FINDLAY TOWNSHIP, ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES
In late 1997, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requested the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to prepare a Health Consultation (HC) for the Mazzaro Landfill site (the site) in Findlay township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. USEPA's initial request was to have the HC focus on any threats to public health from commercial and/or sport fishing in surface waters near the site, in particular Potato Garden Run, North Fork Montour Run, Montour Run, and Racoon Creek. Nearby surface waters are being contaminated by leachate from the site and/or unrelated mine drainage from numerous sources in the region. Downstream surface waters that receive flow from Potato Garden Run and North Fork Montour Run are Racoon Creek and the main stem of Montour Run.
After USEPA's initial request, discussions between the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) and USEPA led PADOH to examine some chemical analyses data from domestic spring water reportedly in use near the site. Although not the focus of this HC, domestic spring water is considered herein.
PADOH, working under cooperative agreement with ATSDR, prepared this HC. It primarily addresses the commercial/sport fishing aspects of USEPA's concerns. It also recommends that further research be done on the domestic spring water issue. A second HC may be needed to report PADOH's findings, conclusions and recommendations related to the domestic spring water issue.
Conclusions and recommendations presented in this HC are site specific. They should not be applied to any other site. PADOH provides conclusions and recommendations based on the data and information referenced. Additional data could alter the advice being presented. PADOH is committed to reviewing additional data and responding to additional requests.
Mazzaro Coal and Disposal operated the landfill from 1966 until about 1987, when it closed. During its years of operation it received sewage sludge, construction waste, asbestos, fly ash, other industrial waste (reportedly including acids, heavy metals, and possibly polychlorinated biphenyls), and residential and commercial waste (1). The literature reviewed by PADOH did not provide details of how or why the landfill was closed, except to note that a methane recovery system was installed (1).
The site occupies between 190 and 240 acres just west of U. S. Route 30, Lincoln Highway, about one mile south of Clinton in Findlay township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (Appendix A, Figures 1, 2). One unnamed stream, the "eastern tributary" to Potato Garden Run, originates on site (Appendix A, Figure 2). It appears to be fed by groundwater and/or leachate seepage and by a pond, which itself may be fed by groundwater and/or leachate seepage (1). The eastern tributary flows to the south through some wetlands before reaching Potato Garden Run, which eventually flows into Racoon Creek about four stream miles downstream from the site. Another unnamed stream, the "western tributary" to Potato Garden Run, is about three-tenths of a mile west of the site (Appendix A, Figure 2). It flows to the southwest. Some drainage from the site appears to flow into the western tributary, possibly including overflow from one or more leachate impoundments. There are two probable points of entry to the western tributary (Appendix A, Figure 3) (1). North Fork Montour Run appears to originate at the easternmost tip of the property and flows to the southeast (Appendix A, Figure 2).
There are five ponds or impoundments on-site (Appendix A, Figure 3). Site surface drainage would be expected to flow into three surface water channels, the eastern tributary to Potato Garden Run, the western tributary to Potato Garden Run, or North Fork Montour Run. North Fork Montour Run may not be affected by leachate from the site (1).
At one time, portions of the property were used for deep and strip mining (1). The 7.5' United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic map of the area (Clinton, Pa.) reveals that numerous strip mines and mine dumps stud large areas of this part of Pennsylvania. This factor is important in understanding whether a human exposure pathway (through fishing use of surface water) exists for site-related contamination. The reason for this is that drainage from these mine sites can cause the affected surface waters to be completely devoid of larger aquatic species. Appendix A, Figures 2 and 6 are derived in part from the digital version of the USGS's Clinton, Pa., topographic map.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (PADER) conducted an extensive aquatic biological survey of Racoon Creek and its tributaries in 1979. Potato Garden Run is one such tributary. The investigators took surface water samples during the survey and had them analyzed for inorganic parameters, such as metals. No record of organic chemical analyses appears in their report. They also studied the streams for the presence and numbers of larger aquatic organisms. The summary section of the report states that "Racoon Creek suffers from severe mine drainage pollution. . . it will be many years before the mainstream supports viable aquatic communities due to solidification of the substrate and subsequent elimination of habitat" (2). Similar problems are present in North Fork Montour Run (4) However, in oral communications with local and state officials, PADOH learned that Racoon Creek and Montour Run are used by local fishermen.
USEPA collected samples at the site on September 23, 1992, including surface water samples on site and off site (Appendix A, Figures 4, 5). The results of chemical analyses of the sampling are shown in the tables of Appendix B of this HC. The results reveal on-site contamination of surface water with metals and cyanide.Off-site surface waters are also contaminated with metals, but the upstream sample had higher levels of several metals than the leachate coming from the site.
After USEPA's initial request to study fishing in the creeks, discussions between PADOH and USEPA led PADOH to examine some chemical analyses data from domestic spring water reportedly in use near the site. USEPA also sampled two nearby domestic spring water sources on September 23, 1992. The results of chemical analyses of this sampling are shown in the tables of Appendix B. In general, the results of the analyses show too many data qualifiers to be beneficial to a discussion of the public health aspects of drinking water quality. Data qualifiers mean the sample results are inadequate to assess the safety of the water for human consumption.
On Thursday, January 29, 1998, Mark Lavin and Barbara Allerton (PADOH), conducted a site visit at the subject facility. We met with Gary Klingman, Findlay township manager, who said that no community complains/concerns had been received regarding consumption of fish from area streams.
Wemet with Russell Stutzman, an aquatic biologist at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), formerly PADER, and a representative of the landfill at the site. We toured the site near the eastern tributary to Potato Garden Run. We saw a stream of landfill leachate draining into the wetland just downstream from a breached sedimentation basin. We also saw a stream of mine drainage, with the characteristic "yellow boy" in the stream bed, converging with the landfill leachate at the headwaters of the wetland, estimated to be about 30,000 square feet in area.
We then drove around the offsite areas. Numerous areas of "yellow boy" in the stream beds were noted. Patterns in the distribution of this phenomenon could be distinguished in the affected streams.
Mr. Stutzman provided PADOH with his expert opinion regarding the nearby surface waters' usefulness as a sport fishery. He conducted a nonintensive aquatic biological survey at three instream stations during the site visit (Appendix A, Figure 6). He said that both Potato Garden Run and North Fork Montour Creek were seriously impacted by mine drainage. He explained that, as a result, both streams will support nonsport fish species, such as chubs and suckers, but are not likely to support game fish (3).