Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content

PETITIONED PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

BROOKFIELD AVENUE LANDFILL
STATEN ISLAND, RICHMOND COUNTY, NEW YORK


SUMMARY

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was petitioned to evaluate health concerns of residents living near the Brookfield Avenue Landfill on Staten Island, New York. The landfill was operated by the New York City Department of Sanitation (NYCDOS) from 1966 through 1980 to accept municipal solid waste. However, industrial and hazardous wastes were reported illegally dumped at the landfill.

Residents expressed concerns about children's health problems, miscarriages, infertility, and cancer being associated with exposure to landfill-related contamination. In addition, in 1982, residents reported noxious odors, nausea, vomiting, burning eyes, sore throats, and respiratory effects associated with past construction of a sewer trench through the landfill. To address these concerns, ATSDR evaluated data collected during the remedial investigation (RI) of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill by Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), which served as a contractor for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). ATSDR also evaluated a limited amount of historic environmental data and health outcome studies.

ATSDR determined that present and potential future exposures to contamination associated with the landfill pose no apparent health hazards. On the basis of the RI data, levels of contamination to which people may be exposed in air, groundwater, soil, surface water, soil gas, and sediment are below levels expected to cause health problems. In addition, past exposures represent an indeterminate health hazard, because inadequate data are available to evaluate possible exposures and their possible relationship to outcomes seen in health studies. Therefore, ATSDR has identified the site as an indeterminate public health hazard.


PURPOSE AND HEALTH ISSUES

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was petitioned to evaluate health concerns of residents living near the Brookfield Avenue Landfill on Staten Island, New York. The petitioner expressed concerns about children's health, miscarriages, infertility, and cancer in the neighborhood adjacent to the landfill. Other residents in the area also expressed concerns about health effects, including cancer, from the possible contamination of air, groundwater, and surface water by the landfill. In 1982, during construction of a sewer line through the landfill, there were many complaints about noxious odors, as well as nausea, vomiting, burning eyes, sore throats, and respiratory effects. People also expressed concern about children trespassing onto the landfill and playing in contaminated areas.

The landfill was operated by the New York City Department of Sanitation (NYCDOS) from 1966 through 1980 to accept municipal solid waste. Industrial and hazardous waste were illegally dumped at the landfill during the period from 1974 through 1980. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has classified the site as a Class 2 inactive hazardous waste disposal site.

To address the health concerns, ATSDR evaluated data collected during the remedial investigation (RI) of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill by Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), serving as a contractor for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). The purpose of this public health assessment is to summarize these data and discuss the potential health implications of the levels of contamination that were found. Information pertaining to site conditions included in this document is from the RI report (NYCDEP, 1998), unless otherwise cited.


BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The Brookfield Avenue Landfill is located in the central western portion of Staten Island, New York (Figure 1). At the time of this health assessment it was bounded on the south and west by Arthur Kill Road and Richmond Avenue, respectively; to the north by Richmond Creek; and to the east by the Colonial Square condominiums. The Brookfield Avenue Landfill property parcel was originally designated as Sections 10 and 11 of the Fresh Kills Landfill, which lies across Richmond Avenue to the west. ATSDR is also evaluating similar health concerns regarding the adjacent Fresh Kills Landfill. On January 20, 1998, ATSDR released a health consultation evaluating air monitoring data collected in the vicinity of the Fresh Kills Landfill (ATSDR, 1998a). ATSDR has also conducted a respiratory health investigation of residents living near the landfill. Results were released August 1999. During 1999, ATSDR also anticipates the release of a public health assessment summarizing the agencies' work at the Fresh Kills Municipal Landfill.

The NYCDOS operated the Brookfield Avenue Landfill from 1966 through 1980 during which time a total of approximately 5.1 million cubic yards of municipal solid waste was received from Staten Island. In 1982, during testimony before the New York State Senate Committee on Crime, allegations were made that waste oil and other industrial wastes were disposed of at several New York City landfills, including Brookfield Avenue, from 1974 through 1980. Former drivers of tanker trucks said that they had driven into the landfill and simply emptied the contents of their trucks into holes dug in the landfill. Estimates of the volume of waste dumped ranged from 10,000 gallons a week to as much as 50,000 gallons a day at times. Subsequent interviews with residents and Staten Island Advance articles brought to light allegations that hazardous wastes had also been dumped off the landfill property on nearby construction sites.

During 1982, excavation began for a city sewer main running through the western portion of the landfill. Residents complained about odors resulting from the excavation, and also expressed concerns about health effects of possible exposure to airborne hazardous substances. From 1982 through 1984, closure of the eastern portion of the landfill (approximately 38 acres) took place. The area was regraded and capped with 24 inches of clay and topsoil, and a passive methane venting trench was constructed. After the completion of this phase of closure, only basic maintenance occurred at the site.

In 1992, New York City entered into a consent order with the NYSDEC that required the city to develop and implement a remedial program for the Brookfield Avenue Landfill. The NYCDEP was designated as the agency responsible for completing the remediation of the site. The NYCDEP retained Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM) as a contractor to perform site investigation and remedial activities. CDM performed field work in three phases: Phase I from December 1993 through July 1994; Phase II from December 1996 through December 1997; and Phase III from January 1998 through May 1998. The purpose of the RI was to gather data to help determine what remediation (or cleanup) is necessary to protect public health. Upon approval of the remedial investigation (RI) report by regulatory agencies, a feasibility study (FS) will be completed that will evaluate various remedial alternatives, one of which will be selected with the approval of regulatory agencies. The RI indicated that the presumptive remedy for the landfill will include a landfill cap, leachate collection, and hydraulic control. In addition, some Interim Remedial Measures are suggested for hot spots.

B. Current Site Conditions and Access

At the time of this health assessment, the landfill was inactive and covered with vegetation. (Figure 2 shows a plan of the site.) It was enclosed by a perimeter fence, except for the boundary along Richmond Creek. Along Arthur Kill Road, on the edge of the site, there were a few residences and a bakery. The perimeter fence ran behind the bakery. Other buildings on the site were the Eltingville pump station and an old office building and trailer. The main gate to the site was on Arthur Kill Road. Signs posted on the fence identified the site as an inactive hazardous waste disposal site. The site was guarded by 2 security guards, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Across Richmond Creek from the landfill to the north was the closed Richmond Truck Fill, and to the northeast were La Tourette Park and a golf course. Residential areas lay to the south and east. Fresh Kills Landfill was across Richmond Avenue to the west. Numerous schools and churches lay within a one-mile radius of the site, including St. Alban's Church, P.S. 42, St. Clare's School, St. Patrick's School, the Richmondtown School, and St. Michael's School (USGS, 1981). The Staten Island Mall was also within one mile of the site.

In May 1998, ATSDR personnel conducted a site visit to evaluate conditions at the site, as well as potential access. They attempted to approach the site from the west and from the north. From the west, they found that it was possible to access the site at the point where an unused highway crossed Richmond Avenue. There were signs that people had been accessing the site near this point. However, vegetation made it difficult to proceed very far into the site, and there were no signs that anyone had done so. ATSDR personnel determined that extensive mud flats along Richmond Creek made access to the site from the north difficult, and there were no signs that people had attempted to access the site from that direction. Along the southern and eastern sides of the site, the perimeter fence prevented access to the site. (ATSDR noted that fencing was being repaired or installed in the area behind the bakery.) ATSDR concluded that it was highly unlikely that anyone had trespassed, or would trespass, onto the contaminated areas of the site. The one exception to this conclusion was the area behind the bakery before the fence was repaired; however, it was fairly unlikely that trespassing occurred in that area, because the break in the fence was well back from the road. Since ATSDR's May 1998 site visit, the unfenced area where the unused highway crosses Richmond Avenue has been fenced. In addition, the older section of fencing along Holtermann's Bakery has been replaced with new fencing.

C. Demographics

There were 44,277 people living within a one-mile radius of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill in 1990 (Figure 3) (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). Ninety-five percent of the population was white; the remaining 5 percent was either Black, Asian, Hispanic, or of another race. Of the total population, 10 % were under 6 years of age and 7 % were aged 65 years or older. In 1990, there were 11,534 females of reproductive age (15-44 years) in the area.


