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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

ROSEN SITE
(a/k/a ROSEN BROTHERS SITE)
CORTLAND COUNTY, CORTLAND, NEW YORK


SUMMARY

The Rosen Brothers site, also known as Scrap King, is a 20-acre abandoned industrial facility in the City of Cortland, Cortland County, New York. Between 1908 and 1971 the site was occupied by Wickwire Brothers, Inc., which manufactured wire, screens and nails. Industrial wastes from Wickwire site operations were disposed on-site or discharged to the municipal sewer system and to Perplexity Creek, which borders the site. Between 1972 and 1980, Philip and Harvey Rosen operated a scrap metal processing facility at the site. Municipal, industrial and construction wastes, as well as drums, transformers and other scrap materials were disposed at the site. Past waste disposal practices reportedly included draining of liquid wastes onto the ground surface and crushing and burying drums of liquid wastes in shallow pits. Commercial trash was hauled to the site until 1984.

Past public health concerns about the site included the potential for community exposures to contaminants and hazardous fumes released into the air from burning materials during the numerous fires at the site. The potential for direct contact with wastes was also a concern since site access was not restricted. There was also concern about the physical hazards at the site including the deteriorated structures and stockpiling of old refrigerators.

An investigation was conducted at the Rosen site in 1986 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) completed a removal action at the site between July and November 1987. The site was listed by the US EPA on the National Priorities List (NPL) in March 1989.

A remedial investigation (RI) was completed at the site between 1990 and October 1992. A supplemental investigation was completed between November and December of 1993. Findings of the RI showed that on-site groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metals. On-site soils are contaminated with VOCs, PCBs, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs). No contaminants were found in the surface waters of Perplexity Creek or its tributary, both of which border the site. Sediments are contaminated with VOCs, PAHs and other SVOCs. Off-site groundwater shows VOC contamination. Physical hazards at the site include remnants of old buildings and other structures, a partially exposed buried tank, piles of scrap metal, surface debris, trucks and other industrial vehicles. In 1997, the USEPA removed and recycled over 400 tons of scrap metal.

In the past, it is likely that on-site workers and others with access to the site were exposed to on-site wastes and contaminants in surface soil and air.

In 1982, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) reviewed leukemia incidence and mortality in the City of Cortland for the period 1970-1979. No statistically significant excesses of leukemia were found. In May of 1991, the NYS DOH completed a study of cancer cases in the City of Cortland for the years 1978-1987. The total number of observed cancer cases did not show a statistically significant difference from the expected number of cancer cases. Several public meetings have been held during the course of investigations at the site to address community concerns about the site. There are no known new community health concerns about the site.

Based on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) current guidance for assigning a health hazard category to a site (refer to Appendix D), the Rosen Brothers site posed a public health hazard in the past. Prior to on-site remedial activities, numerous physical and chemical hazards existed at the site. Site access was not restricted and children reportedly walked across the site going to and from the adjacent high school. It is likely that site workers and others with access to the site were exposed to PAHs and PCBs in on-site surface soils. The NYS DOH estimated that past exposures to PAHs in on-site surface soils could pose a high increased cancer risk for on-site workers and a moderate increased cancer risk for trespassers. The NYS DOH estimated that past exposures of site workers and trespassers to PCBs in on-site soils could pose a low increased cancer risk.

Currently, the site poses no apparent public health hazard. Past remedial actions, including fencing, have minimized the potential for exposure to physical hazards at the site and contaminants in on-site surface soils including PCBs,PAHs and lead. However, additional remedial measures are needed to eliminate possible future exposures to site contaminants in on-site soils and groundwater. VOCs have been detected in groundwater at and near the site. Although the area is served by public water and exposure to site contaminants in drinking water is unlikely, private well points likely exist in residential areas near the site. These wells could be affected by site contaminants at levels of public health concern for people who use them for drinking water, bathing, or showering.

The data and information developed in this public health assessment have been evaluated by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. The findings of this review are included in this public health assessment.

BACKGROUND

Under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) will evaluate the public health significance of the Rosen Brothers site. More specifically, ATSDR and the NYS DOH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) as amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986, to conduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites proposed for the National Priorities List (NPL). The public health assessment (PHA) process for the Rosen Brothers site began when the site was proposed for listing on the NPL in June 1988. In February 1990, the ATSDR received a petition to complete a health assessment for the site.

