PETITIONED PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
METRO GAS STATION
FLANDERS, SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK
Metro Gas Station is an automotive service station located in the Bay View Pines community of Flanders, New York. Community concerns are focused on a gasoline leak that was detected in 1992 after two underground storage tanks were removed from the site earlier that year. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the leaking underground storage tanks contaminated on- and off-site groundwater. Community members are concerned about the public health effects associated with Metro Gas Station, and they are specifically concerned about the ingestion of contaminated groundwater. This public health assessment addresses community health concerns related to the site and evaluates existing environmental data, both on- and off-site.
A review of groundwater monitoring well data showed significant on- and off-site groundwater contamination with several VOCs. However, sampling results from private wells near Metro Gas Station indicated that the levels of VOCs detected in private wells were not at levels of health concern. At four of these locations, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) installed new, deeper private wells to protect drinking water from the possibility of further contamination by fuel-related chemicals. In the past, tap water samples from the private well at Metro Gas Station contained several VOCs, although human exposure to this drinking water was infrequent. More recent sampling data for this private well show no further impact by VOCs. In the past, gasoline vapors were detected in the basement and bathroom of a home near Metro Gas Station. The basement was ventilated and currently does not have gasoline vapors in indoor air.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) classifies Metro Gas Station as a "No Apparent Public Health Hazard" based on the low VOC levels that were detected in residential indoor air and private wells in the past, and the infrequent exposure to VOCs in the tap water from Metro Gas Station.
The Metro Gas Station in the Bay View Pines community of Flanders, New York is an automotive fueling and service station that has been in operation since 1972. In March 1998, Congressman Michael Forbes petitioned ATSDR to evaluate the potential public health impacts at the site . A gasoline leak at Metro Gas Station contaminated the groundwater and community members believe the contamination is associated with heart disease and various cancer cases of people living in Flanders . ATSDR staff members visited the site in July 1998 and met with Congressman Forbes' staff, the Bay View Pines residents, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to collect environmental data, and identify community concerns for a public health assessment . The purpose of this public health assessment is to assess the potential public health implications related to the site by evaluating existing on- and off-site environmental data and addressing community health concerns.
Metro Gas Station is located in a residential area with the nearest residence being approximately 75 feet from the site. In 1993, SCDHS received a complaint that the drinking water at the Metro Gas Station tasted and smelled like gasoline . Later that year, NYSDEC received a complaint of fuel vapors in the basement of a home adjacent to the site. NYSDEC discovered that a gasoline spill occurred at Metro Gas Station from two underground storage tanks (USTs) that had been previously removed . This gasoline spill impacted the groundwater . The exact date of the gasoline spill is unknown; however, it is suspected to have occurred between 1989 and 1992. NYSDEC estimated that 100 to 1,000 gallons of gasoline were released from the USTs . NYSDEC conducted an investigation to determine the extent of the groundwater contamination by drilling groundwater monitoring wells.
SCDHS began sampling private wells near the Metro Gas Station in 1993 (after receiving the complaint about the odor from the tap water) to determine if VOCs had impacted the potable water quality. Houses were selected for testing based on location (along Long Neck Boulevard and Cedar Avenue) and extent of groundwater contamination. Benzene, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), xylene, trichloroethane, tetramethylbenzene, and 1-methethylbenzene were detected in the drinking water at residential homes near the site . The concentrations of some of these chemicals were above New York drinking water standards. These chemicals are discussed further in the Extent of Contamination section of this document. NYSDEC installed four new, deeper private wells at four locations near the site that had the highest concentrations of fuel-related chemicals to protect drinking water from the possibility of further contamination by fuel-related chemicals. These private wells are tested every three months for VOCs. In 1998, more than half of the homes in Flanders were connected to a public water supply .
