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HEALTH CONSULTATION

Airways Boulevard

OWENS CORNING/EUTHER DAVIDSON SITES
JACKSON, MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

On July 15, 2003, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) released the Health Consultation for the building at 781Airways Boulevard, Jackson, Tennessee. For several months, employees in the West Tennessee Health Care Facilities (WTHCF) office of TDH in Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee, had complained of an unpleasant odor that irritated their eyes and caused nausea. TDH Commissioner, Dr. Kenneth Robinson, asked Environmental Epidemiology (EEP) to investigate and determine whether odor complaints were a health concern to state employees. The 781 Airways Health Consultation identified landfill gases, including methane, non-methane organic compounds, organic sulfides, and carbon dioxide, as the cause of problems in the 781 Airways building. Because sixteen (16) businesses operate on or near the footprint of the former dump site, the Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Communicable and Environmental Disease Services Section, recommended the following:

  1. Monitor methane gas levels to ensure worker safety.
  2. Determine if landfill gas is migrating into other Airways Boulevard buildings.
  3. Correct the landfill gas problems throughout the entire site.

This consultation will address recommendation 2.

The 781 Airways building and other buildings on Airways Boulevard were built on the footprint of a closed hazardous waste site, the Owens Corning/Euther Davidson site, a State of Tennessee Superfund site, number 57-506. The site was first used as a gravel pit. After that, the site was used for waste disposal from September 1975 to May 1979. In the fall of 1977, Mr. Euther Davidson purchased the land from Mr. Levy Williams, the original owner, and had it evaluated for use as an industrial landfill. The property has since been subdivided and parcels were sold to new owners. The site occupies approximately 40 acres and contains approximately 44,000 total cubic yards of waste. For many years, Owens Corning operated a fiberglass plant in the area. In addition to waste fiberglass, Owens Corning also dumped there more than 10,995 cubic yards of their wastewater treatment sludge containing spent halogenated and non-halogenated solvents and chrome.

Other products used as fill materials include: household garbage, lumber, construction debris, kiln-dried wood, old chemical drums, cardboard, sawdust, tires, and paper. The landfill, which was 15 feet deep and would fill with underground water, stretched back about 150 feet from the roadside. It site was eventually covered with compacted soil.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have evaluated the site. On June 7, 1990, the Tennessee Division of Superfund (DSF) added Owens Corning/Euther Davidson to its list of inactive hazardous waste sites. The landfill was designated as a Tennessee Superfund site (#57-506) based on the potential for rainwater to leach landfill constituents to adjacent properties. Under a voluntary cleanup agreement, Owens Corning investigated how to minimize this leaching potential. Chromium appeared to be the main chemical of concern - the other fill materials being fairly inert. A remedial investigation from September 8 to October 28, 1995, found no widespread contaminants, and wet-weather testing indicated no migration of contaminants. At that time investigators identified no threats to human health or the environment. After the remedial investigation, DSF accepted a "no further action" plan. In April 1996, the local newspaper, The Jackson Sun, reported on cleanup activities. The site later received a "clean bill of health" and was removed from the list of inactive hazardous waste sites. By December 1997, the Tennessee Office of General Counsel closed the books on the Owens Corning/Euther Davidson site (ATSDR 2003a).

On April 15, 2003, staff of EEP visited each business on or near the footprint of the Owens Corning/Euther Davidson site. Staff explained the landfill gas problem at 781 Airways, left a fact sheet outlining the problem and the investigation process, and asked questions about any odors in the building. See the Appendix for a copy of the fact sheet and the questionnaire. Odors were noticed occasionally in the discount bakery (781 Airways) in the warehouse and at the Super Way Gas Station (795 Airways) in the northeast corner.

TDEC, DSF contracted with MACTEC Engineering and Consulting of Antioch, Tennessee, to monitor all buildings on the former site for methane, carbon dioxide, and oxygen levels. This was to determine if landfill gas was migrating into other buildings and as a preliminary investigation into the extent of the landfill gas problem.


DISCUSSION

Methane is the most common landfill gas. It is explosive between its Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) of 5% methane in air by volume and its Upper Explosive Limit (UEL) of 15%. Because methane concentrations within the landfill are typically 50% (much higher than its UEL), methane is unlikely to explode within the landfill itself. As methane migrates and is diluted; however, the methane gas mixture may be at explosive levels. Also, oxygen is a key component for creating an explosion, but the biological processes that produce methane require an anaerobic, or oxygen-depleted, environment. At the surface of the landfill, enough oxygen is present to support an explosion, but the methane gas usually diffuses rapidly into the ambient air to concentrations below its LEL of 5% (ATSDR 2003b).