A. Site Description and History

The Rosen Brothers site, also known as Scrap King, is a 20-acre abandoned industrial facility at 136 South Pendleton Street in the City of Cortland, Cortland County, New York (refer to Figure 1, Appendix A). Prior to 1902, the Rosen site area was vacant land; in 1902, a brick foundry began operations on a portion of the site. Between 1908 and 1971 the site was occupied by Wickwire Brothers, Inc., which manufactured wire, screens and nails (refer to Figure 2, Appendix A). During Wickwire site operations, the tributary to Perplexity Creek was dammed to form a small pond on-site. This pond was used as a source of cooling water for on-site manufacturing activities. Industrial wastes from Wickwire site operations were disposed on-site or discharged to the municipal sewer system and to Perplexity Creek, which borders the site. An on-site incinerator and stack also existed at the site. In 1970, the site buildings caught fire and Wickwire operations ended.

Between 1972 and 1980, Philip and Harvey Rosen (also known as the Rosen Brothers) operated a scrap metal processing facility and industrial landfill at the site. The site was originally licensed to operate as a scrap processor which included crushing and recycling of cars. The Rosen Brothers purchased the site in 1975 and established a second business known as Scrap King. During site operations, municipal, industrial and construction wastes, as well as drums, transformers and other scrap materials were disposed at the site. Past waste disposal practices at the site reportedly included draining of liquid wastes on the ground surface and crushing and burying drums containing liquid wastes in shallow pits. Commercial trash was hauled to the site until 1984.

In March 1972, the site owners were cited for violations of the New York State Sanitary Code. Additional violations were cited in 1985 and the owners were ordered by the Cortland County Health Department (CCHD) to secure the site, stop burning and waste disposal activities, conduct daily inspections, report incidents of trespass and vandalism, secure and cover the waste disposal pit and develop a plan for removal of all waste materials at the site.

Past public health concerns about the site included the potential for community exposures to contaminants and hazardous fumes released into the air from burning materials during the numerous fires at the site. The potential for direct contact with wastes was a concern since site access was not restricted. There was also concern about the physical hazards at the site including the deteriorated structures and stockpiling of old refrigerators.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) conducted an investigation at the Rosen site in 1986. This investigation included a geophysical survey, installation of five monitoring wells and sampling of groundwater, soil, sediment and waste. Findings of this investigation confirmed contamination of groundwater by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). At the time of this investigation, the site consisted of an open dump and about 500 drums were stored in piles at the site. Piles of tires, crushed cars, old fuel trucks and tanks, scrap metal and metal shavings were also on-site. As part of the investigation, a preliminary review of remedial alternatives and costs was completed. Based on the findings of this review, a detailed remedial investigation (RI) and feasibility study (FS) was recommended for the site.

In March 1987, the NYS DEC requested that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) complete a removal action at the site. Through the US EPA, a removal action was completed at the site between July and November 1987. The removal action included installation of fencing around the site, sampling of wastes in drums and waste piles, as well as temporary storage of drums, tanks, cylinders and other contaminated materials for off-site disposal. The site was listed by the US EPA on the NPL in March 1989. In the summer of 1990, a 7 foot high fence with rolled barbed wire along the top was installed along the northern and western site perimeter to connect and replace the existing fencing. In February 1990, the Cortland County Planning Department (CCPD) and the CCHD investigated site contamination. These investigations found contaminants in surface water in Perplexity Creek and the tributary to Perplexity Creek as well as off-site groundwater.

A RI was completed at the site between 1990 and October 1992. The primary objectives of the RI were to: 1) determine the nature and extent of the chemical constituents at the site; 2) identify possible source areas; and 3) provide data to evaluate risks to public health and the environment and evaluate appropriate remedial measures. In July 1993, the US EPA determined that further site characterization was needed to complete the RI. In October 1993, an addendum to the RI workplan was developed to: 1) conduct supplemental surface soil and sediment sampling; 2) characterize the source of 1,1,1-trichloroethane in groundwater near monitoring well W-06; 3) characterize polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soils near monitoring well W-07; and 4) further evaluate subsurface conditions in the southwest portion of the site. Demolition of the on-site stack and buildings was completed between August and December of 1992. The supplemental investigation was completed between November and December of 1993 and included installation of soil borings and temporary wells, test pit excavations, and collection of surface and subsurface soil, sediment and groundwater samples. Data from the supplemental investigation were included in the final RI report that was approved by the US EPA in November 1994.

In January 1995, a baseline risk assessment was completed as part of the RI and FS process. The baseline risk assessment evaluates potential human health and ecological risks associated with exposure to site contaminants in the absence of remediation under current and possible future site conditions. In June 1995, an initial feasibility study was completed for the site to evaluate possible alternatives for remediation of the site. In August 1995, the US EPA evaluated whether VOCs in groundwater at the site could adversely impact indoor air quality. In December 1995, additional groundwater investigations were conducted at the site to provide information for evaluation of a groundwater remedy in the feasibility study (FS). This additional work included collection of groundwater samples to determine concentrations of VOCs and assess the presence of PCBs as well as evaluate indicators of biodegradation and the presence of microbial activity in groundwater at the site. A geophysical investigation was completed at the site to evaluate the presence of buried drums and a final report of this investigation is pending.

