PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
ROBINTECH, INC./NATIONAL PIPE CO.
VESTAL, BROOME COUNTY, NEW YORK
The Robintech, Inc./National Pipe Co. site is at 3421 Vestal Road in the Town of Vestal, Broome County, New York. Since 1970, manufacturing activities at the site have included both electronic cable assembly and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe extrusion. Reportedly, a one-acre lagoon was used for disposal of liquid manufacturing wastes from 1968-1974. Currently, the facility is known as LCP National Plastics, Inc..
Land use near the site is residential, commercial, industrial and recreational. The nearest off-site building and receptor population is less than 0.10 mile to the west. The Town of Vestal public water supply production wells are about 2,500 feet north-northwest of the site. The nearest surface water body is the Susquehanna River, which flows north of the site.
The site qualified for inclusion on the National Priorities List in June 1986. In June 1989, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) completed a preliminary health assessment for the site which concluded that the site poses a potential public health threat to users of the Town of Vestal municipal wells and users of the adjacent Skate Estate recreational facility.
A remedial investigation (RI) was completed in December 1990 and identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in subsurface soils, both on and off-site, as well as in groundwater in the overburden and bedrock aquifers. Lead was reported at elevated levels in soils and sediment both on and off-site. VOCs were detected in ambient air at the site perimeter. During rainy periods, surface water runoff ponds in low lying areas on-site and overflows into on-site drainage ditches and storm sewers as well as onto the adjacent properties along the western site boundary. Sediment samples collected from drainage ditches at the site contained site-related contamination.
A health consultation was conducted by ATSDR in December 1991 to address the issue of reported lead concentrations in soils at the Skate Estate facility. ATSDR concluded that further investigation was needed to determine contamination in soils in the park and picnic area. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) reviewed the soil analytical data and determined that the laboratory had reported lead concentrations in soils and sediment incorrectly.
Confirmatory samples of on-site soils and sediment and soils at the adjacent Skate Estate amusement facility were collected by US EPA in February and September of 1992. Sample locations were selected to duplicate, as closely as possible, locations sampled during the RI. Confirmatory sampling data and a comprehensive analysis of all soil sampling data collected at and near the site since 1985, did not show elevated lead concentrations in soils and sediments at and near the site.
A Record of Decision (ROD) was signed for remediation of groundwater in March 1992 and includes groundwater extraction and treatment, institutional controls, monitoring and five-year review. A second ROD for remediation of soils and sediment was finalized in March 1993 and recommends the no-action alternative.
Residents near the site have previously expressed concerns about inhalation of airborne particulates which are generated during transfer of raw materials from rail cars to on-site storage silos. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) has sampled PVC dust from the site and the PVC particulates do not appear to be respirable. Additional information about the particle sizes of these dusts will help in determining the public health significance of past and possible current exposures. In May 1993, ATSDR completed a technical review of the environmental fate, toxicity and human exposure potential to PVC dust. ATSDR has determined that PVC dusts can pose a significant health concern.
The Robintech, Inc./National Pipe Co. site is an indeterminate public health hazard. Based on the information reviewed, human exposure to PVC dusts and particulate matter most likely occurred in the past and is continuing to occur. Potential human exposure could include ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact exposures to VOCs in groundwater; inhalation of VOCs and PVC dust particulates in ambient air; and dermal contact and incidental ingestion exposures to cadmium in subsurface soils. A study of cancer incidence by the Broome County Department of Health for the Town of Vestal showed no statistically significant excess of cancer of any kind for either males or females. Measures to control migration of contaminants in groundwater were identified in the March 1992 ROD for the site and are currently under development. The need for additional measures to control PVC dust migration in surface water runoff and ambient air should be considered.
The data and information developed in this Public Health Assessment for the Robintech Inc./National Pipe Co. site have been reviewed by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. For this site, the Panel determined that substance-specific research is needed to evaluate the environmental fate of PVC dust and this action was completed in May 1993. As part of the Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) developed for this site, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) in conjunction with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) will further assess the impact of chemical emissions from the TRI (Toxic Chemical Release Inventory) reporting facilities on ambient air and, if necessary, recommend additional follow-up. Additionally, the NYSDOH, in conjunction with the NYSDEC, will evaluate the public health significance of PVC dust generated by transport, storage, and manufacturing activities on-site.