Carbon dioxide is the second most common landfill gas. NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) recommends a maximum concentration of 1,000 ppm carbon dioxide for indoor air. If the carbon dioxide concentration in indoor air builds up, the oxygen level could drop below 21% - the amount of oxygen in the ambient atmosphere.

Air monitoring was conducted on three different occasions: August 18, September 2, and September 19, 2003. The August 18 sampling was conducted using a handheld Landtec model GA-90 Infrared Landfill Gas Analyzer (MACTEC 2003). Results from this sampling did not seem reliable; therefore, this data was not published. The sampling was repeated using both a handheld Gastec model 201 gas analyzer set up and calibrated for methane and a TSE model 8551 Q-Trak Indoor Air Quality meter for carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Samples were taken in each building at floor penetrations, floor cracks, wall penetrations, utility closets, rest rooms, and other locations where landfill gases would be more likely to seep into a building. Table 1 summarizes results for those businesses at which methane was detected in at least one location, as well as the carbon dioxide and oxygen values in the affected areas. The levels of methane detected, however, are extremely low and well below the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL). No methane was detected at the following sample locations: Total Line HVAC (739 Airways), John Deere (743 Airways), Process Power (749 Airways), Jackson Brake (753 Airways), Britt Brothers (771 Airways), and Dollar General (781 E Airways).

At NES Rental (757Airways) methane was detected at a floor crack at 4 parts per million (ppm) (0.0004 %) on September 19, 2003, but no methane was detected on September 2, 2003. At David White Body Shop (769 Airways) methane was found in two locations, in the breathing zone in a northeast office at 20 ppm (0.002%) on September 19, and at a well pipe outside the building at 60 ppm (0.006%) on September 2 and 40 ppm (0.004%) on September 19. At Airways Motors (793 Airways) methane was found at 40 ppm (0.004%) on both September 2 and 19 at a floor drain in the west bay of the back building. At Super Way Gas Station (795 Airways) methane was detected at 320 ppm (0.03%) on September 19 in the kitchen area at a floor penetration. These levels of methane are all extremely low, well below the 5% Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) for methane.

Although no methane was detected inside the West Tennessee Health Care Facilities building, more than 10,000 ppm (1%) methane was detected at the exhaust vent that rises above the roof of the building. A sub-slab active exhaust system was installed in the building after the publication of the Health Consultation: 781 Airways Boulevard. The September 2003 monitoring events are evidence that the exhaust system is working as planned.

Carbon dioxide levels were greater than 1,000 ppm in several locations: David White Body Shop in the accounting office, solvent storage room, and break room; Harris Auto Repair in the water heater closet; Airways Motors in the sales area; and T&T Used Cars in the rest room and office area. No methane was found in these areas, suggesting that landfill gas intrusion was not the cause of the elevated carbon dioxide levels.

These results suggest that significant landfill gases are not currently accumulating in Airways Boulevard buildings, other than the 781 Airways buildings. The results also do not indicate whether landfill gases are being formed in other areas of the landfill.

Table 1: Businesses with methane detection or elevated carbon dioxide levels, Owens Corning site, Jackson, Tennessee. September 2, and September 19, 2003

Name of Business Address Reading Location Gas Detection Readings Comments
Methane, ppm Carbon Dioxide, ppm Oxygen, %  
Sept 2 Sept 19 Sept 2 Sept 19 Sept 2 Sept 19  
NES 757 Airways Warehouse north 0 4 470 447 20.9 20.9 Floor crack
David White Body Shop 769 Airways

Well pipe

Office NE

Accounting office

Solvent storage

Break room

Break room

60

0

0

0

0

0

40

20

0

0

0

0

470

449

1126

1058

1024

1029

450

528

1265

977

715

710

20.8

20.5

20.8

20.5

20.5

20.8

20.8

20.9

20.7

20.9

20.9

20.9

Well opening

Breathing zone

Breathing zone

Breathing zone

Floor crack

Breathing zone

Flowers Discount Bakery 781 A Airways Warehouse NE corner 20 0 570 470 20.8 20.9 Floor crack
Warehouse NE corner 20 0 577 470 20.8 20.9 Breathing zone
Warehouse west wall 40 20 579 450 20.1 20.9 Floor penetration
West TN Health Care Facilities 781 B Airways Outside at migration pump >10,000 >10,000 490 NA 19.5 18.5 At exhaust vent
Airways Motors 793 Airways

