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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

GROVELAND WELLS
GROVELAND, ESSEX COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS


SUMMARY

The Groveland Wells National Priorities List (NPL) site is situatedin the town of Groveland, Essex County, Massachusetts approximately30 miles north of Boston. The site was added to the NPL in 1982due to the detection of elevated trichloroethylene (TCE) levels intwo municipal wells in 1979. A TCE contamination plume of 5micrograms per liter or greater extended approximately 4,000 feetnorthward from the Valley Manufactured Products Inc. plant, whereTCE was used extensively in degreasing operations. It has beendemonstrated that the operation of these wells influenced themigration of TCE in their direction. As a result, residents fromthe towns of Groveland and West Newbury which were served by thesewells may have been exposed to unsafe TCE levels for anindeterminate amount of time. The TCE-contaminated municipal wellswere shut down in 1979. This site is judged a past public healthhazard because of thepotential risk to humanhealth resulting fromTCE exposure that mayhave resulted in adverse health effects. Thesite, however, currently poses no apparent health hazard.

In 1987, one of the wells was restored to operation after theinstallation of a granulated activated carbon filtration unit. Subsequent monitoring of the restored well has failed to detectunsafe TCE contamination levels (currently greater than 5micrograms per liter). This well is used intermittently tosupplement the production of a third well drilled off-site in 1979,one mile from the two contaminated wells. Consequently, ingestionof waters drawn from the active Groveland municipal wells does notcurrently pose a health threat.

Citizens from Groveland are concerned that TCE exposure may haveimpacted the overall cancer rates in the town and may beresponsible for a possible elevation in the rate of neurobehavioraldeficits in the town. The cancer rates for Groveland and WestNewbury from 1982 through 1988 were analyzed. These rates fornumerous anatomical sites are not elevated. There are, however,other cancers for which there are too few cases to establish stablerates that can be effectively compared with those for the remainderof Massachusetts. Infant mortality and incidence of congenitalanomalies was also investigated in these two towns during that timewhen TCE exposure most likely occurred. For comparative purposes,these rates were also determined for a period after exposureceased. The number of infant deaths and infants born withcongenital anomalies in Groveland and West Newbury was too low todevelop valid rate comparisons between these time periods.

In addition to the operation of the restored municipal well, thedirection of TCE ground water contamination migration is influencedby land usage and its impact on the amount of precipitationinfiltration into subsurface soils. Changes in these factors mayresult in altered contamination migration patterns in the future. Given this uncertainty, the remediation proposed by the UnitedStates Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is necessary to ensurethe future safety of the Groveland water supply. Such remediationincludes the extraction of contaminated ground water and thedegradation of TCE using innovative chemical and physical means.

Hazardous levels of arsenic and lead have been detectedsporadically in groundwater throughout the site. There is no knownsource of this contamination and it has not been detected in themunicipal wells. EPA also intends to remove these heavy metalsfrom extracted ground water and dispose of them in an approvedmanner.

The Haverhill Municipal Landfill is situated on the Groveland Wellssite but is also a separate NPL site. Health hazards associatedwith landfill contaminants will beevaluated separately in aforthcoming Public Health Assessment.


BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The Groveland Wells National Priorities List (NPL) site is situatedin the town of Groveland, Essex County, Massachusetts approximately30 miles north of Boston. The 850-acre site lies on a glacialdrift aquifer and is bounded on the north by the Merrimac River,which drains into the Atlantic Ocean approximately 15 milesnortheast of the site. The site is bounded on the west byWashington Street, on the south by Salem Street, and on the east bySchool Street. Center Street also runs in an east-west directionand divides the site with approximately two thirds of the acreagenorth of Center Street (See figure 1.).

Two municipal drinking water wells are situated on the site nearArgilla Brook. From 1965 to 1979 Station 1 pumped water atapproximately 600 gallons per minute (gpm) for 15 to 18 hours aday. To supplement the growing water demand, the Station 2 wellwas developed in 1973 at the junction of Argilla Brook and JohnsonCreek. This well was pumped intermittently to serve the increasedwater needs between the months of May to October. In June of 1979,elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) were detected in theStation 1 municipal well. As a result, this well was shut down andthe Station 2 municipal well which contained low TCE levels, beganoperating at an increased rate. Elevated TCE levels were detectedin the Station 2 well in November of 1979 which precipitated theshutdown of this well. Water rationing then was implemented in thetown and sales of water to West Newbury, the adjacent town to thenortheast, were halted. In December of 1979, a third municipalwell was drilled off-site near the Merrimac River one and a halfmiles from the Station 1 municipal well. In 1987, a carbonfiltration system was installed at Station 1, which then resumedoperations at a reduced pumping rate of 400 gpm. This wellcurrently runs intermittently to supplement town water needs1.

