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HEALTH CONSULTATION

OLEAN WELL FIELD
OLEAN, CATTARAUGUS COUNTY, NEW YORK


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

A. Site Description and History

The Olean Well Field site, which is on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) National Priorities List (NPL), is in the City and Town of Olean, Cattaraugus County, New York. The site consists of the contaminated aquifers in the southeast portion of the City of Olean and the adjoining western portion of the Town of Olean (Appendix A, Figure 1) which have been contaminated with trichloroethene and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The purpose of this health consultation is to summarize activities undertaken to implement the recommendations in the April 1994 site review and update (SRU) for the site (NYS DOH 1994) and evaluate the public health significance of the data from those activities.

During the mid to late 1970's, the city began building potable water supply wells as part of a plan to deactivate the surface water treatment plant on Olean Creek. In January of 1981, the Cattaraugus County Health Department (CCHD) found trichloroethene and other related VOCs in three of the public water supply wells: 18M, 37M, and 38M. These wells had been used since 1974 (18M) and 1980 (37M and 38M). The city closed the three wells, reactivated the surface water treatment plant, and used water from alternate wells (St. Francis, new St. Francis, and River Road). Water from wells 18M, 37M, and 38M was mixed with surface water for use during peak demands. From March to July 1981, the CCHD detected the same contaminants in 37 residential drinking water wells in the Town of Olean. By April 1984, 27 of these wells were fitted with granular activated carbon (GAC) filters by the US EPA. In 1985, GAC filters were installed on two additional private wells. Since that time, and prior to construction of the public water supply extension in 1989, most of the remaining private wells that were contaminated were provided with GAC filters.

According to the remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) completed in 1985, three of the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are McGraw Edison Corp., AVX Ceramics Corp., and Alcas Cutlery (Appendix A, Figure 1). The PRPs conducted remedial investigations under an order on consent with the US EPA. The US EPA signed a record of decision (ROD) on September 24, 1985. The three PRPs agreed to implement remedial actions to treat the groundwater contamination in the public supply wells and to connect affected and potentially affected residents using groundwater within the site area to the public water system. Packed tower air stripping systems were installed for the three public water supply wells in October of 1989. A water line was built from the city water system and 93 affected and potentially affected town residences were connected to it in November 1989; however, some people chose not to be connected. Most, but not all, private well owners signed a statement that they would not use their private wells for drinking purposes after they were connected to the public water supply system. A supplemental remedial investigation (RI), completed in 1994 (Geraghty and Miller 1994), evaluated which area industries were sources of contamination to Olean's municipal wells 18M, 37M, and 38M (Figure 1). Based on the supplemental RI, the US EPA determined that Alcas Cutlery, Loohns Dry Cleaners and Launderers, AVX and McGraw Edison (Appendix A, Figure 1) were all sources of contamination to the municipal wells. A second ROD has been agreed upon which presents the methods of remediating these source areas. Remediation is expected to begin by the year 2000.

The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal agency which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, completed a preliminary health assessment for the Olean Well Field site in November of 1988 (NYS DOH 1988). The health assessment concluded that the site was a potential health concern because of the risk to human health from possible past and future exposures to hazardous substances in groundwater. As part of the remedial investigation for the site, soil gas samples were collected in 1991 and 1993. A review of the soil gas data indicated a potential for residents living above the plume to be exposed to site-related contaminants in soil gas.

Under a cooperative agreement with ATSDR, the NYS DOH completed a site review and update (SRU) for this site in April of 1994. The SRU concluded that the site was a public health hazard due to past exposure to trichloroethene and related VOCs in drinking water at concentrations that may cause adverse health effects. The recommendations made in the SRU for the Olean Well Field site included sampling of private water supplies, conducting health education for residents who are still drinking water from private wells in the site area, and collecting and evaluating additional soil gas data since the results from the soil gas samples collected in 1991 and 1993 were inconsistent. In March and October 1994, the US EPA collected soil gas samples around homes that were above the groundwater contaminant plume. The USEPA used the data to model whether contaminants in the groundwater could be affecting the indoor air of homes above the plume, and concluded that soil gas did not present an unacceptable risk to residents in the selected homes (USEPA 1994, 1995). However, due to uncertainties in some assumptions used in the model, the NYS DOH decided that indoor air of homes should be sampled to give the most accurate representation of indoor air quality. The NYS DOH collected indoor air samples from select homes in February 1996 to evaluate whether contaminants from the site were entering the homes through soil gas. A discussion of the results of this sampling event can be found under the "Discussion" section of this document.

