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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

SARNEY FARM
AMENIA, DUTCHESS COUNTY, NEW YORK

 

SUMMARY

The Sarney Property site is in the eastern portion of Dutchess County, New York, in the Town of Amenia. Subsurface soils and groundwater at the site are contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The area surrounding the site is sparsely populated with about 80 persons residing within 2,500 feet of the site. All residences rely upon private groundwater wells for drinking water. Residential wells are developed in the bedrock aquifer. Volatile organic compounds at concentrations less than 5 micrograms per liter (mcg/L) have been detected in private wells to the south and east of the site. The contaminant levels in these residential wells have always been below New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) standards for public water supplies and the respective maximum contaminant levels set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Information about contaminant migration in the bedrock aquifer indicate that groundwater is not flowing towards the private wells.

The site is categorized as an indeterminant public health hazard. The available data do not indicate that humans are being or have been exposed to levels of contamination that would be expected to cause adverse health effects. However, data or information are not available for soil-gas and ambient air. There have been no community concerns which indicate any adverse health outcomes. Long-term monitoring of contaminated wells and those at risk for contamination is needed to insure that contaminant levels do not rise above NYS DOH and US EPA standards for drinking water.

This public health assessment has been reviewed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendation Panel. The site is not being considered for follow-up health activities at this time. The panel determined, however, that community health education should be performed.

Public health actions taken and/or planned include the following: (1) the NYS DOH and US EPA will carry out sampling and testing of selected area private residential wells, (2) the NYS DOH plans to continue community health education by informing citizens of results of private well sampling and providing information on the health significance of contaminants in their private well water, (3) the NYS DOH will coordinate with the appropriate agencies regarding actions to be taken in response to those recommendations provided in this public health assessment for which no plan of action has yet been developed, (4) NYS DOH will provide an annual follow-up report outlining the public health actions completed and those in progress.

BACKGROUND

A. SITE DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY

The Sarney Property site received drummed and liquid industrial waste which were disposed of in several trenches on the site. These activities contaminated groundwater and soil, and low levels of contaminants have reached nearby private wells. The site was placed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List in August of 1984 and the final Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) report was completed in May 1990. The Remedial Investigation was carried out to determine the nature and extent of contamination at the site. The Remedial Investigation followed preliminary site investigations conducted by State, local and/or federal agencies and verified that hazardous wastes are present and that the wastes pose a significant threat to public health and the environment. The Feasibility Study used RI information to develop alternative remedial actions that will eliminate the threat to public health or the environment posed by the site. In June 1989, a Preliminary Health Assessment was prepared by the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The Sarney Property site was operated as a municipal/industrial landfill from 1968 to 1970 under permit from the Dutchess County Department of Health (DC DOH). Under conditions of the permit, the owners/operators of the landfill, Haul-Way Company, Inc., were prohibited from disposing of industrial wastes. Numerous complaints from neighbors and inspections by DC DOH documented that drummed and liquid industrial wastes were being disposed of in several trenches on the site. Disposal operations ceased by 1971 when the property was purchased by the present owners, Arthur and Joan Sarney. The property was subsequently regraded and reseeded for use as a pasture. The Sarneys have a residence on the property.

The Sarney property site is a 143-acre parcel off of Bensen Hill Road in the Town of Amenia, Dutchess County, New York. The site is adjacent to the political boundary between the Town of Amenia and the Town of Dover, about two miles west of the New York/Connecticut border. The property is a 35-acre pasture and is surrounded by wooded hills to the northeast, east and south. A state designated wetland, Cleaver Swamp, is located off-site to the northwest and west. Land slopes from the northeast (650-foot elevation) to the swamp on the west (500-feet) and to the Sarney residence to the south (550-foot elevation). The pasture contains a 1/4-acre spring fed pond which was previously used for watering cattle.

During a November 1968 inspection, DC DOH discovered that industrial waste was being disposed of at the landfill. A DC DOH Commissioner's Order to Cease and Desist was issued on November 25, 1968, prohibiting further disposal of industrial waste and requiring the current disposal areas with drummed and liquid wastes to be covered with clean soil. This was completed in December 1968. In June 1969, DC DOH confirmed the additional disposal of drummed industrial waste in a wooded section of the site northeast of the original landfill. Landfill operations ceased and property ownership was transferred to Joseph Frumento and Charles Miller in August 1970. The Sarneys purchased the property in March 1971.

Water samples were collected from the aforementioned re-excavated spring fed pond at the northeast corner of the pasture by DC DOH in November 1980. Additional samples of groundwater and leachate were collected in 1982. New York State groundwater standards were exceeded for several parameters. The Sarneys were subsequently advised to fence off the "wet areas" to exclude grazing cattle.