Back building west bay

Sales area

40

0

40

0

537

736

436

1032

20.8

20.6

20.9

20.9

Floor Drain

Breathing zone

Super Way Gas Station 795 Airways Kitchen area 0 320 589 570 20.8 19.9 Floor penetration
T&T Used Cars 831 Airways

Rest room

Office area

0

0

0

0

915

107

1022

1238

20.6

20.6

20.9

20.9

Breathing zone

Breathing zone

Harris Auto Repair 833 Airways Water heater closet 0 0 1170 498 20.6 20.9 Wall cavity

ppm: parts per million
NA: Not Available


CHILDREN'S HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS

In communities faced with air, water, or food contamination, the many physical differences between children and adults demand special emphasis. Children could be at greater risk than adults from certain kinds of exposure to hazardous substances. Children play outdoors and sometimes engage in hand-to-mouth behaviors that increase their exposure potential. Children are shorter than adults; this means they breathe dust, soil, and vapors close to the ground. A child's lower body weight and higher intake rate results in a greater dose of hazardous substance per unit of body weight. If toxic exposure levels are high enough during critical growth stages, the developing body systems of children can sustain permanent damage. Finally, children are dependent on adults for access to housing, for access to medical care, and for risk identification. Thus, adults need as much information as possible to make informed decisions regarding their children's health.

In 1996, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) launched an initiative to place special agency-wide emphasis on environmental hazards to children's health and to emphasize child health in all agency programs and activities (ATSDR 1997, 1998).

In so far as the buildings on Airways Boulevard are concerned, children would not be employees and would only shop there occasionally. Thus, any exposure of children to odors or vapors in this instance is perceived to be minimal.


CONCLUSIONS

No apparent health hazards from landfill gases exist for any building on or near the Owens Corning/Euther Davidson site. These results suggest that significant landfill gases are not currently migrating and accumulating in the Airways Boulevard buildings, other than the 781 Airways buildings.


RECOMMENDATIONS

None at this time.


PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

  1. Hold an open house for workers in and owners of the buildings along Airways Boulevard where health educational materials will be provided. Staff will be present to answer any questions.
  2. Provide a copy of this report to interested persons at the open house.
  3. Provide information to workers in and owners of the buildings along Airways Boulevard about signs of landfill gas intrusion and contact information in case any such signs are observed.

REFERENCES

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2003a. Health Consultation, Owens Corning/Euther Davidson Site, 781 Airways Boulevard, Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee. EPA facility ID: TND980559009 . Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services; 15 July, 2003.

MACTEC Engineering and Consulting (MACTEC). 2003. Letter to Ms. Shanda Hunt. 5 November, 2003. Antioch, Tennessee: MACTEC.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2003b. Landfill gas primer. Available from: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/landfill/html/preface.html. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 1997. Healthy children–toxic environments. Report of the Child Health Workgroup presented to the ATSDR Board of Scientific Counselors. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 1998. Promoting children's health–progress report of the Child Health Workgroup, ATSDR Board of Scientific Counselors. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services.


PREPARERS OF REPORT

Ms. Bonnie Bashor, Director of Environmental Epidemiology
Mr. David Borowski, Environmental Specialist

Tennessee Department of Health (TDH)
Division of Communicable and Environmental Disease Services (CEDS)
Environmental Health Studies and Services (EHSS)
4th Floor Cordell Hull Building
425 5th Avenue North
Nashville TN 37247-4911


ATSDR TECHNICAL PROJECT OFFICER

Mr. Alan Yarbrough
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Superfund Site Assessment Branch


CERTIFICATION

This Health Consultation: Owens Corning/Euther Davidson Site, Airways Boulevard, Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee, was prepared by the Tennessee Department of Health, Environmental Epidemiology, under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the health consultation was begun.

Alan W. Yarbrough
Technical Project Officer, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this public health consultation and concurs with the findings.

Roberta Erlwein
Chief, State Program Section, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


APPENDIX

Click here to view the Appendix in PDF format (PDF, 192KB)



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