The Robintech, Inc./National Pipe Co. site is a privately-owned facility which occupies an area of 12.7 acres, at 3421 Vestal Road in the Town of Vestal, Broome County, New York (Figure 1, Appendix 1; subsequent references to other figures are in Appendix 1). In June 1986, the site was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL). Reportedly, a one-acre lagoon was used for disposal of liquid manufacturing wastes from 1968 to 1974. Batches of chrome acid plating solution, caustic etch, used lathe and cutting oils, and spent toluene were reportedly disposed in this lagoon. The lagoon originally formed part of a natural marsh area and was backfilled and blacktopped in 1978. The majority of the site property is now paved and used for parking and staging of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe. The only portions of the site which are not paved include a small grassy area in front (south) of the main building along Old Vestal Road, the areas near drainage ditches, the grassy medians between parking areas and the gravel area north of the warehouse which is used for PVC pipe storage (Figure 2). The site is not fenced and access is not restricted. However, both the Mobil Tank Farm and Skate Estate properties are completely fenced along the western perimeter of the Robintech property (refer to Figure 2).
The site is situated about 2,500 feet south of the Susquehanna River. A set of Erie-Lackawanna Railroad tracks runs along the northwest site boundary; Roundtop Hill, the most prominent topographic feature in the area, is about 4,000 feet to the east. The area immediately north of the site property is marshy with a small intermittent stream running through it. This stream drains the Roundtop Hill area and is all that remains of the former marsh and disposal area. The area surrounding the Robintech site is primarily industrial with some commercial and residential properties nearby. A petroleum product tank farm (Mobil) borders the site on the northwest and the Skate Estate amusement facility on the southwest. Residential properties exist along Old Vestal Road, south of the site, and there are several commercial properties are located on Commerce Road, east of the site. The Town of Vestal Water District, No. 4 well field, is on the Susquehanna flood plain about 2,500 feet north-northwest of the site.
The eastern portion of the site is situated on the slope of a hill and site drainage is to the northwest, toward the Susquehanna River flood plain. Regional topography trends primarily to the north with a minor westerly component; however, the site is in a relatively flat area at the edge of the Susquehanna River flood plain. The local elevation immediately surrounding the site is about 850 feet.
The only surface water drainage at the site includes a ditch along the western property boundary and a few intermittent drainage ditches in the PVC pipe staging area north of the warehouse building. No seeps or groundwater discharge areas are evident on or around the site.
The site property was owned by Robinson Technical Products from September 1966 to 1970 and by Robintech, Inc. from 1970 to December 1982. In 1982, the Buffton Corporation purchased the property and created two subsidiaries at the site, Electro-Mech, Inc. and the National Pipe Company. Currently, the site is owned by the Buffton Corporation which owns Electro-Mech, Inc. and leases the main building and site property to LCP National Plastics, Inc. (formerly Robintech, Inc./National Pipe Company).
In 1966, Robinson Technical Products constructed the main building at the site. Aircraft engine mounts and automobile accelerator control cables were made on the first floor of the building. Electronic cables were assembled on the second floor. In 1970, first floor production activities were discontinued and replaced with a PVC pipe extrusion operation. The existing warehouse was constructed in 1974. Electronic cable assembly and the PVC pipe extrusion operations at the site have continued since 1970.
Presently, LCP National Plastics, Inc. manufactures 80,000,000 pounds per year (lbs/yr) of PVC pipe. The PVC pipe production process begins with the delivery of raw resin by railcar along the northern boundary of the site. The very fine powder resin is discharged from the railcar by compressed air into a steel pipe that runs to a large silo located along the west side of the main building. During manufacturing, the company uses about 75,000,000 lbs/year of ready-made PVC resin. Trucks deliver other major ingredients (wax, calcium carbonate filler, liquid tin stabilizer and titanium dioxide) that are also stored in silos on-site and brought into the manufacturing process by compressed air. Minor ingredients are delivered by trucks and stored on pallets in the warehouse, north of the main building.
