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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

HERTEL LANDFILL
PLATTEKILL, ULSTER COUNTY, NEW YORK

SUMMARY

The Hertel Landfill site, which is on the National Priorities List (NPL), is located in the Town of Plattekill, Ulster County, New York. The Hertel Landfill was established in 1963 as a municipal waste landfill until its closure in 1977. On-site surface soils are contaminated with semi-volatile and inorganic compounds. On-site subsurface soils, surface water and sediment were sampled and found to be contaminated with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile compounds and inorganic compounds. Off-site downgradient surface water and sediment are contaminated with inorganic compounds. Several semi-volatile compounds and VOCs have also been detected in off-site downgradient sediment samples. On-site groundwater is contaminated with VOCs, semi-volatile compounds and metals. Water from an off-site drinking water supply well was contaminated with lead; however, confirmatory sampling indicates the source is from the household plumbing and not from the site. Elevated levels of iron and sodium have been detected at several other off-site drinking water supply wells.

A potential exposure pathway of concern is ingestion of contaminated groundwater. Other exposure pathways of concern include contact with contaminated soil, surface water and sediment and possible exposure to landfill gas through inhalation of contaminated ambient air and soil gas intrusion to basements of nearby residences.

About 500 people reside within 1 mile of the site. Five or six families live within 500 feet of the site. All residences depend on groundwater for domestic uses. Local residents are concerned primarily about potential groundwater contamination at the site and the flow of leachate into adjacent surface waters. Residents are also concerned about the lack of fencing around the site to prevent people from entering the site.

The site is an indeterminate public health hazard. Additional investigation is needed to determine if ambient air is contaminated on site and the extent, if any, of soil gas migration from the landfill.

This public health assessment has been reviewed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendation Panel. The Panel determined that community health education is needed for the site. NYS DOH has made recommendations to reduce and prevent exposure to contaminants present at and/or migrating from the site.

Public health actions taken and/or planned include the following: (1) Active private drinking water supply wells have been tested for site-related contaminants, (2) Health education has been provided to residents of two homes involving exposure to lead in drinking water from household plumbing, (3) security measures have been taken and are planned which should prevent contact by trespassers to contaminated media at the site, (4) The selected clean-up remedy for the site will reduce or eliminate exposure to contaminated media at and/or migrating from the site.

BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

All figures and tables in this public health assessment are in Appendices A and B, respectively.

The disposal of wastes and/or past illegal activities at the Hertel Landfill site have left the soils, groundwater and surface water contaminated. In 1976, the Ulster County Department of Health (UC DOH) revoked Hertel Landfill site's landfill permit for a variety of violations, among which were allegations of illegal industrial dumping. This UC DOH action and a Town of Plattekill ordinance prohibiting the dumping of out of town garbage resulted in the permanent closing of the landfill in March 1977.

Following closure of the site, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and the New York State Department of Law (NYS DOL), filed suit for cleanup of the landfill. In 1981, at the direction of NYS DEC, five groundwater monitoring wells were installed at the site. Based on the results of this monitoring, the NYS DEC placed the Hertel Landfill site on the New York State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites. In 1983, the site was recommended for inclusion on the National Priorities List (NPL) by the NYS DEC. In October 1984, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) proposed the Hertel Landfill site for inclusion on the NPL. The site was placed on the NPL in June 1986. In June 1989, a Preliminary Health Assessment (PHA) was issued for the site; it was prepared by the NYS DOH under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). A Remedial Investigation (RI) was conducted at the site from September 1989 through October 1990 by TAMS Consultants, Inc. and TRC Environmental Consultants, Inc., under contract with the US EPA. Remedial Investigations follow preliminary site investigations conducted by State and/or federal agencies that verify hazardous wastes are present and that the wastes pose a significant threat to public health or the environment. The Remedial Investigation is carried out to determine the nature and extent of contamination. A draft RI report and a draft Feasibility Study (FS) report were completed in February and March 1991, respectively. The final RI/FS reports for the site were released for public comment in July, 1991. The Feasibility Study uses RI information to develop alternative remedial actions that will eliminate the threat to public health or the environment posed by the site. A public meeting was conducted by US EPA on August 14, 1991 to gather public comment on the selected clean-up remedy for the site. The US EPA issuance of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the site, dated September 27, 1991, marks the completion and approval of the RI/FS. The US EPA maintains the role of lead agency for the site.

The Hertel Landfill site is located in the Town of Plattekill, Ulster County, New York, just south of US Route 44/NY Route 55 (Figure 1). The landfill area occupies about 13 acres of an 80-acre parcel.

Abundant vegetation covers most of the property, with the exception of limited portions of the landfill. The landfill is located near the center of the property and is covered with rocky soil with patches of grass and small shrubs. Exposed wastes consisting of household refuse are present on the landfill surface at several areas. Wetlands border the property to the north, south and east. A small, unnamed stream crosses the southern and eastern area of the property and flows in a northeasterly direction, bordering the east side of the landfill.

The Hertel Landfill was opened in 1963 as a municipal waste landfill. Until 1975, the landfill was operated as a family business. Around 1970, Dutchess Sanitation Services, Inc. (DSSI) began transporting refuse from Dutchess County to the Hertel Landfill. In 1975, the landfill was purchased by DSSI. After the permanent closure of the landfill in March, 1977, ownership of the site was passed from DSSI through two subsequent parties (a partnership known as F.I.C.A. and then to Hudson Valley Environmental Services, Inc.) to its current owner, Environmental Landfills, Inc., based in Middletown, New York. Landfilling operations are no longer occurring.

