PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
WORMAN TOWNSHIP, BOYERTOWN, BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
The CryoChem, Inc. site is in a rural area of Berks County, which is zoned for agricultural and residential use. Approximately 150 people currently live within a one-quarter mile radius of the site. The distance from the nearest off-site residence to the site is approximately 50 feet. The groundwater at the CryoChem, Inc. site is primarily contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and to a lesser extent inorganic constituents. The contaminated groundwater passes through a residential area southeast of the site. Also, lead, unrelated to the site, was found in two residential wells upgradient of the site at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Action Level of 15 ug/L at the tap. The residents near the site are concerned about their past, current, and likely future exposure to contaminated groundwater.
An analysis of all cause mortality and cancer mortality in Earl and Douglass Townships for the period 1979-1989 indicated that both observed total deaths and cancer deaths were less than the expected number of deaths.
The site represents a public health hazard. Past, current, and possibly long-term future exposures to contaminated residential well water exist. Those exposures are at concentrations of public health concern.
The information and data developed in the public health assessment for CryoChem, Inc., Boyertown, Pennsylvania, have been evaluated by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. Because of exposure to site-related contaminants (VOCs) and nonsite-related contaminants (lead), through the ingestion of contaminated drinking water, HARP determined that the following health actions are indicated:
- Community health education for those persons who have been exposed to contaminated drinking water. PADOH will conduct community health education.
- Consideration for ATSDR's TCE subregistry for those persons exposed to TCE contaminated drinking water. ATSDR's Division of Health Studies determined that the registry is closed and no special considerations are noted for this site.
- Biological indicators or exposure testing (blood lead testing) for those children six months to six years old who consumed lead (not site-related) from contaminated drinking water at levels above EPA's action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). ATSDR's Division of Health Studies determined that lead testing should be considered for persons drinking contaminated water. PADOH will recommend to those people to consult their private physicians about testing.
In cooperation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, PADOH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, 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.
The 19-acre CryoChem, Inc. site is a National Priorities List (NPL) site located in the town of Worman in Earl Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania (1). The CryoChem, Inc. site has operated as a metals-fabrication facility since 1962. The facility is composed of several production and storage buildings and an office complex located in the lower part of the property (Figure 1). The company uses solvents to clean finished metal parts and any excess solvent is collected in shop drains. Prior to 1982, chloroethene, a commercial solvent containing at least 93.5 percent 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), was used to remove a dye that was applied to welded connections to check for weld integrity. Excess solvent was placed in the shop drain system which discharged into nearby surface waters that lead to Manatawny Creek.
In 1981, PADER sampled drinking water wells in Earl and Douglass Townships, along Route 562, after residents complained about odors. The chemical contaminants TCA, trichloroethene (TCE), and tetrachloroethene (PCE) were detected in many of the samples.
During the summer of 1982, PADER sampled environmental media at the CryoChem, Inc. facility including surface water runoff, water drains, and groundwater. TCA was detected in the samples. PADER notified CryoChem, Inc. that the facility was in violation of the Clean Streams Act of 1937 and made recommendations that CryoChem, Inc. discontinue use and dispose of all chloroethene. In addition, the company was directed to clean out and seal off the shop drain (Figure 2), properly dispose of any generated wastes, construct a concrete pad under existing above-ground fuel tanks, and retain the services of a qualified hydrogeologist to prepare and implement a hydrogeologic study to investigate the problem.
CryoChem, Inc. complied with PADER's recommendations, and in April 1983, submitted a report of an investigation conducted by Gilbert/Commonwealth at the site. The investigation included soil sampling and the installation of two monitoring wells. TCA contamination was detected in groundwater and soil. In December 1983, EPA sampled groundwater, surface water, and sediments at and in the general area around the CryoChem, Inc. facility. Other contaminants identified during this sampling included 1,1-dichloroethene (DCE) and 1,2-dichloroethane (DCA). In September 1987, EPA sampled the water supply wells of residents southeast of the CryoChem facility. EPA installed carbon filters in 13 homes where contaminant concentrations, based on the study results, exceeded EPA's emergency action levels.
On June 19, 1987, ATSDR completed a Site Certification for the CryoChem site. The Site Certification concluded that residential wells near the site were contaminated with volatile organic compounds to an extent that pose a public health threat. On December 16, 1987, ATSDR also completed a health consultation for the CryoChem site. The Health Consultation concluded that due to groundwater contamination in private wells, in order to protect public health, eight residences should be provided an alternate water supply and other residences within the groundwater plume should have their wells monitored on a quarterly basis.