The manufacturing process begins with the weighing of minor ingredients in the weight room. In the blending room, major ingredients and raw resin are transferred from the silos, mixed with minor ingredients and heated in the hot mixer to the desired temperature. Once the material has reached the desired temperature, it is dropped into an underlying hopper below the mixer and allowed to cool for five to ten minutes. After this material has cooled, it is removed by compressed air into compound silos and is then ready for use in the production of PVC pipe.
As material is needed from the compound silo, it is transferred by compressed air through pipes in the ceiling of the facility to one of the 18 extrusion machines. The compound is heated between 385 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and transported through a set of barrels, screws, and sleeves to form the pipe to the desired specification and size. The hot PVC pipe is cooled by running it through long, water-filled troughs with a contact-cooling sprinkler system. The pipe is then run through a printing machine, followed by a cutting machine. Cut lengths are heated at one end and "belled". The finished product is bundled and stacked for quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) inspection.
Broken pipe or pipe that fails QA/QC inspection is placed in a pre-breaker and crushed for recycling. This material is transferred by compressed air through a large duct in the ceiling to a room extending from the west side of the main building. In this room, the material is re-grinded and then blown into a silo for reuse.
Currently, Electro-Mech, Inc. manufactures millions of feet per year of multiconductor input/output electronic cables, primarily for the IBM Corporation in Poughkeepsie, NY and compiles multi-layer circuit cards for military use. Pre-cut wire and cable as well as other electronic cable components are delivered to the site for assembly by workers. Each cable is individually assembled according to predetermined specifications and computer-tested for quality assurance and quality control purposes. Finished cable lengths and spools of rolled cable are temporarily stored at the shipping station in the rear of the main work area for pick-up and delivery. About 1,000 input-output cables are assembled each day; the average cable length is 40-50 feet with some cables ranging from 5 feet to 200 feet in length.
During manufacturing, Electro-Mech, Inc. uses about one 55 gallon drum per month of a solvent mixture called Turbosal (TSS-1), as a softener to dilate plastic cable tubing. This solvent mixture is comprised of methylene chloride (15% by volume) and trichloroethene (85% by volume) and is delivered to the site by Ashland Chemical on a monthly basis. Small, lidded containers are kept at some of the individual work stations throughout the cable assembly area. Spent solvent is disposed by the workers throughout the day into a 55-gallon drum; drums full of spent solvent are staged for pick up by Ashland Chemical. Prior to use of TSS-1, which was instituted about 3-4 years ago, Electro-Mech was using toluene and trichloroethene for the same purposes. However, odor complaints and reports of skin rashes by workers using these two solvents prompted Electro-Mech to find an alternative substance.
The Robintech, Inc./National Pipe Company applied for a wastewater discharge permit under the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) in May of 1979. Currently, a maximum of 250,000 gallons of untreated contact cooling water are discharged daily by LCP National Plastics, Inc. to the Susquehanna River. Other waste waters generated by on-site manufacturing processes are discharged to the Binghamton/Johnson City sewage treatment plant on Vestal Road in the Town of Vestal. Ashland Chemical picks up and removes spent solvent from Electro-Mech, Inc. for delivery to an incinerator plant. Other wastes generated at the facility are removed by Sanitary Disposal, Inc.
In June of 1989, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) completed a Preliminary Health Assessment for the Robintech, Inc./National Pipe Co. site. The health assessment identified the need for additional data to further define the nature and extent of groundwater and soil (both surface and sub-surface) contamination as well as the need for air monitoring.
A two-phase Remedial Investigation (RI) was completed in 1990. During Phase 1, soil, surface water and sediment were sampled. Phase 2 included the installation and sampling of groundwater monitoring wells, aquifer testing, subsurface soil investigation and air sampling. The RI identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in both on- and off-site soils, as well as in groundwater in both the overburden and bedrock aquifers. Site-related contamination was also detected in ambient air on-site, as well as in sediment and soils off-site. There is no evidence of leachate seeps or food chain contamination.