DISCUSSION

A. Methods

The following sections contain an evaluation of the environmental data available for the Brookfield Avenue Landfill. In preparing this evaluation, ATSDR used established methodologies for determining how people might come in contact with (or be exposed to) potential contamination related to the Brookfield Avenue Landfill and what harmful effects, if any, might result from such exposure. Chemical exposure pathways (or routes of physical contact with chemicals) that ATSDR evaluates are ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact.

If exposure was or is possible, ATSDR then considers whether chemicals were or are present at levels that might be harmful to people. ATSDR does this by first screening the concentrations of contaminants detected in an environmental medium against health-based comparison values (CVs). ATSDR's CVs are often based on animal studies because of the lack of relevant human data. CVs are, therefore, derived using very conservative assumptions and often have large safety factors built into them to be protective of human health. Some CVs can be hundreds or thousands of times lower than exposure levels shown to produce effects in laboratory animals. While concentrations at or below the relevant CV might be considered safe, it does not necessarily follow that any concentration that exceeds a comparison value would be expected to produce adverse health effects in the community. Chemicals that are detected above CVs simply require a more detailed evaluation of site-specific exposure conditions ATSDR also emphasizes that, regardless of the level of contamination, a public health hazard exists only if people come in contact with, or are otherwise exposed to, harmful levels of contaminated media.

For a more detailed discussion of ATSDR's public health assessment methodology (quality assurance considerations, human exposure pathway analyses, ATSDR's health comparison values, and the methods of selecting contaminants above comparison values), refer to Appendix B. A summary of exposure pathways for the Brookfield Avenue Landfill is provided in Table 1.

B. Extent of Contamination and Public Health Implications

Air Emissions from the Landfill

Based on available sampling data, breathing the levels of contaminants detected in ambient air at and around the Brookfield Avenue Landfill is not expected to result in adverse health effects. Ambient air sampling during the Remedial Investigation (RI) was limited to four sampling events during 1994 and 1997. Sample results indicated that the landfill currently contributes only minimally to concentrations of contaminants detected in ambient air. ATSDR considers the available air sampling data from the landfill sufficient to conclude that current air emissions from the Brookfield Avenue Landfill pose no apparent health hazard. It is not possible, however, to draw firm conclusions about past exposures because of limitations in the data set. Data collected during the 1980s are scant and have some methodological weaknesses. The following sections (1) describe ATSDR's understanding of the nature and extent of air contamination, (2) present possible landfill and non landfill sources of the contamination, and (3) explain why adverse health effects are not expected based on exposure to detected contaminant levels.

Sampling Prior to the Remedial Investigation

1982 EPA Investigations

In January and March 1982, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 conducted air sampling in the vicinity of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill in response to complaints by area residents of odors resulting from the sewer main excavation. Total volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (which included methane) were not found to be elevated above upwind or background levels, and no other compounds sampled for (including nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, mercaptans, and methyl ethyl ketone) were detected. However, detection limits (the lowest level at which the compound is actually sampled) for those compounds were very high; for example, detection limits for hydrogen sulfide ranged from 1,000 to 10,000 parts per billion by volume (ppbv). Thus, definitive conclusions could not be drawn from those sampling results (NYCDEP, NYCDOH, and NYCDOS, 1982).

1982 Interagency Investigation

In 1982, an interagency investigation was also conducted by the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), and the New York City Department of Sanitation (NYCDOS). The investigation involved sampling for VOCs in air at four locations within the landfill (including air at the sewer trench), at four locations spanning the residential area immediately bordering the Brookfield Avenue Landfill, and at four background locations. The NYCDOH found VOCs in two of five samples taken at the sewer line trench, and in one of six samples taken at sites of possible hazardous waste dumping. Chemicals found included ethyl ether at 6.5 ppbv; benzene at 4.5 ppbv; and chloroform, toluene, and tetrachloroethylene at less than 1 ppbv. VOCs were detected in air in only one of the four neighborhood locations; benzene and chloroform were detected at or less than 0.02 ppbv, which are levels not known to be associated with adverse health effects. In addition, VOC levels detected in the neighborhood samples were similar to levels found in background samples (NYCDEP, NYCDOH, and NYCDOS, 1982).

1983 and 1984 NYCDEP Investigations

In 1983 and 1984, air quality monitoring was conducted on behalf of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) by York Research Corporation at and near the Brookfield Avenue Landfill. As is true for the more recent air monitoring data from the remedial investigation (RI), this data set represents only a snapshot of conditions in 1983 and 1984. Little is known about possible air exposures during the years of landfill operation and immediately following landfill closure. However, this data set can provide some perspective on possible exposures during the 1980s.

ATSDR did not receive copies of these reports from NYCDEP in time for evaluation in the Public Comment Release of this PHA. This evaluation, however, is included in this Final Release of the PHA as a separate appendix to provide readers with additional information. ATSDR provides this further evaluation of the 1983/1984 data in Appendix E: Historical Data Evaluation.

Sampling by York Research Corporation does not provide any indication that the landfill posed a health hazard in the past. However, ATSDR still considers past air data to be insufficient to fully evaluate past health hazards. Therefore, the evaluation of these data does not change ATSDR's conclusion that the Brookfield Avenue Landfill posed an indeterminate health hazard in the past.

Remedial Investigation Sampling

During the remedial investigation, Camp Dresser and McKee (CDM) used a two-pronged approach to assess the impact of air emissions from the landfill: (1) emissions at the landfill were measured and models were used to estimate the ambient concentrations that would be expected to result from these emissions, and (2) ambient air near the landfill was sampled. For the purposes of assessing health effects, ATSDR evaluated the ambient air data because those measured concentrations most directly reflected the levels to which people might have been exposed. However, ATSDR also used the results of CDM's modeling to help assess the landfill's contribution to levels of contamination found in ambient air.

Nature and Extent of Contamination

CDM sampled ambient air in 1994 and 1997 at eight stations during four 24-hour sampling events. (See Figures 4 through 6 for sampling locations.) Two sampling events took place during the summer, one during the late winter, and one during the spring. Stations were designated as upwind, downwind, or sidewind, based on the prevailing winds for the season. The upwind and downwind stations were sampled using wind-activated sampling, so that samples were taken only when the wind was actually blowing from the upwind to the downwind stations. The remaining sidewind stations were sampled continuously. All stations were sampled during a 24-hour period, but because the wind-activated samplers sampled only when the wind was blowing from a certain direction, samples were collected for only a portion of this 24-hour period.

All stations sampled for PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 microns); the particulate matter collected was analyzed for nine metals. Particulate matter was not sampled on a wind-activated basis; it was sampled continuously at all stations. Thus, there are no upwind or downwind values for PM10 and metals. Six of the stations also sampled for TO-14 VOCs (a standard group of 51 compounds), hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, methyl mercaptan, and methane. These compounds were sampled for on a wind-activated basis at the upwind and downwind stations, and continuously at the sidewind stations.

Of the 66 chemicals sampled, 38 were detected at least once. Detected levels were compared with ATSDR health-based comparison values. Any chemical that exceeded the applicable CV was considered a contaminant of concern. These chemicals are listed in Table 4, along with statistics such as average and maximum detection. ATSDR's evaluation of the contaminants of concern is discussed in the section entitled "Health Implications."

Contaminant Source Evaluation

ATSDR evaluated information from the RI to assess the contribution of the landfill to measured ambient concentrations of pollutants. The RI addressed this question in two ways: by comparing upwind versus downwind concentrations in ambient air, and by using measurements of pollutants emitted by the landfill to estimate off-site concentrations resulting from these emissions.

