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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

HEBELKA AUTO SALVAGE YARD
WEISENBURG TOWNSHIP, LEHIGH COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA


SUMMARY

The Hebelka Auto Salvage Yard is a National Priorities List (NPL) site approximately 9 miles west of the city of Allentown in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. On-site soils, groundwater, and sediment are contaminated with lead and other metals. Off-site soils, surface water, and sediment are contaminated with lead and other metals. Off-site groundwater is also contaminated with lead. Haafsville, a residential community with approximately 25 homes, is about 1/4 mile downgradient of the site. This community uses private wells for their potable water supply. The residents of Haafsville are concerned about potential exposure to site contaminants through their drinking water and interested in the type of remedial activities that will occur at the site. Past completed exposure pathways for lead in surface soil exist for children residing within or adjacent to the property boundaries. Past, present, and future completed exposure pathways for lead in surface soil also exist for those people who work and reside on site.

The site is considered a Public Health Hazard because evidence exists that human exposures to lead have occurred, are occurring, and are likely to occur in the future, and estimated exposures are at concentrations in the environment that, upon long-term exposures, can cause neurological deficits and other adverse health effects. Children who resided or played on-site and were routinely exposed to on-site soils are the people most likely to experience adverse health effects associated with exposure to lead.

The data and information developed in the Hebelka Auto Salvage Yard Public Health Assessment have been evaluated for appropriate follow-up health actions. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) determined that on-site workers and a family who lived on site, especially the children, were exposed to lead. Therefore, community involvement to provide information to the family and workers about lead exposure is indicated. ATSDR will reevaluate this site to determine if additional follow-up Public Health Actions are needed if new data become available that indicate a need to do so.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) agreed to provide information to the family who resided on site and to on-site workers to assist them in understanding possible adverse health outcomes that may result from exposure to lead at the Hebelka site. In August 1993, through a site visit and conversations with a neighbor and with the mother of some of the children believed to have frequented the site, PADOH learned that one child lived briefly on the site, but moved away at an early age. She is about 12 years old now. The other Hebelka children did not live on the site, but visited their grandparents often. They reportedly did not play in the salvage yard where the highest levels of contamination were found. Those children are now at least 13, 15, and 16 years of age. Because of the children's present ages and because exposure to site contaminants has not occurred in a long time, no further health education is planned for the family members.

Weisenburg and Upper Macungie Township Administrators indicated that they will incorporate into their development plans requirements that lot owners have water quality tests performed before building homes or businesses east of the site along Tercha Road.


BACKGROUND

In cooperation with ATSDR, 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 an 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 Hebelka site is a National Priorities List (NPL) site located in Weisenburg Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Topographically, the site is positioned on the south side of a low, moderately steep hill north of Interstate Highway 78, approximately 9 miles west of the city of Allentown (Figure 1). The site occupies approximately 20 acres within the headwaters of the Iron Run drainage basin and is bordered on the south by Old Route 22 and Interstate Highway 78; on the east by Tercha Road and an agricultural field; on the north by a second agricultural field; and on the west by Township Route T-541 and generally open, rural land. Public access to the site is not restricted by a fence.

The Hebelka site, purchased in 1958, was privately owned. Its owners are now deceased; however, people do live on the site. From 1958 to 1979, the property was used as an automobile junkyard with periods of activity involving salvage operations. Two large piles totalling approximately 1,000 cubic yards of used battery casings accumulated on the site in addition to empty storage tanks, empty drums, automobiles, and miscellaneous scrap metal. The volume of contaminated material on the site includes 6,900 cubic yards of lead-contaminated soil (1,2,3). The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (PADER) reported that operations on the site ceased in 1979.

On December 15, 1985, the EPA Region III Field Investigation team visited the site. Their site inspection revealed the presence of the two battery piles at the site, termed the Eastern Battery Pile and the Western Battery Pile (Figure 2). The Western Battery Pile is located at the crest of the western slope of the swale and the Eastern Battery Pile at the crest of the swale's eastern slope. The major contaminant identified during their inspection included lead in soils downgradient from the battery piles and in sediment from Iron Run Creek. Iron Run Creek, located about 200 feet south of the site, is a tributary of Lehigh Creek. Lehigh Creek is a cold water fishing stream.