At the request of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), ATSDR conducted a health consultation in December 1991, to address the issue of reported lead concentrations in the picnic and park area in soils at the Skate Estate amusement facility. Based on a review of available information, ATSDR concluded that further investigation was needed to determine the extent and source of lead contamination in this area.
In February 1992, US EPA's Environmental Response Team (ERT) collected 155 surface soil, subsurface soil and sediment samples from the western site perimeter and the Skate Estate Facility. Sample locations were selected to duplicate, as closely as possible, those locations sampled during the RI. All on-site soil sample results showed lead concentrations below the US EPA action level for the site.
A record of decision (ROD) was signed in March 1992, addressing remediation of groundwater contamination at the site. The selected remedy includes groundwater extraction by pumping wells, treatment by an air stripper to remove VOCs, a long-term monitoring plan of groundwater and the treated effluent and institutional controls (in the recommendation of deed restrictions), to prevent future use of groundwater at the site for potable purposes. The ROD indicates that pumping of contaminated groundwater will continue until the remediation goals are achieved. Actual pumping rates will be determined during the design phase of the remedy which is currently underway. It is anticipated that this remedy will be completed in 1995.
Additional soil samples were collected by US EPA's ERT in September 1992, to re-analyze soil and sediment from those areas where elevated concentrations of lead had been reported during the RI. A total of thirty-nine confirmatory samples were obtained and none of the samples confirmed lead concentrations reported during the RI. A second ROD which addresses remediation of soils and sediments at and near the site, was finalized in March 1993 and based on findings of the additional investigations, recommends no further action.
The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) in conjunction with the Broome County Health Department (BCHD), has conducted health education in the past to address community concerns regarding contamination of private drinking water supplies. Specifically, these activities have included sampling of private water supplies near the site and providing property owners with copies of the analytical results and an explanation of the findings.
The NYS DEC, Division of Air, has evaluated fugitive emissions of PVC dust from the site. In April 1987, a representative of NYS DEC obtained samples of PVC dust at the site and from nearby properties. The particle sizes were measured.
On March 18, 1992, US EPA held a public meeting to present the findings of the RI/FS and proposed alternatives for remediation of contaminated groundwater associated with past disposal activities at the site. Representatives of NYS DOH and BCHD were also present. US EPA representatives discussed issues related to possible lead contamination in soils and sediment at and near the site and the need for additional investigation and sampling to further evaluate the presence and extent of lead contamination in soils. Details of the preferred remedy for groundwater remediation at the site were also presented. Citizens attending the meeting raised several questions, however, no specific community health concerns were raised.
On January 12, 1993, US EPA held a public meeting to present the preferred remedy for remediation of suspected lead contamination in soils and sediment at and near the Robintech Inc./National Pipe Co. site. Representatives of the NYS DOH and BCHD were also present at this meeting. US EPA representatives presented the investigatory history of soil contamination at and near the site and the scope of the preferred remedy for the no action alternative. Several citizens attending the meeting raised questions about community health concerns and these concerns are addressed in the Community Health Concerns section of this Public Health Assessment (PHA). Following this meeting, the Town of Vestal submitted written comment to the US EPA. These comments also included concerns presented by the Vestal Conservation Advisory Commission and these concerns are addressed in the Community Health Concerns section of this document.
On May 21, 1993, ATSDR completed a technical review of the environmental fate, toxicity and human exposure potential to PVC dust. The findings of this evaluation indicated that PVC dusts or particulate matter resulting from the manufacture of PVC [products] are a source of exposure to PVC. Furthermore, ATSDR concluded that uncontained or disposed PVC at hazardous waste sites poses a significant health concern and recommended that PVC dust or particulate matter be remediated or contained to protect the public from contact with this material.
On April 14, 1978, a representative of the BCHD visited the facility to investigate toluene discharges from the site to the sanitary sewer system. The plant manager indicated that there had been an accidental release to a storm drain under the main building after an employee had disposed of materials to a floor drain. Two 55-gallon drums were stored on-site, from which small quantities of toluene were tapped for use at work stations in the plant. Spent toluene was reportedly disposed behind the main plant area on the ground surface, at a location removed from any known water or sewer lines. There was no evidence of stressed vegetation at this location.
