]. The Sprague site was finalized to the National Priorities List in September of1997 [3]. Below is a brief description of each of the facilities associated with the site.

Site History

        Leigh Metal Plating Inc.
The Leigh Metal Plating, Inc., facility is approximately 3.5 miles northwest of downtown Odessa. The facility is on two tracts of land at 2725 West 81st Street on 3.6 acres (of which 2.7 acres areaffected (Figure 3) [2]. Another facility called Gulf Nuclear is 300 feet east of Leigh MetalPlating. Leigh Metal Plating (LMP) was operated as a machine shop and chrome plating facilityfrom 1976 until 1992. Previous land use is not known [4]. The main operations consisted ofrepairing, and electroplating oil field equipment. The facility generated chromic acid rinsewaterand sludge from the electroplating of metal parts. The chrome-plated parts were then rinsed overa plating tank and given a final rinse over a concrete drain. The chromic acid rinsewater whichwas generated was channeled to a 4,200 gallon storage tank via an in-ground sump and pipeline. The rinsewater was then allowed to evaporate within the storage tank and then the remainingsludge was put in drums and hauled to an off-site disposal location [4]. Chromic acid, chromicacid rinse water and metal grindings were stored and disposed of at this location until 1992.

In Spring of 1984 an unknown amount of chromic acid rinse water was released from two aboveground chromic acid storage tanks inside the chrome plating shop. The contaminated waterdrained into the soil under the plating shop via a large crack in the concrete floor and gapsbetween the metal walls and concrete floor. In an attempt to clean up the contaminated soil, LMPexcavated about 211 cubic yards of this chromium contaminated soil from beneath and along thewest side of the chrome plating building. The contaminated soil was properly disposed of at theTeco hazardous waste landfill in Robstown, TX.

In June 1985 the Texas Water Commission (TWC; predecessor to the Texas Natural ResourceConservation Commission [TNRCC]) collected a groundwater sample from the facility 300 feeteast of LMP at Gulf Nuclear, 2713 West 81st Street. The sample contained a total chromiumconcentration of 0.51 mg/L. On August 1, 1991 TWC collected a sample from a concernedcitizen's drinking water well located near the facility and found chromium at a concentration of2.4 mg/L; a concentration 24 times greater than the drinking water standard of 0.1 mg/L. InAugust 1991 the TWC collected water samples from thirteen private water wells near anddowngradient of LMP and found chromium in seven of these wells at concentrations ranging from0.08 to 5.24 mg/L [5]. An emergency order was issued on August 14, 1991 that required LMP toprovide bottled water to the affected residents until an alternate supply could be arranged. Theaffected wells were closed and in September 1993 the residents whose wells had chromiumconcentrations above 0.1 mg/L were connected to the municipal water supply [3]; one residentchose not to be connected to city water.

Groundwater and surface soil were re-sampled by the TNRCC in April 1995. These results arepresented in the Environmental Contamination section of this report. In the Fall of 1996, EPAremoved approximately 6,620 gallons of waste from LMP. Water wells were sampled in October1996 and chromium contamination was found in wells 1,400 feet east of LMP near BeesonAvenue [3]. These data are presented in more detail in the Environmental Contamination sectionof this report.

National Chromium Corporation
The 2.5 acre National Chromium Corporation (NCC) facility on 2626 Stevens Road isapproximately 850 feet south of LMP. NCC operated from 1979 to 1993. Industrial compressorengine cylinders were electrolytically chrome plated at this facility. Chromic acid, muriatic acid,and 1,1,1-trichloroethane were used in this operation. In May 1996, TNRCC detected elevatedtotal chromium concentrations in a private drinking water well immediately south of the facility. These results are presented in the Environmental Contamination section of this report. In theSummer of 1996 [2] EPA removed 57.9 tons of sludge, 20.3 tons of liquid waste andapproximately 2,600 tons of contaminated soil from the property (Figure 4). In October of 1996 EPA collected groundwater samples from nearby water wells. Chromium contamination has beendetected in wells 300 feet south of the facility past Stevens Road [3].

Machine and Casting, Inc.
Machine and Casting, Inc. (M&C) is at 8410 Loop 338 (or 8410 Sprague) about 1,500 feet northof the Leigh Metal Plating facility. The area includes about 2 acres [2]. This is the smallest of thethree facilities and has the smallest chromium contamination plume. M&C operated from 1978until August 1988. For a short time (about a 2 month period) M&C had a small chromeelectroplating setup; however, the main work at the shop was repairing compressor engines andmanufacturing compressor rods and pistons [2]. As of June 1988 wastes generated at M&Cincluded used oil, used solvents, metal scraps, metal shavings, spent sands and spent caustic soda [6].

The M&C property includes a main process building, with a chrome plating room attached to thenorth side of the building (Figure 5). In June 1980 TWC tested liquid from an abandoned chromeplating vat and identified a hydrocarbon based oil contaminated with chromium (1,940 mg/kg). The floor and lower walls of this room were stained from the chrome plating solutions and in June1980, the TWC observed a 3 foot by 3 foot area of contaminated soil on the north side of thebuilding. The soil was found to contain total chromium at a concentration of 1,500 mg/kg; thechromium was found to be highly leachable.