In 1994, the owners of Metro Gas Station, with supervision of NYSDEC, installed an on-site pump-and-treat groundwater remediation system to remove fuel-related chemicals from the groundwater . The treatment system recovers contaminated groundwater from on-site recovery wells, treats the groundwater, returns the treated water to the aquifer, and disposes of the contaminants. The treatment system had several malfunctions since its installation and the system design has been modified several times. In January 1998, an improved groundwater remediation system began operating. The new treatment system consists of three recovery wells that pump contaminated groundwater into two air strippers. The air strippers remove fuel-related chemicals more effectively than the previous pump-and-treat system did, and return the treated groundwater to the Upper Glacial Aquifer. Currently, this treatment system is operating effectively and complete remediation of the groundwater is expected within five years . There are also five on-site and seven off-site monitoring wells that are being sampled every three months to determine the extent of the groundwater contamination plume and the effectiveness of the remediation.
The primary concern of the residents of Flanders is the presence of VOCs in their private wells and its association with cancer and heart disease in the community. The residents are concerned that VOCs from the gasoline leak may migrate further in the groundwater and affect additional private wells. Community residents are also concerned about additional sources of possible environmental contamination in Flanders. These sites include: the Suffolk County Golf Course, the Riverhead Sewage Treatment Plant, the Lebanon Chemical Plant, and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. ATSDR reviewed information pertaining to each of these sites and addressed a variety of concerns mentioned by community members in Appendix C.
There are 990 people living within a one mile radius of Metro Gas Station (Appendix A) . The population is 93% white, 5% black, and 2% Hispanic. Of the total population, 11% are under age 6 years old and 15% are age 65 years and older. In 1990 there were 229 females of reproductive age (15-44 years) in the area. In 1989 the median household income for this area was $41,397 in 1989 with 2% living below poverty level.
There are 535 people living in the Bay View Pines community . The population is 96% white, 2% black, and 2% Asian. Of the total Bay View Pines population, 10% are children under age 6; 18% (96 persons) are adults age 65 years and older; and 21% (113 persons) are females of reproductive age.
The following sections contain an evaluation of the available environmental data pertaining to the Metro Gas Station. In preparing this evaluation, ATSDR staff members used established methodologies for determining how people may be exposed to potential contamination related to the site and what harmful effects, if any, may result from such exposure. For a further discussion of these methodologies, and the methods of selecting contaminants for further evaluation, refer to Appendix E.
There are two primary aquifers in Flanders that are used as potable water sources: the Upper Glacial and the Magothy Aquifers. The Upper Glacial Aquifer is a shallow formation extending from ground surface to 150 to 200 feet below ground surface and is considered an unconfined aquifer. Below the Upper Glacial Aquifer is the Magothy Aquifer, which is separated from the Upper Glacial Aquifer by a 40-foot clay layer and is considered a confined aquifer. This clay layer retards or inhibits the movement of fluids (e.g., water and/or other liquids) into the Magothy Aquifer. The direction of groundwater flow in the vicinity of the Metro Gas Station is variable but generally north to northeast towards Goose Creek .
Most homes in the area have their own private wells, which draw groundwater from the Upper Glacial Aquifer. In the spring of 1998, the town of Southampton installed municipal water lines in the Bay View Pines area and in other communities in Flanders. The water lines were needed because of the area's population density and associated drinking water quality unrelated to Metro Gas Station . Approximately 248 homes are currently connected to municipal water. The municipality that supplies drinking water to Bay View Pines and other areas of Flanders draws groundwater from the deeper Magothy Aquifer .
Sampling results from five on-site monitoring wells and seven off-site monitoring wells have shown that groundwater has been contaminated with VOCs consisting of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, MTBE, tetramethylbenzene, and 1-methethylbenzene . Groundwater contamination at the Metro Gas Station has migrated to areas off-site, as well as caused vertical contamination of the Upper Glacial Aquifer .
Quarterly (or every three months) on-and off-site monitoring well results from 1993 to 1998 showed xylene concentrations ranging from nondetectable levels to 19,872 parts per billion (ppb) and MTBE concentrations ranging from nondetectable levels to 500,000 ppb. There has been a gradual decrease in the xylene and MTBE levels since remediation began in 1994. An evaluation of the off-site monitoring well results from 1998 showed that the VOC levels were not of public health concern . All groundwater monitoring wells are for monitoring purposes only and are not used as potable water sources; therefore, the VOC levels in these wells are not used to evaluate human exposure.