Mr. Mario Nirchi of the NYS DOH and a representative of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) visited the site on April 9, 1979 to investigate alleged on-site industrial waste disposal practices. The former waste disposal area behind the plant had been paved with asphalt and was being used to store PVC pipe. During the inspection, it was reported that prior waste disposal included hexavalent chrome plating sludge (about 400 gallons per year) and water soluble cutting oils (about 300 gallons per year).
On July 18, 1983, the site was investigated by a representative of Ecological Analysts, Inc., a contractor for US EPA. The reported disposal area had been filled in and paved with blacktop; it was about 1 acre in size and surrounded by drainage ditches. The blacktop area appeared to be cracking due to water infiltration; a backhoe was excavating the more severely cracked areas for repaving. Water in a small channel of the original wetland area to the north of the property was clean and clear with abundant frogs, water insects and cattails. No seeps or stains were observed around the site perimeter.
On October 17, 1984, Mr. Ron Heerkens, Mr. Bruce Shieh and Mr. Bill Gilday of the NYS DOH inspected the Robintech, Inc./National Pipe facility. The disposal area was partially filled and paved. No other waste impoundments, piles or containers were observed at the site. The major site use was for storage of PVC pipe. NYS DOH personnel noted areas of stressed and/or absent vegetation on the site property. There were no observed site access restrictions or evidence of non-authorized site access.
On August 28 and 29, 1985, a site investigation was conducted by representatives of Camp, Dresser and McKee, Inc., who were contracted by US EPA to obtain preliminary data on the level and types of contamination at the Robintech site. PVC dust was floating in drainage ditches and deposited throughout the factory and the staging area. Many dead trees were in the drainage area in the northeastern part of the site. Sphagnum moss, typical of acidic soils, grew near one of the ponded drainage areas on the western boundary of the site. Discolored bottom sediments and an oil film were in the ponded drainage area where effluent from the main building discharges.
Claudine Jones Rafferty and Gary Robinson of the NYS DOH and a representative of the NYS DEC visited the site on September 5, 1991 to assess current site conditions and activities at the site, area demographics, as well as accessibility and potential human exposure pathways to site contaminants. Currently, the site is not fenced and site access is not restricted by other means (i.e., posted signs or security guards). However, both the Mobil Tank Farm and Skate Estate properties are fenced along the western boundary of the Robintech site property. There is evidence of all-terrain vehicle use near the north-northwest property boundary and railroad tracks. In addition, a large oil-stained and charred area was observed along the easement north of the site and between the railroad tracks. This area was noticeably marked by a distinct line of stressed vegetation. A footpath runs along Old Vestal Road to the south along the site perimeter. PVC dust and shavings were observed along the curbs of roadways and drainage areas near the main building and warehouse. A very fine, white, powder-like PVC resin was observed on the ground near the transfer station at the north end of the property as well as in areas near the transfer pipeline and receiving hoppers along the western property boundary.
On October 28, 1991, Claudine Jones Rafferty and Geoffrey Laccetti of the NYS DOH as well as representatives of the BCHD, the US EPA and the NYS DEC visited the site to meet with representatives of both Electro-Mech, Inc. and the LCP National Pipe Company to discuss and observe manufacturing operations of both companies. Site conditions are not known to have changed since the last site visit by NYS DOH.
The Town of Vestal occupies an area of about 52.5 square miles and has a population of about 27,238. Vestal is located near the cities of Binghamton, Endicott, and Johnson City. These cities, all located in the Susquehanna River basin, make up a regionally important industrial center. McLaren-Hart (1990) has population estimates around the Robintech, Inc./National Pipe Co. site, as follows: 5,350 people within 1 mile; 29,069 within 2 miles; 63,346 within 3 miles; and 100,993 within 4 miles.
