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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

BUTZ LANDFILL
JACKSON TOWNSHIP
MONROE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA




SUMMARY

The Butz Landfill in Jackson Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, was added to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Priorities List (NPL) in March 1989. The 13 acre site was used for the disposal of municipal waste, sewage sludge, and possibly industrial waste from about 1965 to 1973. Groundwater contamination downgradient of the site, with subsequent contamination of private residential wells by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), eventually led EPA to construct a potable public water supply. The water supply was completed in May 1993 and about 50 homes, as well as some commercial establishments, are connected. Design work has begun on a groundwater extraction and decontamination project. The two townships affected by the contamination have enacted ordinances that prohibit the issuance of building permits involving new well construction within certain geographic boundaries around the plumes.

The major contaminants found in the private wells are 1,1-dichloroethene (1,1-DCE), 1,2-dichloroethene (1,2-DCE), trichloroethene (TCE), and tetrachloroethene (PCE). Levels of TCE in private well water were found to be as high as 7,000 µg/L.

The site posed a past public health hazard because people were exposed to contaminated groundwater. Currently, the site represents no public health hazard, but several changes in conditions could alter that conclusion. In order to pose no public health hazard, the following conditions must continue:

  • The present ordinances that prohibit drilling new wells into contaminated groundwater must remain in effect and be enforced.
  • The current public water supply must be maintained and be made available to new residents and businesses so that use of private wells will not be necessary.
  • Any contaminated private well already in existence that has not been decommissioned cannot be used for domestic purposes.

Total mortality and cancer mortality data for Jackson Township, Monroe County, were collected and analyzed for the period 1980-1992. Total cancer deaths were found to be significantly lower, statistically, than expected. The crude cancer incidence rate was also found to be lower than expected in the standard Pennsylvania population.

Meetings and discussions were held between Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) representatives, community officials, and residents to identify community health concerns. The concerns, which include questions about skin rashes, hearing impairment, numbness, and using contaminated water for infants, are discussed in this report.

Recommendations for further actions include continuation of groundwater monitoring and continuation and enforcement of well drilling prohibitions. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) reviewed the information presented in this document. The panel felt that the community affected by the landfill should be provided information about their potential for exposure, primarily to TCE, and how to prevent or mitigate the effects of such exposure. PADOH will provide the community with that information.

BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

Butz Landfill is south of Camelback Mountain on Township Road 601 in Jackson Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania (Figures 1, 2, and 3). The 13 acre site, acquired in 1963 by the landfill proprietors, received municipal waste, sewage sludge, and possibly industrial waste during its operational life from about 1965 to 1973 (8). A permit application was submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) (formerly the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources) in 1970, but the permit was denied because of insufficient technical information.

Following citizen complaints in early 1971, PADEP made the first of a number of site inspections. Water well contamination and leachate seeps were documented, and in 1973 PADEP ordered the landfill closed (9). Sometime in 1973 the site was covered with a clean topsoil cap. A 1986 PADEP site inspection revealed local residential water supply wells contaminated with a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOC's), principally trichloroethene (TCE) (Figures 2 and 4). Subsequent EPA sampling in 1987 and afterward confirmed those results. During the 1986-87 time period, soil vapor and magnetometer surveys were performed, 22 carbon filter units were installed on private water supplies, and 17 monitoring wells were constructed on and near the site (9 and Figure 5). Additionally, EPA provided bottled water to 28 locations.

In May 1988, EPA retained an engineering firm to design a water supply system for those affected by the landfill. Butz Landfill was added to the NPL in March 1989. Construction of the water main began in June 1992 and was completed in May 1993.

Currently, EPA operates the water system and performs quarterly groundwater monitoring from the network of wells downgradient of the site. Also in May 1993, work began on the design of the groundwater extraction and treatment system as part of the selected remedy described in the June 30, 1992, Record of Decision (ROD) (9).

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) prepared a Draft Preliminary Health Assessment for the site (January 1990). No follow-up to the draft report was completed.

B. Site Visit

On February 17 and 18, 1994, J. E. Godfrey and Mark Lavin of PADOH visited the site and surrounding area (one to two mile radius). The ground was covered with snow to a depth of about 2 feet, so only limited observation of surface features was possible. Some off-site monitoring wells were observed, but well R-6, critical to the assessment, could not be located under the snow. The site is unrestricted except for a small fenced area containing remediation apparatus near the road.

The PADOH representatives surveyed the area around the site, measured bedrock joint and bedding orientations, and interviewed private citizens and township officials.

The geological investigation by the PADOH hydrogeologist confirmed the statements in the Remedial Investigation (RI) concerning rock structure. Bedding of the sedimentary rocks strikes about North - 62o - East and dips from 10o to 20o to the northwest (Figures 3 and 6). There are several prominent, nearly vertical joint sets oriented across strike (north-northeast to northwest) which furnish ample contaminant migration pathways down the topographic and water table gradients toward the south and southeast (Figures 7, 8, and 9). According to the RI, joint spacing is approximately 1 joint per 4 feet (horizontal distance) in sandstones and 1 joint per 2 feet in shales and siltstones. Field observations by the PADOH hydrogeologist generally agree with these spacing frequencies. However, PADOH disagrees with some of the RI findings concerning plume shape and distribution. Those issues are discussed in the Environmental Contamination and Other Hazards section of this document.