In June 1988 a large hole was observed in the concrete floor of the chrome plating room. Soilfrom the hole was found to contain chromium at a concentration of 45,800 mg/kg [6]. Also inJune 1988 TWC discovered a spill of waste attributed to M&C . Five drums, four of which werecontaminated with a rare solvent, and contaminated soil were found. The waste had a pH of 5.0and chromium concentration of 10,000 mg/kg. In August 1988 TWC noticed an on-site spill atthe northeast corner of M&C and recommended additional cleanup. By November 1988 theproperty owner had removed much of the waste and contaminated soil from the site (or staged itfor disposal at the Texas Ecologist facility in Robstown, Texas) [6]. There is no information inthe records to indicate that the 3 by 3 foot contaminated area was ever remediated. In March1989 one nearby private drinking water well was tested and was found to have contain chromiumat concentrations 30 to 40 times greater than the drinking water standard [6]. In 1990 anotherwell (2723 Hillmont) was found to contain chromium at a concentration eight times greater thanthe drinking water standard. This well is 150 feet from the closed chrome plating room at M&Cand is used to wash oil field equipment. The wash water goes onto the ground or into a septicdrainfield [6]. February 26, 1990 the users of both wells were advised not to drink the water. The site was fenced in July of 1991. EPA sampled water wells around this facility in October of1996 and chromium was detected in a private drinking water well immediately north of the facility. Chromium also was detected in water wells 400 feet east of M&C near Mary Francis Street [3].

In 1993, four to five people worked at LMP. It is not clear how many people worked at NCC . Possibly six individuals worked at M&C. Currently, all three sites are inactive with no on-siteworkers.

Site Visit

A representative of the Texas Department of Health, visited the three facilities on March 4 and 5,1998. TDH was accompanied by the EPA project manager for the site, the community relationscoordinator, and a regional representative of the TNRCC. Several hours were spent examiningeach of the three sites. Several additional hours were spent talking with residents living near thesefacilities to update information regarding their well water use.

LMP includes an office building, a machine shop, a plating shop and a concrete-lined fiberglassstorage tank (see Figure 3). In the past the plating shop housed two chrome plating tanks and in-ground sump which directed chromic acid rinsewater to the storage tank. The storage tank is inthe southeast end of the plating facility [4]. The LMP site is surrounded by a six foot barbed wiretopped fence; however, the buildings and grounds of the site are accessible through the mainoffice building which appeared to have been broken open, possibly by trespassers or vandals; ganggraffiti was marked on the main office building.

Behind the plating building the scrubber was still standing and the filter material was black. Crushed barrels were in chrome plating vats in the chrome plating building. There was a largeexcavation under the foundation of this building where the owner had attempted to remove thechromium contaminated soil. The area under the building was shored up with beams. Part of thishole extends to the outside of the plating building. Mud cracks and yellow staining of the soilsalong the walls of this excavation provided evidence that water would seep into these soils duringwet weather. A lean to structure and berm were put in to stop this. Weeds have grown up overthe property to the west. The adjacent land use to the north, south, and east of the site isindustrial and residential. Gulf Nuclear, Inc borders on the east; there are radiation hazard signson its fence. To the west there is unoccupied, fenced land. Surface runoff during the infrequentrainfall events is to the north into a drainage ditch along West 81st Street [5].

We spoke with people up and down West 81st Street from LMP; most individuals reported thatthey are on city water and no longer use well water, even for gardening. We spoke with twoindividuals in the 2700 block of West 81st Street who opted not to get city water. One only useshis well water for bathing and showering. This well was evaluated by TDH in August 1995 [7]. The well water at the other household had a chromium concentration of 0.3 mg/L (three timesgreater than the drinking water standard). The individual living at this location has indicated thatdrinking the water has not caused any health problems.

The NCC site was not fenced and there was abundant evidence of trespassing and vandalism bothinside and outside of the building (garbage, old furniture, food trash). The garage door on thenortheast side of the building was shot up and dented (apparently from something having beendriven into it). Inside the building there were two dead dogs and a dead skunk in the 5 foot deeppit at the west end of the building. The animals either were thrown into the pit or somehow fell inand became trapped.

On the outside of the building, surface soil and portions of the concrete slab are stained brightyellow (Figure 4). To the north northwest of the building is the former pit area and drainfield. In1996 EPA removed and replaced yards of contaminated soil with clean soil.

The nearest occupied residence has three water wells (one of which belonged to NCC ); two ofthe wells are operational. The resident is not on city water and uses one of the wells for drinkingand other household purposes. The well that the resident uses contains chromium at levels belowthe drinking water standard; however, the other two wells are above. This residence uses a dripirrigation system for his garden and trees. The resident reported that the next closest residenceimmediately east of him uses groundwater for drinking; however, the chromium concentrationwas below detection in that well during the 1996 sampling event.

Although the M&C facility is partially fenced, it is easily accessible (Figure 5). Junk, includinggarbage, clothes, and oily drums, had been dumped at the back of the building and an old car hadbeen abandoned at the back of the property in the northwest corner. The water well behind thebuilding was open to the air; the pump had been pulled and the well was open at ground level,creating an opening for further groundwater contamination. The EPA project manager indicatedthat this well was about 100 feet deep. One room in the M&C building was chrome stained andthe top of this room was open to the outside. Old clothing and trash were evidence thattrespassers had been in this room. EPA remarked that the operation may have disposed ofchromium waste through a septic drainfield and that is why there is not more obvious evidence ofchromium staining. In an area where barrels had been stored outside, tall grass obscured anyevidence of staining.

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