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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

RAMAPO LANDFILL
RAMAPO, ROCKLAND COUNTY, NEW YORK

SUMMARY

The Ramapo Landfill site is an inactive landfill in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County, New York. On-site groundwater, leachate seeps and landfill gas are contaminated at levels of public health concern as are off-site groundwater monitoring wells and surface water. Exposure to several metals in on-site leachate seeps could present an increased public health risk. Persons on the landfill may be at increased risk of noncarcinogenic effects from exposures to xylene and ethylbenzene in ambient air. A public health threat may exist due to the generation of methane which could migrate off the landfill and accumulate in closed buildings, such as the baler building, weigh station and adjacent homes. Off-site groundwater monitoring wells are contaminated at levels of public health concern with volatile and semi-volatile compounds and metals. There exists the potential for exposure to site-related groundwater contaminants which may reach residential wells and the baler building well. This pathway is incomplete since migration to residential wells has not been identified and therefore no known exposure is occurring.

Citizens raised several health-related questions about contamination of their drinking water, protection of health of persons living near the site, and landfill odors.

The site is an indeterminate public health hazard. The limited data do not indicate exposures likely to cause adverse health effects have occurred, however, not all media to which persons are exposed to have been sampled. Additional investigation is needed to determine if ambient air is contaminated on-site and is migrating to off-site residential areas.

The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) has made recommendations to (1) reduce and prevent exposure to contaminants and (2) better characterize the site.

The data and information developed in the public health assessment for the Ramapo Landfill, Ramapo, New York, has been reviewed by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendations Panel for appropriate follow-up with respect to health actions. The panel agrees that the community health education performed by the NYS DOH was appropriate. No other follow-up health actions were determined appropriate for the site.

Public health actions taken and/or planned include the following: (1) The NYS DOH, Rockland County Department of Health and US EPA have been involved with the site and continue to provide education and information pertaining to resident's health concerns, (2) Landfill closure measures will be taken which will prevent on-site contact with contaminated media and reduce human exposure due to the migration of contaminants from the site, (3) Security measures are being planned which should reduce the frequency of trespassers on the landfill, (4) Public and private drinking water supply wells have been and continue to be tested for site-related contaminants.

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, the ATSDR and NYS DOH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. The ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, 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

All figures and tables in this public health assessment are in Appendices A and B, respectively. The use of the words on-site and off-site throughout the document are to depict the area within the property lines shown on Figure 2, and are not intended to convey the meanings defined under Superfund. The Ramapo Landfill is an inactive landfill site located on a 96-acre tract in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County, New York. It lies at the base of the Ramapo Mountains, about 35 miles northwest of New York City, and 1 mile northeast of the Village of Hillburn, New York. Figure 1 shows the site location. Important features located on and near the site are included in Figure 2. The site is situated off Torne Valley Road east of the New York State Thruway, NYS Route 17, and NYS Route 59. The site is currently being used as a trash compaction and transfer facility by the Town of Ramapo, owner of the site. Trash and debris are weighed at a weigh station/guard house located along Torne Valley Road and compacted at a baler facility in the eastern corner of the site. Following compaction, all trash is transferred for disposal at the Al Turi Landfill in Goshen, New York. Since 1986, a portion of the eastern corner of the site has occasionally been used as a pistol range by the Ramapo Police Department. A leachate collection system installed in 1984 diverts groundwater and surface runoff from the landfill to a fenced pond in the southwestern corner of the site. Prior to November 1, 1990, this pond was used for leachate treatment via aeration followed by discharge to the adjacent Ramapo River. Since this date, however, collected leachate has been discharged to the Suffern Wastewater Treatment facility located about 1 and one half miles south of the site. As a result of this measure, on-site leachate treatment has ceased and the leachate outfall to the Ramapo River has been sealed.

