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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

GRIFFISS AIR FORCE BASE
ROME, ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK


SUMMARY

This public health assessment addendum addresses the two public health issues identified atGriffiss Air Force Base by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): 1) exposures to contaminated fish from Three Mile and Six Mile Creeks, and 2) past exposures tocontaminated groundwater through private wells off base. Selection of these issues was based onreview of environmental sampling data, observations from ATSDR's site visits, and meetings anddiscussions with Air Force, New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and New YorkState Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) personnel.

POTENTIAL PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD: Frequent consumption of contaminated fishfrom Three Mile and Six Mile Creeks could pose a health problem. However, if NYSDOHfish consumption guidelines are followed, fish consumption should not present a public health hazard.

ATSDR evaluated sampling data for fish collected from Three and Six Mile Creeks. IfNYSDOH fish advisory guidelines are followed, the health risk from eating contaminated fish isminimized. For Three Mile Creek, the advisory states that women of childbearing age, infants,and children less than 15 years old should not eat any fish from Three Mile Creek. Others shouldnot consume white suckers (one-half pound meals) more frequently than once a month due toPCB contamination. Other fish species should not be eaten more than once per week (one-halfpound meals). For Six Mile Creek, the general fish consumption advisory for all freshwaters ofNew York State applies: no one should eat more than one one-half pound fish meal (any species)per week.1

INDETERMINANT PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD: ATSDR cannot evaluate exposures tocontaminated groundwater through private well use prior to 1982 because there are nosampling data.

There are no private well sampling data prior to 1982. Since the contaminant concentrations andlength of exposure are unknown, and a definitive groundwater contamination source has not beenidentified, ATSDR cannot evaluate exposures prior to this time.

Based on private well sampling results from the 1980s and early 1990s, the Air Force and publichealth officials believed that people living in areas east and southeast of the base were beingexposed to contaminated groundwater (primarily glycols). In response, the Air Force providedover 900 residences in the areas north, east, and southeast of the base with either bottled water orcarbon filtration systems in 1990. Additional investigations of this apparent widespreadgroundwater contamination showed there were few contaminated wells; approximately 15 wellssouth-southeast of the base had contaminant levels exceeding current ATSDR health guidelines. Based on further evaluation of those 15 wells, ATSDR has determined that exposures tocontaminated drinking water between 1982-1990 did not pose a health hazard.

ATSDR initially planned to conduct a disease and symptom prevalence study and communityeducation about exposures (Griffiss Air Force Base Public Health Assessment - Initial Release,April 5, 1993). However, because some of the initial data have been determined to be invalidand all valid glycol data are below health guidelines, the study and educational activities are notnecessary and will not be performed.

People currently using private well water for non-drinking purposes (e.g., watering lawns andwashing cars) can continue to do so safely.

BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

Griffiss Air Force Base (Griffiss) is a 3,900 acre former Air Combat Command (ACC)installation approximately two miles northeast of the City of Rome, Oneida County, New York(Figure 1). The base was opened on February 1, 1942 as the Rome Air Depot. During WorldWar II, the Rome Air Depot served as a staging area for aircraft bound for the European theaterof operations, and several research functions were begun at the base during this time. FollowingWorld War II the depot mission ceased, however the research functions continued and wereexpanded. During the 1950s, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) became the host command andstationed long range bombers and refueling aircraft at Griffiss. Many tenant units have beenlocated at Griffiss since the 1950s. Until September 30, 1995, the host unit at the base was the416th Bombardment Wing, responsible for providing long range combat air power on a globalscale. Current tenant units include the 485th Engineering Installation Group (responsible forproviding communications systems installation worldwide), the Northeast Air Defense Sector(responsible for continental air defense in the northeastern United States), and the RomeLaboratory (an Air Force research and development organization). Until September 1994, the509th Air Refueling Squadron was located at Griffiss and its tankers were tasked with airrefueling operations worldwide.

As part of the 1990 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act, Griffiss was selected forrealignment during the third round of the BRAC process in July 1993. The realignment ofGriffiss became public law when the President and the Congress approved the third round of baseclosures and realignments in 1993. This process was completed September 30, 1995. The 416thBombardment Wing was deactivated and Griffiss ceased functioning as an Air Force base. Several of the tenant organizations continue to function as "stand alone" entities, with themajority of the base property turned over to the Air Force Base Conversion Agency. This agencywill assist local developmental authorities in turning over this base property to privateorganizations and businesses. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)considered future land use when evaluating exposure situations in this public health assessment.

Past waste disposal and storage practices at the base have resulted in environmentalcontamination at multiple sites. In 1981, the Air Force initiated its Installation RestorationProgram (IRP) to identify, investigate, and cleanup hazardous waste contamination from pastoperations and activities at federal facilities.

Through the IRP program, 54 potentially contaminated sites on base have been identified. Thesite identification codes and names are listed in Table 1 and the locations are shown in Figure 2. Of the 54 sites, 31 are designated as Areas of Concern (AOC) and are being investigated andremediated under the Federal Facilities Agreement between the Air Force, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the New York State Department ofEnvironmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The other 23 sites are either being investigated (e.g.,confirmatory sampling), have had or will have a removal action, or have been determined torequire no further action.2

Figure 1
Figure 1.