Three possible sources of TCE contamination were identified withinthe site boundaries. The Haverhill Municipal Landfill is situatedin the northwest corner of the site and approximately 1,000 feetwest of Station 2. Approximately two thirds of the acreage on thissite was used for the disposal of municipal refuse. The landfillceased to accept this refuse in 1981. Currently sludges from theHaverhill municipal sewerage treatment plant are disposed of in thenorthern tract of the landfill. This landfill was placed on theNPL in 1982 and will be considered in a separate public healthassessment. A preliminary health assessment for the landfill wasconducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH)and released in December of 1989. There was insufficientenvironmental contamination data collected at the time thepreliminary health assessment was conducted and the health impactassociated with the site could not accurately be determined. Further characterization of contaminants at the Haverhill MunicipalLandfill may be conducted by USEPA in the future. A separatePublic Health Assessment will be conducted upon completion of theseinvestigations.

The A.W. Chesterton Company is located on Salem Street, equidistantfrom both School Street and Washington Street. The plant currentlyproduces mechanical seals and industrial maintenance products andtransports liquid waste products to sites approved by the ResourceConservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Prior to 1977, the plant wasowned by the Pandel-Bradford Company, who for five years producedplastic shoes. The plant during this time also housedelectroplating and spray painting facilities. Plant wastes ranthrough floor drains to a settling tank and an associated leachingfield. When Chesterton took ownership of the plant, contents ofthe collecting tank were pumped and removed from the site and useof the disposal system was discontinued2.

Valley Manufactured Products is located on Washington Streetapproximately 200 feet from the corner of Center Street. TheValley factory, where screw machine parts have been manufacturedsince 1965, is located on a 1.6 acre plot. The company extensivelyused TCE during degreasing operations. It was reported that in1973, a fitting broke on an underground tank where 500 gallons ofTCE was stored. This resulted in a massive TCE release tosubsurface soil. Intermittent TCE dumping on or near the factorygrounds has been reported 2 and it was also reported that smallamounts of exhausted TCE were sprayed around the facility for dustand weed control3. The company has since ceased using TCE indegreasing operations. It is currently using detergent basedcleansers for degreasing purposes4.

Numerous studies investigating the extent of aquifer contaminationhave been conducted between 1981 and 1991. These studies concludedthat Valley Manufactured Products was the primary source of TCEground water contamination in the area1,2. As a result of theextensive TCE contamination, the Groveland Wells site was placed onthe NPL in 1982.

In 1985, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reviewed existing contamination data and determined that apotential health risk existed if the contaminated wells wererestored to use without treatment or if new wells were installed inor near the TCE contamination plume. This ATSDR documentation alsostated that the TCE levels detected in the municipal wells in 1979 exceeded USEPA's existingstandards, however, it could not bedetermined for how long well users were exposed to these levels.

A record of decision (ROD) was signed in 1988 recommending the useof a soil vapor vacuum extraction system to remove volatile organiccompound (VOC) contamination from soils underneath the Valleyplant. In addition, ground water contamination on the Valley siteis planned to be removed using a recovery system which pumps groundwater to an air stripper. Effluent waters from the air strippingunit would then be reinjected into ground water upgradient to theValley plant1. In March of 1988, a ground water treatment plantwas also installed at the northern edge of Mill Pond near theValley site. This was the result of consent agreement betweenValley Manufactured Products and the Massachusetts Department ofEnvironmental Protection (MDEP).

In 1991, a supplemental Remedial Investigation (RI) was completedto further characterize the extent of ground water contaminationaway from the Valley site. A feasibility study was also completedin July of 1991 which investigated remedial alternatives for groundwater in the remainder of the aquifer. In September of 1991, a RODwas signed establishing ground water extraction and TCE destructionby chemical and physical means as the chosen remedial alternative. This public health assessment is being conducted in conjunctionwith the ROD signed in 1991.