An accurate upwind or downwind comparison is difficult to make without a great deal of sampling. In the case of the RI, relatively limited ambient air sampling was conducted. Analysis was made more difficult by the fact that not many chemicals were detected frequently; thus, there were even fewer concentrations to compare. Also, wind-activated sampling was not done for PM10 and metals. Because of these limitations, ATSDR examined upwind and downwind differences only for benzene and 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, the two compounds from the wind-activated sampling that had relatively large numbers of detections. Comparisons were made for each sampling event; all upwind and downwind samples for each event were averaged. "Nondetect" results were replaced with a value of one-half the detection limit. For benzene, the upwind average exceeded the downwind average for three of the four sampling events. For 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, the upwind average exceeded the downwind average for two of the four sampling events. Thus, the limited upwind and downwind comparisons that could be made did not indicate consistent differences between upwind and downwind concentrations.

To measure landfill emissions, CDM used "flux boxes" to measure emissions coming directly from the landfill surface. CDM also measured contaminant levels of air coming from passive vents, which vent subsurface landfill gas. CDM used these results, in combination with meteorological information, to model predicted off-site concentrations resulting from these emissions. CDM found that the landfill does emit measurable quantities of some VOCs. However, for almost all compounds, the predicted off-site concentrations were very low-less than 5% of state air quality standards. The model did predict, however, that acrolein and acrylonitrile contributed more to off-site levels, but still at concentrations of 25% and 45%, respectively, of relevant air quality standards.

The modeling results and the absence of clear significant upward or downward differences in the ambient air data, suggest that, other than for acrolein and acrylonitrile, the landfill is not a major contributor to ambient levels of chemicals near the landfill.

Data Limitations

The available air data presented some limitations in evaluating public health concerns. Examples of the limitations included the following:

  • While the RI monitoring met its objective to characterize the nature and extent of Brookfield Avenue Landfill emissions, it provided ATSDR with only a "snapshot" of air conditions in the vicinity of the landfill. The RI sampling program measured air conditions on single days on four separate occasions. The wind-activated monitoring stations only captured data for parts of these days. Because ambient air concentrations can fluctuate from day to day and month to month, it is impossible to determine whether the levels of contamination measured during the RI are truly representative of local conditions over time.


  • In certain cases, the reported detection limit (the lowest level at which a contaminant can be measured) was higher than the health-based comparison value (see Table 3). Thus, for those chemicals, sampling was not adequate to rule out their presence at potentially hazardous levels in ambient air. However, ATSDR used its most conservative screening value, cancer risk evaluation guide (CREG), for this comparison.


  • The RI presents historic ambient air data. These data provided only limited insight into potential exposures during the early 1980s when community members voiced their primary complaints regarding odors and health concerns. No air data are available prior to 1980. The full nature and extent of past exposures are, therefore, not known.

Health Implications

In general, levels of contaminants detected in ambient air samples collected during the RI at and around the Brookfield Avenue Landfill pose no apparent public health hazards. As mentioned previously, the data used in this assessment represent only a snapshot in time of air conditions. The true representativeness of the available data is unknown. In addition, very few data exist to characterize conditions of ambient air during the 1970s and 1980s when the landfill was still active. ATSDR was, therefore, unable to fully evaluate community concern regarding potential past exposures.

However, based on sampling of landfill emissions, the landfill does not appear to be a major source of the contaminants detected in ambient air samples. Staten Island is located in a highly urbanized and industrial area, with numerous sources of air pollutant emissions. For a more extensive evaluation of levels of contaminants in ambient air on Staten Island, residents might want to consult ATSDR's Fresh Kills health consultation, which evaluates the findings of NYSDEC's 1994-1995 air monitoring program on Staten Island (ATSDR, 1998a).

ATSDR reviewed the RI and other available air data in efforts to evaluate specific community health concerns. In its evaluation, ATSDR compared the air sampling results to available scientific studies of health effects associated with inhalation exposures to toxic chemicals. Effects evaluated included acute or irritant effects, as well as cancer and other longer term health effects. ATSDR's findings are summarized in the following section. More chemical-specific information, with a more detailed rationale for conclusions, is included in Appendix C.

Volatile Organic Compounds (benzene, carbon tetrachloride, methylene chloride, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, tetrachloroethylene [PCE], and trichloroethylene [TCE])

As shown in Table 4, the VOCs listed in the preceding heading were detected at low concentrations and at varying frequencies in air samples collected during the RI. Looking at the range of measured concentrations and studying the health literature, ATSDR concludes that these VOCs were not detected at levels posing health hazards. These VOCs were detected at levels comparable to those found in urban air. Sources of the types of VOCs detected in the air at and around the Brookfield Avenue Landfill include automobile exhaust, refueling activities, cigarette smoke, and industrial emissions. Studying upwind versus downwind concentrations, coupled with CDM's modeling exercise, suggests that the Brookfield Avenue Landfill does not contribute significantly to the levels of VOCs detected in air.

Metals

Of the nine metals sampled for in air during the RI, only arsenic and chromium were detected at levels exceeding their health-based comparison values. Upon closer examination of the toxicity of these metals, however, detected levels are not expected to pose health problems. The levels of arsenic in air are more than 300 times lower than those shown in available studies to produce adverse health effects, including cancer (ATSDR, 1998b). The detected levels of total chromium in ambient air in the vicinity of the landfill fall within or slightly below the range of values seen in other urban settings (between 0.01-0.03 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3)) (ATSDR, 1998c). Furthermore, detected levels of chromium in air are thousands of times lower than levels shown to be associated with lung cancer in human occupational studies and are below comparison values for noncancer effects (ATSDR, 1998c).

Acrolein

The levels of acrolein detected in air samples collected during the RI were lower than those shown to cause irritant effects. Less is known about human health effects associated with long-term exposures to acrolein in air, but animal studies suggest that health effects are seen at levels higher than those detected in the ambient air at and around the Brookfield Avenue Landfill.

Particulates

Levels of PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter) measured during the RI were comparable to those found in most urban settings. Levels of particulates were similar across the eight stations sampled, with the highest average concentration detected at Station 2 which is located across Richmond Creek from the landfill, on the site of the former Richmond Truck Fill (see Figures 4-6).

The lack of variation among stations and the fact that the Brookfield Avenue Landfill is largely vegetated and inactive suggest that it was not a significant source of airborne particulates.

Regardless of source, the levels of airborne particulates detected during the RI are not expected to result in short-term or acute health effects because levels reported are below the NYSDEC 24-hour average standard for PM10. Because samples were collected on only 4 days, it is difficult to know whether results are representative of particulate exposures over time. However, particulate data collected for a more extended time during the 1994-1995 ambient air study for the nearby Fresh Kills Landfill revealed that average PM10 concentrations were less than the NYSDEC annual guidelines and, for the particle size measured, adverse effects were not likely (ATSDR, 1998a). This information, coupled with the fact that average particulate concentrations collected during the Remedial Investigation (RI) only slightly exceed the annual standard for PM10, suggests that measured levels are below those that would pose a health hazard.

It should be noted that neither the Brookfield RI nor Fresh Kills study included a separate analysis for smaller particulates (less than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5)) scientists now believe that potential health effects can be predicted better if the proportion of fine (PM 2.5) and coarse (2.5 to 10 microns (PM 10)) particles in breathable air are understood. ATSDR has recently conducted a respiratory health investigation on Staten Island, which included PM2.5 monitoring. This will provide additional insight into potential health effects of airborne particulate matter for residents of Staten Island. However, landfills are not a significant source of PM 2.5, which is thought to be produced mostly from combustion (U.S. EPA, 1997b).

Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide was not detected at levels above ATSDR comparison values during the RI sampling, indicating that no adverse health effects should occur. Because residents complained about past odors, however, ATSDR provides a brief overview of hydrogen sulfide in Appendix C. Hydrogen sulfide, which is often generated during landfill operations and as wastes decompose, can be largely responsible for bad odors associated with landfills, even at very low concentrations.

Subsurface Migration of Landfill Gas

On the basis of available data, landfill gas at levels of concern are not migrating to basements of nearby homes or other off-site areas. ATSDR recommends that periodic soil gas monitoring continue to insure adequate protection of public health from any future migration of soil gas from the landfill.

