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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

ISLIP MUNICIPAL SANITARY LANDFILL
(a/k/a BLYDENBURGH ROAD LANDFILL)
HAUPPAUGE, SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK

SUMMARY

The Islip Landfill site (also known as the Blydenburgh Landfill), which is on the National Priorities List (NPL), is in the Town of Islip, Suffolk County, New York. The Town of Islip has owned and operated this facility since operations began in 1963. The landfill was permitted to receive household and commercial wastes.

On-site and off-site groundwater is contaminated with chlorinated solvents. As many as 18 private water supply wells downgradient from the landfill are contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Due to the contamination of private wells, the Town of Islip connected homes near the landfill to public water in 1981.

In late 1979 and during the early part of 1980, the Town's consultant determined that soil gas was migrating from the landfill onto neighboring properties. Two homes on Woods Edge Court, about 50 and 100 feet from the eastern border of the landfill, were abandoned and purchased by the Town in 1979 due to explosive levels of methane in the basements. In the spring of 1980, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) detected vinyl chloride in the basement of the abandoned home closest to the landfill. This home was never reoccupied and was later demolished. In 1983, the Town installed a gas control system to prevent the off-site migration of landfill gas. This system has been continuously updated as needed.

Based on the information reviewed and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) criteria (see Appendix E), the Islip Landfill was a public health hazard in the past. This level of public health hazard is based on evidence of past exposure to site-related contaminants in private drinking water and indoor air.

To reduce the possibility of exposure to contaminants from the landfill, the Town of Islip provided public water to homes near the landfill. In addition, landfill gas collection/control systems constructed on the perimeter of the site and included in the landfill cap constructed in 1993 will reduce the potential for soil gas migration and the release of site-related contaminants to the air. The results of the most recent off-site soil gas monitoring indicate that the control systems are preventing the off-site migration of soil gas.

As a result of these remedial activities, this site currently poses no apparent public health hazard since there are no known exposures occurring to levels of contaminants that are likely to cause health effects. The NYS DOH has recommended that (1) the operation and maintenance of the gas collection/control system should be continuously evaluated to eliminate or significantly reduce the potential for the off-site migration of soil gas and release of site-related contaminants in air, and (2) potable water should be provided to any home in the path of the groundwater plume which was not previously connected to public water.

Remediation of this site, as provided for in the September 1992 Record of Decision, includes construction of a landfill cap and treatment of contaminated groundwater. Groundwater and air monitoring will be done to ensure compliance with standards, to evaluate the chosen remedies, and to provide an "early warning" mechanism should the groundwater contaminant plume migrate toward the Nichols Road Wellfield.

The ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendations Panel recommended follow-up health actions for the site. Because of past exposure to VOCs and methane, the panel determined that a review of health statistics is indicated. The NYS DOH is reviewing these data as part of a multi-site landfill study which includes the Islip Landfill. In addition, the panel recommended that the site be considered by the NYS DOH for inclusion in the state VOC Registry.

BACKGROUND

In cooperation with the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, ATSDR will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conduct Public Health Assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

The Islip Landfill is in the Town of Islip, Suffolk County, New York, just north of the Long Island Motor Parkway (Appendix A, Figures 1 and 2). The landfill, which is owned and operated by the Town of Islip, began operation in 1963 and was permitted to receive household and commercial wastes. Hazardous waste is alleged to have been disposed in the older, unlined portion of the landfill (Appendix A, Figure 3). Although the site occupies 107.5 acres, including buffer zones and other non-landfilled areas, the 40.9 acre portion of the landfill filled with waste prior to 1985 is the subject of the remedial investigation (RI). This older portion of the landfill was capped in 1987 with a double synthetic membrane which also serves as the bottom liner for vertical expansion of the landfill. All landfilling of municipal wastes ceased in December 1990. The complete closure program for the entire landfilled area includes capping and upgrading the existing methane recovery/control system. Groundwater and landfill gas monitoring activities will be conducted on a long-term basis (30 years or more).

