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BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The Region I U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provide health consultations assessing properties associated with the General Electric (G.E.) site in Pittsfield, Massachusetts [1]. ATSDR personnel, accompanied by a representative from EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), conducted a site visit on March 13, 1998. The evaluation of sites will include information contained in the data packages along with the information acquired during the site visit. This health consultation will only address polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination at lots K10-5-2,-3, K10-6-1,-2,-3,-14,-15 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The subject sites are residential properties that may have either received PCB contaminated fill material from the G.E. Facility, or may have become contaminated through migration by one of several possible transport mechanisms. Lots K10-6-14,-15 are abandoned residential properties that have been purchased by G.E. and have been fenced off. EPA provided ATSDR with surface soil (0-to-6-inches) and subsurface soil (various depths) sampling data. Samples were analyzed for PCBs.

Lots K10-5-2 and K10-5-3

This property is located across the street from a lot that received contaminated fill material. The surface soil samples did not detect PCBs above 1 part per million (ppm). Only one subsurface soil sample exceeded 2 ppm (SB-1 at 2.48 ppm)

Lot K10-6-1

A stream runs along one side of this property. Three samples were collected along the stream (sediment/surface soil) that detected PCBs at 11.8, 52, and 68 ppm, respectively. The remaining surface soil samples had levels <3.5 ppm. Subsurface soil samples were also elevated along the creek (31-to-92 ppm). Other than the Creek area, subsurface PCB concentrations were low.

Lot K10-6-2

This property is adjacent to lot K10-6-15 where PCB concentrations exceed 10,000 ppm in surface soils. PCB levels in surface soil on this site range from 0.22 ppm to 3.2 ppm. Subsurface PCB levels were less than 1 ppm except for two samples (4.8 ppm and 13.0 ppm).

Lot K10-6-3

A surface soil sample collected in the front yard detected PCBs at 15 ppm. Another surface soil sample collected in the backyard near the property line detected PCBs at 13 ppm. The remaining surface soil samples were less than 2 ppm. At a depth of 6-to-12 inches, two soil samples (SB-4 and SS-1) had PCB concentrations of 12 ppm and 13 ppm, respectively. The remaining subsurface samples had PCB concentrations less than 2 ppm.

Lots K10-6-14 and K10-6-15

Surface and subsurface soils on the two properties are heavily contaminated with PCBs, and exceed 10,000 ppm in several samples and 1,000 ppm in many samples.

DISCUSSION1

PCBs are a group of 209 synthetic organic chemicals that have varying levels of toxicity. In humans, long-term exposure to PCBs can effect the skin, liver, reproductive and endocrine systems [2]. While human evidence of PCB carcinogenicity is limited, animal studies provide sufficient evidence. EPA has characterized PCBs as “probable human carcinogens” [2].

Humans are exposed to PCBs through multiple pathways. In addition to the ingestion of soil, water, and inhalation of contaminated air, food serves as a major source of PCB exposure. The potential health threat from environmental PCBs is dependent on factors such as concentration in the media, completed exposure pathways, and frequency of exposure.

Lot K10-5-2 and K10-5-3

Surface and subsurface soil PCB levels on these properties do not constitute a public health hazard.

Lot K10-6-1

Surface concentrations of PCBs along the Creek were elevated in three samples (1.8 ppm, 52 ppm, and 68 ppm). Subsurface soil samples were also elevated along the creek (31-to-92 ppm). Long-term exposure to surface soils at these concentrations pose a public health hazard. Subsurface soils pose a potential public health hazard if excavations or other activities occur that would bring the soil to the surface.

Lot K10-6-2

Surface and subsurface soil PCB levels on this property are lower than what would constitute a public health hazard; however, given the proximity (within 100 feet) of very high PCB levels in the adjoining lot (K10-6-15), there is a reasonable likelihood for transport of PCB contamination into the home (e.g., tracked into the home on shoes or by pets)from these areas of very high contamination. Therefore, this property is an indeterminate health hazard.

Lot K10-6-3

Two samples above 2 ppm were found in the front and backyard at 15 ppm and 13 ppm, respectively. Given the small size of this lot, the probability of coming in contact with soil in these otherwise isolated areas of contamination is increased. In addition, the adjacent properties have high soil PCB levels, and there is a reasonable likelihood for transport of PCB contamination into the home (e.g., tracked into the home on shoes or by pets) from these areas of very high contamination. Therefore, the PCB contamination on this property does pose a public health hazard.

Lots K10-6-14,-15

Surface soil concentrations exceeding 1,000 ppm pose a public health hazard to those who may come in contact with the soil even for short time periods (i.e., weeks). Subsurface soil levels at this site are also very high, and pose a public health threat if excavations or other activities occur on site that may bring the contamination to the surface.

1EPA has scheduled remediation beginning June 2, 1998 on lots K10-6-1,-2,-3,-6,14-15 and K10-5-2

CONCLUSIONS

Lot K10-5-2 and K10-5-3

PCB levels on these properties do not pose a public health hazard.

Lot K10-6-1

PCBs in surface soils pose a public health hazard on the basis of long-term exposures. PCBs in subsurface soils pose a potential public health hazard if excavations or other activities occur that would bring the contamination to the surface.

Lot K10-6-2

While PCB levels in soil of this property are below health concern, the proximity of very high PCB levels in the adjoining lot (K10-6-15) provides a reasonable likelihood for transport of PCB contamination into the home (e.g., tracked into the home on shoes or by pets). We do not have indoor dust sampling for the home on this lot; therefore, this property is an indeterminate health hazard.

Lot K10-6-3

The PCB contamination on this property does pose a public health hazard. Moderately high PCB concentrations and the potential for transport of PCBs into the home from adjacent properties form the basis for this conclusion.

Lots K10-6-14,-15

Surface soil concentrations exceeding 1,000 ppm pose a public health hazard to those who may come in contact with the soil even for short time periods (i.e., weeks). Subsurface soil levels at this site are also very high, and pose a public health threat if excavations or other activities occur on site that may bring the contamination to the surface.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on the information provided, ATSDR recommends the following:

1. Remediate surface and subsurface soils in area of contamination along the Creek on lot K10-6-1.

2. Remediate surface soil in the two areas of elevated PCB contamination on lot K10-6-3.

3. Remediate surface and subsurface soils to a safe level on lots K10-6-14 and K10-6-15.

4. If remediation of PCB contaminated soil does not occur on lot K10-6-15, consider indoor dust sampling for PCBs in the home on the adjoining lot(K10-6-2).

CERTIFICATION

Timothy Walker, MS
Environmental Health Specialist
Concurred: Richard Canady, Ph.D., DABT
Senior Toxicologist

REFERENCES

  1. E-Mail request for consultation from Don Berger (EPA Region I) to Suzanne Simon, ATSDR. March 2, 1998.

  2. ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Polychlorinated Biphenyls.

 

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