On December 2, 1988, ATSDR completed a Preliminary Health Assessment for CryoChem, Inc. The Preliminary Health Assessment concluded that the site is considered to be of public health concern because of the risk to human health caused by the likelihood of exposure to hazardous substances through use of contaminated groundwater. The site was placed on the NPL in September 1989 and the Final Remedial Investigation Report for the CryoChem site was completed March 23, 1990.
On November 22, 1991, a site visit was conducted by Robert M. Stroman, Thomas Hartman and Gary Schultz who are members of PADOH's Health Assessment Team. They were accompanied by Charles Walters, Jr., Regional Representative for ATSDR Region III and EPA's Region III Remedial Program Manager (RPM) for the CryoChem site. The RPM conducted a tour of the site and discussed areas of special interest which included the groundwater contamination plume. Nearby residents were also interviewed to determine their concerns. With the exception of on-site manufacturing buildings, the site as described in this public health assessment was not secured.
On June 11 and 12, 1992, a field investigation was conducted in the area around the CryoChem site by J.E. Godfrey, who is also a member of PADOH's Health Assessment Team. Robert M. Stroman joined the field investigation on June 12, 1992. The purpose of the field investigation was to determine structural aspects of local geology in order to identify probable directions of groundwater flow, to conduct additional interviews and determine further concerns of nearby residents, and to evaluate nonsite-related potential sources of contamination to determine their likelihood of contributing to the contamination of groundwater in the general area of the site.
During the field investigation, at least four newly drilled well nests were observed down the hydrogeologic gradient (Figure 3). These wells were apparently drilled to further define the contaminant plume beyond previously investigated home wells which were known to have been affected. The contaminant plume potentially extends southeast, as far as the Triassic Border Fault (Figure 3). According to a local resident, the monitoring wells were completed during the spring of 1992. Sampling results are not yet available. The EPA RPM has promised to send results to PADOH as soon as they are received.
During the field investigation, PADOH observed a newly constructed home on Sunrise Lane with a private well drilled within or near the contaminant plume (Figure 3). The water quality from this well is not known to PADOH. As a result of the observations made during the site visit, PADOH determined that this well should be sampled for contaminants of concern as soon as possible and EPA was requested to conduct the sampling.
Several homes were also observed, north and upgradient of CryoChem, with TCE and TCA in their wells (Figures 4 and 5). One residence on Fern Drive reported 77 ppb TCE for one sampling round during the RI. Upon examination of the adjacent and upgradient vacated property, an open dug well was observed. A workshop with solvents, paint thinner, etc. was on the property. There is considerable potential for groundwater pollution in this setting. According to neighbors, the vacant property previously described has been unoccupied for over a year. The afore-mentioned residential well previously showing 77 ppb TCE indicated less than 2 ppb TCE during a recent private sampling.
Other areas were investigated during the field investigation along Fern Drive and Sunrise Lane. Only one obvious potential pollution source could be identified. This was an open dump near wells RI-5S and RI-5D (Figure 6). However, sampling results from these wells were non-detect for contaminants of concern.
The CryoChem site and nearby study area included business and residential properties north and south of Route 562 in Earl and Douglass Townships, Berks County, Pennsylvania (1). Douglass Township has a 1990 Census population of 3,570 compared to 3,128 in 1980 - a 14.1 percent increase. Earl Township had a 1990 Census population of 3,016 compared to 2,607 in 1980 - a 15.7 percent increase. Berks County population increased 7.7 percent from 1980 to 1990 (312,509 to 336,523), while Pennsylvania grew by only 0.1 percent in this period (2).
The following chart provides comparative demographic data from the 1990 Census for Pennsylvania, Berks County, Douglass Township and Earl Township.
Comparative Demographic Data for Pennsylvania, Berks County,
Douglass Township and Earl Township (3)
|Percent Under 18|
|Percent 65 and Over|
|Persons per Household|
|Median Home Value
|Median Rental Value
|Per Capita Income 1985
(U.S. $) (4)
There are 49 residences in both Earl and Douglass Townships within a quarter-mile radius of CryoChem, Inc. Sixteen of these are in a residential development located south of Route 562 and east of Sunrise Lane. Most of the remaining homes are along the north side of Route 562 and along both sides of Fancyvale Drive (Figure 8). Many of the homes with contaminated water supplies are located within Douglass Township (Figure 7). Based on the 1990 Census figure for persons per household in Earl and Douglass Townships, there are approximately 137 persons living within a quarter-mile radius of CryoChem, Inc.