About 50 acres of the site are covered with fill materials. The landfilled portion of the site is mounded into two major lobes (northern and southern) comprised of fill ranging in depth between 70-90 feet and slopes steeply toward the west with grades ranging from less than one percent to greater than 30 percent. Both landfill lobes consist of mixed refuse. Vegetative cover, although generally thick, varies from young trees to a mix of grasses and underbrush. Areas along the site boundaries consist of mature hardwood forest. The dominant surface water features near the site are the Ramapo River, Torne Brook, and Candle Brook. The Ramapo River, located about 300 feet from the southwest corner of the site, is designated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) for use as a source of water supply for drinking, culinary, and food processing purposes. The river originates near Harriman, New York, and drains an area of about 95 square miles in New York State before it enters New Jersey. The river passes within 400 feet of the landfill property. Two sewage disposal facilities discharge treated sewage into the Ramapo River within one and fifteen miles from the site, respectively. Torne Brook originates in the Ramapo Mountains about 2.5 miles upstream of the site. Candle Brook traverses the northern end of the site and flows into Torne Brook. Torne Brook, which flows as close as 50 feet from the landfill, feeds into the Ramapo River at the former leachate outfall. Torne Brook is designated for primary contact recreation use and other use except as a source of potable water.

On May 28, 1971, the Rockland County Department of Health (RC DOH) granted a permit to the Town of Ramapo for the operation of a sanitary landfill. At that time, the site was owned by the Ramapo Land Company and the contract-operator was the Torne Mountain Sand and Gravel Co., Inc. Early operations at the landfill occurred in the northern half of the site. Prior to landfill operations in the 1950s and 1960s, portions of the site were excavated as a source of gravel. In June 1976, a contract was awarded to Sorgine Construction Services of New York, Inc., for operation and maintenance of the landfill until June 1981. However, the contract was terminated by the Town of Ramapo on August 23, 1979, when the Town began to operate the landfill directly. Landfilling was completed by 1984, however, construction and demolition debris was accepted until 1989. Substances alleged to have been disposed of on-site include: industrial sludges and wastes, sewage sludges, municipal solid waste, asbestos, construction and demolition debris, yard debris, and paint sludge. The landfill is alleged to have received wastes from illegal dumping.

As early as 1974, the Spring Valley Water Supply Company, operator of the nearby Ramapo Valley well field, discovered a black sludge coming from the landfill. Following this discovery, numerous investigations of the various media on and near the site commenced which continue to this date. In 1979, the initial subsurface investigation of the landfill was carried out. In 1982, the site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (US EPA) National Priorities List (NPL), the nation's official register of inactive hazardous waste sites. In February 1988, the Town of Ramapo entered into an Order on Consent with NYS DEC to develop and implement a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) for the site. Remedial Investigations (RI) follow preliminary site investigations conducted by Town, County, state and/or federal agencies that verify hazardous wastes are present and that the wastes pose a significant threat to public health and the environment. The RI is carried out to determine the nature and extent of contamination. The Feasibility Study (FS) uses RI information to develop alternative remedial actions that will eliminate the threat to public health or the environment posed by the site. The Town is funding its remedial effort under New York State's Title 3 1986 Environmental Quality Bond Act (EQBA). Under the EQBA any municipality which owns or has owned an inactive hazardous waste site may be reimbursed by the State for up to 75 percent of its costs in remediating such a site. Due to the Town's participation in the EQBA Title 3 grant program, the NYS DEC maintains the role of technical and enforcement lead for the site.

In June 1989, a Preliminary Health Assessment was issued for the site; it was prepared by the NYS DOH under a cooperative agreement with the ATSDR. A Remedial Investigation (RI) was conducted at the site by URS Consultants, Inc. of Buffalo, New York, under contract with the town of Ramapo. Field work was carried out in two phases, the first from April 1989 through May 1990, the second in August-September 1990. A final RI report and a draft final Feasibility Study (FS) were completed in September 1991 and August 1991, respectively.

B. Actions Implemented During the Public Health Assessment Process

The NYS DOH and the RC DOH have been involved with the site and continue to provide information and respond to questions from the surrounding community. The US EPA provides on-going education and information through various community relations activities.