Private drinking water wells are the primary source of potable water for businesses and residences near Metro Gas Station. In 1993 SCDHS identified 30 private wells and ordered that the wells be tested for inorganic chemicals, VOCs, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides. By 1998, eight additional private wells were tested, resulting in a total of 38 private wells identified. The sampling results are located in Appendix B, Table 1. ATSDR reviewed the groundwater sampling data to evaluate if ingestion or dermal contact with contaminants in the groundwater would cause any potential health effects in humans.
Xylene and MTBE were detected in 12 of 38 private wells tested near the Metro Gas Station from 1993 to 1997. The concentration range for xylene was 0 to 3 parts per billion (ppb); the concentration range for MTBE was 0 to 120 ppb. These levels do not pose a threat to health. Benzene was detected above ATSDR's comparison value(1) in one of the 30 private wells in 1993 . Comparison values (CVs) are used as screening tools to determine chemicals that need further evaluation; CVs do not represent chemical concentrations that cause health effects. Trichloroethane was also detected in 2 private wells in 1993 and tetramethylbenzene and 1-methethylbenzene were detected in 2 other private wells; however, the concentrations were below ATSDR CVs and other federal drinking water standards. Four private wells near the site contained the highest levels of VOCs. New wells were drilled deeper at these locations in 1993 to ensure uncontaminated drinking water. After 1993 no contaminants in private wells were detected above ATSDR CVs . The benzene that was detected in one private well in 1993 had a concentration of 2 ppb, and the ATSDR CV is 1 ppb. The ATSDR screening value for benzene is based on a lifetime exposure (i.e., 70+ years). In this case, benzene was not detected after 1993. Thus, the maximum length of exposure would be a period of four years (if the leak occurred in 1989 and migrated to the private well shortly thereafter). This particular well was at one of those locations mentioned previously in this document where a new well was drilled into a deeper aquifer to eliminate any exposure to benzene. Therefore, no adverse health effects (including heart disease and cancer) are expected to occur as a result of groundwater consumption from private wells near Metro Gas Station.
More than half of the homes in Flanders converted to municipal water in 1998 . The residents near the Metro Gas Station who still use private wells as a potable water source should continue to have their wells tested for fuel-related chemicals at least annually . For information about the chemicals detected in private wells, please refer to Appendix C.
Metro Gas Station has a private well that supplies potable water to the facility. SCDHS received a complaint in 1993 stating that the water from the sink at the gas station smelled and tasted like gasoline. After receiving the complaint, SCDHS promptly collected a water sample from the sink faucet at the gas station and tested the sample for inorganic chemicals, VOCs, and pesticides. Benzene, toluene, 1,2-dibromoethane, methylethylbenzene, n-propylbenzene, and 1,2,4,5-tetramethylbenzene were detected at levels above ATSDR CVs for drinking water (Appendix B, Table 2). Based on the levels of fuel-related chemicals in this private well (they were above NYSDOH drinking water standards), SCDHS sent a letter to Metro Gas Station recommending that tap water from their private well not be used as potable water .
The comparison values that were used to evaluate potential human exposures to this water have large safety factors built in, and are based on chronic, lifetime exposure. Actual consumption of the water from this source occurred for a much shorter time period and was most likely intermittent rather than chronic. It is not likely that the tap water from the gas station was used frequently as a potable water source. The water had a distinct odor and SCDHS notified the owners and workers that harmful chemicals had been detected in the tap water.
Another water sample taken from the gas station's sink faucet was tested in 1997 and 1998. These samples showed no chemicals above ATSDR CVs for drinking water. Zinc was detected in the tap water, but not at levels high enough to be of health concern. The detection of zinc in the tap water was probably due to the plumbing fixtures or well casing; therefore, SCDHS recommended that water from the sink faucet be allowed to run for several minutes before using water from the faucet for consumption. There were no records of additional tap water samples taken between 1993 and 1997. SCDHS suspects that the private well serving drinking water at the Metro Gas Station was drilled deeper between 1993 and 1997 because no contaminants were detected in later water samples; however, county and state health officials cannot confirm this . Based on intermittent exposures to the chemicals detected in the private well at the Metro Gas Station in 1993, ATSDR concludes that adverse health effects are unlikely to occur from using water from this well.