B. Site Visit

The site was visited by William Strohsnitter, Environmental Analystfor MDPH, on August 7th 1990. Access to the Valley site and MillPond was not obtained, however, public areas were observed at thistime. The Remedial Project Manager for USEPA and Mr. Strohsnitterrevisited the site on April 9. 1992. Little human activity wasnoted on both of these visits. Horseback riders were observedalong abandoned railroad tracks north of the Station 1 well duringthe Spring visit in 1992. The gravel and sand mines were inspectedand while disposed tires and household appliances were noted onthis visit, no persons were observed in the area at this time.

The Valley Manufactured Products grounds and the area near the airstripping plant at Mill Pond are accessible although the airstripping tower itself is fenced. Mill Pond is also freelyaccessible. Waters entering and exiting the pond were moderatelyflowing. Waters exiting the air stripping plant were observeddischarging into the Johnson Creek waters that drain Mill Pond. Rust-colored sediment was observed at this discharge point. Marshvegetation was observed at the southern end of Mill Pond. Thecentral and northern regions of the pond, however, appeared asthough swimming or wading activities may be possible.

While both the Mill Pond and Valley plant grounds were freelyaccessible to pedestrian traffic, there was little evidence toindicate that this occurs frequently. It is uncertain whether thesparse amounts of litter observed in these areas were placed byworkers or passersby.

C. Demographics, Land Use and NaturalResources

The population of Groveland according to the 1990 census is 5,214. In 1980, the population of West Newbury was 2,861. The Grovelandpopulation in 1980 was 5,040 and 1,153 people (22.9% of the totalGroveland population) resided within the site boundaries at thetime. Many of the residences are located on the streets thatcomprise the site's boundaries. Other small residentialdevelopments are situated within these streets. Side streets alongthe upper half of School Street contain residential housing as dotwo streets connecting Salem and Center Streets. Another housingcluster is situated in the southwest corner of the site betweenSalem and Center streets. Five residences are situated 250 feetsouth of the Valley plant on Center Street near its juncture withWashington Street. Saint Patrick's Roman Catholic church islocated on Center Street next to these residences and owns theproperty to the immediateeast of the Valley grounds. Residencesare located on Washington Street across from the Valley plant andanother residence is located on Washington Street 300 feet north ofthe Valley plant.

In 1980, the elderly (persons aged 65 years or greater) comprised7.5% (n=86) of the population within the site boundaries comparedto 6.8% (n=263) for the remainder of the town. Thirty one per cent(n=357) of the population residing within the site boundaries wasless than 18 years of age and 32.1% (n=1,247) of those livingoutside of the site boundaries were in this age category.

A business district is located in the northeast corner of the site,containing few shops, a restaurant and convenience stores. TheBagnall Elementary School on School Street is separated from theresidential section in the south east corner of the site by a tractof wooded land. The land between Center and Gardner Streets ispredominately undeveloped. An inactive gravel and sand mining pitcomprises a large portion of this land. Another gravel pit ismined by the by Trimont Bituminous Products Inc. (TBP) and issituated in the north west corner of the site near the HaverhillMunicipal Landfill.

Three streams are associated with the site. Johnson Creek runs thelength of the site and discharges into the Merrimac River. MillPond was formed by damming Johnson Creek. Brindle Brook runsthrough the Chesterton property and joins with Johnson Creekimmediately south of Center Street. Argilla Brook runs northwestand joins Johnson Creek at the TBP gravel pit. A pond is situatedalong Johnson Creek immediately south of this juncture. TheStation 2 municipal well is also located where Argilla Brook joinsJohnson Creek. The Station one municipal well is located onArgilla Brook approximately 2,000 feet east of Station 2.

None of the streams on the site support swimming activities. MillPond, as observed during the site visit conducted in the Spring of1992, is approximately four to six feet deep and may supportswimming activities in its central and northern region. It isreported that in the summer months, the pond is over run withvegetation5,6. Fishing does occur in the site-associated streamswhich were reportedly stocked with fish in the early 1950s1.