A Draft Remedial Investigation Report (RI) was completed in 1988. Data were gathered during two field investigation efforts, a Phase 1 Field Investigation and a Phase 2 Field Investigation. A Record of Decision (ROD) was signed in March 1989 for the Hebelka site for the remediation of the battery casings and contaminated soils. The selected remedy in the ROD included recycling of the battery casings and excavation of lead-contaminated soil, fixation of the soil using cement or lime-based process, and then depositing the fixed material in an off-site landfill approved by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A preliminary public health assessment for the Hebelka site was prepared on April 14, 1989, by ATSDR. That report determined that the site was of public health concern because of the risk to human health resulting from probable exposure to hazardous substances at concentrations that could cause adverse health effects.

ATSDR also conducted a Lead Initiative Summary Report for the site in September 1992. That report recommended a full public health assessment and recognized the fact that EPA has made multiple attempts to make the residents aware of the dangers of exposure to lead.

A Draft Final RI was completed in May 1991. A Final RI/FS was completed in July 1991. The Final RI report presents the findings of both Phase 1 and Phase 2 field investigation activities. This public health assessment uses, in part, data obtained during both Phase 1 and Phase 2 field investigations.

B. SITE VISIT

On July 24, 1990, a site visit was conducted by Robert M. Stroman and Robert Reister, who are members of the PADOH's Health Assessment Team, and EPA's Remedial Program Manager for the site for the purpose of observing the condition of the site. Contacts were established with Haafsville residents and with three current owners of the site, the owner's attorney, and a relative of the site owners who videotaped portions of the tour.

The day of the site visit, battery casings, discolored soil in the general area of the battery piles, tire piles, automobiles, metal tanks and miscellaneous scrap metals provided visual evidence of on-site conditions. During the site visit, there was no evidence of off-site migration of fugitive dust. Most of the site was observed to be covered with tall grasses, dense vegetation, and a few trees. Numerous wood posts along the road east of the site, which at an earlier date held up a yellow EPA warning tape, were observed lying on the ground. The yellow EPA barrier tape provided the only warning for portions of the site. Other than a 20-foot wide gate, barring the entrance to the site, there was no fence or other physical barriers observed that would prevent site entry along the majority (3/4) of the perimeter of the site. However, even though access to the site was not completely restricted, there was no evidence of trespassing in the areas of interest, possibly due to the dense vegetation.

On September 27, 1991, a field investigation was conducted in the area around the Hebelka site by J.E. Godfrey, Hydrogeologist and a member of the PADOH's Health Assessment Team, and Robert M. Stroman. The purpose of the field investigation was to determine some structural aspects of the local surface geology in order to identify probable directions of groundwater flow. Special consideration was given to the contact between shale and dolomite bedrock, strike and dip of shale beds, strike and dip of high angle joints and additional groundwater sampling points southeastward of the site and down the expected hydrogeologic gradient.

Bedding plane orientations in local outcrops combined with driller's notes in Appendix A of the 1988 draft RI report suggest that an anticlinal axis lies just west of the site. From the site's eastern boundary, along Tercha Road, to the contact with the Beekmantown Dolomite, shale beds strike generally to the north-northwest and dip eastwardly from about 15 degrees near the Hebelka property, to over 30 degrees at the contact north of Haafsville on Adams Road. Northwest of the site on Zion Church Road, horizontal beds appear in an outcrop about 1,000 feet north of Fogelsville Road. About 1/4 mile farther northwest, beds dip toward the west. At all outcrops and in all well cores, joints are numerous with a strong propensity for development along bedding planes. Those observations support the findings of the RI that groundwater flow is likely southeastward.

On August 30, 1993, Robert Stroman and William Schmeer of PADOH visited the Hebelka Auto Salvage Yard. Access to the site was not possible because of remedial activities that were underway. Contaminated soil was being removed. The EPA contractor who was supervising soil removal did provide a status report. The battery piles were removed in April 1993 and soil removal began August 21, 1993.