In June 1978, 60 to 70, 55-gallon drums containing waste solvents from a dry cleaning operation were allegedly disposed in the landfill. This is the only documented case of hazardous material disposal at the landfill.

The Islip Landfill has contaminated groundwater and released landfill gases containing chlorinated solvents. Private wells near the landfill were sampled by the Town's consultant (H2M), the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SC DHS), the NYS DOH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) between 1978 and 1980 (Appendix B, Table 1). Volatile organic compounds were detected in 18 of 50 wells sampled. Vinyl chloride, trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene were detected in private well water samples at maximum concentrations of 77, 8 and 124 micrograms per liter (mcg/L), respectively. Based on this investigation, the Town of Islip connected homes and businesses near the site to a permanent public water supply. In August 1991, the NYS DOH and SC DHS found a three-family residence in the path of the groundwater contaminant plume that was not supplied with public water. The well water sample taken from the multi-family dwelling by the SC DHS contained tetrachloroethene, chloroform and dichlorofluoro-methane at concentrations of 18, 1 and 8 mcg/L, respectively. At the request of the NYS DOH, the Town connected the home to public water in May 1992.

In late 1979 and during the early part of 1980, the Town's consultant (H2M) determined that soil gas was migrating from the landfill onto neighboring properties. Two homes on Woods Edge Court, about 50 and 100 feet from the eastern border of the landfill, were abandoned and purchased by the Town in 1979 due to explosive levels of methane in the basements. In May of 1980, an indoor air sample taken by the NYS DOH in the basement of the home closest to the landfill contained vinyl chloride at a concentration of 0.0036 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3). This house was never reoccupied and was later demolished. In order to evaluate landfill gas quality, the Town's consultant sampled several gas vents on the landfill and detected vinyl chloride at a maximum concentration of 110 mg/m3. Indoor air samples taken in the Whippoorwill School Cafeteria in May of 1980 by H2M were reported to contain vinyl chloride at 0.260 mg/m3. In response to concerns raised over these sample results the NYS DOH and the US EPA collected indoor air samples in the school in May and June of 1980. Samples collected by the NYS DOH and the US EPA did not detect any vinyl chloride. Based on the indoor air samples collected by the NYS DOH and the US EPA, the results reported by H2M are questionable and may not be valid. The school was closed prior to the end of the school year due to concerns parents had about indoor air quality even though sampling conducted by the NYS DOH and the US EPA did not detect the presence of site-related contaminants. The school reopened in the latter part of 1980 as a day care center. In 1983, the Town installed the first phase of a gas control system to prevent the off-site migration of landfill gas.

Based on the results of the groundwater and landfill gas monitoring, the Islip Landfill was placed on the registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites in New York State by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) in 1983. In January of 1987, the site was recommended for inclusion on the National Priorities List (NPL). The site was placed on the NPL in March 1989. A remedial investigation (RI) was conducted at the site in 1990 by Geraghty and Miller, Inc., under contract with the Town of Islip. The RI was carried out to determine the exact nature and extent of contamination at and near the site. ATSDR issued a preliminary health assessment of the site on June 27, 1988. A RI report for the Islip Landfill was completed in May 1991. A record of decision (ROD) outlining the remediation of the Islip Landfill was approved in September of 1992. Remediation of the site, as provided by the ROD includes:

  • construction of the landfill cap with a geosynthetic membrane which was completed in 1993;

  • extraction and appropriate treatment of groundwater contamination with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) above 50 parts per billion (ppb);

  • evaluation and, if necessary, the modification of the existing landfill gas control systems to reduce the release of VOCs to ambient air;

  • development of an air monitoring system to ensure compliance with ambient air standards; and

  • implementation of a groundwater monitoring system to evaluate the effectiveness of the groundwater extraction/treatment system and provide an "early warning" mechanism should the contaminant plume migrate toward the Nichols Road Wellfield.

B. Public Health Actions Implemented

  1. In 1981, the Town of Islip provided public water to homes and businesses near the landfill. In August 1991, the NYS DOH and SC DHS determined that a multi-family residence within the groundwater contaminant plume was supplied by a private well. At the request of the NYS DOH, the Town connected the home to a public water supply in May 1992.