When waste in a landfill decomposes, gases are produced, including methane. Methane is a colorless, odorless, flammable gas that can migrate laterally through soil and accumulate in confined areas such as basements. Methane poses a hazard if it builds up to explosive levels. The passive gas venting system installed at the Brookfield Avenue Landfill in 1984, and extended in 1986, is intended to prevent off-site migration of methane. During the Remedial Investigation (RI), Camp Dresser and McKee (CDM) sampled temporary and permanent gas probes installed at the edges of the waste mound and the perimeter of the landfill property to determine whether methane was migrating off of the landfill property. CDM also sampled basements in 25 residences along Arthur Kill Road and Colon Avenue once a month for three months (December 1993, February 1994, and March 1994) to ensure that methane was not migrating into the residences.

Air sampling in basements of the off-site residences did not detect methane at explosive levels. Further, the results of the sampling, in conjunction with observations made by CDM, indicated that landfill gas did not appear to be migrating into residences at all. (In other words, the minor readings detected slightly above background could be attributed to appliances, solvent use, or other conditions present in the home at the time of sampling.)

Overall, the gas probe sampling indicated that there was no significant lateral migration of landfill gas. However, four probes did occasionally detect levels of methane exceeding the New York State standard (100% of the lower explosive limit [LEL] at the landfill boundary). Because of the sporadic nature of the detections and the locations of the probes, CDM concluded that the detections most likely did not reflect landfill gas migration, but rather some other gas source, perhaps trapped marsh gas. However, CDM recommended that further sampling be conducted to confirm that landfill gas is not migrating south across Arthur Kill Road. ATSDR concurred with this recommendation. Since March 1999, three additional rounds of soil gas monitoring have been completed. Included in this monitoring were all permanent soil gas probes along the perimeter of the landfill as well as seven newly installed probes. These new probes were installed in February 1999, near wells where 100% LEL exceedances had previously been recorded. Based on ATSDR's review of these latest results, landfill gas does not appear to be migrating beyond the site perimeter. The location of the permanent gas probes and monitoring results can be found in Appendix F.

Migration of Leachate from the Landfill

Leachate is water that enters the landfill as precipitation and becomes contaminated as it moves through the decomposing refuse. The RI estimates that the landfill generates approximately 95,000 gallons of leachate per day. This leachate is in direct contact with shallow groundwater at the site. The RI estimates that about 96.5% of the leachate discharges to local surface water bodies, and the remaining 3.5% leaks into deeper groundwater. The following sections will discuss measurements of contamination resulting from the migration of landfill leachate, and the resulting health implications.

Groundwater

No apparent public health hazards are associated with past or present use of groundwater at or around the Brookfield Avenue Landfill site. Because groundwater beneath the site is not used for drinking purposes, nobody is or has been exposed to reported contamination in on-site groundwater. Three private wells in the vicinity of the site are used for non drinking purposes, but the results of the one- or two-time sampling of these wells in 1993 and 1994 indicated that no contaminants were present at levels of health concern. Because the future use of on-site groundwater is expected to be restricted, no future health hazards are likely from contamination of on-site groundwater. ATSDR recommends that no future water supply wells be installed in areas of contaminated groundwater.

An aquifer is a rock/soil formation beneath the ground that contains water. Two main aquifer units lie beneath the Brookfield Avenue Landfill: a shallow aquifer (the Upper Glacial aquifer) and a deeper aquifer (the Cretaceous aquifer). The Upper Glacial aquifer lies approximately from 0 to 60 feet below ground surface (bgs), and the Cretaceous aquifer is roughly 60 to140 feet bgs. These aquifers are separated by a continuous, leaky confining unit made up of clay and glacial till. (In other words, water in the two aquifers is separate and flows differently, but some water can leak from one aquifer to the other.) Regional flow is to the north in the shallow aquifer, and to the south in the deeper aquifer. However, on-site, shallow groundwater mounds in the waste mound, resulting in radial flow from this high point outward. This radial flow discharges to surface water to the north, east, and west. To the south, the radial flow is countered by the northward regional flow, resulting in groundwater deflection back toward surface waters to the east and west. This deflection point occurs at the southern boundary of the site. The regional northward flow of the shallow aquifer limits the potential impact of the site in this aquifer to several hundred feet south of the site.

Groundwater under Staten Island is not used for drinking water. Potable water for Staten Island is provided by New York City's Water Supply System which draws from reservoirs upstate. Staten Island groundwater has not been used for public supply since September 1970 (Soren 1988). Before that time, New York City pumped less than 5 million gallons per day to supplement the surface water supply from upstate. At the time of the health assessment, some residents and businesses had private wells, that were used for purposes other than drinking water, such as irrigation, washing cars, and industrial use. A total of 111 private wells, permitted by the NYCDOH for non potable use, are located within the vicinity of the landfill. Only four of those were located within one mile of the landfill. The closest was at a private residence more than 1,800 feet south of the landfill, and the next closest was at the Great Kills Swim Club and the Great Kills Little League field, more than 3,500 feet southeast of the landfill. Those wells draw water from the deeper cretaceous aquifer.

During the RI, CDM sampled both existing and newly installed monitoring wells in the shallow and deeper aquifers. The three private wells nearest the landfill were also sampled. Monitoring wells were sampled for one or more of the following: conventional water quality parameters, metals, VOCs, semi volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The private wells were sampled (water drawn at the tap) for conventional parameters, microbes, metals and other inorganics, VOCs, SVOCs, pesticides, PCBs, and dioxins.

Shallow groundwater at the site (the Upper Glacial aquifer) has been contaminated by leachate, but because no one is drinking the water, and none of the nearby private wells draws from this aquifer, it does not pose a public health hazard. Chemicals most frequently detected in shallow groundwater in the RI were metals, other inorganics, nitrite and nitrate, ammonia, bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, chlorobenzene, benzene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, and acetone (see Table 5 for a list of chemicals that exceeded comparison values). Some metals were detected in off-site monitoring wells, which may be naturally occurring. Based on levels of chemicals detected in off-site wells, including leachate indicator parameters such as ammonia, it appears that leachate has migrated off site in shallow groundwater only to a limited extent, and at low levels. This finding conforms with the prediction that regional northward flow in the shallow aquifer should prevent on-site contamination from migrating southward very far. Levels of contamination in the shallow aquifer off site are well below the concentrations that could result in volatilization of contaminants.

Deeper groundwater (the Cretaceous aquifer) on and off-site shows low levels of contamination, although only limited sampling of the deep aquifer occurred off-site (with few wells and limited sampling of each well). The most frequently detected chemicals were metals and other inorganics, nitrite and nitrate, ammonia, chloroform, and toluene. Table 6 shows the chemicals detected in the deeper aquifer that exceeded comparison values. Although detected concentrations were at low or trace levels, it appears that some leachate is migrating down into the deeper aquifer, and low levels of contamination may be migrating off-site.

The results of testing of the only three private wells near the landfill are shown in Table 7. These wells, as mentioned previously, are used for non drinking purposes only. Metals, other inorganics, ammonia, nitrite/nitrate, and trace level VOCs (1,1,1-trichloroethane and 1,1-dichloroethane) were detected. Because 1,1,1-trichloroethane was never detected in leachate or on-site groundwater, and 1,1-dichloroethane was detected only once in leachate or on-site groundwater (in MW-1 at a trace level), it is unlikely that the detections of these compounds in the private wells is related to the landfill.

In these private wells, the ATSDR comparison values (for drinking water) were exceeded one time only, for lead, zinc, and manganese. Non-drinking exposures to the detected levels of these metals, however, are not expected to result in adverse health effects. In general, these metals are not absorbed to any great extent through the skin.

The well water used at the Fresh Kills Swim Club appears to offer the greatest exposure potential through skin contact and possible accidental ingestion during swimming. Based on the results of the 1993 sampling event, manganese (70 parts per billion (ppb)) was the only chemical detected above its drinking water comparison value of 50 ppb for children. The comparison value (CV) was derived based on the assumption that children drink 1 liter of water on a daily basis. Even if water were accidentally ingested during swimming, exposures would be sporadic, only very small amounts would be swallowed, and doses would be expected to be very low. Furthermore, ingested manganese is rarely toxic because its absorption in human bodies is slow and incomplete (Ellenhorn and Barceloux, 1988). For these reasons, manganese at the detected level poses no health hazards.