The 1990 Pennsylvania Industrial Directory indicates that CryoChem, Inc. employs 50 persons. Several other industrial and commercial properties are located within a quarter-mile of CryoChem, Inc. (Figure 8). Immediately west of CryoChem, Inc. on the adjoining property is the C.S. Garber, Inc. drilling company. Southeast from CryoChem, Inc., across Route 562, is Mike's Service Center (formerly the Fancyhill Mobil Station). A small restaurant is located on Route 562, east of CryoChem, Inc. Another drilling company, R&R Garber, Inc., is east on Route 562. I.S.C., Inc., an industrial facility located approximately 1,000 feet east of CryoChem, Inc. on Route 562, manufactures mobile hydraulic lifts (1).
The Boyertown Area School District serves the site population. The nearest secondary schools are located in Boyertown Borough approximately three miles southeast of the site (5). There are several elementary schools between one and two miles from the site but none within a mile of CryoChem, Inc. (6). The closest nursing home and hospital is located five to six miles southeast of the site in Pottstown Borough, Montgomery County (7,8).
The CryoChem site is located in a rural area with much of the land used for residential development and farming. Residences, open fields, and unmanaged woodlands surround the site. Agricultural land is largely used for cultivating crops, with rocky hills allowing only woodland growth. The distance from the nearest off-site residence to the site is approximately 50 feet. Fancy Hill and Sand Hill, northwest and north of the site, respectively have altitudes of 1,000 feet. Two stone pits lie north and northeast of the site and are both within a mile of the site. Southeast of the CryoChem, Inc. property, there is a commercial trout hatchery (1).
Natural Resource Use
Groundwater is the primary natural resource being used in the area of the CryoChem site. The flow of groundwater through the study area appears to parallel surface water flow and is dictated by bedrock fractures. Drainage of the watershed occurs in a southeastern direction from the northern headwaters. Groundwater discharge occurs along the stream and out of springs near the Triassic Border Fault.
There are a number of small and intermediate-sized groundwater consumers in the study area. The largest group of small groundwater consumers (approximately 50) are the local residents of Worman. Nearly all individual homeowners own and operate private water wells. Household water consumption is estimated at 270 gallons per day (gpd) per household, based on the generally accepted water supply estimating values of 3.5 persons per home and 75 gpd per person.
Several businesses located along Route 562 consume larger amounts of groundwater. The two largest groundwater consumers in the area are CryoChem, Inc. and C.S. Garber and Sons, Inc. CryoChem, Inc. uses groundwater for office bathrooms and industrial processes. The estimated average daily water usage at CryoChem, Inc. is 6,503 gpd (based on flow meter data collected from March 1, 1989 to June 22, 1989). Information provided by C.S. Garber and Sons indicates that this facility uses groundwater for office bathrooms, water well drilling, and equipment cleaning, and estimates its usage to be approximately 3,000 gpd. In addition, the local fire company uses the high yielding production well, located at the northern end of the C.S. Garber property, for filling swimming pools and fire fighting. Their usage is approximately 300,000 gallons per year. A large portion of that is used in the summer. Consumption by the fire company, averaged over one year of usage, is 820 gpd. Fire company consumption rates are based on estimates given by C.S. Garber and Sons.
Groundwater consumption at Mike's Service Station was estimated, based on information obtained from the manager, to be 120 gpd. I.S.C., Inc. and the restaurant also use groundwater. No estimates are available for I.S.C, Inc., which uses water primarily for employee hygiene. The restaurant is estimated to use 1,000 gpd based on an interview with an employee who works at the restaurant (1).
Using state health data bases, special studies, or other relevant health outcome data bases, it may be possible to compare health outcome in areas around hazardous waste sites in Pennsylvania with the state as a whole. This section introduces these data bases and discusses their limitations. An evaluation of the usefulness of this health data as it relates to the CryoChem site is presented in the Public Health Implications section.
PADOH has maintained resident death records since 1903. However, the Pennsylvania
Registry has collected cancer data for all areas of Pennsylvania only since 1984. Field
representatives interact with local hospitals to audit the accuracy of all Pennsylvania Cancer
Registry Report Form information. However, the mobility of the patients, the variance in
compliance rates among hospitals, and the newness of the program create difficulty in collecting
meaningful data of geographic areas smaller than the county level. The most recent report,
published in September 1991, is entitled Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Pennsylvania, 1988.
The report only presents data applicable at the county level (smallest geographic area). PADOH
is unaware of the existence of any special studies or other relevant health outcome data bases
associated with this site.
There are no known community action groups associated with the CryoChem, Inc. site. However, during the site visit and the field investigation, the primary residential concerns were as follows:
- Are residents near the CryoChem, Inc. site exposed to contaminants in their private wells?
- Will groundwater monitoring continue after remedial activities conclude to ensure that VOCs are not contaminating new residential wells?
This document was available for public comment from December 29, 1992, through February 2, 1993. No other comments or concerns were received.