Subsurface soil was analyzed for organic vapors from 14 on-site locations . Based on the presence of organic vapors, soil samples were collected at depths ranging from 2 to 20 feet and analyzed for VOCs and SVOCs. Xylene, toluene, and MTBE were detected in the soil near the tankpit area, where the USTs were removed . The contaminated soil is being remediated by soil vapor extraction, a process in which VOCs are removed and recovered from the soil . ATSDR evaluated the soil sampling data and determined there were no VOCs detected in the on-site soil at levels of public health concern . Therefore, ATSDR concludes that human contact with the on-site soil would not result in adverse health effects.
In 1992, SCDHS received a complaint of fuel odors detected by a resident in the house nearest Metro Gas Station. Upon investigation, SCDHS detected 6 ppb of benzene in the indoor air of the house's unfinished basement and in a bathroom located above the basement . These levels were reported to NYSDEC and a venting system was immediately installed in the house to eliminate the fuel odors . After the venting system was installed, indoor air sampling showed no evidence of VOCs in the home . The initial benzene concentration of 6 ppb in the indoor air would have occurred for a brief amount of time and caused an intermittent (occasional) exposure. Also, this benzene concentration is below ATSDR's health guideline for brief exposure . Therefore, ATSDR concludes that human exposure to concentrations of benzene detected in the indoor air for short periods of time is not expected to result in adverse health effects.
ATSDR considers infants and children in the evaluation of all potential exposures to hazardous substances. Infants and children are at greater risk than adults from certain kinds of exposure to hazardous substances emitted from waste sites and emergency events. Infants and children are more likely to be exposed for several reasons: (1) children play outside more often than adults, increasing their likelihood to contact chemicals in the environment; (2) children are shorter than adults, causing them to breathe more dust, soil, and heavy vapors close to the ground; (3) children are smaller than adults, resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure for their body weight; and (4) children's developing body systems can sustain damage if toxic exposures occur during certain growth stages.
Many children live in the town of Flanders and in the Bay View Pines community adjacent to the Metro Gas Station. ATSDR closely reviewed possible exposure situations to children while evaluating environmental data pertaining to Metro Gas Station; however, ATSDR did not identify any exposures to children that are likely to result in adverse health effects.
Residents of Flanders expressed concern that the groundwater contamination associated with the Metro Gas Station would result in an increased incidence of cancer and heart disease in the community. ATSDR reviewed available cancer data that were obtained from the New York State Cancer Registry . Heart disease is not a reportable disease, therefore incidence rates are not tracked in a database or registry in New York. The concentrations of the chemicals detected in private wells were not at levels of public health concern, the time frame of possible exposure was four years, and these chemicals detected are not known to be linked to heart disease .
NYSDOH Cancer Registry collect data on the number of people who have been diagnosed with cancer each year and classify these cancer cases into different categories (e.g., skin, liver, breast, prostate, colon, etc.) that is usually defined by the type of cell affected in the body. Depending on the available data, the rate of specific types of cancer can be determined for certain populations within a state, an entire state population, or within the entire United States population. The New York State Cancer Registry has collected information on all reported new cancer cases diagnosed in the state since 1975. Cancer "incidence" is the number of newly diagnosed cases of cancer during a particular time period, usually in years. This number is compared to a population in which the cancer rates are stable and represent the normal number expected in a population of a particular size. ATSDR reviewed health statistics from a publication prepared by the Brookhaven National Laboratory entitled Evaluation of Allegations of Contamination and Risk Associated with the Operation of Brookhaven National Laboratory, Part I: Epidemiology. This document evaluated the cancer incidence in many communities in Suffolk County, including Flanders, by census tract. Based on the data reviewed, ATSDR provides the following summary:
Age adjusted cancer incidence rates were calculated for 11 cancer types by sex in census tracts of Suffolk County. In other words, the observed number of new cases of a particular type of cancer that was reported to have occurred in the residents from 1988-1993 was compared to the statewide average and Nassau County average age-adjusted incidence rate for the same time period. The report identified a statistical increase in the rate of female breast cancer in the eastern end of Suffolk County (2 miles further east of the Bay View Pines community) when compared to rates for the state and Nassau County. This was the only cancer type that was identified as elevated in Suffolk County. There was no elevation in breast cancer rates near Metro Gas Station.