C. Site Visit

Mr. John Olm from the NYS DOH visited the site area on March 17, 1992. The site visit included private well water sampling at the on-site baler building and at a 2-family apartment identified as PW-2 on Figure 2. During the site visit, Mr. Olm met with two residents of the nearby "Torne Brook Farm" apartments. He obtained information about the area from these individuals, which has been incorporated into appropriate sections of the public health assessment. During the site visit, the following observations were made:

  • Vehicular traffic, primarily garbage haulers, was observed on a frequent basis enroute to and leaving the active baler facility. Prior to arrival and after leaving the baler building all vehicles stopped at the weigh station situated on Torne Valley Road. A Town of Ramapo employee was on-duty at the weigh station. He informed Mr. Olm that the operating hours of the weigh station are Monday through Friday from 7:30AM to 2:45PM. Additional information concerning the operation of the on-site baler facility was obtained during an interview with the facility's supervisor. About eight men were performing work at and near the baler facility. Hours of operation at the baler facility are 7AM to 4PM, Monday through Friday. Materials accepted at the facility consist of residential and light commercial refuse and recyclable containers.
  • While visiting the baler facility, winds were moderate and from the west. No odors were detected.
  • According to an employee at the baler facility, the adjacent outdoor pistol range has not been used (by the Ramapo Police Department) since the Fall of 1991. Two buildings were present at the pistol range consisting of a mobile trailer and truck box type storage trailer. Spent shotgun shells were present on the ground at the pistol range.
  • No persons were seen on the landfill proper, although mention was made by a resident of Torne Brook Farm as to the sighting of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) users and hikers on the landfill.
  • The on-site leachate collection pond was found to contain standing water in which two ducks were swimming. Water was seen emptying into the pond from a pipe at the east bank of the pond.
  • Water was observed flowing along sections of the paved swale at the toe of the landfill and entering a concrete catch basin about 450 feet north of the leachate collection pond. Overflow in the catch basin was observed entering an outfall which empties into Torne Brook.

For areas off the site, a fenced, power substation was observed just to the north of the site at the end of Torne Valley Road. The nearby Torne Brook Farm apartment complex was visited and found to consist of about five dwellings and several out buildings. Single-family residences are also present along Torne Brook Road, one of which is about 1200 feet west of the site with an active well. About 14 private homes are situated at the western end of Torne Brook Road and all are reportedly supplied with public water from the Pothat Water Company.

A visit was made to "Flat Rock", located on the east bank of the Ramapo River, about one-half mile south of the site along Torne Valley Road. Although no persons were seen at Flat Rock, evidence of past usage was indicated by the presence of graffiti and litter.

Accompanied by a local resident, Mr. Olm was guided to several off-site areas near the landfill, between the east side of Torne Brook and Torne Valley Road. Exposed waste material resembling paint sludge, which appeared solid and grey in color, was noted at several locations.

D. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

The land surrounding the site is mountainous, heavily wooded and sparsely populated; about 200 residents live within one mile of the site. The nearest residential property referred to as Torne Brook Farm, an apartment complex, is located within 500 feet west of the landfill along the west bank of Torne Brook. About 50 persons reside at the Torne Brook Farm. In addition, about 6 persons reside at a 2-family apartment also located a short distance from the west bank of Torne Brook. The intervening land between the landfill and the nearby dwellings is wooded. Residents must cross Torne Brook to access the site (Torne Brook Road leads from Torne Valley Road from these residences). About 14 single family homes are located at the western end of Torne Brook Road, about one-half mile west of the site. Commercial properties are located within 2,000 feet west of the site along the west bank of the Ramapo River. There is no residential development close to the site along the north, south or east boundaries. The nearest suburban development is the Village of Hillburn. A total of about fifteen men are employed full-time at the on-site baler facility and weigh station.

Available 1990 Census Tract Data indicate that the Village of Hillburn lies within census tract 118.00, an area covering 2.25 square miles within the Town of Ramapo. The total population for census tract 118.00 was reported as 892, of which 6% is under 5 years of age, 22% is 5-19 years old, 60% of the population is 20-64 years old and 12% of persons living in this census tract are 65 years or older. The racial makeup of the population is 50% white, 23% are black and about 27% of the population is comprised of other races. The median income in 1979 was $18,264, with about 3.0% of the families with income below the poverty level.