Although no records exist regarding either the quantities or types of wastes disposed at the landfill, federal, state and local authorities have identified a number of waste disposal areas including:

    Disposal Area #1: engine block and oil waste materials
    Disposal Area #2: trailer wreckage and scattered drums
    Disposal Area #3: oil stain area and sanitary waste
    Disposal Area #4: farm equipment debris
    Disposal Area #5: printing waste
    Disposal Area #6: fibrous material piles
    Disposal Area #7: paint waste and municipal waste
    Disposal Area #8: possible rubber waste

The locations of these wastes are shown in Figure 2.

B. Actions Implemented During the Public Health Assessment Process

Hazard warning signs have been posted by US EPA at various appropriate locations on the site perimeter as of September 1, 1991. This action was taken in response to public concerns raised at the August 14, 1991 public meeting held by US EPA for the Hertel Landfill site.

The NYS DOH has provided health education to the residents of two homes from which tap water samples have been taken and revealed the presence of lead attributed to household plumbing. The residents were informed of practical measures to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water which include using fully-flushed water for drinking and cooking and always drawing water for ingestion from the cold water tap.

C. Site Visit

On November 27, 1985, Mr. Richard Tuers and Mr. Jacob Khaikin of the NYS DOH inspected the site. During the site inspection, areas of on-site surface contamination were observed including exposed wastes, stained soils, industrial-type odors and multi-colored seepage entering the adjacent wetlands. Tire tracks indicated site use, possibly by hunters. Access to the site is by an unpaved road which leads south from NY Route 55 directly toward the center of the site. A locked, metal farm gate is across this access road at the entrance to the site; however, there is no perimeter fence. Three other cleared paths, trails or former roads, lead from the site to the south, southwest and northwest. The site is accessible for recreation, such as walking or hunting.

On June 25, 1991, Mr. John Olm, Ms. Maureen Reynolds and Mr. Mark Knudsen of the NYS DOH visited the site. Similar conditions were noted at the site except no odors or seepage were seen entering the adjacent wetlands. No evidence of recent site use was noted.

The area which contains the landfill serves as the watershed (estimated to be 180 acres) for the stream draining the site. Areas occupied by surface water bodies and associated wetlands cover about 10.3 acres or 13 percent of the total 80-acre land parcel. These surface water bodies consist of a 5.8 acre pond and wetland located west of the entrance road to the site; a 2.2 acre wetland area in the southwestern portion of the site; and a stream and associated 2.3 acres of wetlands which extend off-site to the east. All three water bodies ultimately drain off site to the east via a small stream and wetland. Surface water exiting the watershed area continues to flow through a series of unnamed and named streams which discharge into Black Creek. Black Creek meanders through a series of lakes, ponds and wetlands before discharging into the Hudson River, ten miles northeast of the site, near Esopus, New York.

The topography of the site is generally flat with a gentle overall slope to the east from hills to the west, south and southeast.

D. Demographics, Land Use and Natural Resource Use

According to 1982 data, about 1,350 people live within 3 miles of the site, all of whom derive their drinking water from individual wells. There are about 150 buildings and 500 people residing within 1 mile of the site. The nearest buildings to the landfill are 5 to 6 houses located on US Route 44/NY Route 55, within 1,200 feet of the site. The nearest public school is the Highland High School, which is in the Highland School District, located about three miles northeast of the site.

The area surrounding the site (including the site) is zoned residential, although a small industry is located to the west, adjacent to the site. The Town of Plattekill, in which the landfill is situated, occupies 35 square miles and is located in southeastern Ulster County in the Mid-Hudson region of New York State, about 15 miles north of Newburgh, New York (see Figure 3). Since 1970, Plattekill has grown from a population of 4,458 to a town with a projected 1990 population of 10,000. Because of this growth, Plattekill is instituting an environmental review process for future development in an effort to maintain the Town's present mix of land uses, a majority of which is residential, and to preserve Plattekill's rural ambience.

Plattekill is a recreational area, characteristic of the Catskill region of New York State. Hunting and fishing are popular pastimes for local residents. "Rod and Gun Clubs" function as year round social organizations. Plattekill has an active agricultural community and is a large producer of apples. A significant portion of the Town's land area lies within three designated agricultural districts.

E. Health Outcome Data

NYS DOH has not evaluated health outcome data specific for the Hertel Landfill or the Town of Plattekill. However, NYS DOH maintains several outcome data bases which could be used to generate site specific data, if warranted.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

Citizens are involved with the Hertel Landfill site. Residents have been officially organized as the Concerned Citizens of Plattekill (CCOP) for 15 years and their concern about the site dates back to 1965. Most residents of Plattekill are concerned primarily with potential groundwater contamination at the site and nearby areas, especially since all drinking water for the residents of Plattekill comes from private wells. There is general concern about protecting the area's groundwater for future generations and fear that the water supply is already contaminated by chemicals illegally dumped at the landfill. Residents are also concerned about the flow of leachate away from the site into Black Creek and past the Highland High School, three miles downstream. Concerns have also been raised regarding the relationship between the Hertel Landfill site and the incidence and location of cancer-related deaths, miscarriages and birth defects in the population that live downgradient of the site. They are also concerned about the lack of a fence around the site and fear that new people in the town may enter the landfill and be exposed to serious health hazards. An additional concern involves the potential that combustible and explosive chemicals and drums may have been landfilled at the site and that this risk (fire and explosions) may increase if the contents of the landfill are disturbed during remedial activities. Furthermore, the local Fire Department has raised concerns as to what hazards firefighters may face if they have to fight a fire on the landfill.

On January 11, 1993, the NYS DOH sent copies of the public health assessment for the Hertel Landfill site to all known interested parties requesting concerns and comments on the report by February 8, 1993. The responses to the public comments received by the NYS DOH are included in Appendix C.



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