Cancer is a complex disease that often involves multiple "risk" factors, such as environment, lifestyle (e.g., smoking, drinking, and diet), prevention screening (health checkups), and family medical history. The report defined its limitations and biases in that the evaluation did not account for any of these "risk" factors. Furthermore, apparent increases or decreases in cancer incidence over time may reflect changes in diagnostic methods or case reporting rather than true changes in cancer incidence. Likewise, analyzing cancer patterns by city or census tract may be arbitrary and an inexact way of assessing the relationship between geographical location and cancer. For example, the city or town shown on a death certificate, or even in the New York State Cancer Registry, may not be where the person resided most of his or her life. Nevertheless, the analysis of cancer patterns in certain towns or cities may help define areas to target for further health care strategies.
Because specific environmental exposures and other health risk factors are not known, ATSDR cannot conclude any association between contaminants at the Metro Gas Station and the incidence or mortality of cancer in Suffolk County. While the reasons for the reported increased number of cases of female breast cancer are unknown at this time, there was no plausible link identified between the ingestion of the chemicals detected in the private wells, the time frame of exposure, and breast cancer .
- ATSDR concluded that there were no site-related groundwater exposures at levels of public health concern. The groundwater contamination at Metro Gas Station that was detected in some of the off-site private wells in the past is not expected to cause adverse health effects.
- Although elevated female breast cancer incidence was identified in Suffolk County (two miles east of Metro Gas Station), there is no association between increased breast cancer incidence and the groundwater contamination associated with Metro Gas Station.
- Based on the information reviewed, past exposure to groundwater contamination in private wells is not expected to result in heart disease.
- There are no exposures to the contaminated soil or air from Metro Gas Station that pose a public health threat in the past and the present.
ATSDR uses one of five conclusion categories to summarize our findings of the site. These categories are: 1) Urgent Public Health Hazard, 2) Public Health Hazard, 3) Indeterminate Health Hazard, 4) No Apparent Public Health Hazard, and 5) No Public Health Hazard. A category is selected from site specific conditions such as the degree of public health hazard based on the presence and duration of human exposure, contaminant concentration, the nature of toxic effects associated with site related contaminants, presence of physical hazards, and community health concerns. Based on these criteria, ATSDR determined that Metro Gas Station is presently a No Apparent Public Health Hazard based on the low levels of VOCs detected in private wells, the low levels of VOCs detected in residential indoor air (that were eventually eliminated), the intermittent contact with the tap water from Metro Gas Station in the past, and the fuel-related chemicals that are being detected in the monitoring wells.
- Continue analyzing groundwater from the four private wells located nearest the Metro Gas Station for all fuel-related chemicals at least annually to detect any occurrence of contaminant migration to the potable water supply. Property owners should be notified in advance when these private wells will be sampled.
- Analyze the private well servicing Metro Gas Station for all fuel-related chemicals at least annually to detect any occurrence of further contamination to the potable water supply.
- Continue analyzing groundwater quarterly at on- and off-site monitoring wells to determine further contaminant migration and the effectiveness of the groundwater remediation system.
- Maintain the groundwater remediation system to ensure proper efficiency and working order.
- Impose groundwater restrictions to prevent future drilling of private wells in the area of the contaminated groundwater plume.
The actions described in this section are designed to ensure that this public health assessment identifies public health hazards and provides a plan of action to mitigate and prevent adverse health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.