In an attempt to clarify confusion about children residing on the site, the PADOH team visited with a Hebelka site neighbor who told them about a child who was born at a residence on the site in 1980 or 1981. The mother and child moved from the on-site residence while the child was very young. The child reportedly sometimes visits her father who resides on the site. The child's father was not available to confirm these reports. The PADOH team then visited with the Township Manager, who provided information on other Hebelka family members, including three other children.

Follow-up with a former Hebelka family member revealed that three children, who never lived on the site, often visited their grandparents, the Hebelkas. The children reportedly did not play at the contaminated areas of the salvage yard. Those children are now 13, 15, and 16 years of age. Two other children visited the site when the Hebelkas, the children's grandparents, were alive. They no longer visit the homestead.

C. DEMOGRAPHICS, LAND USE, AND NATURAL RESOURCE USE

Demographics

The Hebelka site is located in Weisenburg Township. The township population increased 42.9 percent from 1980 to 1990 from 2,272 to 3,246 people (4), and the population was 99 percent White (5). There are no schools, nursing homes, or hospitals within a 1-mile radius of the site (6,7,8,9). There are 10 residences within approximately 1,000 feet of the site. One residence is within the site boundaries, and two residences are within about 1,000 feet of the site boundary (Figure 2). Approximately 300 people live within 1 mile of the site, and about 1,000 people reside within 2 miles of the site.

Land Use

Land around the Hebelka site is predominantly used for large family farms. Old Route 22 and Interstate Highway 78 lie within approximately 250 feet of the northern Hebelka property line, and Tercha Road borders and lies to the east of the site. The small town of Haafsville lies approximately 1/4 mile east of the site.

Natural Resource Use

The Hebelka site lies within the Schantz Spring groundwater basin, which extends northwestward from Schantz Spring to the surface water divide at the headwaters of Iron Run (Figure 3). No fishing or recreational use of those water bodies has been identified or expected. Based on topographic information available for the area, surface water in the vicinity of the site appears to either flow into Iron Run or is lost through subsurface channels into a carbonate rock layer, which ultimately discharges to Schantz Spring. Schantz Spring provides about 30 percent of Allentown's water supply. Allentown uses virtually the entire flow of the spring. The spring is fed by precipitation that has filtered downward through the soil and the bedrock openings. The groundwater moves continuously from points of high hydraulic head to points of lower hydraulic head and eventually to points of discharge, such as the spring, a stream, or a well. The amount of recharge the aquifer receives at the Hebelka site depends, primarily, upon the amount and distribution of precipitation.

The two residences within or adjacent to the site boundary use private wells as the drinking water source for the people who live there. The 10 residences within 1,000 feet of the site also use private wells as the drinking water source. Nine out of the 10 wells at those residences are downgradient of the site. Approximately 2,750 people, within 3 miles of the site, draw water from three Lehigh County Water Authority wells. The remaining 500 people use private wells. Groundwater is the only source of domestic water within an approximate 1.5-mile radius of the site.

Because of the rural surroundings, hunting, although not documented, may occur in the area. However, no signs of game animals were seen during the site visit or field investigation at the site. Given the proximity to homes at the site, game animals are not likely to frequent the contaminated areas to graze.

D. Health Outcome Data

No available health outcome databases were found that would be useful in evaluating possible adverse health outcomes that may result from exposure to site contaminants. Useful information would have included blood lead tests on children at the time exposures were likely occurring. Both PADOH and EPA tried unsuccessfully to inform the parents of the children about the hazards of lead exposure and what could be done to test the children.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

During the March 23, 1989, public meeting conducted by EPA at the Weisenburg Township Municipal Building in Fogelsville, the following concerns were expressed by nearby residents:

  1. What is the volume of soils that EPA intends to remove to protect the public health?
  2. Will groundwater monitoring continue after remedial activities conclude?

During our July 24, 1990, site visit, Haafsville residents expressed the following concern:

  1. Are we exposed to lead, migrating from the site, through our well water?

Again, during the September 22, 1991, field investigation, a Haafsville resident expressed concern regarding the potential for lead to migrate from the site in groundwater.

This document was available for public comment from March 13, 1993, to April 21, 1993. No comments were received during that period of time.


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