As previously stated, the majority of the Groveland populous isserved primarily by a municipal well drilled in the northeastcorner of the town away from the contaminated aquifer. Use of thepublic water supply is, however, not mandatory. Contractors forUSEPA questioned local officials regarding the use of private wellsin the area. No comprehensive list of private wells in the areacurrently exists, however, review of plans for private septicsystems that are filed with the town also included some plans forprivate wells. No wells were identified within the site boundariesupon review of septic system plans.

One private well is known to be drilled within the site boundaries. This water is used for all household purposes except for drinking. The well is reported to be screened in the shallow overburden,where the contamination is not as prominent as in the otherhydrogeologic zones. West Newbury, which purchased drinking waterfrom Groveland prior to 1979, currently purchases its drinkingwater from the town of Newburyport. Also, West Newbury has sincedrilled its own municipal water well, five miles from the Grovelandtown line7.

D. Health Outcome Data

In order to address community health concerns, incidence data fromthe Massachusetts Cancer Registry (MCR) and theHigh Risk InfantIdentification Program (HRIIP) were reviewed. Both of these databases are maintained with in the MDPH. Massachusetts law mandatesthat all hospitals within the Commonwealth report to the MCL allincident cancer cases diagnosed within their facility. Pertinentinformation such as the age, sex and residence of the cases is alsomaintained by the registry. Incident cancer cases have beenrecorded in the Commonwealth since 1982. The HRIIP reviews birthand death certificates for congenital anomalies. These records arefiled by all hospitals in the Commonwealth and birth defects havebeen surveyed since 1969.


COMMUNITYHEALTH CONCERNS

In conversations with local health officials, it became apparentthat concerns regarding elevated rates of cancer, adverse pregnancyoutcomes, and neurobehavioral deficits existed in the community8. With the cooperation of the Chairperson of the Groveland Board ofHealth, a town meeting was convened. On September 16, 1991, WilliamC. Strohsnitter and Robert S. Knorr of the Bureau of EnvironmentalHealth Assessment met with the Groveland community to describe theATSDR public health assessment process and to solicit healthconcerns that the Groveland citizens had with respect to theGroveland Wells site. Approximately 50 citizens were inattendance. The following questions were raised by citizens at themeeting:

Table 1.

Human Health Effects at Various Hydrogen Sulfide Concentrations in Air
1)Is it known for how long the Groveland Wells 1 and 2 werecontaminated prior to detection?
2)Is water safe to drink?
3)Is there a birth defect registry in Massachusetts?
4)How can reliable rates of adverse reproductive outcomesbe derived in Groveland since it is a small town? Is itpossible to attribute one birth defect per year in a town this small to environmental exposure givenstatistical limitations?
5)Is there a registry for neurobehavioral disorders? Teachers at the Bagnall Elementary School have observedabnormal behavioral patterns in students who were bornshortly after TCE was detected in the Groveland Wells. Could school health records be reviewed to ascertain ifthere may have been changes in the health profile of thestudent body over time?
6)Are citizens at an increased cancer risk as a result ofpast exposure to TCE in the Groveland municipal water? Can data from the Massachusetts Cancer Registry be usedto accurately assess environmental impact on cancer ratesin Groveland? Wouldn't the cancer rates in Groveland beinvalidly lowered since exposed residents may have movedout of Groveland as a result of the municipal watercontamination and residence of cancer cases in theregistry is recorded at the time of diagnosis (and not atexposure)?
7)Hauling of sand and gravel from the mining operations atthe site may have resulted in the release of contaminantsaway from the site. Can the MDPH conduct monitoring toascertain whether or not his occurred?
8)When will the Public Health Assessment be completed?
9)Is there any thing that the Groveland citizens can do inassist in the Public Health Assessment process?

It was generally believed by the audience members that there areelevated rates of all cancers, birth defects and neurobehavioraldisorders which are attributable to exposure to contaminateddrinking water. Frustration was expressed over the lack ofnon-neoplastic disease registries that would enable officials toaccurately assess changes in disease patterns throughout the state. One audience member suggested the Office of Children's EarlyIntervention Program within the Massachusetts Department of SocialServices as a data source. Another audience member contended thatmany people who believed that they were impacted by environmentalexposure were not in attendance and as a result, not all citizenconcerns were voiced at the meeting.



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