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HEALTH CONSULTATION

AMERICAN SYNTHETICS
SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, WASHTENAW COUNTY, MICHIGAN


SUMMARY

The American Synthetics site is an abandoned 2-acre property in rural Washtenaw County, Michigan. In 1980, the American Synthetics company purchased the property and converted a house on the property for use as a plastics and epoxy manufacturing facility, producing bowling balls and pins. By 1990, the company moved their operations to Arizona, abandoning the Washtenaw County facility. Title to the property is in the process of reverting to the State of Michigan in lieu of back taxes.

At various times since the property was abandoned, Township, County, State, and Federal authorities inspected the property in response to citizen complaints about odors and trespass activities. In January 1995, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) found that the company had left many containers of chemicals, including solvents, pigments, and epoxy resins and hardeners, in the building on the property. Under U.S. EPA supervision, the company removed the chemicals in June 1995. Follow-up sampling in October 1996 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) found no remaining chemical contamination in the soils on the property.

The building and grounds pose some physical hazards. Repair or replacement of the building and landscaping the grounds should eliminate these hazards. Occupancy of the property will provide some deterrence of trespass on the property.


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has asked the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) to evaluate the health risks associated with the American Synthetics site in association with their Integrated Assessment of the property.

The American Synthetics (AS) site covers two acres at 10996 Cherry Hill Road in rural Superior Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan (Figure 1). The property is adjacent to the boundary between Washtenaw County and Wayne County. The American Synthetics company purchased the property in 1980, and converted a residential structure on the site to a plastics and epoxy manufacturing facility, laboratory, and warehouse. Their primary products were bowling balls and pins. By approximately 1990, the company had moved their operations to Arizona and had abandoned the Cherry Hill Road property (1). Ownership of the property is in the process of reverting to the State of Michigan for unpaid taxes.

An adjacent residential property to the west of the AS property was purchased by the company in 1980 and sold separately some years later. The house on that property originally shared a common well with the house on the AS property, but the owners of the property to the west, concerned about potential contamination from activities on the AS property,(1) had a separate well drilled. The residents had water from the new well tested, and found no contamination (1).

In 1990, the Environmental Health Bureau of the Washtenaw County Human Services Department (WCHSD) inspected the AS property in response to a complaint about drums being dumped on the property. They found one drum full of an unidentified liquid, 10 empty drums, and a 500 gallon propane tank behind the building. The Bureau wrote to the property owner, advising him that under the relevant State law, the drums and tank must be removed as soon as possible. WCHSD files do not include any record of the owner's response (2).

On various occasions, the Superior Township Fire Department inspected the property in response to complaints about trespassing in the building, fire hazards, and environmental concerns. There are no available records of the results of, or actions in response to, these inspections. In 1992 or 1993, a prospective buyer for the property contracted for an Phase I environmental assessment. The results of the environmental assessment were delivered to the prospective buyer, and are not available (1). In April 1994, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR)(2) inspected the property in response to citizen complaints. They found drums and other containers containing flammable, corrosive, and otherwise hazardous substances in and around the building. The MDNR requested that the property owner remove the hazardous materials, but neither the owner nor the state took any action until the following year (3, 4).

In January 1995, U.S. EPA staff and contractors, with Washtenaw County and Superior Township personnel as observers, conducted a site assessment of the property. They gained access to the building on the property through a broken window in the rear wall. Superior Township Fire Department personnel said that the broken window had been covered with plywood several times, but the plywood had been removed each time.(3) The building contained a large number of containers, from 1-ounce vials to 55-gallon drums. The labels on some of the containers identified the contents as epoxy resins and hardening agents, solvents including acetone and toluene, pigments, and other chemicals. They collected samples of the contents of four of these containers, a drum labeled toluene, a 5-gallon container labeled acetone, a drum labeled epoxy resin, and a one-gallon container whose label indicated it contained an aliphatic polyisocyanate. Analysis of the samples from the toluene drum and acetone container confirmed their labels, the first containing 95% toluene, the second containing 32% acetone, and both having flash points below 80°F. The sample of epoxy resin, a solid, contained low levels of toluene (215 parts per million [ppm]), 1,2-dichloropropane (1.87 ppm), and cis- and trans-1,3-dichloropropylene (11.8 and 13.7 ppm, respectively). The sample from the fourth container had a flash point of 140°F and contained 10% xylenes, 2.3% ethylbenzene, and 258 ppm toluene (1).

On April 22, 1995, the U.S. EPA issued an Administrative Order to the owners of the property to remove the hazardous materials from the property (7). Between June and August 1995, a contractor for the owners, under U.S. EPA supervision, removed approximately 700 gallons of waste liquids from the site for appropriate disposal elsewhere (5).

In October 1996, the MDEQ conducted field work for their Integrated Assessment of the site, including the collection of samples of surface and subsurface soil from the property and sediment from a creek on the south boundary of the property (8). During the MDEQ field work, staff from MDCH also visited the site.


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