PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
PALMER, HAMPDEN COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was mandated by the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended, to conduct health assessments for all Superfund sites in the country. In 1987 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) entered into a cooperative agreement with ATSDR to conduct these health assessment for sites in Massachusetts.
This health assessment for the PSC Resources site in Palmer, Massachusetts, reviews environmental and health outcome data for the site. The PSC site is located at 10 Water Street and was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1983. It is the former location of PSC Resources, Inc. which operated as a waste oil reprocessing and waste oil and solvent storage facility from the 1930s until 1977.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION AND OTHER HAZARDS
Environmental investigations at the site revealed that the primary contaminants detected at the site included lead (found in surface soil both on the property and at off-property locations, e.g., wetland) and PCBs and some polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds in the nearby wetland sediments. While other constituents were found in other media (e.g., volatile and semivolatile organic compounds in groundwater, lead and arsenic in onsite lagoon surface water), the health assessment concluded that the opportunities for exposures to these contaminants were small and hence actual exposures were not likely to have occurred.
Individuals who may have been exposed to site-related contaminants include past workers on the site and nearby residents who may have come into contact with the site itself (through trespassing) or nearby contaminated off-property areas (off-property areas are areas which are outside the 1.5 acre property boundary, but within the 20 acres of surrounding land, e.g., the wetland). However, non-employee use of the property or contaminated off-property areas was likely to have been infrequent because of the dense vegetation in the affected areas.
Based on review of available monitoring data, the site could have posed a public health hazard in the past because of opportunities for exposure to contaminants, particularly lead, present at the site. Individuals most likely exposed in the past were employees working on the site. The site has been secured to limit access and cleanup activities began in September 1995. Exposure could occur through the remediation process and in the future (via groundwater), but appropriate health and safety measures should protect remediation workers and institutional controls along with natural attenuation of chemical concentrations over time in groundwater should minimize the potential for exposures.
Review of cancer incidence data revealed statistically significant elevations in three cancer types in one Palmer census tract (8101) in at least one of the time periods reviewed. It could not be determined if the environment played a role in these elevations. The MDPH/ATSDR recommended that a community education program be implemented to discuss the risk factors associated with bladder, kidney, and lung cancers. In addition, MDPH/ATSDR will continue to monitor the incidence of these three types of cancer in Palmer through the Massachusetts Cancer Registry.
This section presents a summary of the site and its history. Detailed descriptions of the site are available in the remedial investigation (RI) report (HMM 1992).
1. Site Location and Physical Appearance
The PSC Resources National Priorities List (NPL) site is located at 10 Water Street, in Palmer, Hampden County, Massachusetts, about 80 miles southwest of Boston (Figure 1). The site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) NPL in September 1983. The site is the former location of PSC Resources, Inc., which operated as a waste oil reprocessing and waste oil and solvent storage facility from the 1930s until 1977.
The EPA study area, or "site," comprises the property itself, which is approximately 1.5-acres enclosed by a chainlink fence and topped with barbed wire, and 20 acres of surrounding residential, commercial, wetland, woodland, and recreational areas, as well as the Quaboag River. The term "off-property" is used to designate areas which are outside the 1.5 acre property boundary, but within the 20 acres of surrounding land (EPA study area). The term "off-site" is used to refer to areas outside of the the 20 acre study area.
Within the property boundaries (onsite) were the following (Figure 3):
- Two buildings, holding tank supports with associated piping, and large storage tank pads from the operational period of the facility. The two buildings were decontaminated, demolished, and disposed off-site during the remedial design activities.
- A waste lagoon on the western side of the site containing an oil sheen, algae, and various debris.
- Debris (pipes, bricks, glass, drums, dirty tyveks and boots, wood, and tires) scattered throughout the site. Several of the drums were rusted and cracked and material was observed to be leaking out of them.
Bordering the site are the following properties (Figure 2): (1) residences across Water Street to the east, (2) a recreational field to the north, (3) a wetland area and the Quaboag River to the west, and (4) a wooded area to the south. The closest residence is within 50 feet of the site entrance on Water Street. Residences are also located on the other side of the Quaboag River to the west of the site in the town of Monson.