As seen in Table 7, the results of the two-time testing of one private residence revealed slightly elevated concentrations of lead (42.6 ppb) and zinc (5,930 ppb) in relation to drinking water comparison values. Because the water is not being used for drinking purposes, levels less than 2 to 3 times the drinking water comparison values are not considered problematic. Assuming that the principal route of exposure would be skin contact, and the fact that neither of the metals is expected to be absorbed to any great extent through the skin at the relatively low levels present, means that adverse health effects are not likely. The levels of constituents detected in water from the Great Kills Little League Field well were well below health-based comparison values, indicating that no adverse health effects are expected.

Surface Water and Sediment

People might occasionally come in contact with water, sediment, or both in Richmond Creek. However, the types and levels of contaminants detected in the water and sediment sampled from the creek during the RI are not expected to be associated with adverse health effects.

The Brookfield Avenue Landfill is located in a low-lying marsh area, bordered by Richmond Creek. Runoff from the site drains either into the marsh or into an on-site drainage channel that flows east and west, emptying into local streams that feed into Richmond Creek. Richmond Creek flows into the Fresh Kill, which flows into the Arthur Kill. Areas of ponded water are located on the east and west sides of the main landfill access road, and a tidally influenced pond is located at the southeastern corner of the landfill.

Both on-site and off-site surface water and sediment were sampled during the RI. Some organics, pesticides, and metals were detected in on-site drainage features, generally at low concentrations. Because these drainage features are within the perimeter fence, it is highly unlikely that anyone will be exposed to them. Low levels of contamination were also detected in surface water and sediment in Richmond Creek. The most frequently detected compounds in surface water were metals, chloride, sulfate, ammonia, and nitrite and nitrate. Levels of chloride reflect the fact that Richmond Creek is influenced by tidal flushing, and thus is a mix of seawater and freshwater. The few organic compounds that were detected were only detected once or twice, at low levels. Metals, pesticides, semi-volatile and volatile organics, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and PCBs were detected at low levels in sediment, only three at levels exceeding ATSDR's health-based comparison values for soil. (See Tables 8 and 9 for lists of chemicals that exceeded CVs in Richmond Creek surface water and sediment.)

Even if children or adults frequented Richmond Creek, which seems unlikely based on its limited accessibility, exposures to the levels of chemicals detected in the RI samples are not expected to pose a health hazard. The comparison values used to screen detected levels in surface water and sediment were for drinking water and soil, respectively. These screening values assume far greater exposures than would be expected from limited skin contact with or accidental ingestion of the sediment or water from the creek. For example, the drinking water guideline values assume that people are drinking 2 liters of water a day over a lifetime. Clearly people are not drinking water from the creek and exposure is likely infrequent. Furthermore, the metals detected are only minimally absorbed through the human skin, further reducing exposure. Accidental ingestion or occasional contact with the chemicals detected in the creek would therefore result in very low doses that would not be expected to result in adverse health effects.

Fish and Shellfish

Sufficient data were not available to fully evaluate potential health effects associated with eating fish or shellfish from Richmond Creek in the vicinity of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill. Based on ATSDR's evaluation of available sediment, surface water, and laboratory study data, it appeared that certain metals and PAHs might have had the potential to accumulate in certain species. However, no one has tested any fish directly from the creek for the presence of contamination. If there is a strong indication that people are fishing or shellfishing in the vicinity of the landfill, samples of edible species need to be tested before drawing any conclusions. Signs posted in the area prohibit fishing and statewide fish advisories should deter people from consuming sport fish frequently. In the absence of site-specific data, community members are encouraged to adhere to these advisories as a precautionary measure.

During ATSDR's site visit in May 1998, ATSDR found no signs of fishing or shellfishing activity in Richmond Creek adjacent to the landfill. In addition, ATSDR noted that the extensive mud flats would likely make such activity difficult. CDM personnel never observed anyone fishing or shellfishing in that portion of Richmond Creek during their field work (Boyer, 1999). Statements were made, however, during the public meeting concerning the RI that fishing or shellfishing, or both had taken place in portions of Richmond Creek, although exact locations were not specified. Because of the concerns expressed at that meeting, signs were erected in May 1998 along the portion of Richmond Creek adjacent to the landfill prohibiting fishing and shellfishing in the area.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has issued general fish advisories for the waters of New York State. For all fresh waters, anglers have been advised to eat no more than one meal (one-half pound) per week of fish. In addition, Arthur Kill has further restrictions; these restrictions also apply to tributaries (such as Richmond Creek). For these waters, anglers are advised to eat no more than one meal per month of the following species: American eel, Atlantic needlefish, bluefish, carp, goldfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow smelt, striped bass, walleye, white catfish, and white perch. Also, no more than six blue crabs should be eaten per week, the hepatopancreas (mustard, tomalley, or liver) should not be eaten, and the cooking liquid should be discarded (NYSDOH, 1998).

Fish from Richmond Creek were not sampled during the RI. However, a bioaccumulation study was done in which test organisms (mollusks and worms) were exposed to sediment collected from Richmond Creek for 28 days, and the amount of contamination they accumulated was measured. The exercise revealed that the mollusks accumulated certain metals and PAHs, and the worms accumulated some metals. Based on this study, it is not possible to conclude whether edible fish or shellfish in the creek have accumulated contaminants at harmful levels. Study results merely indicate the potential for this to happen under controlled laboratory conditions in two test species.

Leachate Seeps

In certain areas of the landfill, leachate is seeping out at the surface. Although contamination was detected in leachate waters, it is unlikely that anyone would come into regular contact with these seeps. Even in the unlikely event that a child or adult were to walk through affected areas, exposures would likely be limited to occasional dermal contact and would not be expected to result in adverse health effects.

Surface Soil

The soil data collected from areas where children and adults might have come in contact indicated that concentrations of metals, PAHs, and pesticides are comparable to background levels and exposures to detected levels are unlikely to result in adverse health effects.

Low levels of contamination were found in surface soils at the landfill. As with the leachate seeps, these detections were all within the perimeter fence. It is highly unlikely that people will come into contact with them. Off-site soil was sampled in the pastand during the RI. The following paragraphs summarize the findings of this sampling.

Past Off-site Sampling

In 1993, in response to residents' concerns, EPA sampled surface soil at the Colonial Square condominiums, which are adjacent to the landfill. EPA also took a background sample in a wooded area 150 yards east of the condominium development. Samples were analyzed for VOCs, SVOCs, pesticides, PCBs, metals, and cyanide. The only VOC detected, toluene, was found at trace levels (maximum 0.02 ppm), below the level in the background sample. SVOCs found (other than a few detections of common laboratory contaminants) were all PAHs, and levels ranged from below to slightly above background levels. The maximum detection was fluoranthene at 1.5 ppm. Pesticides were found to be elevated above the background sample. The following maxima (in parts per million) were detected: dieldrin, 0.014; 4,4'-DDE, 0.061; 4,4'-DDD, 0.054; 4,4'-DDT, 0.11; alpha-chlordane, 0.006; gamma-chlordane, 0.0057; and heptachlor epoxide, 0.0042. One PCB, Aroclor 1260, was detected once at a level of 0.041 ppm. Metals were detected at levels comparable to background. (All data from U.S. EPA, 1993.) In August of 1993, NYSDEC performed a subsurface soil investigation at the Colonial Square Condominium complex. No evidence of hazardous waste contaminants were found.

The low levels of contaminants detected during the EPA sampling effort posed no health hazards. All of the contaminants detected were well below ATSDR's comparison values for children, who would be the most susceptible to soil contamination because they play outdoors and might be more likely to contact or inadvertently ingest soil.