- SCDHS and NYSDEC initiated a site investigation of the Metro Gas Station; which entailed sampling of soil, soil gas, ambient air, indoor air, and groundwater to characterize the extent of the fuel spill at Metro Gas Station.
- SCDHS and NYSDEC tested private wells in the vicinity of the Metro Gas Station to determine if VOCs impacted drinking water quality and to define the extent of groundwater contamination.
- The four locations near the Metro Gas Station with the highest VOC levels were provided new wells that were drilled into a deeper aquifer by the NYSDEC to ensure groundwater water quality.
- ATSDR held a public informational meeting in July 1998 to provide information to local residents and to record their concerns regarding Metro Gas Station.
- ATSDR evaluated all existing environmental data pertaining to Metro Gas Station as a basis for this public health assessment.
- The contaminated groundwater at Metro Gas Station is currently undergoing groundwater remediation via air stripping. This remediation is expected to be completed within five years.
- SCDHS and NYSDEC continue to sample four private wells nearest the Metro Gas Station quarterly to detect any occurrence of contamination to the potable water supply.
- ATSDR will conduct a public availability session during the public comment period.
- ATSDR will initiate health education activities to community members.
- ATSDR will review additional environmental data if site conditions change.
Kimberly K. Chapman, MSEH
Environmental Health Scientist
Reviewers of Report:
John Steward, MPH
David Sutton, PhD
Review and Approval of This Public Health Assessment for Metro Gas Station
Environmental Health Scientist, DHAC, EICB, PRS
Section Chief, DHAC, EICB, PRS
Branch Chief, DHAC, EICB
- Petition letter from Congressman Michael Forbes to John Steward of ATSDR. 1998.
- Information Sheet for Flanders Metro Gasoline Station. 1998. New York State Department of Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
- Personal communication between Maribel Feliciano of ATSDR and Joe Haas of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. August 10 and 17, 1998.
- Kuehner, Wendy. June 22, 1998. Petition Scoping Report for Metro Gas Station, Flanders, NY. New York State Health Department. Stony Brook, NY 11790.
- United States Bureau of the Census. 1990. Census of Population and Housing: Summary Tape File 1B. U.S. Department of Commerce.
- Fanning, Phillips, and Molnar. January 1997. Site Investigation Report for the Metro Station. Ronkonkoma, NY 11779.
- Letter from Joseph Haas II of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to Arthur Block of ATSDR. December 22, 1998.
- Tyree Brothers Environmental Services, Inc. 1995. Metro Service Station. Farmingdale, NY 11735.
- County of Suffolk Department of Health Services. March 22, 1994. Summary of private well sampling results.
- Letter from Robert Farmer of Suffolk County Department of Health Services to Maribel Feliciano of ATSDR. August 5, 1998.
- Tyree Brothers Environmental Services, Inc. 1997. Quarterly Monitoring Report for Metro Gas Station. January 1, 1997 through March 31, 1997.
- ATSDR Record of Activity. October 30, 1998. Incoming phone call from Bob Farmer of Suffolk County Department of Health Services to Kimberly K. Chapman of ATSDR regarding the private well at Metro Gas Station.
- Environmental Testing Laboratories, Inc. January 9, 1997. Case Narrative: Metro Service Station. Farmingdale, NY 11735.
- Pedneault Associates, Inc. Testing Laboratories. October 3, 1997. Project ID: 19 Longneck Blvd. Flanders, NY, Lab Number: 122899.
- ATSDR Air Comparison Values. December 31, 1997.
- Grimson, Roger and Dawn Triche. January 26, 1998. Evaluation of Allegations of Contamination and Risk Associated with the Operation of Brookhaven National Laboratory, Part I: Epidemiology. Report to the Suffolk County Legislature from the Brookhaven National Laboratory Environmental Task Force.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. August 1994. Toxicological Profile for Methyl tert-Butyl Ether. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Atlanta, GA.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. August 1994. Toxicological Profile for Automotive Gasoline. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Atlanta, GA.
1. For a complete discussion of ATSDR Comparison Values, refer to Appendix E