PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
PLATTSBURGH AIR FORCE BASE
PLATTSBURGH, CLINTON COUNTY, NEW YORK
Plattsburgh Air Force Base (PAFB) consisting of 3,447 acres is located in Clinton County, New York. It is bordered by the city of Plattsburgh and the Saranac River to the north and the Salmon River to the south. Lake Champlain and lakeshore communities within the town of Plattsburgh lie to the east and southeast. The base is located in a mixed-use area consisting of private residences, industrial, and commercial enterprises. Scattered residential and commercial establishments are located along State Highway 22 and Interstate 87 to the west.
PAFB was closed in September 1995 as part of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act legislation. The Air Force Base Conversion Agency is responsible for all environmental investigations and remedial actions that are ongoing. In July 1995, the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation (PARC) officially became the local redevelopment agency and in conjunction with AFBCA is responsible for the redevelopment and reuse of the base. PARC currently has care-taking authority of the base property.
During the time the base was in operation, from the 1800s through 1995, hazardous materials have been used, stored, disposed and accidentally released into the environment. The hazardous materials include fuels, solvents, pesticides, paints, and household waste.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) evaluated the environmental information to determine the potential for human exposure at all areas on and off base where hazardous substances were used, stored, disposed and accidentally released into the environment. From our evaluation, we identified six exposure situations.Four of the six exposure situations pose No Apparent Public Health Hazard because people exposed to contaminants at the low levels present are not likely to experience adverse health effects as a result of their exposure. The other two situations represent potential future exposures and pose No Public Health Hazard because no exposure has occurred or is occurring, and future contaminant levels are not expected to be high enough to result in adverse health effects even if exposure were to occur. One of the exposure situations resulted from an off-base contamination source and were not related to PAFB activities.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard
We concluded that four exposure situations pose No Apparent Public Health Hazard. Those included:
Kemp Lane Neighborhood - Past and Current Exposure to Contaminated Drinking Water (Off-base)
Runway Drive Neighborhood - Past, Current, and Future Exposure to Contaminated Drinking Water and Possible Indoor Air (Off-base)
Flightline/Golf Course Drainage - Past, Current, and Future Exposure to Contaminated Surface Water (Off-base Cliff Haven Community)
Fire Training Area FT-002 - Current Exposure to Contaminated Groundwater and Possible Indoor Air Contamination (On-base Buildings)
In the off-base Kemp Lane neighborhood, low levels of volatile organic compounds were detected in private drinking water wells in 1990. Contaminants present in drinking water wells are below federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards and have remained consistently low for the last ten years. Because the source of the contamination has not been determined, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Health, and the Clinton County Department of Health have worked cooperatively to reduce exposures by installing a home filtration system on the homes using private wells. State and local agencies sampled private drinking water wells off base and PAFB sampled monitoring wells on-base to determine if base contamination had migrated off base. During the investigations, three of the on-base areas closest to neighborhood were found not to have contaminated groundwater in the neighborhood. PAFB plans to install additional monitoring wells to help determine if any contaminants on-base are migrating to Kemp Lane, off-base.
In the Runway Drive neighborhood, private drinking water wells were contaminated with low levels of fuel components caused by leaks in underground fuel storage tanks at an off-base gas station. NYSDEC, in coordination with the gas station company, managed the clean up of the contamination, which ended in 1998, and sampling of the neighborhood wells. The Runway Drive neighborhood sits downhill, but not directly down gradient of the gas station and the on-base landfill (LF-023). Groundwater and soil gas sampling conducted by PAFB in conjunction with the landfill investigation and closure confirmed that on-base contamination and contamination from the off-base gas station are moving toward the base away from the Runway Drive neighborhood. Low levels of some fuel additives have been detected in a few of the drinking water wells. However, levels are not likely to result in adverse health effects for residents in the Runway Drive neighborhood.
Residents of the Cliff Haven Community exposed to contaminants in stream C-19 flowing from PAFB Flightline/Golf Course Drainage to the community beach at Lake Champlain are not likely to experience adverse health effects from past or current exposures. Routine monitoring of surface water contaminants serve as a warning before future exposures could occur.
Exposure of the industrial corridor workers to fuel and solvent related contaminants (VOCs) in groundwater released from FT-002 Fire Training Area to the surface, and to contaminants released from groundwater to indoor air do not present a health hazard. Exposures would include direct contact with contaminated groundwater during digging and construction activities and breathing indoor air contaminated by the release of VOCs from groundwater up through soil and into air trapped in buildings. Contaminated shallow groundwater from the Fire Training Area site (FT-002) and several other smaller sites at the PAFB is migrating east toward the industrial corridor where new buildings are being constructed to accommodate companies moving into the area. Construction activities such as digging may release contaminated shallow groundwater and expose construction workers and employees who may work in the buildings.
No Public Health Hazard
We concluded that two situations pose no public health hazard because no exposures have occurred and if exposures were to occur in the future, contaminant concentrations would be low so as not to result in adverse health effects. Those situations include:
Fire Training Area FT-002 - Future exposure to possible groundwater contamination (off-base private wells east and southeast of the base)
Former Base Exchange Service Station ST-030 - Future exposure to possible indoor air contamination (on-base homes).
Contaminated shallow groundwater from the Fire Training Area site (FT-002) and several other smaller sites at the PAFB is migrating east toward Lake Champlain. The base groundwater contamination does not pose a public health hazard to off-base residents. This conclusion is based on groundwater sampling data and groundwater migration modeling predictions by AFBCA.
