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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

SYOSSET LANDFILL
OYSTER BAY, NASSAU COUNTY, NEW YORK

SUMMARY

The Syosset Landfill site is an inactive landfill in the Town of Oyster Bay, Syosset, Nassau County, New York. In September 1983, the site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (US EPA) National Priorities List (NPL), the nation's official register of hazardous waste sites. The site is an indeterminate 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, adequate data or information are not available for all environmental media to which humans may be exposed. In addition, there are insufficient or no community-specific health outcome data to indicate that the site has had an adverse effect on human health. Exposures from ingesting contaminated drinking water from a downgradient public supply well may have occurred, however, data are not available to determine the full extent of groundwater contamination present during operation of the well.

A public health concern exists for Town of Oyster Bay employees who work at the site, for nearby residents, and for persons at the adjacent South Grove Elementary School. This concern exists due to the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including vinyl chloride, benzene and tetrachloroethene in soil gas, and the generation of methane which could migrate to inhabited on-site areas and/or off the site and accumulate in closed buildings, such as Town of Oyster Bay maintenance facilities, adjacent homes, and the school. One public health threat from methane generation is the potential for explosive levels of methane to accumulate in closed buildings. Another potential public health threat is that toxic gases tend to be carried with methane. These chemicals can pose risks of adverse health effects if persons are exposed. These risks are in addition to the effects that can be caused by large amounts of methane displacing oxygen in the air. Corrective measures have been taken to monitor and control the migration of landfill gases onto the South Grove School property.

Citizens raised health-related questions about the presence and migration of contaminated groundwater to public drinking water supply wells, protection of health for people living near the site and those at the South Grove Elementary School.

The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) has made recommendations to (1) reduce and prevent exposure to contaminants, (2) better characterize the site, and (3) address community health concerns.

Additional investigation is needed to determine if ambient air is contaminated on-site or off-site and if contaminated groundwater is migrating off-site.

The data and information evaluated in the public health assessment for the Syosset Landfill have 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 at this time.

Public health actions taken and/or planned include the following: (1) The NYS DOH, Nassau County Department of Health (NC DOH), United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Town of Oyster Bay have been involved with investigation of the site and continue to provide education and information pertaining to resident's health concerns and site remediation; 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 planned which should reduce the frequency of trespassers on the landfill; 4) Public drinking water supply wells have been and continue to be tested for site-related contaminants; and 5) The nature and extent of off-site groundwater contamination as well as the need for remediation will be addressed in a second operable unit remedial investigation.

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, ATSDR and NYS DOH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR 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

The Syosset Landfill is an inactive landfill site in central Nassau County in the Town of Oyster Bay, Syosset, New York (see Appendix A, Figure 1). The 35 acre site is roughly rectangular in shape, flat and at the same elevation as the surrounding area. Important features at or near the site are included in Appendix A, Figure 2. The site is bounded by the Long Island Expressway and Miller Place to the southeast, Cerro Wire and Cable Corporation to the southwest, and the Long Island Railroad to the northwest. The offices and facilities of the Town of Oyster Bay Department of Public Works border the landfill to the east and occupy about 18 acres; together, the landfill and the adjacent facilities occupy about 53 acres.

The Syosset Landfill began operation as a municipal landfill in about 1933 until closure in 1975. The site was excavated in two sections to depths of about 60 feet at the eastern part of the site and 90 feet at the western end. The site was operated by the Town of Oyster Bay and was used primarily by local refuse transporters for disposal of general household and community waste and rubbish. The site was also used for disposal of wastes by nearby industries. During the last nine years of operation, the site accepted only treated scavenger cesspool waste and industrial waste. Following closure, the site was covered with 6 inches to 4 feet of clean, sandy fill. Most of the site is completely barren with some trees, shrubs and ground cover. The entire landfill area is enclosed by a 6-foot high cyclone fence. Access to the site is controlled by the Town of Oyster Bay.

In September 1983, the site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (US EPA) National Priorities List (NPL), the nation's official register of hazardous waste sites. In 1986, the Town of Oyster Bay entered into an Order on Consent with US EPA, the lead agency for the site, 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 to verify if hazardous wastes are present at a site and determine if 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.

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 RI/FS was conducted at the site by Geraghty & Miller, Inc. of Plainview, New York, and Lockwood, Kessler & Bartlett, Inc. of Syosset, New York, under contract to the Town of Oyster Bay. In October 1989, a Health and Endangerment Assessment report was issued for the site; it was prepared by CDM Federal Programs Corp., for the US EPA.

The US EPA has separated the cleanup of the Syosset Landfill site into two phases or operable units. The first Operable Unit (OU-1) RI addressed on-site remediation, while the second Operable Unit (OU-2) RI will address off-site remediation. The OU-2 RI will consist of an off-site groundwater study and an off-site subsurface gas study. Field work for the First Operable Unit RI was carried out from April 1987 to June 1988. A final RI report and a draft FS report were completed for the First Operable Unit in August 1989 and June 1990, respectively. The US EPA issuance of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the site, dated September 27, 1990, marks the completion and approval of the RI/FS for the First Operable Unit. The selected remedy includes the installation of a geosynthetic membrane cap on the top surface of the landfill. A final Work Plan and a final Site Operations Plan for the Second Operable Unit RI/FS were prepared for the site in April 1991 and May 1992, respectively. The off-site OU-2 RI is on-going.

