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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

PANTEX PLANT
AMARILLO, CARSON COUNTY, TEXAS

VII. CONCLUSIONS

  • The Department of Energy (DOE) Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, does not pose a threat to public health from any site release at this time based on currently available environmental sampling data. No site-related contaminants are currently accessible on site or off site at levels that would cause adverse health effects. On-site variations have been detected in specific areas of the Pantex Plant. The variations appeared in on-site areas associated with the burning grounds and several of the radioactive solid waste management units.
  • The off-site radiation exposures to the public living near the Pantex Plant are well below levels that would cause adverse health effects. The exposure levels are too low to measure accurately and are estimates only. The levels of radioactivity in drinking water are below the current Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
  • No adverse health effects are expected from on-site nonradiological and radiological contamination.
  • Tritium concentrations in air have been elevated in the past as a result of a major release occurring in May 1989. The elevated air levels of tritium, however, have not resulted in radiation exposures or doses above levels that would cause adverse health effects.
  • Although the levels of tritium in off-site vegetation are elevated above the on-site values, the levels are well below levels that would pose a health threat. For example, an individual would have to consume more than 5,000 tons of affected vegetation per year to approach a dose that would cause adverse health effects.
  • Radioactivity in the Ogallala aquifer, which is the source of the water supply for the plant and for the City of Amarillo, is well below the current or proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels and, therefore, is not a health hazard.
  • Chemical contamination above health screening values has been detected in the perched aquifer at the southeastern plant boundary; however, that particular perched aquifer is not currently used as a water source downgradient of the contaminant plume, and no one is exposed to the contaminants. If used as a drinking water source in the future, water from the perched aquifer would require treatment to remove contamination before it would be safe for consumption.

VIII. RECOMMENDATIONS

  • If future nonradiological and radiological sampling data change the exposure scenarios, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will review those data and respond appropriately.
  • Prevent utilization of the perched aquifer at the southeastern plant boundary as a water source downgradient of the contaminant plume by implementing institutional controls.
  • Address existing community concerns through additional investigations of health outcomes as necessary.

A Health Activity Recommendation Panel (HARP) was assembled to identify needed public health actions based on the findings of the Pantex public health assessment. The HARP determined that, where needed and requested, an environmental health education program should be undertaken to provide information to community members on health outcome data presented in the Pantex Plant public health assessment.

IX. PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

The Public Health Action Plan for the Pantex Plant contains a description of actions to be taken by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and other government agencies at and in the vicinity of the site after the completion of this public health assessment. The purpose of this Public Health Action Plan is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards but also provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

ATSDR will contact the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the Texas Department of Health (TDH), and the Pantex Plant staff semiannually to obtain status of environmental monitoring and health education activities.

Pantex Plant staff will notify ATSDR immediately in the event the off-site perched aquifer plume is detected in the Ogallala monitoring wells. Upon such notification, ATSDR will determine appropriate public health actions.

TNRCC should implement institutional controls downgradient of the Pantex Plant to prevent utilization of the perched aquifer as a drinking water source.

Upon request from the public, the Texas Department of Health (TDH) will develop and implement an environmental health education program to help community members understand the potential for past exposure and to provide information on assessing any adverse health occurrences that might be related to Pantex Plant activities.

TDH will continue to address new community health concerns as they arise.

The TDH Birth Defects Monitoring Division expanded active surveillance of birth defects to this region of the State beginning with 1998 deliveries. Data from an active surveillance system provides the most accurate information with which to evaluate the number of birth defects observed in an area. The TDH will use these data to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of vital records in this area.

The TDH Texas Cancer Registry will continue to collect cancer incidence data for the Potter/Randall counties area and will continue to monitor this area as new data become available.


X. PREPARERS OF REPORT

Authors

Richard F. Collins, MSEH, DAAS
Senior Environmental Health Scientist, Lead Health Assessor
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

Paul A. Charp, PhD
Senior Health Physicist
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

John F. Villanacci, PhD
Director, Health Risk Assessment and Toxicology Program
Bureau of Epidemiology
Texas Department of Health

Nancy B. Ingram, BS
Public Health Technician, Health Risk Assessment and Toxicology Program
Bureau of Epidemiology
Texas Department of Health

Barry Wilson
Public Health Technician
Cancer Registry Division
Texas Department of Health

Peter H. Langlois, PhD
Senior Epidemiologist
Birth Defects Monitoring Division
Texas Department of Health

Janet Pichette, MS, CTR
Staff Epidemiologist
Toxicology and Risk Assessment Section
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission

Kevin Liske, MA
Geographic Information Systems Specialist
Program Evaluation, Records, and Information Services Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

William H. Taylor, PhD, DABT
Chemist
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