Currently, fuel-contaminated shallow groundwater from the former Base Exchange Service Station site (ST-030) extends underneath some of the unoccupied homes in the residential area at the intersection of Kentucky and Kansas Avenues. Soil gas and indoor air sampling conducted in April 1998 show that levels of contaminants pose no public health hazard to future residents of the New Base Housing Area.
Community Health Concerns
The community has expressed concern to ATSDR regarding the potential for past, current, and future exposure to chemicals in the golf course drainage ditch (stream C-19) which flows through the Cliff Haven community and ultimately discharges into Lake Champlain. ATSDR has evaluated this exposure pathway and determined that it poses no apparent public health hazard.
SITE DESCRIPTION, HISTORY, DEMOGRAPHICS, LAND USE, AND NATURAL RESOURCES USE
Plattsburgh Air Force Base (PAFB) is located in Clinton County, New York, along the western shore of Lake Champlain, the sixth largest fresh water lake in the United States. The base is located in a mixed-use area consisting of private residences, industrial, and commercial enterprises. It is bordered by the city of Plattsburgh and the Saranac River to the north and the Salmon River to the south. Lake Champlain and lakeshore communities within the town of Plattsburgh lie to the east and southeast (1). Scattered residential and commercial establishments are located along State Highway 22 and Interstate 87 to the west (Map 1).
Clinton County's estimated population is 81,000. Within Clinton County, the city of Plattsburgh has approximately 22,000 people and the town of Plattsburgh has a population of approximately 15,000. The average income in 1990 for Clinton County was $11,444 per person. The major employers in the county were 1) C.V.P.H. Medical Center, 2) Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, 3) Clinton Correctional Facility, 4) State University of New York at Plattsburgh, 5) Clinton County Government, and 6) Georgia-Pacific Corporation. In 1992, Clinton County had 488 farms with the average land acreage being 158 acres (2).
Local drinking water is obtained from both deep well and surface water sources. The town of Plattsburgh uses water from deep water wells located in the hamlet of Morrisonville, 8 miles from PAFB. The city of Plattsburgh uses water from the Meade Pond reservoir located 9 miles from PAFB. Many of the farms and homes located along Lake Champlain use the lake for irrigation or as their drinking water source(3).
PAFB totals approximately 3,447 acres in area. The base can be viewed as being divided into two areas according to history of land use. The Old Base, also known as the Plattsburgh Barracks, encompasses approximately 250 acres of land and is the northernmost area of the base. Facilities on this property include housing, administrative, warehouse and storage buildings, and a beachfront park. Between 1812 and 1995, Army, Navy, and most recently the Air Force installations have occupied the Old Base property. The New Base comprises approximately 3,147 acres. Facilities on this property include the aviation-related buildings, a runway, and an industrial area. The residential area includes housing, recreational, religious, and medical buildings. Prior to development by the Air Force in 1954, this portion of the base was rural land(3).
Plattsburgh Air Force Base was closed on September 29, 1995, by the United States Air Force under the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Redevelopment activities are being administered by the Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) in conjunction with the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation (PARC). PARC has been established to oversee the conversion process from airbase to the Champlain Valley International Tradeparc (CVIT)(3). .
Concurrent with base redevelopment activities, the AFBCA continues to conduct environmental characterization and clean up activities to address the disposal, accidental spills, and routine releases of chemical contaminants that occurred in the past on both parts of the base. Between 1955 and 1995, hazardous wastes were generated from activities including aircraft operation and maintenance, industrial operations, fire fighting training, and firing of munitions. These activities have caused wastes, including solvents, fuels, pesticides and household trash, to come into contact with soil and groundwater. Solvent contamination of groundwater resulted in the EPA listing PAFB on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989. Forty sites on the base have been identified for investigation under the Installation Restoration Program to be considered for characterization and clean up. Investigations and appropriate clean up actions are underway or have been completed at a majority of these sites. The remaining sites are under investigation(5). A summary of ATSDR's evaluation of these sites is provided in Appendix B.
ATSDR Involvement at PAFB: ATSDR conducted an initial site scoping visit to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1991. ATSDR visited PAFB again June 17 - 20, 1996 and January 17 - 21, 2000. The purposes of the visits were to collect the site-specific information needed to identify any public health issues concerning potential exposure to environmental contamination at the facility and to identify community health concerns. When situations are identified where a public health hazard may exist, ATSDR recommends actions to stop or prevent the exposures to the contaminants.
ATSDR staff met with representatives from the Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA), the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation (PARC), the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Clinton County Health Department. We discussed the nature and extent of chemical contamination at the base and the actions begin taken by the AFBCA to investigate and cleanup the site. In addition, the proximity of the contaminated areas to people working or residing on and off of the base was evaluated. The types of activities that people at and around the base engage in, such as drinking the groundwater and public recreation, were evaluated to determine if these activities could lead to chemical exposures. All of the information gathered during our site visit has been integrated with our review of the environmental sampling data to draw the conclusions about the public health issues at PAFB.
ATSDR responded to a request from the EPA Federal Facilities Section in July 1996 concerning the safety of areas within the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base for people attending a music concert. We concluded that there was no cause for concern for the health of people and employees camping or recreating in the area or working in the drainage areas. This conclusion was based on the chemical data for the standing water and surface soils in the drainage ditches along the former flight line and the actions of base to restrict access to other areas of contamination through fencing and warning signs(6).