Land Use

The landfill and surrounding area are zoned for industrial use. The Town of Ramapo expects to operate the compaction facilities into the near future. Planned development of the site into the distant future, whether industrial, recreational and/or residential, is unknown. However, the Town of Ramapo has stated that is has no plans to modify industrial zoning in the areas adjacent to the landfill. Utility corridors lie on three sides of the site, high voltage power transmission lines to the east and west and a high pressure gas line to the south. An active electrical sub-station constructed in 1972-73 is located just to the north of the site. The nearest agricultural land may be found along the east side of the Ramapo Mountains about 1.5 miles east of the landfill.

Natural Resource Use

Ten production (drinking water supply) wells operated by the Spring Valley Water Supply Co. and serving a population of over 200,000 (referred to as the Ramapo Valley wellfield) are located along the Ramapo River both upstream and downstream of the site. The wells, which range in depth from 71 to 127 feet, are completed in the Ramapo Valley Aquifer. The average supply capacity of the Ramapo Valley well field is considered to be 8 to 10 million gallons per day (mgd) with a maximum capacity of 14 mgd. Four of the production wells are located within 1500 feet of the landfill (SV-93, SV-94, SV-95 and SV-96 on Figure 2). These wells were drilled in 1978 and pumps were set in 1980. Torne Brook Farm has a potable water well 450 feet from the landfill. The nearby 2-family apartment maintains a potable water well about 1,200 feet from the landfill. These wells are designated as PW-1 and PW-2, respectively, on Figure 2, and are located between the landfill and the Ramapo River on the western side of the Torne Brook. The on-site baler facility has a drilled well located adjacent to the northwest side of the building. This well supplies water to the restrooms (toilets and handwash sinks). According to the supervisor at the facility, employees have in the past drank this water, however a portable water cooler with bottled water is provided for this purpose.

Drainage at the site follows the topography, which steeply slopes toward Torne Brook and the Ramapo River. Upgradient diversion trenches have been constructed along portions of the southern property lines of the landfill. These trenches help to transport surface water runoff from upslope areas away from the landfill and into a surface water collector installed along the base of the landfill. Surface water which enters the collector system is directed to a holding pond prior to being discharged to the Suffern Wastewater Treatment Plant. According to a resident of Torne Brook Farm, the Ramapo River is used for recreation, including the area at "Flat Rock" off Torne Valley Road, about one-half mile downstream of the site. Flat Rock is a popular area for swimming and fishing, especially by families who commute from New Jersey.

The Township of Mahwah, New Jersey, which is downgradient of the site, draws its water supply from a sole-source aquifer as designated by the US EPA. This aquifer is recharged primarily by the Ramapo River.

E. Health Outcome Data

The 1978-82 cancer incidence and mortality in Census tract 117 (Sloatsburg) and Census tract 116 (Ramapo Town) were reviewed (Figure 3). In addition, the Rockland County Department of Health in collaboration with the Bureau of Cancer Epidemiology conducted a study of the 1983-1986 cancer incidence in Rockland County. An evaluation of these studies is included in the Public Health Implications section.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

The New York State Department of Health determined community health concerns during their March 1992 site visit. Prior to this visit, the New York State Department of Health, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and United States Environmental Protection Agency met with the public to present the conclusions of the RI/FS, to identify the preferred clean-up remedy, and to receive public comments. Of the 50 persons who attended the public meeting, several voiced concern. During the site visit and the public meeting, residents raised the following health-related concerns:

  1. Will residents living near the landfill be provided with public water, and if so, when?
  2. Will measures be taken to ensure the overall protection of health of persons living near the site?
  3. Will an appropriate monitoring program be provided to determine the presence of contaminants encroaching on or in nearby drinking water supply wells?

During the site visit, we found that several residents along Torne Brook Road complained about landfill odor in outdoor air. Odors occurred mostly during the summer, particularly on very humid days. These concerns and other raised in this section will be addressed in the Public Health Implications section.

On February 26, 1993, the NYS DOH sent copies of the public health assessment for the Ramapo Landfill site to all known interested parties, requesting concerns and comments on the report by March 16, 1993. The responses to the public comments received by the NYS DOH are included in Appendix C.



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