RI Off Site Sampling

During the RI, one round of surface soil samples was collected at each of the air monitoring stations. At the six off-site stations, a number of chemicals were detected in all samples, including metals, PAHs, and two pesticides. However, concentrations exceeded ATSDR comparison values for only two chemicals: arsenic (concentrations ranging from 4.1 to 25.0 ppm) and benzo(a)pyrene (concentrations ranging from 0.049 to 0.390 ppm).

It is difficult to draw conclusions about soil exposures based on grab samples from only a few areas; but on the basis of the RI and earlier EPA data, it did not appear that area surface soils contained significant levels of contaminants. Both arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene are ubiquitous in the environment. Arsenic is typically found in soils at concentrations ranging up to 73 ppm (Shacklette and Boerngen, 1984). Background arsenic levels in the vicinity of the landfill have been reported at 5.6 ppm (U.S. EPA, 1993). It is not uncommon to find benzo(a)pyrene in soils, especially along roadsides, resulting from vehicular exhausts and emissions from wearing of tires and asphalt. People exposed on a daily basis to the detected levels of these chemicals through contact and incidental ingestion would receive doses not associated with adverse health effects.

Hot Spots

Of the five hot spots at the site, four are located in areas inaccessible to the public or contamination is confined primarily to deeper soils or groundwater. Therefore, these hot spots pose no apparent public health hazards under current exposure scenarios. An aqueous seep with an oily sheen has periodically been observed coming out of the ground in Hot Spot 5, which is located behind Holterman's Bakery. Even if trespassers had accessed this area in the past, the possible occasional contact with potentially contaminated surface materials is unlikely to pose any harm. The fence in this area has recently been repaired, and an oil boom has been installed around the seep area.

Five areas of the landfill where hazardous waste may have been illegally disposed of were identified using historical information. These areas were the subject of focused "hot spot" investigations, which included subsurface soil sampling, soil gas monitoring, and other sampling as needed for characterization. Hot Spot 1 was found to contain a mixture of petroleum products, methyl ethyl ketone, and low levels of chlorinated solvents. The remaining hot spots were characterized as primarily waste oil, which in some cases contains PCBs and pesticides.

The hot spots are being investigated because they are believed to contribute to air, groundwater, and surface water contamination. Because the "hot spots" are located well within the perimeter fenced boundaries, it is highly unlikely that exposures to the contaminants would occur at a high enough duration and concentration to be of health significance. The one exception is Hot Spot 5, which is behind Holterman's Bakery, where a break in the fence existed for a period of time. In the groundwater beneath this area, investigators have found oil product which contains VOCs, PCBs, and pesticides. Contamination appears to be largely confined to the subsurface. However, during wet weather an aqueous seep with an oily sheen, approximately 100 feet long, has been observed in the area. One sample of the hot spot 5 seep was collected in 1997. Testing revealed the presence of 1,4-dichlorobenzene (5,600 ppb) and acenaphthene (7,800 ppb). On the basis of that single sample, it was determined that any limited direct contact with the seep was highly unlikely to pose a problem. In general, exposure to any surface materials in the area would be infrequent and limited in nature. To reduce the spread of the contamination and eliminate future contact potential, ATSDR encouraged the continued investigation and containment of the oily contamination detected in this area, as proposed in the RI.

The NYCDEP has since directed CDM to implement temporary remedial measures at Hot Spots numbers 3 and 5. For Hot Spot #3, the design for a temporary landfill gas extraction system has been completed. The system, comprising gas extraction wells and an enclosed gas flare, will be installed as soon as permitting requirements are completed. At Hot Spot #5, an oil boom has been installed around the seep area. According to CDM, both hot spot areas will continue to be provided treatment until the final landfill remediation is implemented (Boyer, 1999a)

Alleged Off-Site Disposal of Hazardous Waste

Investigations by the NYSDEC and CDM did not find any evidence of disposal of hazardous waste outside the landfill boundaries.

Because of allegations by residents and the Staten Island Advance that hazardous wastes were dumped off the landfill property, CDM used aerial photographs and historical documents to select five off-site areas at which to do soil borings. Six soil borings were completed as part of the RI. No buried fill materials, such as construction or demolition debris, were found. No elevated readings were found in field screenings for VOCs, and no soil staining or odors were noted in soil samples. Laboratory analysis of soil samples from the borings found only trace levels of common laboratory contaminants, and metals at background levels. In addition, the NYSDEC performed a subsurface soil investigation at the Colonial Square Condominium complex in August 1993. No evidence of hazardous wastes was found.

C. ATSDR Child Health Initiative

Children are at greater risk than adults from certain kinds of exposure to hazardous substances emitted from waste sites and emergency events. They are more likely to be exposed for several reasons; the developing body systems of children can sustain damage if toxic exposures occur during certain growth stages. Children are smaller than adults, resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure per body weight. Because they are also shorter than adults, they breathe more dust, soil, and heavy vapors that lie close to the ground. Children play outside more often than adults, increasing the likelihood that they will come into contact with chemicals in the environment. Therefore, ATSDR evaluated the types and quantities of chemicals detected in air, water, and soil at and around the landfill and how children might be exposed to determine if detected levels might be associated with any reproductive or developmental effects.

Children do live in the vicinity of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill, but, in general, children do not have access to the site. ATSDR closely reviewed possible exposure situations for children while evaluating this site (for example, air exposures, trespassing scenarios, and use of private wells). In its evaluation, ATSDR also used the Environmental Media Evaluation Guidelines (EMEGs) for children, who are considered the most sensitive segment of the population. No special hazards to the children were identified on the basis of the available data. However, because only limited data were available for the years when the landfill was in operation, no conclusions could be drawn regarding past air exposures.

D. Health Outcome Data

ATSDR reviewed two studies conducted by the NYCDOH-one that documented the incidence (or number of cases) of cancer in the vicinity of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill, and another that reported symptoms experienced by people living near the landfill in 1982. The cancer study identified a slight to moderate elevated incidence of lung cancer in the study area compared with two demographically similar non landfill neighborhoods in other boroughs, who had comparable cancer rates with those of Staten Island overall. The 1982 study suggested that odors reported during that time period resulted in an increase in symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and sore throats. No specific cause was identified.

Staten Island Cancer Incidence Study

In response to community concerns regarding a seemingly high incidence of cancer among Staten Island residents, the NYCDOH conducted a descriptive epidemiologic study of cancer incidence (NYCDOH, 1996). The NYCDOH reviewed the available state Cancer Registry data from 1979 through 1988 to identify new cancer cases in an area of 13 census tracts adjacent to the Brookfield and Fresh Kills landfills. The number of cases were then compared with cancer incidence rates for the rest of Staten Island and a similar demographic area not in proximity to a landfill (Bay Ridge [Brooklyn] and Flushing [Queens] Health Districts). The NYCDOH also looked at cancer incidence on Staten Island as a whole compared with a similar demographic area not in proximity to a landfill, and with the rest of New York City.

The study revealed that the rates of lung cancer in men and women were the only ones that were statistically significantly higher in the study area and only in comparison with those of the Bay Ridge and Flushing health districts. Also, the magnitude of the increase was described as generally slight to moderate. The cancer rates in the study area were not elevated compared with those of the rest of Staten Island. The findings provided no consistent evidence of elevated cancer incidence in the vicinity of the landfills.

As emphasized in the study, the purpose of the study was to take a first step in documenting the numbers and types of cancers. It did not provide information as to whether exposures from the landfills might have contributed to cancer incidence. In order to do that, environmental exposure data would be needed, as well as information about individual exposures or risk factors for cancer (NYCDOH, 1996).

The NYCDOH, in which ATSDR concurs, recommended the continued evaluation of more recent (post-1988) incidence of selected cancers in the study area, recognizing that the follow-up period after possible exposure (late 1970s) might not have been long enough for some cancers to develop (NYCDOH, 1996). NYCDOH is currently in the process of reviewing post 1988 cancer data in the study area.