B. Actions Completed During the Public Health Assessment Process

The public health assessment (PHA) process began when the Rosen Brothers site was proposed for listing on the NPL in June 1988. In February 1990, the ATSDR received a petition to complete a health assessment for the site. Since then, numerous actions have occurred as part of the public health assessment process, many of which are summarized in the Site Description and History (subsection A) of this PHA. Such actions include, but are not limited to: removal of on-site wastes and physical hazards; restricting site access; and environmental sampling. Other actions that have occurred since 1988 include the following:

  • On January 10, 1990, the NYS DOH held a public meeting to address community concerns about the site. The status of investigative and remedial activities at the site was also reviewed at this meeting;
  • The US EPA held a public meeting on November 19, 1990 to present the RI/FS workplan for the site;
  • In May 1991, the NYS DOH completed a survey of cancer incidence in the City of Cortland. This study was completed in response to citizens who had expressed concerns about the public health impact of the site. A discussion of the approach of this study is presented in subsection E (Health Outcome Data) of the Background section of this PHA and a discussion of the results of this study is presented under the Public Health Implications section of this PHA, subsection B (Health Outcome Data Evaluation);
  • The US EPA held a public meeting on October 25, 1993, to present general Superfund remedial technologies that might be considered for remediation of the Rosen Brothers site;
  • Since the RI was completed, liquids in the concrete pit and the buried tank on-site were drained and removed. About 200 tons of metallic surficial debris were also removed from the site; and
  • Since 1993, the NYS DOH has provided updates about the status of the health assessment process to the petitioner of this PHA for the Rosen Brothers site.

C. Site Visit

Representatives of the NYS DOH visited the site on April 3, 1985. At that time, site security was needed to prevent trespass by students traveling to the high school south of the site. A second site visit was conducted by Mr. Ronald Heerkens of the NYS DOH in May of 1991. During this site visit, it was noted that a secure chain link fence had been erected around the entire site.

On January 13, 1993, Ms. Susan Van Patten and Ms. Claudine Jones Rafferty of the NYS DOH visited the Rosen Brothers site to evaluate existing site conditions, surrounding land use, and possible exposure pathways to site contaminants. About four inches of snow covered the ground surface and a heavy, wet snow was falling. The site was completely surrounded by a secure six-foot high, chain link fence. Access onto the site property was not made due to the adverse weather conditions. From the fenceline, it was observed that areas of the site were densely vegetated. An inactive crane was observed in the center of the site, near the structural remains of a former building. A portion of the Perplexity Creek tributary flows inside the southern fenceline of the site. At the point where Pendleton Street and the eastern fenceline meet, this drainage ditch converges with Perplexity Creek and passes through a large buried culvert, draining east under Pendleton Street. A small commercial property borders the site perimeter along Pendleton Street. This commercial property includes a single, two-story building situated in the center of a paved parking lot. At the time of the site visit, this commercial property was not being used, although it was posted for sale. Railroad beds parallel the site perimeter to the north, and there is a paved access road north of these railroad tracks which leads to the rear entrances of several industrial facilities which face Huntington Street to the north. A solid waste recycling center is set back from the road on the east side of Pendleton Street. A federally subsidized, low-income housing project is southeast of the site.

On October 25, 1993, Ms. Claudine Jones Rafferty and Ms. Susan Van Patten of the NYS DOH met with representatives of the NYS DEC, US EPA, CCPD and United States Geological Survey (USGS) at the Rosen Brothers site. The purpose of the visit was to evaluate current site conditions and identify areas of surface soil staining as sampling locations to be considered as part of the planned supplemental investigation at the site. The site was fenced and there were numerous piles of scrap metal including household appliances, auto parts, and scrap shavings from industrial processes. Numerous heavy equipment vehicles, trains and tanker trucks were also dumped at the site. Although the site is densely vegetated, several areas (i.e., "patches") at the ground surface showed no vegetation or grass cover; areas of "stressed" vegetation were also observed. During the site visit, three distinct areas of stained surface soil were observed. In one of these areas, the soil had a distinct chemical odor near the surface. A buried tank was identified near the western fenceline and representatives of the NYS DEC determined that this tank was almost full and contained a thick, black, tar-like substance. A concrete pit was identified near the southwest portion of the site; this pit contained a dark liquid and an oily sheen was visible at the surface.

On October 6, 1995, Ms. Claudine Jones Rafferty and Ms. Christine Canavan of the NYS DOH visited the site and found that site conditions had not changed significantly from previous visits. The site was densely vegetated and the grasses were about one and a half feet high. Both Perplexity Creek and the tributary to Perplexity Creek were dry, although there had been heavy rains within the two days prior to the site visit. There were numerous piles of scrap materials at the site including old telephones and metal shavings. Recently (August 1997), the USEPA removed and recycled over 400 tons of scrap metal from the site.

D. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

The NYS DOH estimated from the 1990 Census that 14,988 people live within one mile of the Rosen site. This population is 97.1 percent of the white race, 1.4 percent of the black race and 1.5 percent of other races. Within one mile of the site, 7.0 percent of the population is under 6 years of age, 22.2 percent is 6-19 years of age, 59.0 percent is 20-64 years of age and 11.7 percent is 65 years or older. There were 151 persons living in nursing homes within one mile of the site. The site is located in census tract 9909.00. The median household income for this census tract was $21,467 in 1989 with 22% percent of the population living below the poverty level.

Land Use

Land use in the immediate area around the site is industrial, residential, recreational and commercial (refer to Figure 3, Appendix A). The southern site boundary borders the Cortland City High School property. A portion of the former City of Cortland municipal disposal site on Valley View Drive is within the southern fenceline of the site. The area north of the site is comprised primarily of commercial and industrial facilities. The western site boundary borders several industrial facilities and a residential area is across from these industrial facilities, west of Main Street. The eastern site boundary borders an abandoned two-story commercial building and parking lot. Across from the site to the east, there is a recycling facility and an apartment complex is southeast of the site. The Randall Elementary School and a child daycare center are within 0.25 miles of the site. There is an adult nursing home within 0.7 miles of the site.

Natural Resource Use

The site overlies the Cortland-Homer-Preble aquifer, a glacial outwash sand and gravel deposit. This aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for approximately 36,000 people within a 3-mile radius of the site. The City of Cortland, the Town of Cortlandville, the Village of Homer, the Village of McGraw and the Preble Water Association rely on this aquifer for potable water. The City of Cortland's municipal supply wells are more than one mile northwest and upgradient of the site. The supply wells for the Town of Cortlandville's public water supply are about two miles southwest of the Rosen Brothers site. A regional well survey completed as part of the RI indicates that there are about 45 wells in areas potentially downgradient of the site. Many of these wells are monitoring wells which were installed as part of environmental investigations at various properties; others are industrial water supply wells.

E. Health Outcome Data

The NYS DOH maintains several health outcome data bases which could be used to generate site specific data, if warranted. These data bases include the cancer registry, the congenital malformations registry, the heavy metals registry, the occupational lung disease registry, vital records (birth and death certificates) and hospital discharge information.

In 1982, the NYS DOH reviewed leukemia incidence and mortality in the City of Cortland for the period 1970-1979. Findings of this review are discussed in the Public Health Implications section of this PHA, subsection B (Health Outcome Data Evaluation).

The NYS DOH has conducted a study of cancer incidence in the City of Cortland. This study was conducted to address community concerns about the possible health impact of the Rosen Brothers site. The cancer incidence study was initiated in June 1990 and completed in May 1991. The area of investigation for the cancer incidence study encompassed the entire City of Cortland including the Rosen Brothers site as well as the majority of residences within a one-mile radius of the site. Cancer cases diagnosed for the period 1978 through 1987 were evaluated in this study. Sixteen of the most common cancer sites in males were evaluated and 18 of the most common cancer sites in females were evaluated. Results of this cancer incidence investigation are discussed in the Public Health Implications section of this PHA, subsection B (Health Outcome Data Evaluation).

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

In the past, members of the community near the Rosen Brothers site have expressed health concerns about the incidence of cancer and other non-specific illnesses.

A citizen's action group, Clean Up Rosen Brothers (CURB), was formed to focus on community concerns related to the investigation and remediation of the Rosen Brothers site. CURB is the recipient of a $50,000 Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) from the US EPA. Through this grant, CURB has hired technical consultants to help review and evaluate data and proposals generated during the remedial investigation of the site.

The primary community concerns about the Rosen Brothers site are contamination of groundwater and the potential implications for health effects, particularly cancer. In February 1990, CURB requested, through the US EPA, that an ATSDR health assessment be completed for the Rosen Brothers site.

The CURB citizens action group has expressed concern that the cancer study completed by the NYS DOH did not adequately examine the health risks of nearby residents and students and employees at the Randall Elementary School and the Cortland Junior/Senior High School. The CURB fall/winter 1992 newsletter, CURBPollution, reported that cancer and respiratory illnesses continue to occur among the community and included a brief questionnaire soliciting participants for an independent health survey.

The US EPA held a public meeting on October 25, 1993, to present general technologies that might be considered for remediation of the Rosen Brothers site. Representatives of the NYS DEC, NYS DOH, CCPD and USGS were also present. About 25 people attended the meeting and the primary questions and concerns raised by meeting attendees related to the investigation and remediation of the site. No community health concerns were identified at this meeting and there are no known new community health concerns about the site.



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