The 1980 Census Tract Data indicate that the Robintech/National Pipe site lies within census tract 143, an area covering 10.36 square miles within the Town of Vestal. The total population for census tract 143 was reported as 12,221, of which 3.2% is under 5 years of age, 36.5% is 5-19 years old, 52.5% is 20-64 years old and 7.6% is 65 years or older. About 92% of the population is white, 2.7% is black and 4.9% is comprised of other races. The median household income in 1979 was $24,326, with 1.5% of the families below the poverty level.
Land use near the site is residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational. Locally, the site is bordered by commercial buildings and warehouses to the east; by residences to the south; by the Skate Estate, an amusement facility which includes a roller skating rink, miniature golf course, and water slide, to the west; by fuel storage tanks (Mobil Tank Farm) to the northwest; and by Conrail railroad tracks and Parkway Vending, Inc. to the north. The nearest off-site building and receptor population is less than 0.10 mile to the west and the nearest surface water body is the Susquehanna River, 0.6 mile to the north. The Town of Vestal maintains a production well field about 2,500 feet northwest of the site. General land use south of Vestal is primarily rural residences and farms.
Bedrock in the Vestal, New York, area is typically shale, overlain by glacial deposits that may be as thick as 200 feet. The unconsolidated material overlying the bedrock is typically glacial silt, sand, and gravel. The unconsolidated material near the Robintech/National Pipe site is glacial outwash and alluvial sand, silt, and gravel.
Drinking water near the site is generally obtained from the unconsolidated glacial outwash and alluvial flood plain deposits. The closest production wells for the Town of Vestal are about 2,500 feet north-northwest of the Robintech site; they are from 113 to 138 feet deep and are screened in unconsolidated materials. None of the production wells are drilled to bedrock, but unused wells in the area encountered bedrock at about 130 feet. Because of the proximity of the wells to the river and the likely hydraulic connection between the aquifer and the river, river water is probably drawn into the wells under heavy pumping conditions. The area surrounding the facility is supplied with public water; however, there are eight residences within one half mile of the site, to the north and east, with private wells. Of these eight wells, only five are used for drinking water and household uses and the other three wells are no longer used.
E. Health Outcome Data
The BCHD used data from the New York State Cancer Registry to evaluate cancer incidence
areas of the county where organic chemical contamination of the water supply had occurred or
where there was a public perception that contamination had occurred. Three 1980 census tracts
Vestal (143, 144, and 145) were included in the study. The findings of this study are presented in
a BCHD report entitled, "Cancer Occurrence by Common Drinking Water Source - Broome
NY: 1976-1980" and are discussed under the Health Outcome Data Evaluation subsection.
In the Fall of 1988, the BCHD received complaints from people living near the Robintech, Inc./National Pipe facility who expressed concerns about airborne particulates which are generated by the plant during transfer of raw materials from rail cars to the on-site storage silos. Specific concerns of nearby residents were reported to the BCHD and NYS DOH and included requests for health effects information regarding inhalation of PVC resins and exposure to unreacted vinyl chloride monomer.
In April 1992, the BCHD received a request from a citizen living one half mile northeast of the site to have her water supply sampled. This citizen expressed concern about the possibility of groundwater contamination at the site to affect the water supply serving her home.
In July 1992, a resident living near the site contacted the BCHD to inquire if soils at the Robintech Inc./National Pipe facility were going to be resampled. This citizen expressed concern about the possibility of her children coming into contact with contaminated soils while playing on or near the site.
At the January 12, 1993 public meeting held by US EPA, several community health concerns were raised by meeting attendees. Specifically, these concerns included questions about safe levels of lead in drinking water and the risks for children exposed to lead in soils via ingestion. Following the public meeting, community concerns about the health effects of exposure to lead in soils at the Skate Estate property and exposure to bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate in drinking water were expressed in written comments to US EPA.
During the public review period for this public health assessment, which ran from June 22, 1993 to July 28, 1993, several written comments were received from citizens living near the site. These citizens expressed concern about past and ongoing migration of PVC dust and particulates to their residential properties. These concerns have been addressed in the Response to public comments section (Appendix C) of this public health assessment.