2. Site History
The PSC Resources, Inc., site was established in 1898 as a bulk oil storage facility by Standard Oil Company. Between 1898 and 1974 the site was used for the storage of oil and oil products by various companies. In 1974 PSC Resources, Inc., purchased the property to operate a waste oil storage and reprocessing facility. The title for the property was transferred to Ag-Met Oil Services, Inc., and operations were expanded to include the collection and disposal of solvents and lacquers.
From 1974 to 1977 the facility was involved in the collection, storage, and processing of oil, solvents, and lacquers. On-site was a waste lagoon, an open pit, several buildings for the handling and treatment of waste, and numerous above ground and below ground storage tanks.
Between 1974 and 1977 several site inspections by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering (DEQE, now Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP) revealed improper maintenance of the site and permit violations resulting from oil and hazardous material spills. In January 1978 state environmental officials requested the assistance of the state Attorney General's Office to initiate legal action against the site owner. As a result, the facility was permanently closed in 1978.
In 1978 the DEQE issued a Notice of Responsibility (NOR) requiring the removal of approximately 1.5 million gallons of waste materials stored on-site in tanks and diked areas. Between March and August 1982, various notices were issued to (1) request the securing of the site and hiring of a consultant to conduct a site assessment, (2) require notification of a release of oil to the environment, and (3) request the initiation of cleanup.
In June 1982 a chainlink fence was erected around the site, the materials in the concrete dike area were pumped to on-site storage tanks, and absorbent pillows were placed around the booms and along the breakouts in the dike wall. Approximately 492,000 gallons of oil and sludge were removed from 18 tanks and 570,000 gallons of liquid sludge were removed from the site in November 1982 and December 1983, respectively (MDEP 1984).
Between March and August 1982, state and federal environmental agencies as well as a private contractor performed extensive sampling of the materials stored on-site in tanks, containment dikes, and the waste lagoon as well as material found in the catch basins. In April 1983, NUS Corporation prepared a Remedial Action Master Plan (RAMP). Between November 1983 and January 1985 sampling of soils, surface water, and sediments was conducted on-site and in the study area by the EPA, DEQE and several private contractors. The various sampling rounds were conducted in order to characterize the nature and extent of contamination and the impact of past releases of waste materials to the environment.
During the summer of 1986 various Interim Remedial Measures (IRMs) were instituted by the MDEP under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. EPA. An additional 350 feet of chainlink fence was constructed to adjoin the existing fence and to establish complete fencing around the site. Nineteen storage tanks were emptied, cleaned, demolished, and disposed of off-site. The piping from these tanks was stored on-site. The drums of sludge as well as contaminated protective clothing from the removal actions were also disposed of off-site.
The RI was completed in January 1992, and involved multiple phases of sampling of air, soil, surface water, sediments, groundwater, and biota. A human health risk assessment were conducted as part of the RI. A feasibility study (FS), involving the development, screening, and detailed evaluation of potential remedial alternatives, was also completed in January 1992.
On September 15, 1992, a Record of Decision (ROD) was signed, selecting a remedial plan for the PSC Resources site. In September 1995 remedial activities at the site began. The selected remedy includes dredging of contaminated lagoon and wetland sediment and consolidation with contaminated property soils. These sediments and soils are to be treated with stabilizing agents that will bind contaminants to soil in a cement-like matrix preventing further contaminant migration from the site. Stabilized soils will be capped with water permeable sand and gravel and will be covered with topsoil. This topsoil will be seeded to prevent erosion. Waters will be pumped from the existing lagoon, treated to remove contaminants, and discharged to the Quaboag River. As of December 1995, existing structures on the PSC Resources property have been decontaminated, demolished, and disposed off-site. Finally, use of on-site land and groundwater will be restricted until site clean-up levels have been achieved and maintained.
Long-term monitoring of groundwater, sediments from both the wetland and the Quaboag River, as well as surface waters from the river will ascertain whether contaminants are migrating from the site and clean-up levels have been achieved. Groundwater treatment will not be conducted at the site because it is anticipated that groundwater contamination levels will decrease over time with natural groundwater flow after on-site soil contaminants have been stabilized. Long term monitoring of groundwater on or near the property will be conducted to determine if this has occurred.
