PADOH has concluded that the UGI Columbia Gas Plant site is an indeterminate public health hazard. Limited 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, some data are not available to adequately evaluate all possible exposure scenarios.
The gas holder pits and subsurface soil areas of contamination represent source areas for groundwater contamination. Groundwater in the vicinity of the UGI site is being contaminated with coal tar-related compounds that originated from gas manufacturing activities at the site. However, no one is presently using groundwater that is contaminated, although a remote possibility exists that some private wells serving seasonally inhabited cottages could become contaminated. No indication of ongoing sampling to evaluate the quality of private well water that may be in use among the residents of the cottages on Front Street could be found.
Coal tar that originated from gas manufacturing activities at the UGI site is entering the Susquehanna River and its sediments. People wading in the river in that area could be exposed to the contaminants in the river. The extent of sediment contamination in the river has not been thoroughly studied since 1987 at which time tars were reported to be actively migrating into the river and no source area had been identified.
On-site exposures to coal tar wastes occurred, primarily through inhalation. The exposures could not be evaluated for public health implications because of a lack of environmental sampling data. Remediation of on-site coal tar wastes in 1987 eliminated the possibility of exposure. If remaining waste is excavated, workers could be exposed; however, USEPA and PADER require that workers follow a health and safety plan that should provide for protection against exposure.
For other potential exposure pathways, data are inadequate to evaluate public health implications. That data include: (a) no ongoing monitoring of raw surface water at public water supply intakes; (b) no information on possible contaminant levels in fish; and (c) no surface soil data for the top three inches of soil in areas on and off site where subsurface soils are contaminated.
Cease/Reduce Exposure Recommendations
- Remove coal tar wastes still on site in the holder pits to reduce the source of groundwater contamination.
- Monitor water quality from private wells at the cottages on a routine basis. If found to be contaminated, provide uncontaminated water supplies immediately.
- Remediate coal tar in river sediments, or restrict access to areas of contamination, to eliminate potential exposures to contaminated sediments through recreational use of the river.
Site Characterization Recommendations
- Sample private wells in use for benzene, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, and toluene at least annually.
- Sample the City of Lancaster water supply intake for benzene, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, and toluene at least annually.
- Identify and remediate the source area of tars that are migrating into and contaminating river sediments.
- Sample fish in the vicinity of sediment contamination and analyze fish tissues for site-related contaminants of concern to determine if contaminants are entering aquatic food chains.
- Sample surface soils near the UGI site at 0-3 inch depths for site-related contaminants to determine if contact with surface soil could result in exposure.
Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Recommendations
The data and information developed in the UGI Columbia Gas Plant Site Public Health Assessment have been evaluated for appropriate follow-up health actions by the ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP). HARP determined that people are not being exposed to contaminants from the UGI Columbia Gas Plant site at levels that would be expected to cause illness. Therefore, no follow-up health actions are needed at this time. ATSDR will reevaluate this site for additional follow-up public health actions if new data become available that indicate a need to do so.
A public health action plan (PHAP) contains a description of specific actions to be taken by ATSDR and/or other governmental agencies at and in the vicinity of NPL sites subsequent to the completion of a public health assessment for any given site. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that the public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards, but provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances that may be released uncontrolled from NPL sites into the environment. Included is a commitment on the part of PADOH and ATSDR to follow up on this plan to ensure that it is implemented.
Currently, HARP determined that no follow-up health actions are indicated at the UGI Columbia Gas Plant site at this time. Additional information will be evaluated as it becomes available.
Mark A. Lavin, B.S.
Environmental Health Specialist
Health Assessment Program
Division of Environmental Health Assessment
J.E. Godfrey, M.S., M.Ed.
Health Assessment Program
Division of Environmental Health Assessment
ATSDR Regional Representative:
Senior Regional Representative
ATSDR, Region III Office
Office of Regional Operations
ATSDR Technical Project Officer:
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
The UGI Columbia Gas Plant Site public health assessment was prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the public health assessment was begun.
The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this public health assessment, and concurs with its findings.
- TRC Environmental Consultants, Inc., Final Report of Investigations Volume I, Columbia Gas Plant Site, Columbia, Pennsylvania, December 17, 1986.
- Atlantic Environmental Services, Inc., Investigation of the Extent of Contamination in the Susquehanna River Near the Former Columbia Coal Gas Site, Columbia, Pennsylvania, September 30, 1987.
- NUS Corporation Superfund Division, Site Inspection of UGI (PP&L) Columbia Gas Plant, Columbia, Pennsylvania, July 17, 1989.
- NUS Corporation Superfund Division, Expanded Site Inspection of UGI Columbia Gas Plant, Columbia, Pennsylvania, October 7, 1991.
- Farnsworth, JF. Carbonization of Coal and Gas Making. In: Baumeister, T. ed. Marks' Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers. 8th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979: 7.37-7.47.
- Conversation with Mr. Bruce Roach, Sr., during site visit, October 13, 1993.
- Conversation with Mr. Bruce Roach, Jr., during site visit, October 13, 1993.
- Site visit demographic survey, October 27, 1993.
- Telephone conversation with Mr. Charles Gohl, General Manager, Columbia Water Company, October 14, 1993.
- Summary of General Population Characteristics, 1990, Census of Population and Housing, 1990; Summary Tape File 1A, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, June, 1991.
- Letter dated November 19, 1987, from Gene Gockley, PP&L, to PADER.
- Telephone conversation with Mr. Tony Martinelli, PADER, November 19, 1993.
- ATSDR, Toxicological Profile for Arsenic-Update, U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1993.
- ATSDR, Toxicological Profile for Benzene-Update, U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1993.
- ATSDR, Toxicological Profile for Benzo(a)pyrene, U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia, May 1990.
- ATSDR, Toxicological Profile for Ethylbenzene, U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia, December 1990.
- ATSDR, Toxicological Profile for Naphthalene and 2-Methylnaphthalene, U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia, December 1990.
- ATSDR, Toxicological Profile for Toluene, U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia, December 1989.
- NUS Corporation Superfund Division, Nonsampling Site Reconnaissance Summary Report, UGI (PP&L) Columbia Gas Plant Site, Columbia, Pennsylvania, November 3, 1988.
- Halliburton NUS Corporation, Final Hazard Ranking System, UGI Columbia Gas Plant Site, Columbia, Pennsylvania, April 12, 1993.
- Roy F. Weston, Inc., Lancaster Gas Works (UGI) Site, Columbia, Pennsylvania, August 11, 1993.
- Telephone conversations with representatives of Columbia Water Company and Lancaster City Water Department, March 28, 1994.
- Letter dated July 14, 1994, from Steven J. Donohue, EPA, to ATSDR.