B. Actions Implemented During the Public Health Assessment Process

1) Active public drinking water supply wells near the site have been and continue to be tested by NC DOH at the specified intervals as mandated by NYS DOH. This action should significantly reduce the potential for exposure to site-related groundwater contaminants from the public drinking water supplies. To date, there has been no indication of any contamination in currently active supply wells due to the Syosset Landfill.
2) The NYS DOH, NC DOH, US EPA and the Town of Oyster Bay have been involved with the site and continue to provide education and information pertaining to resident's health concerns and site remediation.

C. Site Visit

Mr. John Olm and Mr. Geoff Laccetti from the NYS DOH visited the site area on June 3, 1992. During the site visit, the following observations were made:

  • Access to the landfill area was via a paved road leading from a parking lot off Miller Place and adjacent to the Department of Public Works offices.
  • Personnel from the Town's Department of Public Works were on the landfill, performing routine duties including operation of heavy earth moving equipment and the wood chipper/mulcher operation.
  • A designated recycling area is established off the landfill along the southwestern property boundary; recyclable materials were present in designated sections.
  • The Town of Oyster Bay animal shelter was operating. The shelter has since been relocated off-site.
  • The central portion of the site is used for stockpiling road materials; stockpiled road deicing material is stored inside two buildings located northwest of the Town of Oyster Bay's highway yard. The southern area of the site behind the Department of Public Works building is used as a marshaling yard for public works vehicles, including garbage trucks and road maintenance equipment. The southwestern portion of the landfill site is used for the Town's leaf composting operations.

D. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

NYS DOH estimated, from the 1990 Census, that 13,739 people live within 1 mile of the Syosset Landfill site, of which 92.7 percent of the population is of the white race, 0.3 percent is of the black race and 7.0 percent is of other races. The Landfill is within census tract 5187.00, in which 5.6 percent of the population is under 5 years of age, 18.9 percent is 5-19 years of age, 63.8 percent is 20-64 years of age and 11.7 percent is 65 years or older. Socio-economic data are not yet available from the 1990 Census. The median household income in 1979 for this census tract was $63,606, with 1.5 percent of the families with income below the poverty level.

The South Grove Elementary School borders the landfill to the northeast. The Syosset Central School District reported that as of October 1, 1991, 295 children, ages 5-11, attend the South Grove Elementary School. These children live north of the Long Island Expressway and west of South Oyster Bay Road. The Syosset Central School District has 6 other elementary schools with 1,889 students, two middle schools with 1,231 students, and one high school with 1,723 students.

About 75 full-time employees of the Town of Oyster Bay work at the site either at the Town operated animal shelter or at the Town's Department of Public Works facilities. Additionally, 200 sanitation workers come to the site daily to pick up and drop off their trucks.

Land Use

The site is in a highly developed residential and industrial area. Surrounding land uses include industrial and commercial facilities to the south and west, Town of Oyster Bay highway yard to the east, and single-family homes to the north. Homes on Colony Lane are about 50 feet from the site's northern border. There are at least 100 homes within 350 feet of the perimeter of the site. There are two groundwater recharge basins which border the site to the northeast and north. Access to these basins is controlled by fencing. Both basins collect storm water runoff from the neighboring residential area.

The former Cerro Wire and Cable Company site is immediately adjacent to the south western border of the Syosset Landfill. Cerro is listed on New York State's Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites. This 40-acre site manufactured electrical conduit, wires, rods, and metal stripping from 1951 to 1984. The facility disposed of waste into on-site recharge basins resulting in soil and groundwater contamination.

Existing land use at the site is depicted in Appendix A, Figure 3.

Natural Resource Use

Town of Oyster Bay residents use groundwater from public water supplies for drinking and other domestic uses. There are three public supply wells within a 1-mile radius of the site (wells N4246, N6190, and N6191) ranging in depth between 450-600 feet. These wells are upgradient from the site. In addition, two active public supply wells (N198 and N199) are about 2 miles to the northeast of the site in the general direction of groundwater flow. Further discussion of these wells is included in the Off-Site Contamination section of this public health assessment.

No privately-owned drinking water supply wells have been found in the area. However, a total of 14 private industrial wells are within 1 mile of the site, one of which is in the general direction of groundwater flow. This non-potable well is owned by Syosset Hospital and is used to supply cooling water for air conditioning.

Oyster Bay, the closest body of surface water, is located about 6 miles north of the site.

E. Health Outcome Data

NYS DOH has not evaluated health outcome data specific for the Syosset Landfill site or the Town of Oyster Bay.

However, in 1990, NYS DOH reported on breast cancer incidence rates for small geographic areas of Nassau and Suffolk Counties for the years 1978-1987. An evaluation of this study is included in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation section.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

Residents living near the site have expressed concern over the potential for groundwater contamination resulting from the migration of landfill leachate, and the off-site migration of landfill gas. In 1981, community concerns were raised when landfill gas was found migrating onto the adjacent South Grove Elementary School property.

Local residents, which include parents of children attending the South Grove Elementary School, are concerned about health risks posed during planned closure activities at the site. These concerns are addressed in the Public Health Implications section.


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