On July 18, 1991, an MDPH Environmental Analyst (Anne Fox), the EPA Remedial Project Manager, and representatives from the MDEP conducted a site visit to the PSC Resources site. Information from the site visit is useful for assessing possible exposure pathways. During the course of the site visit, the following details about the site status and appearance were observed:
- Portions of the fence were missing on the side of the site adjacent to an athletic field.
- Debris, including but not limited to pipes, bricks, glass, wood, tires, and dirty tyveks and boots, were evident throughout the site.
- Fifty-five-gallon drums were evident throughout the site. Some of the drums were rusted, corroded, and split, and material was leaking onto the soil.
- The lagoon and waste containment areas had an oil sheen and an oil smell was evident. Debris was also floating in the lagoon.
- Household garbage was scattered across the site.
- Two buildings and the old tank platforms were present on-site.
- Stained soil was present throughout the site.
For areas outside of the site fence, the following observations were made:
- Off-road bike tracks were visible in different areas in the woods and wetland around the site.
- A pipeline was observed to the north of the site, but it could not be determined where the pipeline originated or ended.
- Several fifty-five-gallon drums were observed off-site in the yard of a residence on Water Street.
Other observations included the nearby locations of businesses and residences, as well as the Quaboag River. The physical hazards and site security observations are presented in the "Environmental Contamination and Other Hazards Section" later in this document.
A second site visit, conducted by the MDPH in December 1991, indicated that individuals were still accessing the site. Ice skate tracks were evident across the frozen waste lagoon and junked car parts were present inside the fence. All the physical hazards present in July 1991 were still present on-site at the time of the second site visit.
On September 23, 1994, Jeffrey Purvis, Chief of the Community Assessment Unit at the MDPH, visited the site and observed the site to be well secured. In addition, there was no evidence of trespassing on the site noted at that time.
The PSC Resources site is located in the south central section of Palmer, less than 1,000 feet north of the town of Monson. The 1990 U.S. Census indicated that 12,008 and 7,776 individuals live within the towns of Palmer and Monson, respectively (U.S. DOC 1982). The closest residences are situated approximately 50 feet east of the site perimeter fence on Water Street.
The three schools that are currently open in Palmer are all located within a one-mile radius of the site. Old Mill Pond Elementary School and Palmer High School are located on Main Street and the Converse Middle School (formerly the Palmer High School) is located on Converse Street. In September 1991, the town of Palmer closed six of the seven schools within the town to build two bigger school facilities. Four of the six schools that were closed were located within a one-mile radius of the site. The former Palmer High School is the only building that was not closed because it now houses the Converse Middle School (Palmer School Department 1991). Two new schools opened on Main Street in September 1991. There are no schools in Monson which are situated within one mile of the site (Monson School Department 1991).
There are no hospitals within a one-mile radius of the PSC Resources site. Within the town, there is one nursing home located on Shearer Street, 100 elderly housing units on Fletcher Street, and 156 elderly and family housing units on Beacon Drive (Palmer Housing Authority 1991).
2. Land Use
Currently, the PSC Resources site is fenced to prevent access by unauthorized personnel. However, at the time of the 1991 site visit, the perimeter fence was vandalized, allowing access to the site. It was reported that children used the waste lagoon in the winter as a skating rink and that trespassers have been seen on the site in the past (MDEP 1991). Land use in the vicinity of the site is a mixture of residential, recreational, and commercial. The two industries closest to the site are a publishing company and an oil company. An athletic field and the Quaboag River are situated directly adjacent to the site to the north and west, respectively. Undeveloped wetland and forest are situated to the west and south of the site, respectively. According to the Palmer Planning Board, the wetland area between the site and the Quaboag River is zoned as agricultural/low density residential (Palmer Planning Board 1992). Therefore, it is possible that this area could be developed in the future for residential purposes and groundwater wells for drinking water purposes could be installed.
Within the DEP "List of Confirmed Disposal Sites and Locations to be Investigated, March 1990," several DEP sites are listed within a one-mile radius of the site (MDEP 1990). The confirmed DEP sites located closest to PSC Resources are Ray Kelley and Son approximately 300 feet to the northwest on Water Street, Winstons Food and Fuel approximately 0.5 miles to the northeast on Park Street, and ArmCo Steel/Contach approximately one mile to the east at the intersection of Routes 20 and 32.