1982 NYCDOH Epidemiologic Survey

During the construction of the sewer line through the landfill in 1982, the NYCDOH responded to complaints of area residents of strong, foul odors and complaints of increased health problems, including nausea, retching, vomiting, burning eyes, sore throats, and respiratory problems. The NYCDOH initiated an epidemiologic survey that was designed to document whether people living closer to the landfill had more medical complaints than people living farther from the landfill.

The NYCDOH interviewed a total of 555 households (454 in the study area near the landfill and 101 in a control area) from June through July 1982. Medical conditions, diagnoses, and medical visits that occurred from January to July 1982 were confirmed through review of medical records. ATSDR has been unable to obtain a copy of a 1985 study that reportedly provides further analysis of the NYCDOH data. The following is a summary of the findings (NYCDOH, undated):

  • Of the study area residents, 45% reported doctor visits; 25% of the control group reported doctor visits.


  • The frequency of complaints was statistically significant for chest or breathing problems (coughing); eyes, ear, nose, or throat problems; stomach complaints; and heart and nerve problems.


  • People in the study and control areas reported seeing doctors at the same frequency for kidney, muscle, heart, blood, gynecological, and skin complaints.


  • People in the study area reported more symptoms not resulting in a doctor visit, including frequent headache, sore throat, and nausea.


  • Proximity to the landfill was associated most greatly with upper respiratory tract disease.


    • - People in the study area reported more allergies (sinusitis, hay fever, and recurrent sore throats) than people in the control area.

      - The two groups reported similar incidence of pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.

  • Absence from normal activities was higher in the study area than in the control area (an average of 2.3 days versus 1.2 days, respectively).


  • Within the study area, the zone closest to the landfill showed the higher rates in most categories reported.


  • People in the study area were less satisfied with living where they were living and perceived odors more frequently than people living in the control area.

As discussed earlier in this Public Health Assessment (PHA), NYCDOH and EPA air sampling conducted during this same time period did not identify elevated levels of contaminants. The sampling done at that time was somewhat limited in nature, however (i.e., no long-term low level VOC, hydrogen sulfide, or particulate sampling). The only exposure identified at the time was "odor." Investigators concluded that the excess illnesses seen in the study population were "compatible with an intermittent exposure to strong odorants and irritants emanating from the landfill" (NYCDOH, undated).


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

  • Community members have expressed concerns about health effects possibly related to air and groundwater contamination, including cancer, infertility, and miscarriages.
  • It is generally very difficult to link observed health effects with environmental exposures, especially low-level exposures. As is the case with the Brookfield Avenue Landfill, sufficient environmental data are often not available during the times that people might be the most concerned about possible exposures. Furthermore, detailed evaluation of all possible risk factors (for example, work, hobbies, smoking, age, and family history) is necessary when studying health effects in a community and trying to learn about the cause of reported diseases.

    While the Staten Island Cancer Incidence Study reported slightly elevated lung cancer incidence in the vicinity of the landfill, available environmental data (primarily from the recent Remedial Investigation (RI)) didn't provide strong evidence linking Brookfield-related exposures with potential cancer outcomes. Off-site private wells do not appear to have been affected by the landfill activities. The few private wells identified in the vicinity of the landfill contained low levels of only a few chemicals for which exposure to are not likely to result in adverse health outcomes. Most importantly, groundwater is not used for drinking purposes on Staten Island.

    Based on ATSDR's review of the available air data and the predictions of existing landfill emissions presented in the RI, the data do not suggest harmful levels of air pollutants associated with the Brookfield Avenue Landfill. Low levels of known or suspected human carcinogens were detected, but not at levels thought to increase the likelihood of cancers. Air data were somewhat limited in nature, however, capturing only snapshots of ambient air conditions in the immediate area of the landfill. In addition, past emissions were not well-characterized, leaving some uncertainty.

    ATSDR also reviewed soil, sediment, surface water, and shellfish data. No exposure to harmful levels of chemicals is believed to be occurring.

  • During the sewer line excavation in 1982, community members expressed concern regarding noxious odors, nausea, vomiting, burning eyes, sore throats, and respiratory effects.
  • Sufficient historical data on levels of particulates, sulfides, and other chemicals are not available for ATSDR to fully evaluate past exposures. Air sampling that was conducted in 1982 revealed low levels of VOCs, but not at levels that would elicit the reported symptoms. Low levels of hydrogen sulfide might have contributed to odor complaints in the past, but data are not adequate to identify a definitive cause of the odors. The NYCDOH survey conducted in 1982 (January to July) in response to these types of complaints revealed that people living near the landfill experienced symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and sore throats more than those living farther away from the landfill. It appears that the symptoms experienced at that time were strictly short-term in nature and subsided when the odors did. The levels of particulates, sulfides, and other irritants detected more recently, during the RI air monitoring program, were below those associated with acute health effects such as those reported in the past by community members.

  • Community members have expressed concerns regarding potential effects of the landfill on children in particular, especially children who might play or who have played in contaminated on-site areas.
  • As noted in the Discussion and the Children's Health sections, ATSDR paid special attention to possible exposures to children when evaluating the available data. On the basis of the available environmental data and the limited extent to which children could come in contact with contaminated materials, ATSDR identified no special health hazards to children. In addition, most of the on-site contamination is inaccessible because it is located below the ground surface or in areas not accessible to the public, or both.


CONCLUSIONS

Based on ATSDR's review of the RI data, limited historical data, and health studies, ATSDR reached the following conclusions and assigned a public health hazard category to the site.

While landfill-related contamination posed no apparent current or potential future public health hazards, data were not available to fully evaluate possible past exposures. ATSDR determined that the Brookfield Avenue Landfill posed an Indeterminate Public Health Hazard.

  1. Based on available sampling data, breathing the levels of contaminants detected in ambient air at and around the Brookfield Avenue Landfill is not expected to result in adverse health effects. Although ambient air sampling during the RI was limited to four sampling events during 1994 and 1997, subsequent sampling and dispersion modeling of landfill emissions indicated that the landfill contributes only minimally to concentrations of contaminants detected in ambient air. Thus, ATSDR considers the air sampling data sufficient to conclude that current air emissions from the Brookfield Avenue Landfill pose no apparent health hazards. It is not possible, however, to draw firm conclusions about past exposures because of limitations in the data set.


  2. Subsurface migration of methane from the landfill currently represents a no apparent physical health hazard. Based on available data, landfill gas does not appear to be migrating beyond the site perimeter.


  3. No apparent public health hazards are associated with leachate seeps or contamination of groundwater, surface water, sediment, or biota resulting from migration of leachate from the landfill. Levels of contamination to which people are likely to be or were likely to have been exposed are below levels expected to cause adverse health effects.


  4. The soil data collected from areas where children and adults might come in contact indicated that concentrations of metals, PAHs, and pesticides are comparable to background levels, and exposures to detected levels were unlikely to result in adverse health effects. No evidence was found of alleged off-site disposal of hazardous waste.


  5. The hot spots, due to inaccessibility to the public, pose no apparent public health hazards under existing exposure scenarios. An oily seep had been observed periodically coming out of the ground at hot spot 5, which is located behind a bakery. Even if trespassers had access to the area in the past, the possible occasional contact with potentially contaminated surface materials was unlikely to pose any harm. To reduce the potential for future exposures this area has recently been re-fenced and an oil boom installed near the seep area as an interim measure. ATSDR concurred with Remedial Investigations (RI) recommendations concerning interim remedial measures for some hot spots, including berming the seep area at hot spot 5.


  6. The NYCDOH's Staten Island Cancer Incidence Study reported slightly elevated lung cancers (compared with rates in similar neighborhoods in other boroughs). Available data (primarily from the RI), however, does not indicate that there is a plausible link between reported cancers with Brookfield Avenue Landfill-related exposures. The NYCDOH 1982 study indicated that there was a short-term increase in irritant effects, such as respiratory effects, eye irritation, and nausea, associated with construction of the sewer trench through the landfill. However, these effects subsided after completion of the excavation. The excavation reportedly took place from January 1982 through the fall that same year. ATSDR concurs with NYCDOH recommendations in the Staten Island Cancer Incidence Study that they continue their evaluation of more recent (post-1988) cancer data. This will enable the evaluation of any new trends in cancer incidence over time.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Conduct periodic soil gas monitoring to confirm that landfill gas is not migrating south of Arthur Kill Road.