  2. Based on the available soil gas monitoring well data, the installation of the site perimeter landfill gas control systems have reduced or eliminated the off-site migration of landfill gas. In addition, the cap constructed on the landfill includes a gas collection/control system which will further reduce the potential migration of soil gas and release of site-related contaminants in air. In 1983, the first phase of a landfill gas control system was constructed at the site.

  3. The NYS DEC held a public meeting in August of 1992 to discuss the proposed remediation for this site. Representatives of the NYS DOH and the US EPA were also present.

C. Site Visit

On February 21, 1985, Mr. Anthony Forti and Mr. Richard Tuers of the NYS DOH inspected the site. Leachate had pooled on the north-eastern portion of the fill and the odor of garbage was evident. The entire site was enclosed with a seven-foot fence, topped with barbed wire. The entrance gate was locked at night and a night watchman is on duty.

On July 22, 1991, Mr. Joseph Crua, Mr. John Olm and Mr. Donald Miles of NYS DOH visited the site. As observed in 1991, the site was fenced. A garbage odor was intermittently detected on the end of Woods Edge Court. Rolite-treated incinerator ash was being stockpiled and the lined landfill cell for clean fill materials was being prepared. Rolite is a mixture of cement and incinerator ash. The addition of cement to incinerator ash acts to stabilize the ash. The rolite was placed under the landfill cap.

Since the last site visit, a cap was constructed on the landfill which includes a gas collection/control system.

D. Demographics, Land Use and National Resource Use

Demographics

Islip Landfill lies within census tract 1458.03, an area covering 2.4 square miles, within the Town of Islip. The 1990 population of census tract 1458.03 was estimated at 4431 of which 5.85 percent of the population is under 5 years of age, 24.51 percent is 5-19 years of age, 64.23 percent is 20-64 years of age and 5.42 percent is 65 years or older. The 1990 census estimated 94.99 of the population is white, 1.81 percent is Afro-American and 3.20 percent is comprised of other races. The median household income in 1989 was $54,607, with 2.2 percent of the families having income below the poverty level.

Land Use

The area surrounding the site is predominantly residential with an apartment complex northeast of the landfill. Some of the homes on Blydenburgh Road are about 100 feet from the site border. The Whippoorwill School building is about 800 feet from the northeast border of the landfill. A golf course is east of the site, across Blydenburgh Road. The land surrounding the landfill includes hills and valleys and rises about 100 feet from the north to the south end of the site.

Natural Resource Use

In the past, groundwater near the site was a source of drinking water. However, because of groundwater contamination, the area around the landfill is now served by public water. In August 1991, a single home, downgradient from the landfill was still using a private well for drinking water. This home was connected to public water in May of 1992. Three public water supply well clusters are about 1.5 miles from the landfill and serve a total of about 4,000 people.

E. Health Outcome Data

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

In April 1993, the NYS DOH completed a study of the occurrence of breast cancer on Long Island. The study has found an association between living near chemical facilities on Long Island and the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. The study found no association between residences near industry and breast cancer for pre-menopausal women. No cause and effect relationship was demonstrated. The study does not link any specific chemical site or industrial pollutant with breast cancer risk. No measurements of actual air emissions from chemical plants or individual exposure to industrial pollutants have been taken. Further investigation is necessary to verify the findings and to attempt to identify the circumstances and potential pollutants that may explain the higher incidence of breast cancer in post-menopausal women who lived near chemical sites between 1965 and 1985. The NYS DOH will continue its investigation in cooperation with the NYS DEC. Study results have also been shared with the National Cancer Institute to encourage additional follow-up studies.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

  1. During the early part of 1980, many parents refused to allow their children to attend the Whippoorwill School due to concerns about air quality inside the school building. The building is currently used as a day care center.

  2. Concerns have been raised over the migration of landfill gas onto properties and into the basements of homes bordering the landfill.

  3. During a public meeting in August 1992, concerns were raised about exposure to site-related contaminants in private drinking water supply wells.

Community health concerns will be addressed in the Community Health Concerns Evaluation section.

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