3. Natural Resource Use
The Palmer Water District supplies municipal water to the town of Palmer from the Upper Graves Brook Reservoir (HMM 1992). This reservoir has been used since 1885. Historically, water was also obtained from the Lower Graves Brook Reservoir between 1885 and the mid-1980s. However, this reservoir has been temporarily closed due to high turbidity. The reservoirs are supplied with water from a gravel packed well (Well #2) located approximately 0.75 mile upgradient and upstream from the site along the Quaboag River. The water from Well #2 feeds into a distribution system and is processed through the filter plant prior to distribution to the residents (HMM 1992). Galaxy wellfield #1 has also provided municipal water in the past via the reservoirs (HMM 1992). However, this wellfield is temporarily closed due to a problem with low-level VOC contamination. The VOC contamination found in wellfield #1 is unlikely to be due to the PSC Site. According to the Superintendent of the Palmer Water District, approximately 1,400 people are supplied with municipal water from these sources, and the rest of the residents in the town use private groundwater wells (HMM 1992).
Information from the Palmer Water Department and Board of Health indicates that all residences on Water Street, which is adjacent to the site, have been served by municipal supplies for 30 years and that none of the residences have private wells. State law requires reporting of the installation of private water supply wells to the local board of health. However, because the ownership of these wells is self-reported we cannot be sure that all wells have been documented.
The Monson Water Department supplies water to 40 percent of the residents in Monson through three gravel packed wells located along the Chicopee Brook, a tributary to the Quaboag River (HMM 1992). The wells are located 1.5 miles upgradient of the site. According to available information, approximately 60 percent of the residents receive water from private groundwater wells but there is only one well located within 0.5 miles of the site [9,21].
The Quaboag River originates approximately 18 miles east of the site at the Quaboag Pond in East Brookfield. The river flows to the west/southwest until it reaches the site and then flows in a northwesterly direction until it converges with the Chicopee River approximately 3 miles north of the PSC Resources site. The Quaboag River is classified as a Class B surface water body meaning that it can be use for recreational and agricultural purposes, as a habitat for wildlife, and possibly as a public water supply if it meets national standards.
The Quaboag River is used for recreational purposes such as fishing and swimming. There are some edible fish species present in the river. However, it is not known what species are caught or if the fish that are caught are consumed. Several game species (e.g., Ring-necked Pheasant) could be present in the wetland area around the site. There is no available information on hunting practices around the site.
MDPH staff analyzed two types of health outcome data. Cancer incidence data for Monson and Palmer for selected cancers for the years 1982-1992 were reviewed. Analyses were made at the citywide and census tract levels. In addition to cancer incidence data, data available from the MDPH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) were reviewed. The CLPPP data was reviewed to try to confirm a reported elevation of lead levels in a young child and because on-site testing revealed high levels of lead in the soil.
Community concerns regarding the PSC Resources site are evident because of the involvement of state and local officials with site-related issues, the numerous newspaper articles regarding the site, and the various complaints received by state and federal environmental regulatory and health officials.
A review of the available files did not reveal information on any organized citizen groups (Palmer Board of Health 1991). However, complaints received by officials began shortly after the reprocessing facility opened and include the following: (1) black smoke coming from the site; (2) sludge dumped on the town street; (3) oil spilled on Water Street; (4) oil spilled onto the adjacent athletic field; and (5) reports about ducks in the adjacent wetland being covered with oil (HMM 1992).
Topics of particular concern to the community include: (1) contamination of the groundwater due to soil contamination and subsequent contamination of area groundwater wells used for drinking water purposes; (2) any health risks associated with the site; (3) contamination of the athletic field; and (4) more extensive fencing and posting of the site (HMM 1992).
In 1992 the MDPH received a report that a one-year old child of a family residing near the site had been diagnosed with "high levels of lead" (levels not specified) within the age of 2 months. Several residents near the site also reported other health symptoms, such as recurring and persistent headaches.
The Public Health Assessment for PSC Resources was provided for public comment. The comments received and the responses to these comments are provided in Appendix F of this document.