Figure 2
Figure 2.

The Air Force is proposing to remove 15 of the 54 sites from the IRP program because those 15sites have been investigated and/or had a remedial action. However, removal from the IRP iscontingent upon approval by the EPA and the NYSDEC. If removed from the IRP, no futureremedial actions will be taken at the 15 sites, although long-term monitoring may be required.

The Air Force has taken numerous actions to clean up and control the areas of contamination onbase and to reduce contaminant migration. Base realignment will not affect ongoing IRPactivities. A detailed discussion of IRP data and actions are provided in the Air Force's IRPdocuments maintained at the Jervis Public Library in Rome, New York. IRP data are alsomaintained in the Air Force Base Conversion Agency Operating Location EnvironmentalManagement Office located on base. IRP data are available for public review.

B. ATSDR Involvement

On July 22, 1987, Griffiss was placed on the EPA's National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is alist of hazardous waste sites in the nation slated for cleanup. ATSDR is mandated to conduct apublic health assessment at each site proposed or listed on the NPL.

In June 1988, ATSDR issued a public health assessment for Griffiss (Appendix A). That initialevaluation concluded that Griffiss posed a potential public health concern (see Public Health Hazard Conclusion Categories - Appendix B) because of the risk to human health that could result from possible future exposure to hazardous substances at levels that may result in adverse health effects over time. Since the release of that public health assessment, new environmental data have become available that warrant an addendum to the document. The contents and conclusions in this addendum supersede those in the 1988 Griffiss AFB Public Health Assessment.

ATSDR identifies ways people have been, are, or could be exposed to contaminants (pathways ofexposure) and determines if any exposures are of public health concern. Based on observationsmade during a tour of Griffiss, the IRP sites, and surrounding communities, and discussions withAir Force, New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and New York State Departmentof Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) personnel, ATSDR identified five potentialpathways of exposure. Data and information in IRP and other documents (e.g., U.S. Army Corpsof Engineers and NYSDOH data) pertinent to the five identified exposure pathways werereviewed by ATSDR. We determined that two pathways required further evaluation: 1) exposures to contaminated fish from Three Mile Creek (IRP site SD-31) and Six Mile Creek(SD-32), and 2) past exposures to contaminated groundwater through private wells off base (SD-43).

The other IRP sites do not present public health hazards because contaminant levels are not highenough to pose a health hazard, they have already been remediated (cleaned up), or they arescheduled to be remediated before being turned over to private organizations and businesses.

Table 1 - Installation Restoration Program Sites2

Current Site
ID
Site Name

LF-01 Landfill 1
LF-02 Landfills 2 and 3
LF-03 Landfill 7
ST-04 Bulk Fuel Storage Area (Barge Canal)
SS-05 Lindane Spill at Former Entomology Storage Shed
ST-06 Building 101 Yellow Submarine and Disposal Pit
LF-07 Landfill 5
SS-08 Building 112 PCB Spills, USTs, and Lab Dry Well
LF-09 Landfill 6
DP-11 Building 3 Drywell
DP-12 Building 301 Former Entomology Shop Drywell
DP-13 Building 255 Two Drywells
DP-15 Building 219 Drywell
SS-16 Floyd Annex Asbestos, Drywells, PCB/Fuel Spills
SS-17 Lot 69 Former Hazardous Waste Storage Area
SS-18 Building 101 Waste Oil Storage Area
SS-20 Tank Farms 1 and 3
ST-21 Building 210 Former UST Site
DP-22 Building 222 Battery Acid Disposal Pit
SS-23 Building 20 Locomotive Storage Facility
SS-24 Fire Demonstration Area
SS-25 T-9 Storage Area
ST-26 Building 43 Refueling Station
LF-28 Landfill 4
FT-30 Fire Protection Training Area
SD-31 Three Mile Creek
SD-32 Six Mile Creek and Weapons Storage Area Lagoon
SS-33 Proposed Coal Storage Yard
SS-34 Building 786 (Nosedock 5) Soil Contamination
ST-35 Building 26 Former Pumping Station
ST-36 Building 110 Aqua Refueling System
ST-37 Building 771 Pumphouse 5
SS-38 Building 775 Pumphouse 3 TCE Contamination
ST-39 Building 117 Former Steam Plant
SS-40 Weapons Storage Area
SD-41 Building 782 Nose Docks 1 and 2
SD-43 Off-Base Groundwater Contamination
SS-44 Electrical Power Substation
SS-45 Industrial Soils Collection Pad
SS-46 Glycol Storage/Use Areas
SD-47 Buildings 215 and 216 Oil/Water Separator
FT-48 Suspected Fire Training Area
LF-49 Hardfill Areas
SD-50 Building 214 Former Vehicle Shop Oil/Water Separator
ST-51 Building 100 Fuel Hydrant System
SD-52 On-Base Groundwater Contamination
ST-53 Building 133 Underground Vault
SS-54 Building 781 Pumphouse


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