To reduce the potential for exposure to chlorinated VOCs such as trichloroethene and other site-related contaminants in drinking water, residents whose private drinking water wells are within the groundwater contaminant plume were notified and encouraged to connect to the public water supply system or have their well water sampled. These wells were sampled in September 1995.

B. Site Visit and Physical Hazards

On July 16, 1997, Ms. Lani Rafferty from the NYS DOH visited the site. The site consists of portions of the City and Town of Olean and includes businesses and homes. There are no known physical hazards at the site. Access to the site is not restricted.

C. Demographics

The NYS DOH estimated from the 1990 Census (US Bureau of the Census 1990a, 1990b) that about 482 people live on the Olean Well Field site. This population is 98.1 percent of the white race and 1.9 percent of other races. Within this area 8.3 percent of the population is under 6 years of age, 15.1 percent is 6-19 years of age, 55.4 percent is 20-64 years of age and 21.2 percent is 65 years or older. In 1990 there were 100 females of reproductive age (ages 15-44 living on the site). The site is located in Zip Code 14760. The median household income in this Zip Code was $22,012 in 1989 with 15.5 percent of the population living below the poverty level.

D. Environmental Contamination and Exposure Pathways

In September 1995, the NYS DOH sampled private wells within and near the groundwater contaminant plume. The results showed that three wells contained trichloroethene at 190 micrograms per liter (mcg/L), 95 mcg/L and 23 mcg/L, respectively. 1,1,1-Trichloroethane was also detected in one of the three wells and cis-1,2 dichloroethene was detected in another of the three wells, but each were below the NYS DOH's drinking water standard of 5 mcg/L for these compounds. Previous sampling of these wells showed trichloroethene at 1,300 mcg/L (1986), 690 mcg/L (1984) and 61 mcg/L (1981), respectively. Sampling between these years was not conducted because permission to do so could not be obtained. The NYS DOH provided the homeowners with educational information on the health risks of exposure to trichloroethene and recommended that they connect to the municipal water system.

Completed exposure pathways to contaminants in drinking water supplies can occur via ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact. Dermal contact and absorption can occur during showering, bathing or other household activities. Inhalation of aerosols and vapors can occur from water used in the household. For an undetermined period of time, affected well owners have been exposed to trichloroethene in their drinking water supply. Trichloroethene was first detected in a private well as early as 1981. However, prior to 1981, it is not known how long or at what concentrations people were exposed to this contaminant. Therefore, residents may have been exposed to this contaminant in drinking water for a period of about 10 to 15 years, but possibly longer.

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, the pesticide poisoning registry, vital records (birth and death certificates) and hospital discharge information.

In response to community concerns in 1988, the NYS DOH investigated cancer incidence in the City of Olean for the time period from 1976-1986. The source of the data was the New York State Cancer Registry. The Cancer Registry contains information on all cases of cancer reported to the NYS DOH. The expected number of newly diagnosed cancer cases, by sex and type of cancer, was calculated based on the age, sex, and population density of persons in the study area. The actual observed number of newly diagnosed cancer cases, by sex and type of cancer, was counted from New York State Cancer Registry records. The investigation showed that for males there was no statistically significant difference from the expected number of newly-diagnosed cancer cases overall, and no type of cancer among males was found to differ significantly from the expected number of cases. For females, there was no statistically significant difference from the expected number of newly-diagnosed cancer cases overall. However, a smaller number of cases of cancers of the breast was observed than expected. No other type of cancer among females was significantly different than expected. The investigation concluded that overall, cancer incidence did not differ from other comparable areas of New York State between 1976 and 1986.

F. Community Health Concerns and Current Issues

In the past, some community members have been concerned about contaminants in their drinking water. Most of these concerns were addressed when public water, which is treated with an air stripper to remove the VOCS of concern, was extended to most homes with contaminated wells in 1989. Some people who have private wells within the contaminant plume have chosen not to connect to the public water system. Three of these wells contain trichloroethene above the NYS DOH's drinking water standard.

Homes and businesses in the Town of Portville, to the east of what is considered the Olean Well Field contaminant plume, also use private wells for drinking. Some residents in this area are concerned about contaminants in their drinking water supplies. These wells are sampled periodically by the CCHD and the NYS DOH. The wells of two businesses contained 1,1,1-trichloroethane up to 18 mcg/L, which is above the state drinking water standard of 5 mcg/L for this contaminant. These businesses use bottled water for drinking. Several residential wells in this area contain contaminants, but at levels below the NYS DOH drinking water standards. There are no other known community health concerns.



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