Four major areas have been identified as waste disposal areas from historical aerial photographs (Figure 1). Area 1, which contains an east-west oriented trench, received liquid wastes, aerosol cans, 55-gallon drums labeled "waste solvent to be burned", and drums labeled "1,2-dichloroethane". Area 2 consists of several pits where liquid waste and drums were disposed. In Area 3, which was the official 5-acre permitted landfill, disposal practices followed the trench and fill method. No evidence of hazardous waste dumping in this area exists. Area 4 consists of two pits and a trench used for acid, glue and drum disposal.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) performed preliminary investigations at the site in November 1983 and in June 1985. Results of these investigations indicate that industrial wastes consisting of cleaning solvents, inks, acids, water-based glues and machine oils were disposed of at the site.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) initiated a RI/FS program at the site in 1986. A geophysical study, surface water and sediment sampling and a private-well sampling program were completed prior to the project being terminated due to lack of funds.

In October 1987, US EPA initiated a removal/treatment action for organic contamination at the site. An in situ-soil washing system was constructed for areas 1 and 2; it collected and treated contaminated groundwater before discharging it into Cleaver Swamp. Excavation for the collection system unearthed municipal waste, hospital wastes, several dozen crushed 55-gallon drums, and liquid wastes. High levels of volatile organic compounds were encountered when excavating into the water table. The soil washing system has been operational since 1987.

A Work Plan was approved in 1988 for the completion of the RI/FS which was started in 1986 and a final RI/FS Report was issued in May 1990. A Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) was presented to the public on May 23, 1990, by US EPA.

The PRAP summarizes the decision that led to the recommended remedial action by discussing each alternative and the reasons for choosing or rejecting it. A Record of Decision (ROD) was signed by US EPA in September 1990. The ROD presents the remedial action for an inactive hazardous waste site and documents the information and rationale used to arrive at the decision. A post-ROD groundwater investigation is being conducted to confirm the directions of groundwater flow at the site. As part of this effort, on- and off-site groundwater wells were sampled and tested for contamination in March and June, 1992.

B. SITE VISIT

On November 20, 1985, a site visit was made by NYS DOH staff. Areas surrounding the site can be characterized as rural with scattered homes and farms. The Sarney residence is several hundred feet from disposal area 3. Private residences are along Benson Hill Road to the south and Poplar Hill Road (County Route 4) to the east. Wassaic Developmental Center, a NYS institution for the developmentally disabled and mentally retarded, is about 1 mile north of the site. The Sarney residence is on the property and access to the areas with contamination would require their permission. However, the site is not fenced so that trespassing may occur; also access through adjacent properties is unrestricted.

On June 3, 1992, William Lowden, NYS DOH, visited the site to obtain groundwater samples from two residential and two monitoring wells. The site fence appeared to be intact and there was no evidence of trespassing on-site. No other site condition changes were noted since the site was visited in 1985.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

The Town of Amenia encompasses 43 square miles with a population of 6,300 in 1980. Land usage can be characterized as rural with agriculture being the principal activity. Population estimates prepared for Dutchess County do not predict significant population growth for this area. This area is bounded by the Conrail tracks 3,000 feet to the west, and Poplar Hill Road 3,200 feet to the east. The site is on a westward sloping ridge of farming and grazing land. It is bordered by a treeline and cultivated fields to the west, Cleaver Swamp to the northwest, the steeply sloping western flank of Poplar Hill Road to the east and Bensen Hill Road to the south. To the south there is an open field along the base of Fox Hill which is adjacent to a wetlands area that drains southward about 2 miles through Bains Corner into Ten Mile River. Ten Mile River is used for fishing and possible irrigation. Town planning officials have identified Cleaver Swamp as a significant natural area that should be preserved.

The Sarney Property Site lies within census tract 0100 which consists of the entire Town of Amenia, except for the Village of Amenia which is census tract 6500. The 1980 population for census tract 0100 was estimated at 4334 of which 7% of the population is under 5 years of age, 25% is between 5 and 19 years of age, 54% is between 20 and 64 years, and 14% is 65 years and over. The 1980 census estimated that 97% of the population is white, 2% is black, 0.5% is Asian, and 1% is of Spanish origin. The median household income of 1515 households in 1979 was $17,000 with 8% of the households below the poverty level.

D. 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, vital records (birth and death certificates), and hospital discharge information.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

During the most recent public meeting, October 1993, with residents living near the Sarney Property site, concerns over contaminant migration from the site were raised, including:

  1. The health risks associated with leaking drums buried on the site.

  2. The possibility that residents would not be notified of well water sample results, especially if contaminants were detected.

  3. The suitability of the site for agricultural use after the site has been cleaned up.

  4. The safety of using well water that is contaminated with trace levels of VOCs.

  5. The possible exposure of nearby residents to emissions from proposed on-site treatment facilities.

On March 22, 1993, the NYS DOH sent copies of the public health assessment for the Sarney Property site to all known interested parties, requesting concerns and comments on the report by April 19, 1993. The responses to the public comments received by the NYS DOH are included in Appendix C.


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