Citizens whom PADOH interviewed and who were served by the public water supply were divided in their opinions as to the need for the system. The most concern was expressed over the actual or projected cost to the consumer over future years. Township officials openly wondered if projected revenues from residents would meet their own operating costs.

Godfrey and Lavin made a second site visit on April 15, 1994, after the snow cover melted. The primary purpose of the second visit was to investigate additional potential sources of groundwater contamination. Investigators saw an automobile tire pile north of Railroad Drive between wells 12 and 21 (Figure 2). The most significant discovery was a dump site on the old railroad bed at the gate and entrance to Big Pocono State Park (Figures 3 and 9). This location is 500 feet directly upgradient of monitoring well R6. Among the debris were numerous auto parts (including a complete gasoline tank), miscellaneous household garbage, an empty container of STP Gas Treatment, and two empty 55 gallon drums.

Mr. Godfrey made other site visits on December 12, 1995, and February 14 and 15, 1996, to see if site conditions had changed. No changes in site conditions were noted.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Resource Use

According to the 1990 census, Jackson Township has a population of 3,757 people and an area of 21,165 acres. About 200 permanent residents live within a mile of the site. However, because of the presence of numerous resorts and summer homes in the area, the local population approximately doubles during the tourist seasons of summer and winter. Table 1 compares selected demographic parameters from the 1990 census for Pennsylvania, Monroe County, and Jackson Township.

Land use is a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial development. About 5% of local acreage is used for crops and livestock (8). Adjacent Pocono Township (Figure 2) has similar demographics, and land use.

Other features noted within a one-mile radius of the site include a small commercial area one mile southeast, an unincorporated town, Reeders, one mile south, and a feed store one mile south. Approximately 50 residences, including Camp Streamside, are affected by the groundwater contamination (Figure 13).

Two groundwater zones have been identified in the vicinity of the site. The shallower zone is commonly glacial overburden and weathered bedrock of varying thickness up to several tens of feet. The deeper zone occurs in fractured bedrock and supplies most of the residential well water in the area (perhaps 50 to 60 wells). Bedrock wells may exceed 400 feet in depth (oral communication with well owners). Both water bearing zones are connected, as indicated by well pumping tests, and are characterized by downward components of groundwater flow (8). Drinking water wells are known to exist in the area, but no well survey was found for review to ensure that all possible drinking water wells in the area have been identified.

A kindergarten and elementary school (grades 1-4) is on Railroad Drive just west of well 27 (Figure 3). The school and employees (approximately 50 students and 15 staff) obtain their water from the public water supply serving the community. An abandoned well remains on the premises but is not used.

Recreational areas of the Big Pocono State Park lie north of Butz Landfill, and State Game Land 38 is to the northwest. Both areas are hydrogeologically upgradient of the site; hence, they are not affected by it. Camp Streamside, a youth camp serving up to 200 visitors, is downgradient of the site about one-half mile south. A well serving the camp has a history of contamination by mercury, chromium, and VOCs dating back to the mid-1970s (8).

D. Health Outcome Data

Mortality data which are presented and discussed in the Public Health Implications section are the most reliable public health indicator applicable to the Minor Civil Division (MCD) level. PADOH maintains vital records of deaths, live births, fetal deaths, and reports of induced termination of pregnancy; however, with the exception of deaths and live births, the use of these data for geographic areas smaller than the county level is difficult because recordings of exact place of residence are not as accurate as mortality and natality records. The Pennsylvania Cancer Registry (PCR) now collects cancer data for all areas of Pennsylvania. Field representatives interact with local hospitals to audit the accuracy of all reporting. However, the mobility of the patients, the variance in compliance rates among hospitals, and the newness of the program create difficulty in analyses of geographic areas smaller than the county level. The most recent report, published in December 1993, is entitled Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Pennsylvania, 1987-1991. The report presents data only applicable at the county level (smallest geographic area).

PADOH is not aware of any other health studies conducted in the vicinity of the Butz Landfill.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

PADOH determined community health concerns in discussions with government officials, personal interviews with area residents, and historical document reviews. The following concerns were expressed in one or more of the previously mentioned formats:

  1. Could contaminants in groundwater near the site cause skin problems (rashes) to develop?
  2. Should groundwater contaminated with site-related chemicals be fed to an infant? What are possible consequences of such exposure?
  3. Will school children who get wet playing in snow be affected by contaminants from the landfill?
  4. Could contaminants from the site have been responsible for the death of a family member?

These concerns are addressed in the Community Concerns Evaluation section of this document.

On December 18, 1995, PADOH placed a paid legal notice in the Pocono Record (Pennsylvania) that a public comment period ending February 16, 1996, had been opened to receive written comments about the site. The written comments received during that period and our responses are summarized in Appendix C.

PADOH convened two availability sessions on February 14, 1996, at the Library of the Pocono Elementary Center to provide an opportunity for people to meet with PADOH and ATSDR representatives to discuss the public health implications of the Butz Landfill site. The sessions were advertised in the Pocono Record on February 11 and 13, 1996. Only nine people attended these sessions. The questions posed and our corresponding responses are summarized in Appendix D.


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