Reviewers

Sandra Isaacs
Chief, Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

Rita Ford
Chief, Energy Section
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

Joseph Martilloti
Pantex Special Project Coordinator
Bureau of Radiation Control
Texas Department of Health

Joseph Panketh
Engineering Specialist
Air Quality Assessment Program
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission

Shawn Hess and Clay Wright
Pantex Program Regional Oversight
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, Region 1

John D. Campbell, MS
Program Manager
Battelle Pantex
Pantex Plant

Bill Greim, MPH, MS
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

Susanne Pickering, MS, OTR/L
Health Education Specialist
Division of Health Education and Promotion
ATSDR

Dhelia Williamson, MS
Epidemiologist
Division of Health Studies
ATSDR

L. Samuel Keith, MSHP, CHP
Environmental Scientist
Division of Toxicology
ATSDR

Boyd Deaver
Compliance Specialist
Mason and Hanger Corporation
Pantex Plant

Edward A. Tupin, MS
Senior Health Physicist
Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR

ATSDR Region VI Representative

Jennifer Lyke
Environmental Protection Specialist
Dallas, Texas

Pantex Plant ATSDR/DOE Liaison

John D. Campbell, MS
Program Manager
Battelle Pantex
Pantex Plant


XI. CITED REFERENCES

  1. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management. Site history of Pantex Plant (draft). Washington, DC: January 1993.

  2. Barns & McDonnell. Land use census Pantex facility (draft). Kansas City, MO: March 1991.

  3. Mason & Hanger - Silas Mason Co., Inc. Pantex Plant site environmental report for calendar year 1991. Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. Amarillo, TX: December 1992.

    Mason & Hanger - Silas Mason Co., Inc. Pantex Plant site environmental report for calendar year 1992. Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. Amarillo, TX: December 1993.

    Mason & Hanger - Silas Mason Co., Inc. 1993 environmental report for Pantex Plant. Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. Amarillo, TX: June 1994. Document no. DOE/AL/65030-9413.

    Mason & Hanger - Silas Mason Co., Inc. 1994 environmental report for Pantex Plant. Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. Amarillo, TX: June 1995. Document no. DOE/AL/65030-9506.

    Mason & Hanger - Silas Mason Co., Inc. 1995 environmental report for Pantex Plant. Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. Amarillo, TX: May 1996. Document no. DOE/AL/65030-9602.

  4. Geo-Marine, Inc. A cultural resources survey of 500 acres surrounding the sewage playa at the Pantex Plant facility, Carson County, Texas. Prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Plano, TX: May 1994. Miscellaneous report of investigations no. 75.

  5. Bureau of Economic Geology. Hydrogeology and hydrochemistry of the Ogallala Aquifer, southern high plains, Texas panhandle, and eastern New Mexico. Austin, TX: 1988. Report of investigations no. 177.

  6. U.S. Department of Energy. Risk reduction rule guidance to the Pantex Plant RFI (final). Washington, DC: September 1996.

  7. U.S. Department of Energy. Environmental restoration program solid waste management units information booklet. Washington, DC: May 1995.

  8. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. RCRA facility investigation report for construction landfills 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, and 15 (draft final). Prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Albuquerque, NM: December 1995.

  9. Morrison Knudsen Corporation. RCRA facility investigation report firing sites for 5, 6, and 15 ADS 1205 (AL-PX-09) (draft final). Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. Englewood, CO: February 1996.

  10. Morrison Knudsen Corporation. RCRA facility investigation report for miscellaneous high explosives/radiation release sites Pantex Plant, Amarillo, TX ADS 1212 (AL-PX-11) (draft final). Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. Englewood, CO: January 1996.

  11. Texas Department of Health, Cancer Registry Division. Study of cancer in selected counties near the Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant. Austin, TX: June 1994.

  12. Texas Department of Health, Birth Defects Monitoring Division. Pantex investigation: Birth defects component. Austin, TX: August 1996.

  13. Texas Department of Health. Letter to Deborah Martin from Jean D. Brender concerning congenital malformations - panhandle region. March 19, 1987.

  14. Texas Department of Health. Summary writeup: Analysis of parental occupation and workplace, and distribution by zip code. Austin, TX: October 1996.

  15. Texas Department of Health. Letter to Claudia Blackburn from Minda M. Weldon concerning a response to a concern about an excess of infant mortality in Potter and Randall Counties. April 11, 1997.

  16. Texas Department of Health, Texas Cancer Registry. Summary of investigation into the occurrence of cancer in selected counties in the Texas panhandle. Austin, TX: July 1996.

  17. Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, Monitoring Operations Division. Pantex nuclear weapons facility quality assurance project plan for ambient air monitoring. Austin, TX: August 1997. Document no. RG-140/97.

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