  • Continue perimeter and off-site groundwater monitoring to ensure the protection of off-site groundwater users, and to ensure that future water supply wells are not installed in contaminated areas.


  • continue with the restriction against fishing and shellfishing in Richmond Creek adjacent to the landfill.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

Actions Completed

  • The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) has completed an RI on the site and released the RI.


  • The New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) has performed two health studies concerning the neighborhood in the vicinity of the Brookfield Avenue Landfill.


  • The NYCDEP in February 1999 had seven permanent soil gas probes installed and has completed three additional rounds of soil gas monitoring since March 1999 around the landfill perimeter.


  • The NYCDEP has installed an oil boom at Hot Spot #5, around an oily seep area as recommended by Camp Dresser and McKee (CDM) in the RI and has designed a temporary landfill gas extraction system for Hot Spot #3.

Actions Planned

  • The NYCDEP will perform any additional remedial investigation sampling requested by the NYSDEC.


  • Upon approval of the RI Report, the NYCDEP will complete a feasibility study report. In consultation with the public and government agencies, the NYCDEP will select and implement a remedial plan for the landfill.


  • If requested, ATSDR will evaluate the selected remedial option.


  • ATSDR will release a Public Health Assessment summarizing previous findings at the Fresh Kills Landfill, as well as a report on the respiratory health investigation concerning people who live near the Fresh Kills Landfill. This will provide additional insight into environmental contamination and health issues in the area.


  • NYCDOH will release a report of an analysis of more recent cancer cases among residents of Staten Island.


  • NYCDOH and ATSDR will be conducting an environmental educational program on landfill issues for Staten Island residents in 1999.

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

ATSDR provided an opportunity in the final draft stage of this document for the general public to comment on Agency findings or proposed activities from August 3, 1999 - September 13, 1999. The purposes of this activity were to: (1) provide the public, particularly area residents associated with a site, the opportunity to comment on the public health findings in the public health assessment; (2) evaluate whether the community health concerns have been adequately addressed; and (3) provide ATSDR with additional information. A summary of the comments received are addressed in Appendix G of this health assessment.


SITE TEAM/AUTHORS

This Public Health Assessment was prepared by:

Theresa Kilgus, Lead Health Assessor
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Exposure Investigation and Consultation Branch

Frank Schnell, Toxicologist
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Exposure Investigation and Consultation Branch


Site Team:

Sherri Berger, Epidemiologist
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Health Studies
Atlanta, Georgia

Arthur Block, Senior Regional Representative
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
c/o EPA Region 2
290 Broadway, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Loretta Bush, Community Involvement Specialist
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Community Involvement Branch
Atlanta, Georgia

Gail Williams, Health Educator
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Health Education and Prevention
Atlanta, Georgia


REFERENCES

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1998a. Health Consultation. Fresh Kills Landfill, Staten Island, Richmond County, New York. January 20, 1998.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1998b. Toxicological Profile for Arsenic. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. August, 1998.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1998c. Toxicological Profile for Chromium. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. August, 1998.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1998d. Toxicological Profile for Methylene Chloride (Draft for Public Comment). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. September, 1998.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1997a. Toxicological Profile for Benzene. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. September, 1997.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1997b. Toxicological Profile for Tetrachloroethylene. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. September, 1997.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1997c. Toxicological Profile for Trichloroethylene. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. September, 1997.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1997d. Toxicological Profile for Hydrogen Sulfide (Draft for Public Comment). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. September, 1997.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1994. Toxicological Profile for Carbon Tetrachloride. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. May, 1994.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 1990. Toxicological Profile for Acrolein. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. December, 1990.

Boyer. 1999. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry record of activity for telephone communication with John Boyer of Camp Dresser & McKee. February 5, 1999.

Boyer. 1999a. Brookfield Avenue Landfill, Staten Island, NY PHA Comments. Memo from John Boyer to Max Howie.

Connecticut Department of Public Health (CTDPH). 1996. Comparison of Hydrogen Sulfide Levels. December, 1996.

IRIS. 1999. Environmental Protection Agency's Integrated Risk Information System. National Library of Medicine.

Ellenhorn M.J. and D.G. Barceloux. 1988. Medical toxicology: Diagnosis and treatment of human poisoning. New York, NY:Elsevier, 1047-1048.

Jappinen et al. 1990. Exposure to hydrogen sulphide and respiratory function. Br J Ind Med 47:824-828, as cited in ATSDR, 1997d.

Kerger, B.D. and L. Barfield. 1992. Current understanding of hydrogen sulfide toxicity with specific reference to regulatory policies and pulp and paper mill emissions. McClaren/Hart Environmental Engineering, Irvine, CA, as cited in IRIS, 1999.

Midzenzki et al. 1992. Acute high dose exposure to benzene in shipyard workers. Am J Ind Med 22:553-565, as cited in ATSDR, 1997a.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). 1998. Brookfield Avenue Landfill Remediation Project, Final Remedial Investigation Report, Volumes I-III. September 1998.

NYCDEP. 1984. Sampling and Analysis at Brookfield Avenue Landfill, Staten Island, in Connection With Eltingville Pump Station Force Main Construction. Phase II Investigations. Prepared for NYCDEP by TRC. September, 1984.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection, New York City Department of Health, and New York City Department of Sanitation (NYCDEP, NYCDOH, and NYCDOS). 1982. Status Report on Recent Community Complaints Over Conditions at New York City Landfills: An Interagency Report. November 1982.

New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH). 1996. Staten Island Cancer Incidence Study. March, 1996.

NYCDOH. Undated. Report on the Brookfield Health Survey.

New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). 1998. NYSDOH 1998-1999 Health Advisories for Chemicals in Sportfish and Game. September 1998.

Shacklette HT, Boerngen JG. 1984. Element concentrations in soils and other surficial materials of the contiguous United States. U.S. Geological Survey Profession Paper 1270. Washington DC: Government Printing Office 1984. (Cited in ATSDR's Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual. March 1992.)

Soren J. 1988. Geologic and geohydrologic reconnaissance of Staten Island, New York. U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Investigations Report 87-4048. 1988.

United States Bureau of the Census. 1990. Census of Population and Housing: Summary Tape File. U.S. Department of Commerce. 1990.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), 1997a. EPA's Revised Particulate Matter Standards. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. July 17, 1997. http://ttnwww.rtpnc.epa.gov/naaqsfin/pmfact.htm

United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), 1997b. Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. July 17, 1997. http://ttnwww.rtpnc.epa.gov/naaqsfin/pmhealth.htm

U.S. EPA, Region 2. 1993. Field Sampling Report, Colonial Square Condominiums, Staten Island, New York. June 30, 1993.

United States Geological Survey (USGS). 1981. Topographic map for Arthur Kill, NY-NJ quadrangle. 1981.

Weber-Tschopp A, Fisher T, Gierer R et al. 1977. Experimental irritating effects of acrolein on man. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 40:117-130, as cited in ATSDR, 1990.

Wong, O. 1995. Risk of acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma in workers exposed to benzene. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 52:380-384, as cited in ATSDR, 1997a.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). 1984a. Final Test Report for the First Air Quality Monitoring Program Conducted November 22/23, 1983, at the Brookfield Landfill. Prepared for NYCDEP by York Research Corporation. March 19, 1984.

NYCDEP. 1984b. Test Report for the Second Phase Air Quality Monitoring Program at the Brookfield Avenue Landfill. Prepared for NYCDEP by York Research Corporation. October 4, 1984.

NYCDEP. 1985. Final Test Report for the Third Air Quality Monitoring Program Conducted September 24/25 and September 27/28, 1984 at the Brookfield Landfill. Prepared for NYCDEP by York Research Corporation. May 30, 1985.



Next Section     Table of Contents

  
 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #