PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
ST. JULIENS CREEK ANNEX (U.S. NAVY)
CHESAPEAKE, CHESAPEAKE COUNTY, VIRGINIA
St. Juliens Creek Annex, in Chesapeake, Virginia, is a former ordnance storage and loading/ unloading site for the U.S. Navy, located at the junction of St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River. Formerly, the major operations included equipment repair and maintenance, and ordnance loading, testing, disassembly, destruction and disposal. Current operations include a radar test range; scrap and salvage operations; and administrative, warehouse, and light industrial functions. A fence was built around the site during World War II; public access to St. Juliens Creek Annex is not allowed.
In 1983, the Navy began to identify contamination resulting from handling and disposal of products used at St. Juliens Creek Annex. Relatively small areas contaminated by previous practices are located throughout the site, many are adjacent to marshes or other lowland areas connected to St. Juliens Creek or the Elizabeth River. The Navy has either cleaned up, or is in the process of completing the clean up, the contaminated areas of the annex.
ATSDR evaluated the possible past, present and future exposure pathways. We looked at the nature and extent of contaminants detected in groundwater, soil, surface water, sediment, fish, and air. We also looked at how on-base residents, visitors, recreational users and employees would come into contact with those media. While some contaminants have been detected in some of the groundwater, soil, surface water and sediment samples, generally people will not come into contact with those chemicals often enough or long enough to cause health concerns. The following comments summarize ATSDR's evaluation:
High levels of lead were measured in the soil around the housing area. Sampling at St. Juliens Creek Annex housing areas found lead in soil, paint, and dust above EPA action levels. Blood lead data specific for children living on St. Juliens Creek Annex is not available. However, blood lead data for Navy-affiliated children living near Portsmouth, VA, indicates the area children generally had low blood lead levels, were unlikely to have had adverse effects as a result of exposure to these levels of lead, and were likely to have been effectively treated under the Navy's lead prevention program.
- The potential for Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) to exist in the sediment of the Elizabeth River. Past operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex included packing, loading, and unloading of ordnance onto ships. These operations could have left stray ordnance in the river sediment near the former wharf. There is no public access to St. Juliens Creek Annex, therefore it is unlikely people will contact any remaining ordnance. The Navy investigated the former wharf area and located metal objects in the sediment, but has not determined if these objects are UXO or not. The Navy has posted signs warning boaters and other recreational users to stay away from this area of the river. Boaters can best protect themselves by following the warning signs posted along the shoreline of St. Juliens Creek Annex.
- Groundwater contamination beneath the site poses no public health hazard. Groundwater contamination is limited to the annex property. This groundwater is not used for drinking. The annex and surrounding community receives their water from municipal sources located several miles away.
- Contact with soil at on-site industrial areas, and surface water and sediment in neighboring creeks and on-base marshy areas pose no health hazard. Sampling indicates some areas contain elevated levels of inorganics, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and VOCs. Past on-base housing residents may have had limited access to industrial areas, and the neighboring creeks and marshy areas. However, incidental contact with the soil, water or sediment from these areas is not expected to have adverse health effects for those residents, base visitors, recreational users or base employees having casual contact with the soil. Limited sampling of sediment and surface water in the Elizabeth River and St. Juliens Creek suggests that recreational users are not exposed to harmful levels of contaminants in these waterways.
- ATSDR was not able to determine if consumption of fish and shellfish from St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River poses a public health hazard. Virginia prohibits the consumption of shellfish other than crabs (i.e., bivalve mollusks such as clams, oysters, and mussels) from the Elizabeth River and its tributaries, primarily on the basis of concern about potential bacteriologic contamination. St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River are tidally influenced, and fish and crabs collected from the creek may be affected by contaminant sources that exist with this area. ATSDR was not able to obtain sufficient fish tissue sampling data from the waterways surrounding St. Juliens Creek Annex to evaluate if health concerns would be expected for consumers of fish from this area. ATSDR recommends that people review and follow advisories issued by EPA and the Virginia Department of Health that indicate how to select and prepare seafood to reduce potential exposures to some types of contaminants. EPA's recommendations are online at http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish , which includes a link to Should I Eat The Fish I Catch? A Guide to Healthy Eating of the Fish You Catch, a brochure developed in collaboration with ATSDR. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommendations are at http://www.vdh.state.va.us/hhcontrol/fishing_advisories.htm.
- Air emissions from past ordnance and trash burning pose an unknown public health hazard, although emissions from reported burns are likely to have consisted of relatively short periods of emissions. Current and future air emissions pose no public health hazard. Past operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex are likely to have produced air emissions that may have blown to nearby communities. These include burning of waste and ordnance at landfills and burning areas, and fire training exercises. No sampling was conducted during these operations; therefore no firm conclusions can be drawn about hazards posed at the time of these events. However, the releases were most likely to cause intermittent, short-term exposures, if any; and would be unlikely to produce long-term health effects. These operations ceased in the late 1970s; ATSDR did not identify any air releases associated with current operations.
St. Juliens Creek Annex is located in southeastern Virginia in the city of Chesapeake (see Figure 1, an overview map). The site sits at the junction of St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River, with approximately 4,200 feet of waterfront along St. Juliens Creek and 6,000 feet of waterfront along the Elizabeth River (LANTDIV 2000a). The site contains 221 buildings, a 653-foot-long wharf, a central heating plant, many non-operational industrial facilities, and assorted other structures. Navy housing facilities formerly stood in the southwest corner of the site, but these were vacated in 2000 and then demolished in 2001 (CNRMA 2003a).
The boundary between the cities of Portsmouth and Chesapeake, Virginia, forms the northern boundary of St. Juliens Creek Annex. A residential area of Chesapeake is located along the west side of St. Juliens Creek Annex. A residential area of Portsmouth is located north of the annex. The site is bounded by the Elizabeth River to the east and by St. Juliens Creek to the southwest. An open field (previously an industrial waste pond) is located to the east; sewage disposal, other open fields (also previously industrial waste ponds), and residential development areas are located across the river to the south (LANTDIV 2000a; NEHC 2003a). Norfolk Naval Shipyard (U.S. Navy) is approximately 1 mile to the north. Figure 2 depicts St. Juliens Creek Annex and vicinity, including nearby industrial facilities and residential areas. Access to St. Juliens Creek Annex is restricted by a fence built during World War II, and no public access is allowed; security personnel are stationed at the gate (CNRMA 2003a).
St. Juliens Creek Annex began operations in 1849 as Magazine, Fort Norfolk, part of Fort Norfolk, which the Navy used as an ordnance and material storage site (VDEQ 2002). In 1896, the site gained 48 acres of land for magazines, a wharf, administration, and housing. In 1898, the Navy moved ordnance material and equipment from Craney Island to the Magazine, and renamed the site U.S. Naval Magazine, St. Juliens Creek Annex.
From 1898 to 1970 the site was used to supply ammunition to the U.S. Navy fleet, to load, assemble, issue, and receive naval gun ammunition, and to conduct experimental loading for new ammunition. In 1917, the Navy installed equipment at the site for loading MARK VI mines, and the Navy renamed the site to Naval Ammunition Depot, St. Juliens Creek, under the control of the Commandant, Fifth Naval District. The annex operated at peak levels from 1942 through 1944, during World War II, supplying as much as 12,500 tons of projectiles, warheads and mines per month. Ordnance operations ended in the 1970s (LANTDIV 1992a, 2000b; VDEQ 2002).
The site is currently operated by the U.S. Navy, Commander Navy Region Mid-Atlantic (CNRMA). St. Juliens Creek Annex now houses administrative offices, light industrial shops, and storage facilities for tenant naval commands. It also houses an 18-acre radar testing range used by Norfolk Naval Shipyard, facilities of the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity groups, and DRMO scrap and salvage operations (VDEQ 2002; NEHC 2003a).
Potentially hazardous substances may have been generated from past operations at the site, such as metal plating; degreasing; painting; operation of hydraulic equipment, vehicles and locomotives; ordnance loading, testing, disassembly, and destruction; pest control; maintenance of lead-acid batteries; and printing. Trash and garbage generated here were disposed of in waste disposal areas, the landfill, wetlands, and other low-lying areas at the site. Beginning in the late 1930s, waste ordnance materials were also disposed of at the site. On-site disposal and storage of waste, particularly at landfills and at a burning area for ordnance disposal, created sources of potential contamination. Wastes associated with four landfills, an ordnance disposal area, an ordnance burn pit, a hazardous waste disposal area, a waste storage area, and a pesticide disposal area, all provide the potential to release contaminants to St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River, either directly or via Blows Creek, a small stream that begins in the northern portion of St. Juliens Creek Annex and empties into the Elizabeth River (VDEQ 2002).
A variety of other military installations and private industrial facilities are located in this general area. Additional information about these and other NPL sites in Virginia can be found online at http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/super/VA.
In 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to address potentially adverse human health and environmental impacts of hazardous waste management and disposal practices. The Installation Restoration Program (IRP) was established to assess past hazardous and toxic materials stored and disposed of at its military installations. As part of that program, the Navy and EPA have conducted a series of base-wide and site specific investigations to identify and characterize sites at St. Juliens Creek Annex that may contain hazardous substances and have a potential to impact health and the environment.
The base-wide investigations include:
Initial Assessment Study for the Navy Assessment and Control of Installation Pollutants program. This 1981 study of industrial sites, conducted under the predecessor of the Navy IRP, evaluated all areas of St. Juliens Creek Annex, but focused on identifying ordnance materials. No environmental sampling was conducted (LANTDIV 2000a).
Preliminary Assessment. In 1983, EPA evaluated seven sites: Site 1, Waste Disposal Area A; Site 2, Waste Disposal Area B; Site 2, Waste Disposal Area B Incinerator; Site 3, Waste Disposal Area C; Site 4, Landfill D; Site 8, Cross and Mine Site; and Site 9, Building 249. EPA sampled each site for VOCs and radiation and found no significant signs of contamination. EPA found residues at some of these areas (LANTDIV 2000a).
Phase II RCRA Site Assessment. In 1989, EPA conducted a preliminary review of site-related documents and site inspections for 34 Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs) and 12 Areas of Concern (AOCs). Of these, EPA determined that 14 required no additional action, 11 were recommended for a RCRA Site Investigation, and 21 were recommended for additional limited testing. The 20 SWMUs/AOCs recommended for additional testing, plus one other area where the Navy identified soil staining, were combined into 21 IRP sites, which are identified in Figure 3. Four sites (Site 9, Pest Control Building 249; Site 12, Sand Blast Building 323; Site 13, Waste Generation Area; and Site 14, the Equipment Wash Rack) were cleaned up in the early 1990s by excavation and remediation of soil during construction of Building 1556. The Navy, EPA, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) signed a No Further Action (NFA) agreement for these sites in 1999 (LANTDIV 2000a).
Relative Risk Ranking. In 1996, the Navy conducted sampling at the IRP sites at St. Juliens Creek Annex. Following this sampling, the Navy determined that further sampling would be appropriate at a small group of sites, including the waste disposal areas and landfill (IRP Sites 26) and another site near these sites.
EPA Photographic Interpretation Center (EPIC) study. In 1999, the Navy, EPA, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) identified 12 AOCs in a review of historical aerial photographs of St. Juliens Creek Annex, which are identified in Figure 3. The Navy, EPA, and VDEQ conducted a site visit during November 1999 to evaluate these areas. Based on their visit, the Navy, EPA, and VDEQ recommended No Further Action (NFA) at nine of these AOC areas (LANTDIV 2000a).
Site Screening Assessment. The Navy evaluated hazards at nine IRP sites and three EPIC AOCs at St. Juliens Creek Annex. Based on this sampling, the Navy recommended document review or soil sampling, at six sites, in April 2002 (LANTDIV 2002).
Results of these investigations led EPA to list St. Juliens Creek Annex on the National Priorities List (NPL). The base was proposed on February 4, 2000, and added to the NPL on July 27, 2000 (VDEQ 2002). The NPL is a listing maintained by EPA in accordance with the provisions of the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, 42 USC 103), also known as "Superfund." EPA's chief concern about St. Juliens Creek Annex was the potential impact to St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River by surface water run-off from nine sites: the waste disposal areas and landfill (Waste Disposal Area A, Waste Disposal Area B, Waste Disposal Area C, Landfill D), the Burning Grounds, the Small Items Pit, the Coal and Mine Site, the Hazardous Waste Disposal Area at Building 53, and the DRMO Storage Yard (EPA 2000). Due to insufficient data EPA did not characterize groundwater, soil, or air.
The Navy, EPA, and VDEQ recommended additional investigation at EPIC AOCs 1, 8, and 12. Investigations and cleanup actions are in various phases at IRP sites. The Navy recommended further study and/or additional sampling at IRP sites 2, 8, 17, 19, and 21, and at EPIC AOC 1 (LANTDIV 2002). The Navy removed contaminated soil and debris from Waste Disposal Area C (Site 3) and the Small Items Pit (Site 6) (EPA 2003); feasibility studies are in progress for IRP sites 3, 4, 5, and 6. The Navy, EPA, and VDEQ reached a No Further Action (NFA) consensus at all other sites, and signed a Federal Facilities Agreement in April 2004 to govern investigation and remediation activities at St. Juliens Creek Annex. Each IRP site and EPIC AOC is described in Table 2, including a summary of the completed and planned removal actions. The Navy plans to complete all investigations and remedies at St. Juliens Creek Annex by 2010 (NFESC 2002).
ATSDR conducted a site visit November 29 through 30, 2000. The purpose of the visit was to identify information necessary to begin the public health assessment process at the site; identify possible exposures to hazardous materials; and to collect available information to prioritize ATSDR's health assessment activities. ATSDR staff met base representatives, toured the installation and other areas where hazardous substances may have been released to the environment, conducted an initial review of available site information, and met with some members of the local community to identify potential public health concerns (ATSDR 2001).
As a result of this visit, ATSDR identified past, current, and potential future exposure pathways, and requested additional information about two issues: the potential for future human exposure and health effects from unexploded munitions and explosive materials near the wharf and industrial areas; and a reported high percentage of children living immediately north of St. Juliens Creek Annex that had elevated blood lead levels when tested in the mid-1990s (ATSDR 2001). This Public Health Assessment (PHA) addresses these issues and presents the findings of ATSDR's evaluation of environmental contamination associated with the site and the health implications of any exposures to detected environmental contamination.
Demographic data provide information on the size and characteristics of a given population. ATSDR examined demographic data to determine the number of people living in the vicinity of the annex and to determine the presence of sensitive populations, such as young children (age 6 and younger), women of childbearing age (age 15 - 44), and the elderly (age 65 and older). These data assist ATSDR in the site-specific exposure and health effect evaluations described in later sections of this report. Demographic data for St. Juliens Creek Annex vicinity are shown in Figure 4. The demographics of the site and surrounding area are described in more detail below.
St. Juliens Creek Annex
Peaks in employment at St. Juliens Creek Annex occurred during wartime. During World War I, St. Juliens Creek Annex employed 600 workers. During World War II, the site employed 5,340 workers, its peak employment. In 1954, during the Korean conflict, the site employed 1,464 workers (LANTDIV 1992a, 1981). The community recreation area along the northern portion of the site's western border previously had barracks for 15 Navy officers and 1,253 Navy enlisted personnel (LANTDIV 1981).
In the past, several on-base housing complexes served enlisted personnel and families of enlisted personnel at St. Juliens Creek Annex. The Navy closed these complexes in 2000 and demolished them in 2001 (CNRMA 2003b). The annex also contained a recreation center and other facilities where on-base residents may have frequently gathered. The Navy has not evaluated those areas for contamination because there is no history of chemical release there.
Community Within 1 Mile of St. Juliens Creek Annex
Residential portions of the cities of Chesapeake and Portsmouth are adjacent to the site. There are four residential subdivisions located close to St. Juliens Creek Annex: Geneva Shores, Cradock, Brentwood, and Woodland Terrace (LANTDIV 2000b). Homes are located within 200 feet of potential contaminated sites, just across Victory Boulevard (the northern boundary of St. Juliens Creek Annex). The main commercial areas of Chesapeake and Portsmouth are a few miles from the site. Figure 2 shows some of the features of the surrounding community, as does Figure 5, an aerial photo of St. Juliens Creek Annex and vicinity.
As shown in Figure 4, approximately 14,383 persons live within 1 mile of the boundary of St. Juliens Creek Annex, including 1,706 children under 6 years old. Two childcare facilities and four schools are located within 1 mile of the northern and western boundaries of the site (ATSDR 2001). The nearest school is the James Hurst Elementary School, located a few blocks from the northern boundary of St. Juliens Creek Annex, just beyond Victory Boulevard (NEHC 2003a). In the late 1970s, a former Navy housing area along the western side of the site was turned into a recreation area for local communities (LANTDIV 1981).
ATSDR examined the ways that the local communities use the land and natural resources in that area. This helped ATSDR identify how the community interacts with the environment and how they could be exposed to contaminants from St. Juliens Creek Annex. ATSDR attempted to evaluate all potential environmental exposures for on-base residents, visitors, recreational users and base employees.
The physical characteristics of St. Juliens Creek Annex and its surroundings (such as topography and geology) can affect the fate and transport of environmental contaminants. Natural processes such as the movement of groundwater and surface water can also affect the migration of contaminants by determining, for example, whether run-off from heavy storms will wash contaminants from a site to nearby bodies of water or to off-site land areas, or whether groundwater contaminants will migrate to nearby rivers, streams, or local water supplies. ATSDR reviewed available information about the topography and geology of St. Juliens Creek Annex to determine whether contaminants released to the soil would be likely to migrate off-site towards areas commonly accessed by the surrounding community.
St. Juliens Creek Annex is near the Atlantic Ocean, and the waterways that border much of the site drain to the ocean via the Elizabeth River, which joins the James River, and then flows to the Chesapeake Bay. The land elevation of the base ranges from mean sea level at the waterways to approximately 15 feet above mean sea level northeast of Blows Creek in the northeast corner of St. Juliens Creek Annex; most site property is more than 8.5 feet above mean sea level (LANTDIV 2000a). A topographical map of St. Juliens Creek Annex (Figure 6) shows land elevation at St. Juliens Creek Annex sloping down toward the Elizabeth River and St. Juliens Creek, with Blows Creek running through the eastern side of the site, so that surface water from St. Juliens Creek Annex is expected to flow entirely into these surface water bodies.
The Navy's hydrogeological investigations at St. Juliens Creek Annex have focused on two aquifers beneath St. Juliens Creek Annex and in the vicinity of the base; a shallow aquifer and a deeper aquifer. The shallow aquifer, called the Columbia Aquifer, is thin and consists of discontinuous heterogeneous sand and shell lenses. It is encountered less than 5 feet below ground surface near waterways such as Blows Creek, St. Juliens Creek, and the Elizabeth River. Further inland, the depth to the shallow groundwater may be as much as 10 feet below ground surface; near St. Juliens Creek Annex, the bottom of this aquifer extends as far as 20 to 40 feet below the soil surface (LANTDIV 2003b). Shallow groundwater discharges to St. Juliens Creek or to the Elizabeth River, including water that flows to the Elizabeth River via Blows Creek (LANTDIV 1981). The shallow aquifer is recharged primarily by the infiltration of precipitation (e.g., rainfall); it is an unsuitable drinking water source due to low yield and poor natural chemistry (NEHC 2003a).
The deeper aquifer, called the Upper Yorktown Aquifer, is a sandy unit encountered between 50 and 150 feet below ground surface (bgs). It is separated from the shallow aquifer by the Yorktown Confining Unit, a continuous clay layer between 9 and 36 feet thick (LANTDIV 2003b). The Navy has not constructed detailed flow diagrams of the deep aquifer, however the Navy has indicated that all water in the deep groundwater aquifer is expected to discharge to St. Juliens Creek and to the Elizabeth River, away from any nearby wells (LANTDIV 1981).
Natural processes at all areas of St. Juliens Creek Annex are expected to transport contaminants in the groundwater towards surface water bodies and ultimately the Elizabeth River. Contaminants released to the soil on-base are not expected to have migrated to the surrounding off-base land.
Many aquifers exist beneath St. Juliens Creek Annex. The shallow aquifer is unlikely to be used for drinking purposes due to its low yield and naturally high concentration of salts (NEHC 2003a). No drinking water wells drawing from either the Columbia or the Upper Yorktown aquifer have been identified on the annex property (LANTDIV 1981). The annex and neighboring residents receive their drinking water from municipal sources. Some local industries reportedly use area groundwater for cooling and as process water (LANTDIV 1994; Water and Air Research 1983). Some groundwater may be used for watering lawns in nearby areas.
Local off-base residents obtain drinking water from their cities, Chesapeake and Portsmouth, VA. St. Juliens Creek Annex tenants obtain all of their water from the City of Portsmouth, which is conveyed by the Navy Public Works Center, Norfolk (PWC 1998). Fire protection water at St. Juliens Creek Annex was previously provided through a salt water distribution system that was pumped from the Elizabeth River, but this system is no longer used (LANTDIV 1992a). Portsmouth's water is drawn from four lakes and five deep wells in the city of Suffolk, more than 10 miles from St. Juliens Creek Annex. The water system is in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act; water is treated and regularly sampled before being distributed (City of Portsmouth 2002).
Surface Water Use
St. Juliens Creek Annex is bordered by St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River. Both of these rivers are tidally influenced, their water levels vary with the Atlantic Ocean tide. Blows Creek begins on St. Juliens Creek Annex property and cuts through the northeast portion of site before it empties into the Elizabeth River. Flow in the Elizabeth River is sluggish and sediment movement (turnover) is expected to be slow. Periodic dredging of channels for improved ship passage stirs up the sediments. Most storm water runoff at St. Juliens Creek Annex is routed to St. Juliens Creek or Blows Creek. St. Juliens Creek and Blows Creek both empty into the Elizabeth River.
The Elizabeth River hosts much shipping traffic and there is extensive industrial activity along its banks, both upgradient and downgradient of St. Juliens Creek Annex. Approximately 80 industrial and municipal facilities hold permits to discharge wastewater to the Elizabeth River, and several of these sit along the Elizabeth River north of the convergence with St. Juliens Creek. Before the 1970s, no regulatory requirements limited discharges, and so the possible releases from these multiple sources are unknown. St. Juliens Creek also receives storm water discharge from the cities of Chesapeake and Portsmouth and from other sources not associated with St. Juliens Creek Annex, including industrial, commercial, and urban activities.
While the amounts of previous releases to the Elizabeth River are unknown, the effects appear to be significant. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) identified the Elizabeth River as one of the country's most polluted waterways. EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program designated the Elizabeth River a Region of Concern in 1993, based on the effects of past waste disposal practices, existing point sources (e.g., permitted discharges from facilities), and non-point sources such as rainwater run-off (Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay 2003; CBP 1999).
Many government agencies and nonprofit agencies have been working for over two decades to characterize and reduce contaminant levels in the Elizabeth River. As of 1999, the Elizabeth River system was considered to be in the worst condition of any river system on Chesapeake Bay, but showing improving trends (Army CBP 2000; Elizabeth River Project 1996; VDEQCBP 2002). USACE plans to remove sediments contaminated by high levels of metals, PAHs and PCBs, or to cap sediment, in several small areas (USACE 2003).
The Commonwealth of Virginia has designated the Elizabeth River as a Class IIB waterway, which indicates that the water is suitable for bathing and fishing, but taking shellfish is prohibited (LANTDIV 2000b). Several cooperative committees studying the Elizabeth River, however, advise against swimming in the river near the shores due to concerns of potential bacteriologic contamination in the water (Elizabeth River Project 1996). The Elizabeth River is used for other types of recreation, including boating, water skiing, and jet skiing. People have been observed fishing on the bank of St. Juliens Creek just across from St. Juliens Creek Annex (EPA 1997). The local recreational activity may occur in less-industrial stretches of the river than in the area adjacent to St. Juliens Creek Annex, but there are currently no known access restrictions to the river in the areas near St. Juliens Creek Annex. Access to or from the river along the perimeter of St. Juliens Creek Annex is not permitted.
Commercial and recreational fishing and crabbing occur in St. Juliens Creek and in the Elizabeth River. Particularly abundant seasonal fish include bluefish, spot, and Atlantic croaker. American eel and striped bass, particularly juveniles, are also common (NOAA 1999). There are no fishing advisories in effect for the river. A range of shellfish species can be found in the Elizabeth River, including crabs and hard clams (northern quahogs), but since approximately 1926, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has prohibited harvesting of most shellfish (including oysters, clams, and mussels, but not including crabs) from the Elizabeth River and its tributaries. The prohibition is based on the levels of bacteriologic contamination (coliform) that has been detected in these waterways (VDH 2002).
Discharges to Surface Water from St. Juliens Creek Annex
St. Juliens Creek Annex has many drains and discharge pipes that empty into Blows Creek, St. Juliens Creek, and the Elizabeth River. Many of these have, and continue to release untreated storm water from industrial and non-industrial areas. All surface water discharges from this site since 1975 have been governed by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits that the State of Virginia has issued to the Navy. Until the 1970s, waste generated at St. Juliens Creek Annex was often dumped onto the ground, into storm drains, or into Blows Creek, St. Juliens Creek, or the Elizabeth River (LANTDIV 2000a). Water that comes into contact with waste products may gradually leach chemicals from the waste: the resulting contaminated water is typically carried to groundwater or surface water. The waste disposal areas and landfill at St. Juliens Creek Annex are near Blows Creek, St. Juliens Creek, or the Elizabeth River, and were not constructed with effective liners, or were not lined at all. Over the years, contaminants may have migrated from these areas to the groundwater or surface water (e.g., from contact with rainwater or by tidal flushing). Contaminants identified along surface water runoff paths from St. Juliens Creek Annex and in surface water areas at St. Juliens Creek Annex include explosives, metals, pesticides, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds.
In preparing this PHA, ATSDR reviewed and evaluated information provided in the referenced documents. Documents prepared for the CERCLA program must meet standards for quality assurance and control measures for chain-of-custody, laboratory procedures, and data reporting. The environmental data presented in this PHA come from site characterization, remedial investigation, and groundwater sampling reports prepared by St. Juliens Creek Annex under CERCLA and RCRA. Based on our evaluation, ATSDR determined that the quality of environmental data available for St. Juliens Creek Annex is adequate for making public health decisions.
In this section, ATSDR presents the findings of our exposure and health effects evaluations. Here we evaluate whether people are coming in contact with site-related contamination and, if so, whether or not harmful exposures are occurring. Figure 6 provides an overview of ATSDR's exposure evaluation process, which is described in more detail below. Appendix A defines some of the technical terms used in this PHA.
What is meant by exposure?
The public health assessment of the St. Juliens Creek Annex is driven by the evaluation of the potential for human exposure. The potential for human exposure depends on the type and amount of contact people can have with environmental contaminants resulting from waste disposal practices on the annex. Chemical contaminants released into the environment have the potential to cause adverse health effects. However, a release does not always result in human exposure, and exposure does not always cause a health effect. People can only be exposed to a contaminant if they come in contact with it–if they breathe, eat, drink, or touch a substance containing the contaminant.
How does ATSDR determine which exposure situations to evaluate?
ATSDR evaluates site conditions to determine if people could have been, are, or could be exposed (i.e., exposed in a past scenario, a current scenario, or a future scenario) to site-related contaminants. When evaluating exposure pathways, ATSDR identifies whether exposure to contaminated media (soil, sediment, water, air, or biota) has occurred, is occurring, or will occur through ingestion, dermal (skin) contact, or inhalation.
If exposure was, is, or could be possible, ATSDR considers whether contamination is present at levels that might affect public health. ATSDR selects contaminants for further evaluation by comparing them against health-based comparison values (CVs). These are developed by ATSDR from available scientific literature related to exposure and health effects. CVs are derived for each of the different media and reflect an estimated contaminant level that is not likely to cause adverse health effects for a given chemical, assuming a standard daily contact rate (e.g., an amount of water or soil consumed or an amount of air breathed) and body weight.
CVs are not thresholds for adverse health effects. ATSDR CVs represent contaminant levels many times lower than levels at which no effects were observed in experimental animals or human epidemiologic studies. If contaminant levels are above CVs, ATSDR further analyzes exposure variables (for example, duration and frequency of exposure), the toxicology of the contaminant, other epidemiology studies, and the weight of evidence as to whether adverse health effects are or are not expected to occur.
Some of the CVs used by ATSDR include ATSDR's environmental media evaluation guides (EMEGs), reference dose media evaluation guides (RMEGs), and cancer risk evaluation guides (CREGs) and EPA's maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). MCLs are enforceable drinking water regulations developed to protect public health. CREGs, EMEGs, and RMEGs are nonenforceable, health-based CVs developed by ATSDR for screening environmental contamination for further evaluation. Appendix B provides an overview of the CVs that ATSDR used in evaluating site environmental data.
If someone is exposed, will they get sick?
Exposure does not always result in harmful health effects. The type and severity of health effects a person can experience because of contact with a contaminant depend on the exposure level (how much), the frequency and/or duration of exposure (how long), the route or pathway of exposure (breathing, eating, drinking, or skin contact), and the toxicity of the chemical. Once exposure occurs, characteristics such as age, sex, nutritional status, genetics, lifestyle, and health status of the exposed individual influence how the individual absorbs, distributes, metabolizes, and excretes the contaminant. Together, these factors and characteristics determine the health effects that may occur.
In almost any situation, there is considerable uncertainty about the true level of exposure to environmental contamination. To account for this uncertainty and to be protective of public health, ATSDR typically uses worst-case exposure level estimates as the basis for determining whether adverse health effects are possible. These estimated exposure levels usually are much higher than the levels that people are really exposed to. If the exposure levels indicate that adverse health effects are possible, ATSDR performs a more detailed review of exposure, also consulting the toxicologic and epidemiologic literature for scientific information about the health effects from exposure to hazardous substances.
What potential exposure situations were evaluated for St. Juliens Creek Annex?
ATSDR evaluated potential exposure information for groundwater, soil, surface water, sediment, fish/shellfish, air, and physical hazards at St. Juliens Creek Annex. We examined the nature and extent of contamination and the likelihood of past, current, or future exposures. Our evaluation of possible exposure situations is summarized in Table 1 and described in greater detail in the following discussion. ATSDR determined that no exposures to groundwater contaminants were occurring, and also that there is currently no exposure to on-site contaminants (in soil, sediment, or surface water). The primary exposure pathways (past, current, and potential future) identified for populations at or near St. Juliens Creek Annex include:
- Past contact with site soils, including lead-contaminated soil at the St. Juliens
Creek Annex housing areas.
- Past contact with surface water and sediment in Blows Creek (on-site).
- Possible contact with surface water and sediment in St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River.
- Breathing air emissions from past burning activities at IRP sites.
- Contact with unexploded ordnance in the soft sediment near the former wharf.
The sections below discuss the findings of our evaluation of these exposure situations and the basis for our conclusions.
Several organic and inorganic substances were detected in the shallow or deep groundwater beneath the site at levels exceeding health-based comparison values. However, groundwater beneath and downgradient of the site is not used for drinking water; there is no exposure to the groundwater. Local communities obtain their drinking water from distant sources, which comply with the safe drinking water requirements.
Nature and Extent of Contamination
Many past operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex involved the release of materials that could have seeped into shallow groundwater or deep groundwater beneath the site. The Navy sampled groundwater from the shallow aquifer beneath various IRP sites in 1996 and 1998 for VOCs, SVOCs, pesticides/PCBs, inorganics, and explosives, and sampled groundwater from the deep aquifer beneath selected IRP sites in 2001 for VOCs, SVOCs, pesticides/PCBs, inorganics, and explosives. Sampling of shallow groundwater detected VOCs, SVOCs, and inorganics at levels exceeding ATSDR's health-based CVs. These sampling data are summarized in Table 3. Additionally, some contaminants associated with ordnance (explosive contaminants) were detected in a small number of shallow groundwater aquifer samples, below CVs. Sampling of deep groundwater detected SVOCs, pesticides/PCBs, explosives, and inorganics at levels exceeding ATSDR's health-based CVs. These sampling data are summarized in Table 4.
VOCs such as methylene chloride and trichloroethylene have been associated with some IRP sites (in shallow groundwater). The Navy has found a plume of trichloroethylene contamination at Site 21, Building 187 Soil Staining (NEHC 2003a). The Navy is currently conducting follow-up shallow groundwater sampling at various IRP sites to further define the nature and extent of groundwater contamination beneath the site.
As noted earlier, all deep and shallow groundwater discharges to the adjacent waterways, and no known water supplies (e.g., public or private wells) draw from groundwater directly beneath, or downgradient of, St. Juliens Creek Annex. ATSDR identified groundwater wells several hundred feet away from the northern and western site boundaries that are assumed to draw on deep groundwater, but these wells are not in the path of groundwater flow from the site (LANTDIV 1981; VDEQ 2003a). These wells are not affected by any contamination originating from the site. ATSDR also identified several private wells a few hundred feet away on the other side of the Elizabeth River. Similarly, these wells are not impacted by contaminants originating in the groundwater beneath St. Juliens Creek, because the groundwater discharges to the river and is not expected to pass beneath the river (LANTDIV 1981).
St. Juliens Creek Annex obtains its drinking water from the public drinking water supply of Portsmouth. Residents of Portsmouth and Chesapeake obtain their drinking water from deep wells and surface water, both located far from St. Juliens Creek Annex. Both cities' water supplies are sampled regularly. Municipal water supplies are not affected by contaminants within the groundwater beneath St. Juliens Creek Annex.
Public Health Implications
There is no exposure to the groundwater beneath and downgradient of St. Juliens Creek Annex. St. Juliens Creek Annex uses water from the Portsmouth, Virginia, municipal water supply. Local residents also obtain their drinking water from municipal water suppliers, therefore contaminated groundwater from beneath St. Juliens Creek Annex poses no health concerns. The Navy continues to search for indirect impacts of groundwater discharges to nearby waterways.
Soil sampling at several IRP areas found SVOCs, pesticides, and inorganics above health-based comparison values, notably lead and arsenic. Exposure to contaminants detected at IRP areas is not expected to result in adverse health effects. Due to the natural topography and surface water flow paths, soil contaminant migration to the off-site community is unlikely. However, lead was detected in soil and dust at former housing areas at St. Juliens Creek Annex above EPA's action level. Children living in on-base housing may have contacted lead in the soil and dust. Blood lead data for children affiliated with Naval installations in the Portsmouth area show a small number of children had elevated blood lead levels, however the data suggest that the majority of the children had blood lead levels similar to those of children living in other parts of the country.
Sources of Contamination
Many past operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex generated waste that was released to surface soil at industrial areas across the site. Table 2 describes the types of substances used and disposed of in the IRP areas and AOCs. Some of the detected contaminants (e.g., lead) may be present due to activities at other industrial operations in this area.
Nature and Extent of Contamination
Transport of the surface soil to the off-site community is unlikely. The ground elevation at St. Juliens Creek Annex is highest along the boundary with the surrounding communities and lowest at Blows Creek, St. Juliens Creek, and the Elizabeth River (see Figure 7). The soil transported by surface water during rain events tends to flow towards the creeks and away from the off-site areas. Soil erosion and transport by winds is limited because the industrial sites are generally surrounded by grassy or marshy areas, or covered with pavement. Therefore the Navy concentrated their sampling efforts on the individual industrial and disposal sites located on the annex.
The Navy sampled soil at all IRP sites with exposed dirt or grass for VOCs, SVOCs, pesticides/PCBs, inorganics, and explosives, in 1996 and 1998. Results from these sampling events are summarized in Table 5. The most prevalent substances (in more than 20 percent of the samples tested) detected above ATSDR health-based CVs include benzo(a)pyrene, arsenic, and lead. Table 2 presents findings at individual IRP sites. The Navy is cleaning up sites where contamination was identified, with oversight and concurrence from EPA and VDEQ to ensure that contaminant levels are restored to safe levels. In the mid-1990s, the Navy also sampled soil, indoor dust, and paint at on-site housing areas for lead. Figure 8 shows the approximate locations of these housing areas. Sampling found elevated levels of lead in all tested media, at several locations in the on-site housing area.
Currently, there is no public access to St. Juliens Creek Annex. Former residents of the on-base housing areas may have had some access to IRP areas but likely of limited nature. There were no fences to restrict access to IRP areas, and some access by residents living in the housing areas may have occurred at contaminated sites, such as landfills, for short periods of time. ATSDR also assumed that past and current base employees will have some incidental contact with contaminated soils as they walk around the annex. Based on the investigative and remedial activities conducted on the annex, and the vegetation covering most of the soil, past exposures to soil contamination in the industrial areas of St. Juliens Creek Annex would likely have been infrequent and incidental for older children and adults. ATSDR assumed that young children (e.g., 6 years old or younger), would not be expected to play, unsupervised, in any of the site's industrial areas. Young children are expected to have had limited and infrequent contact with the soil contaminants found in the industrial areas of the annex.
As mentioned above, surface run-off would tend to be towards the surrounding creeks and rivers due to the topography of the site. With contaminant migration being toward the waterways, no off-site soil exposures are expected. ATSDR is aware of a community garden located just outside of the St. Juliens Creek Annex boundary, near the northwest area of St. Juliens Creek Annex. The Navy did not conduct soil sampling or other investigations here because there is no history of chemical release for that area. No evidence exists to suggest any off-site transport of base-related contaminants to this garden occurred. The garden is located 160 feet from the base boundary and 950 feet from the nearest active IRP site. In addition, the St. Juliens Creek Annex base fence line is separated from the community garden by a railroad line that is at higher elevation than both the fence and garden, and a ditch. As a result, soil transport from the annex to the garden is not expected (LANTDIV 2003c; NEHC 2003a). ATSDR was unable to identify further specific details about this garden such as the time frame of use, types of crops, or sources of irrigation water.
Residents, including young children, may have been exposed to lead in the on-site housing areas. Sampling indicated elevated levels of lead in soil, and indoor paint and dust. The extent to which children may have been exposed to lead contamination in the housing areas is not known. Further details of potential exposures to lead in these on-site housing areas are discussed in the Public Health Implications and Community Health Concerns portion of this document.
Public Health Implications
ATSDR determined that people, especially young children, are not and were not likely to have significant contact with IRP sites where surface soil contamination was found. Incidental exposures to the soil of these areas (e.g., occasional contact by base residents, visitors or employees) are not expected to cause harm. Cleanup actions by the Navy are expected to clean up the contaminated areas and eliminate the potential for future exposure. The possible health significance of elevated levels of lead in housing areas is difficult to assess. To better understand the potential exposures, ATSDR reviewed blood lead data obtained between 1995 and 2000 from children affiliated with any of the Navy installations near Portsmouth, VA. It was not possible to determine the exact number of children tested or the actual residence of the children; this data was evaluated to identify the prevalence of area children with high blood lead levels. The data suggest that most children who underwent blood lead testing had very low blood lead levels, typically too low to detect: 98% of the children sampled had a blood lead level less than the CDC level of concern (10 µg/dL). A very small number of children had elevated blood lead levels, which could lead to adverse health outcomes especially in young children. While it is not possible to identify the lead exposure of children living in on-base housing, the data suggest that the majority of the children affiliated with local Naval installations had blood lead levels below the CDC level of concern. Past exposure to lead from any of the possible sources at St. Juliens Creek Annex is unlikely to have led to adverse health effects. See the Community Concerns Section for a more extensive discussion of lead exposures.
Some surface water and sediment samples from Blows Creek and smaller water bodies at St. Juliens Creek Annex contained elevated levels of inorganics and SVOCs. Former residents of on-site housing areas may have used Blows Creek for recreation. Public access to the base or Blows Creek is no longer allowed. ATSDR evaluated potential exposures associated with swimming or wading at Blows Creek, and found that the exposures were below those expected to cause harmful effects.
Sources of Contamination
Contaminants could have been released to Blows Creek from various site operations. These include dumping of waste liquids from degreasing operations that used alodine (a caustic detergent), methyl ethyl ketone, and acetone, at the railroad tracks at Building 13; pouring cutting oil from machine shops down storm drains; and treating roads and fence lines with hydraulic fluid and solvents to kill weeds and control dust (EPA 2002).
Nature and Extent of Contamination
The only permanent surface water body on the site grounds at St. Juliens Creek Annex is Blows Creek, which runs through the site from close to the northern border and joins the Elizabeth River along the eastern boundary of the site. Water sometimes collects at low-lying marsh areas near the waste disposal areas and landfill at St. Juliens Creek Annex as well. Some of this water flows directly to Blows Creek or to the smaller surface water bodies, and some infiltrates the shallow groundwater aquifer (LANTDIV 2002). The Navy sampled surface water and sediment from Blows Creek in 1999 and analyzed these samples for VOCs, SVOCs, and inorganics. The Navy also sampled surface water and sediment from marsh areas near waste disposal areas and the landfill (IRP sites 2, 3, 4, and 5) in 1998 as part of the Ecological Risk Assessment.
Few contaminants were detected above CVs. In surface water, inorganics detected at least once above CVs include aluminum, arsenic, chromium, iron, lead, manganese, thallium, and vanadium. The highest detections were generally from water sampled in marsh areas near the waste disposal areas and landfill, not in Blows Creek.
SVOCs (benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)fluoranthene and dibenz(a,h)anthracene) and inorganics (antimony, arsenic, copper, and lead) were detected above CVs in sediment. The surface water and sediment data are summarized in Tables 6 and 7, respectively.
Public access is not allowed at St. Juliens Creek Annex, so the public is not currently expected to come into contact with surface water or sediment in Blows Creek, except to the extent that Blows Creek empties into the Elizabeth River. Further, the public is not expected to come in contact with contamination at the marsh areas near site landfills. Former residents of housing areas at St. Juliens Creek Annex could have used Blows Creek for recreational purposes, although there is no documented evidence of such use. The creek is wide enough to allow access (over ten feet across in some places) and small areas of riverbank may be exposed on either shore. Based on observations from EPA's 1999 site visit, ATSDR determined that Blows Creek could have served as an informal recreational area for children and adults who lived at the St. Juliens Creek Annex housing areas. Any such access is expected to have been infrequent (no more than twice per week) and for relatively short periods of time. ATSDR expects that young children would not have had much contact with the surface water and sediment in the marsh areas located near site landfills; however teenagers and adults could have accessed these areas occasionally.
Public Health Implications
The estimated dose to a child or adult swimming in Blows Creek was well below the doses shown in the scientific literature to cause adverse health effects. The likelihood of past hazards is further diminished because children would not be expected to play in this creek every day, nor would they necessarily be exposed to the highest reported contaminant levels each time they accessed the creek. Between late September and early May, the water is too cold for wading or swimming without waders or insulated suits (NEHC 2003a); it is unlikely that anyone, especially children, would swim daily throughout the year. Some uncertainty exists as to whether the 1998 and 1999 data are fully representative of past exposure conditions, however the limited potential for contact with the creek suggests it did not pose a past hazard.
Based on ATSDR's conservative assumptions of how often people accessed Blows Creek and the other marsh areas at St. Juliens Creek Annex, no contaminants detected there are expected to have caused adverse health effects in past base residents or visitors or for employees who have incidental contact with these areas.
Local residents use St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River for recreation, including boating, fishing, and swimming. Based on limited sampling data in the vicinity of St. Juliens Annex, people using St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River for recreational purposes are not expected to be exposed to harmful levels of contamination in surface water and sediment near St. Juliens Creek Annex.
Sources of Contamination
The quality of St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River may be affected by releases from St. Juliens Creek Annex including draining of rinsate from powder cans into St. Juliens Creek; discharging mine-loading wastewater to the Elizabeth River; releasing steam condensate to the Elizabeth River and to Blows Creek; conducting degreasing operations that released lye, sulfuric acid, and chromic acid to a storm drain that terminated at St. Juliens Creek; or allowing the effluent from the wash rack to drain into a storm drain that emptied into St. Juliens Creek.
Several IRP sites sit along St. Juliens Creek or the Elizabeth River, or along Blows Creek, which empties to the Elizabeth River. The Navy is addressing potential sources of contamination to these waterways from St. Juliens Creek Annex. (Table 2 lists remedial activities at IRP sites where such activities are present.) The water and sediment quality of St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River is also affected by a variety of other commercial, industrial, residential and recreational activities.
Nature and Extent of Contamination
In 2002, VDEQ collected surface water for inorganic analysis at a location where St. Juliens Creek merges with the Elizabeth River. Metals were detected in these samples at levels below CVs. These data are summarized in Table 8. No other on-site surface water data for St. Juliens Creek or the Elizabeth River were identified.
EPA collected sediment samples along surface water runoff locations along the boundary of St. Juliens Creek Annex. This includes a shoreline along St. Juliens Creek with tall grasses, and other shoreline along the Elizabeth River that is defined by a barbed-wire fence at the perimeter of St. Juliens Creek Annex. EPA sampled at locations near storm drains and natural drainage paths from St. Juliens Creek Annex, for VOCs, SVOCs, pesticides/PCBs, and inorganics. Dieldrin, aluminum and arsenic were detected above CVs in sediment collected from St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River. These data are summarized in Table 9.
Leachate migration and storm water runoff are likely to have caused some chemical contaminants from St. Juliens Creek Annex, and from other commercial and industrial activities conducted near St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River, to enter the water and settle into the sediment of those waterways. Many storm drains that serve nearby industrial facilities also discharge to these waterways. Additionally, tidal action is expected to cause any contaminants released from St. Juliens Creek Annex to mix with contaminants from other nearby sources located both upstream and downstream (Figure 2). On-going efforts by the Navy, the Elizabeth River Project, and other agencies, organizations, and community members are aimed at reducing the contaminant levels and restoring the water quality of this river system.
Recreational activities are allowed in St. Juliens Creek and in the Elizabeth River, but landing on the shore along St. Juliens Creek Annex is restricted by fences. Some boating, fishing, and swimming occurs in the Elizabeth River and likely also in St. Juliens Creek. However, these waterways are lined with industrial and military facilities, and the shorelines are non-existent and/or inaccessible in many areas. Public access to these banks is further limited by landscape features, such as reeds and mud along the banks.
ATSDR assumes that recreational users could have limited, incidental contact (via dermal contact or ingestion) with contaminants in surface water and sediment in the vicinity of St. Juliens Annex, as often as twice per week. ATSDR does not expect, however, that people are actually coming in contact with sediments in the areas sampled. The sediments sampled are along a prohibited shoreline and people are more likely to come into contact with sediments on the opposite shoreline, where contaminant levels are unknown.
Public Health Implications
The limited amount of off-base surface water and sediment sampling data does not fully represent the potential exposures of St. Juliens Creek or the Elizabeth River's recreational users. However, the data suggests that recreational users near the annex would not be exposed to contaminants in the surface water at levels known to cause health effects. Sediment collected from the Elizabeth River contained elevated levels of inorganics and pesticides/PCBs. ATSDR concluded that contact with the sediment by recreational users will not expose people to contaminants at levels known to cause health effects. Appendix C contains an explanation of the dose calculations and literature cited in drawing this conclusion.
Contamination in other parts of these waterways is unknown and may be higher, or lower, than the areas sampled. These waterways are generally considered contaminated, and several community groups are working to study the levels of contamination that are present. For further information about the groups that are assessing the Elizabeth River, refer to the Community Concerns portion of this PHA.
Ordnance may be present in the sediment near the wharf pilings. This topic is discussed in more detail in the "Physical Hazards" section of this document.
Past operations, mostly related to periodic waste-burning activities, generated air emissions that could have traveled toward on-base and off-base residential communities. There is no air sampling data representative of burn activities, therefore ATSDR cannot definitively evaluate potential past exposures. Emissions are likely to have been high at the sources during operations; however exposures to the smoke beyond the burn area would have been much lower because the concentrations would decrease significantly as the smoke traveled from the source and the burning events were not a continuous operation. Burning ceased by the late 1970s; recent air sampling did not detect contaminants in air emissions at or above health-based comparison values. Therefore, no harmful exposures are currently occurring, and none are expected to occur in the future.
Nature and Extent of Contamination
Operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex included the burning of various waste materials. Beginning in the late 1930s, waste ordnance materials were disposed of by open burning at the Burning Grounds, located off of Cradock Street, in the northern part of the site. Ordnance disposed of at the Burning Grounds included black powder, smokeless powder, Explosive D, Composition A-3, and other materials containing, or contaminated with, those compounds. The amount of ordnance varied over the years; in 1974 alone, the amount of ordnance disposed of at the burning grounds was 427 tons. (Site documents do not report how much ordnance was disposed of in other years.) In the 1970s, the Burning Grounds reportedly caught fire spontaneously several times before decontamination took place (EPA 2000). Burning operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex ceased in the 1970s. The Naval Ammunition Production Engineering Center decontaminated this area in 1977 (LANTDIV 1981).
No air sampling was conducted during any of these burning operations. ATSDR was unable to identify any documents describing whether controlled burning operations followed specific procedures to help control the emissions.
In the early 1980s, the Navy sampled the air at locations near the site landfills and near certain other IRP sites for VOCs and radionuclides during preliminary site investigations. At that point, the Navy had already cleaned up several of the waste disposal areas. No elevated readings of VOCs were detected. No follow-up sampling was conducted (LANTDIV 1981).
No exposures to emissions from St. Juliens Creek Annex are currently occurring, nor are they expected to occur in the future. It is possible, however, that past burning activities resulted in some exposures to the local community. People living in local communities, or in housing areas at St. Juliens Creek Annex, may have been exposed to unknown levels of various contaminants in air emissions for an unknown duration but most likely only for short (acute) durations. The closest sources of possible past off-site air emissions to the off-site housing are located one quarter mile away. These areas include sites the Navy used to burn garbage or ordnance: IRP site 3 (Waste Disposal Area C) and IRP site 5 (the Burning Grounds). As noted, burning operations ended in the late 1970s, eliminating any exposure potential.
ATSDR was unable to determine whether burning operations ceased before or after the recreation area for local communities was built. If the burning operations still occurred after the recreational area was built, members of the local community may have been periodically exposed to air emissions from these burning operations.
Public Health Implications
In the absence of past emissions data or records describing operations, ATSDR cannot evaluate possible exposures during burning events. However, past burning events are likely to have been episodic in nature (i.e., larger amounts of emissions were generated during burning operations, and no emissions when burning operations were not taking place). In addition the concentration of the chemicals in the emissions would be significantly reduced as the smoke traveled from the burn site to off-base areas. Both the episodic occurrence of the burns and the distance from the burn source would significantly reduce the potential for exposure to chemicals released during the burn event. ATSDR did not identify any information that described community complaints about the emissions related to past burning events. No air releases have been measured in recent sampling events; currently no harmful exposures are occurring.
Past operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex may have resulted in dropped or discarded ordnance in sediments near the former wharf on the Elizabeth River. The presence of ordnance in the sediment is suspected because ordnance was loaded onto ships from the wharf area and limited analysis identified metallic anomalies in the sediment; however, its presence has not been confirmed. It will likely not be possible to ever guarantee that ordnance is not buried in the sediment along the St. Juliens Creek Annex shoreline; however boaters can protect themselves by following the warning signs posted on the fence of St. Juliens Creek Annex.
Nature and Extent of Contamination
The Navy's operations at St. Juliens Creek Annex included packing explosive materials into a variety of ordnance and munitions, and assembly and loading of munitions and other ordnance. According to the Navy, all ordnance-handling facilities were located southeast of the Virginia Electric and Power Company power lines that bisect that site (LANTDIV 1981). Members of the nearby community have expressed concern that unexploded ordnance could pose a physical hazard to people coming into direct contact with such objects (LANTDIV 2000a). There is a concern that small quantities of intact munitions could remain on site grounds.
The Navy sampled for contaminants associated with explosives at IRP sites across the annex. Trace levels of explosive related compounds such as 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene, 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, 2,6-dinitrotoluene, 4-nitrotoluene, nitrobenzene, and cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX), were detected, generally below ATSDR's health-based comparison values. Decontamination was performed in, around, and under ordnance handling facilities in 1977, after ordnance operations had ceased, and inspections since that time have indicated no fire or explosive hazard exists (LANTDIV 1981).
Available information indicates that the previous ordnance operations included disposal of ordnance and associated materials. Interviews with former personnel of St. Juliens Creek Annex indicated that large amounts of ordnance were disposed of at the Burning Grounds (Site 5); the surface of the Burning Grounds was decontaminated in the late 1970s (LANTDIV 1981). During the site screening process, the Navy recovered 33 pieces of buried unexploded ordnance (UXO). An inspection of the recovered items indicated that none were live or required "inerting" (LANTDIV 2003c). According to the Navy, it is not possible to guarantee that the land area of St. Juliens Creek Annex is free of UXO or other explosive-related hazards.
Site operations also involved loading and unloading of ordnance from ships, during which some ordnance may have fallen into the Elizabeth River at the former wharf area. Some ordnance could remain submerged in this area. According to the Navy, "strong evidence" supports the presence of unexploded ordnance items such as ammunition and shells in the river sediment by Buildings M-5 and M-190. However, no ordnance has been identified here, and no ordnance is known to exist at St. Juliens Creek Annex (LANTDIV 1981).
This area of the river near the wharf was dredged three times between 1969 and 1974, and no UXO was detected during these events (NAVSEA 1977). However the dredging operations were not exhaustive searches for ordnance, and ordnance could still remain buried in sediments here. Sediment in the area was sampled in 1996. No explosives constituents were detected at levels above ATSDR's health-based comparison values. According to the Navy, it is reasonable to assume that ordnance items were dropped in this area during loading operations, and that these items could still be present in the silt (EPA 1997).
In the late 1970s and in 1996, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) diver teams searched the area of the former wharf (LANTDIV 1981, 2000a). They performed a magnetometer study and underwater reconnaissance survey of sediments near the former wharf. The magnetometer study identified approximately 68 buried contacts surrounding the former wharf pilings, with the largest level of contacts along the center west side of the pilings, between the pilings and the river bank. The divers also found deep areas of silt in the area of the former pier, and so they were unable to look at the metal objects to determine whether or not these were ordnance objects. The divers also reported finding metallic objects and deep areas of silt in the area of the new pier.
The Navy has certified the wharf area at a "Single X Decontamination Level," indicating that a small number of pieces of UXO may remain undetected (LANTDIV 2000a). The Navy only owns this area to the mean low water tide at this site. The State of Virginia owns the waterways, and no access restrictions are in place in these waterways (NEHC 2003b). The Navy Range Program has posted signs that identify areas where access is unauthorized. The Navy placed a notation in the U.S. Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic Division, Real Estate documents, and plans to send a notice to USACE to prevent any dredging activities without proper UXO clearance (LANTDIV 2002).
The signs on the fence of are visible from the land and from the river. These signs read:
"NO UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS
ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING IN PROGRESS
EXCAVATION AND DUMPING PROHIBITED
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION CONTACT
CNRMA Environmental Manager 757-444-4009, ext. 358
CNRMA Environmental IR Coordinator 757-887-4775" (LANTDIV 2003d)."
Potential Exposures and Hazards
ATSDR searched site-related documents and did not identify any past incidents of people coming in contact with UXO on St. Juliens Creek Annex proper or in the sediments along the wharf area or river bank. Currently, no public access to the site is allowed and warning signs are post advising boaters that unauthorized access is prohibited. While no amount of testing can guarantee that ordnance does not exist in the sediment below and downstream of the wharf, Navy documents report finding no ordnance (NAVSEA 1977). However some studies have identified anomalies that have not been fully investigated (LANTDIV 1981, 2000a).
Both St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River are used recreationally for swimming, boating, and fishing. Boaters are unlikely to encounter unexploded ordnance that has remained intact for decades, however it is theoretically possible that dropping an anchor from a boat, or running ashore at the edge of the river, could dislodge ordnance and pose a safety hazard. Boaters can adequately protect themselves by following the posted warnings. ATSDR supports the continued posting of adequate warning signs by the Navy to inform waterway users of this possible safety hazard. ATSDR recommends that if in the future the Navy intends to change the land use for St. Juliens Creek Annex property, the wharf, or downstream river bank, additional investigations be performed to ensure the area is safe from ordnance-related safety hazards.
ATSDR identified community health concerns through Navy and EPA meetings with community members, ATSDR meetings with state and local officials and St. Juliens Creek Annex personnel, and also through a review of site documents, including a Community Relations Plan.
Navy officials met with local residents, city officials, Navy and civilian personnel at St. Juliens Creek Annex, and other interested parties, during February 2000. The Navy officials asked each person a set list of questions. Some people expressed concerns about buried materials and unexploded ordnance at St. Juliens Creek Annex, while other people thought there was no waste material present at all. One community member expressed concern over the consumption of fish and crabs from St. Juliens Creek, and at the absence of "No Fishing" signs, based on the results of sampling conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. Other community members noted that they do not want any new industrial activity on the creek, but stated no specific health concern. Some community members thought property values would suffer if the sites at St. Juliens Creek Annex were not cleaned up properly or if an industrial park were located there, but these individuals did not state any health concerns (LANTDIV 2000a).
The Navy prepared a Community Relations Plan for St. Juliens Creek Annex in 2000 that provides guidance for keeping the community informed about site-related activities and for involving the community and other interested parties in the decision-making process for selecting remedial alternatives. As part of its effort, the Navy interviewed state and local officials, employees, local residents, and representatives of community groups and businesses to identify additional information needs. Public meetings are held to inform citizens of ongoing remedial activities and to solicit their input. Navy officials also gave community presentations and are available to discuss any concerns that community members have. The Navy established a Restoration Advisory Board in December 1999 and continued to conduct regular meetings with community members to review and comment on technical documents and plans relating to the cleanup program at St. Juliens Creek Annex (NEHC 2003a). The public may review site-related documents, including reports and correspondence relating to cleanup activities, at a repository at the Major Hillard Library, 824 Old George Washington Highway, N., Chesapeake, Virginia (phone: 757-382-3600).
The following sections discuss the specific health concerns voiced by community members and ATSDR's analysis and response, including recommendations for the protection of public health.
Do Buried Materials or UXO at St. Juliens Creek Annex Pose a Safety Hazard?
As discussed in detail in earlier sections, the Navy investigated sites at St. Juliens Creek Annex with the potential to contain buried material. Some types of ordnance materials were identified and removed from some locations. None of the ordnance identified was 'live' or posed any type of safety hazard to the public. Given the cleanup actions to date and site access restrictions, members of the community are not expected to encounter any unexploded ordnance. ATSDR did not identify any documents that indicated buried material that represented a safety hazard or public health hazard for the community.
The only area outside of St. Juliens Creek Annex property where UXO might exist is in the soft sediment beneath the former wharf in the Elizabeth River (near Building M-5) and in the immediate surrounding areas where river currents could have transported such items. The Navy has stated that it is possible that ordnance could have fallen into these areas. Although the river has been dredged many times with no ordnance detected, a small possibility remains that ordnance may be present here. Such ordnance is unlikely to be disturbed by boating in this general vicinity, however it may be disturbed by boats that land at the shore (if any ordnance is located in very shallow water where a boat could touch the ground or a person could stand in the water) or if boaters drop an anchor.
Under the Navy's Range Program, warning signs are posted advising boaters that unauthorized access to the wharf and shore are prohibited. The signs do not specifically mention UXO, but they are designed to keep the area clear and discourage any intrusive activities. Additionally, a notation was placed in Real Estate documents indicating the possible presence of UXO (LANTDIV 2002). Boaters can adequately protect themselves by following posted warnings. ATSDR supports the posting of these signs.
Did Exposure to Lead Pose a Health Threat to Children Living In St. Juliens Creek Annex Housing Areas? Should Previous Residents of the St. Juliens Creek Annex Housing Area Be Concerned?
Based on ATSDR's review of available sampling data, lead was detected in on-site soil, as well as in soil, dust, and paint in the St. Juliens Creek housing areas. Some of the samples contained lead concentrations above EPA's action level. As discussed earlier, the actual exposures of the children living in the on-base housing areas is unknown. ATSDR review results of blood lead samples taken between 1995 and 2000 from children affiliated with any of the Naval installations near Portsmouth, VA. The results suggest that only a few children had elevated lead levels. It is not clear whether these elevated cases were associated with exposures at St. Juliens Creek Annex or another site. These results do suggest that there was not an unusually high incidence of children with high blood lead levels. ATSDR concluded that some portions of the on-base residential housing areas did have high levels of lead. While it is not possible to determine the actual lead exposure of the children who lived in these units; results of blood lead sampling suggest that the children tested did not have an unusually high incidence of high blood lead levels.
The following paragraphs describes the lead sampling data from the on-base housing area and ATSDR's evaluation of the blood lead sampling results. The Navy prepared a Lead Management Plan in 1996 for the St. Juliens Creek Annex housing areas to evaluate the potential presence of lead-based paint and recommend methods to minimize any potential hazards. As part of its assessment, the Navy analyzed the lead content in samples of paint, dust, and soil from eight selected housing units in August 1994. The paint at all of the eight housing units was inspected and analyzed. Nearly 60% of the paint samples contained lead. In many of the locations inspected, the paint was in good condition, only 23% of the locations sampled contained paint that appeared damaged. Because floors and window sills are among the surfaces that are most likely to be accessible to young children, the Navy also analyzed samples of lead in dust on those surfaces from all of the housing units. Lead in dust was above applicable EPA standards for 7 of 64 samples, from five housing units (NAVFAC 1996).
The Navy also collected soil samples outside seven of these eight residences. Fourteen of the 25 soil samples collected contained lead levels above EPA's action level in residential soils of 400 ppm. The maximum lead level detected in soil was 46,300 ppm, in a soil sample taken at the foundation of one housing unit (NAVFAC 1996). This soil sample was taken within 3-4 feet of the building foundation, and may have contained paint chips. Elevated levels of lead in soil (up to 2,845 ppm) were also found on pedestrian paths through this on-site housing complex. According to EPA, soil adjacent to houses with exterior lead-based paint often contains lead levels over 10,000 ppm (ATSDR 1999); only 1 in 25 samples tested here had a lead level above that value. The results of the lead sampling in soil and dust collected at housing areas are summarized in Table 10 and Table 11, respectively.
Based on these findings, ATSDR determined that past residents of St. Juliens Creek Annex had lead in their immediate environment and children may have been exposed to elevated levels of lead compared to EPA recommendations for residential homes. Available samples from the St. Juliens Creek Annex housing area, however, provide only a snapshot of past environmental conditions. We do not know how frequently, or in what ways, residents came into contact with the contaminated areas, if at all.
Blood lead screening is the best indicator of actual lead exposure and the best tool for evaluating possible hazards. ATSDR reviewed the results of blood lead level testing conducted at the Navy Medical Center in Portsmouth, VA. This is the clinic that residents from the St. Juliens Creek Annex housing area would have visited for their routine Well Baby checkup visits (NEHC 2003a). It is also the clinic that parents stationed at other area Naval installations would have used. The data include a total of 1,512 results; 130 blood samples for on-base residents and 1,382 blood samples for off-base residents, between the years 1995 and 2000 (NEHC 2003a).
Of all of the blood lead tests conducted, including children living on-base and off-base, the vast majority of the result indicated the blood lead level less that 10 µg/dL. A very small percentage (1.75%) of the blood samples had a blood lead level of 10-19 µg/dL; an even smaller percentage (0.32%) had a blood lead level of 20-44 µg/dL. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers a blood lead level of 10 µg/dL or higher to be elevated (ATSDR 1999).
In the samples from children living on-base (from any of the area Naval installations), 7.69% of the samples had a blood lead level of 10-19 µg/dL, and 1.40% had a blood lead level of 20-44 µg/dL. Table 12 provides the total number of samples within each range of blood lead levels. These data include children of families affiliated with many Navy facilities. The data do not indicate the location where each child lived at the time of the test, the percentages of samples that are affiliated with St. Juliens Creek Annex, or the number of children represented by the 1,512 blood samples. For example, it is possible that the same child was tested more than once during the same year.
The Navy Pediatric Lead Poisoning Prevention Program specifies that children with elevated blood lead levels should receive dietary education and follow-up testing, and further laboratory testing or medical treatment as appropriate (BUMED 2003). ATSDR expects that children tested at the Portsmouth Navy Medical Center received appropriate follow-up testing and treatment.
The combined statistics across all groups in all years of these blood lead test results are below the Navy's nationwide averages for children in each blood lead level category.
The Navy took several steps to reduce exposure to lead, while residents occupied the St. Juliens Creek Annex housing areas. The Navy performed soil removal actions, awareness training, and building maintenance to reduce the potential for exposure to lead (NEHC 2003a). The Navy covered all housing with siding in the early 1990s, held a public meeting in September 1996 to explain the findings of the Lead Management Plan, and asked that residents not plant gardens due to the soil conditions. Personnel moving into the housing areas were notified of conditions and restrictions, and had to sign a form indicating awareness of these issues (NEHC 2003a).
The Navy cleaned and repainted all housing units at St. Juliens Creek Annex, and mulched the grounds around those housing units, in the late 1990s. During a follow-up inspection, the Navy determined that the housing units should be removed entirely. Residents were transferred to other housing areas during 2000, and these housing units were demolished in 2001 (NEHC 2003a).
The available data suggest that few children had elevated blood lead, and that the existing blood lead screening program minimized impacts. However, uncertainties exist. The data do not include blood lead testing for any year before 1995, although people also lived at the St. Juliens Creek Annex Housing Area before 1995. The number of samples reported for children living on-base is too small to make meaningful comparisons to other statistics, and the data do not necessarily apply to the same children each year, as families may relocate. Furthermore, it is important to note that these data do not include children affiliated with St. Juliens Creek Annex who had their blood lead level tested somewhere other than the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, or who did not have blood lead levels tested at all.
Are Elevated Lead Levels in Children Living Near St. Juliens Creek Annex Site-Related?
According to a study conducted during the 1990s by the Virginia Department of Health, 18% of the children ages 6 years old and younger, living in the residential neighborhood immediately to the north of St. Juliens Creek Annex (the area between Route 17 and Victory Boulevard), were tested to measure blood lead levels (VDH 1996). Of these children, 21% had blood lead levels in excess of 10 µg/dL. CDC considers blood lead levels above 10 µg/dL to elevated (ATSDR 1999). ATSDR has also evaluated historical elevated blood lead data in multiple zip codes in this area (VDH 2003), but the trends presented by these data were not sufficient to determine whether the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels has decreased over recent years. The environmental data evaluated by ATSDR does not indicate that St. Juliens Creek Annex was a source of lead for the children living in the neighboring communities.
ATSDR's review of environmental data identified elevated lead levels in soils within some IRP areas and within the former housing area. However, on-base waste disposal practices and resulting soil contamination are not a likely source of off-base lead contamination. For most children, the most likely source of lead exposure for children is from lead-based paint used in their home or buildings they frequent.
Given the knowledge that elevated blood lead levels have been documented in this area in the past, ATSDR encourages parents of children 6 years of age and younger who live near the St.
Juliens Creek Annex area to have their children undergo blood lead screening as a prudent public health measure, consistent with CDC and VDH guidance.
What are the Potential Effects Associated With Consumption of Seafood from St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River?
A common community concern questions the safety of eating locally-caught seafood. Because of the variety of military installations, industrial facilities and other potential sources of contamination in the area, some people are concerned that finfish and shellfish in this area may have measurable levels of contaminants in their tissues. ATSDR reviewed the available information to address this concern. The following paragraphs briefly describe ATSDR's evaluation. Because the condition of the waterway may change over time, ATSDR recommends that people review relevant fishing advisories for the areas where they intend to fish.
Since the 1920s, VDH has prohibited harvesting shellfish other than crabs from the Elizabeth River and its tributaries due to high levels of bacteriological contamination (VDH 2002). ATSDR did not identify any data or reports that discuss whether the local communities consume shellfish despite this advisory.
There are no fishing advisories for the Elizabeth River and its tributaries to prohibit or restrict fishing. VDH and EPA offer general fishing advisories that provide recommendations to inform people about how to select and prepare fish they catch in a manner that reduces potential exposures to some types of contaminants. ATSDR recommends that people review these advisories, which can be found on the EPA and VDH Internet sites or obtained by contacting the agencies directly. EPA recommendations are online at http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish, and includes a link to Should I Eat The Fish I Catch? A Guide to Healthy Eating of the Fish You Catch, a brochure developed in collaboration with ATSDR. VDH recommendations are online at http://www.vdh.state.va.us/hhcontrol/fishing_advisories.htm.
A number of agencies and organizations are studying seafood and seafood exposures in the Elizabeth River watershed. Some sources suggest that in the Elizabeth River, fish have been found with lesions, tumors, and other abnormalities that could be due to chemical contamination (Elizabeth River Project NDa). However, not all fish lesions are due to chemical contamination. Fish lesions can also be caused by bacterial, fungal or viral infection, parasites, or injury.
ATSDR evaluated fish sampling data from the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS). The sampling area predominately consisted of waterways associated with the James and York Rivers, from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and upstream to approximately Williamsburg, VA. Waterways between Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA and the inland portion of Cape Charles were also represented. The sampling data was gathered between 1997 and 2001. The samples primarily consisted of skin-off fillets of finfish. Results of the evaluation indicate that within the sampled area, there are no health concerns for people who consistently consume one to two 8-oz fish fillets per week from the sampled area. Eating more fish will increase a person's potential exposure to PCBs. All fish consumers, and especially people who routinely consume two or more 8-oz fish fillets per day may want to consider reducing their potential PCB exposure by: 1) selecting the younger, smaller fish of a species (within legal limits), 2) removing the skin, belly fat, and internal organs prior to cooking, 3) baking or broiling the fish fillets, and 4) not eating the fatty juices or drippings.
What is being done to evaluate and remediate contaminants in the Elizabeth River watershed? Where does this contamination come from?
The purpose of a PHA is to determine whether people have been (in the past) or are being exposed to (in contact with) hazardous substances and if so, whether that exposure is harmful and should be stopped or reduced. If exposures have occurred ATSDR uses the PHA to evaluate what actions are required to assist those who may have been exposed. ATSDR studies individual sites, such as St. Juliens Creek Annex; ATSDR does not have information about the contribution of each of the many sources of contamination to the Elizabeth River. The following paragraphs provide additional background information about the work being done to evaluate and remediate the Elizabeth watershed. Several other agencies are working to study and reduce contamination in the Elizabeth River.
Sources of contamination affecting the Elizabeth River include discharges and releases from former and active federal, state, municipal, and private industrial sites, some of which have been described in this document. Boat traffic has resulted in the release of sewage (particularly from recreational boats), petroleum-related products, and paint-related contaminants (i.e., tributyltin). These sources have left behind metals, PAHs, petroleum byproducts, tributyltin and, in some areas, PCBs. Contamination is also carried to the river through storm water pipes that collect runoff from parking lots, lawns, industrial areas, and other surfaces. Another factor contributing to contaminant levels in the river has been the loss of vegetated buffers and wetlands around the river; these buffers and wetlands trap sediments, filter pollutants, and provide habitat (Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay 2003; Army CBP 2000; Chesapeake Bay Program 1999; Chesapeake Executive Council 2000; Elizabeth River Project NDb, 1996; Baltimore Sun 2001; VDEQ-CBP 2002; SPAWAR 1997, 2002).
Several agencies have been working on characterizing and reducing contaminant levels in the Elizabeth River. These agencies include EPA, VDH, VDEQ, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Chesapeake Bay Program (a regional partnership among EPA, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and participating advisory groups). The nonprofit Elizabeth River Project, established in 1992, works to build community involvement in the restoration of the Elizabeth River and foster partnerships among stakeholders, including government agencies, businesses, and the community. More information about the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Elizabeth River Project is available at the following websites: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/ and http://www.elizabethriver.org/.
Do Dredging Operations in St. Juliens Creek and the Elizabeth River Pose a Health Concern?
Community members have expressed a desire for deep water access to the Elizabeth River, for recreational boating (LANTDIV 2000c). Maintaining deep water access requires routine dredging. Some contaminants are sequestered in the sediment and have the potential of being released into the surface water during the dredging process. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) ensures that dredging operations conducted in St. Juliens Creek or the Elizabeth River are protective of human health and the environment.
Rivers and waterways may be dredged for a variety of reasons; our purpose is not to recommend or prohibit dredging in this area, but to provide some information about the procedures used to minimize the risk of human exposure to contaminants which may be re-suspended into the water column as a result of dredging operations. There is a potential for contaminants released from the annex, or any of the industrial facilities in the local area, to be sequestered within the river sediments. The distribution of potential sediment contaminants would vary significantly both across the river bottom area and with depth into the sediments. To understand the types of contaminants that could be reintroduced into the surface water during dredging would require sediment samples from the proposed dredging location.
USACE regulates almost all dredging operations performed in US navigable waters; dredging of St. Juliens Creek would be performed by USACE. Prior to any dredging operation, USACE requires sediment sampling performed according to a USACE designed sampling plan, to ensure the health and safety of the environment and people using the waterway. Dredging operations at St. Juliens Creek are expected to be protective of the public health of the local residents.
Is it safe to eat fruits and vegetables grown in the community garden near St. Juliens Creek Annex?
No sampling has been conducted at or near the community garden. However activities at St. Juliens Creek Annex are not expected to have affected the soil at the community garden or any other off-base location. Additional details are available in the Evaluation of Environmental Contamination, Potential Exposure Situations and Public Health Implications section. Individuals are encouraged to thoroughly wash all produce, whether obtained from this garden or elsewhere.
ATSDR recognizes that infants and children may be more sensitive than adults to exposures with contaminants in water, soil, air, or food. This sensitivity is the result of multiple factors. Children are more likely to be exposed to contamination because they play outdoors and they often bring food into contaminated areas. Children are shorter than adults, so they breathe dust, soil, and heavy vapors close to the ground. Children are also smaller, potentially resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure per unit body weight. The developing body systems of children can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occur during critical growth stages. Most importantly, children depend completely on adults for risk identification and management decisions, housing decisions, and access to medical care. ATSDR is committed to evaluating their special interests at sites such as St. Juliens Creek Annex as part of our Child Health Initiative.
ATSDR has attempted to identify populations of children in the vicinity of St. Juliens Creek Annex. Approximately 1,706 children under the age of 10 years live within the census tracts near St. Juliens Creek Annex. There are two childcare facilities and four schools within one mile of the northern and western boundaries of St. Juliens Creek Annex (ATSDR 2001). These areas are not expected to be impacted by contaminant migration off of St. Juliens Creek Annex property.
A careful evaluation of the exposure pathways at St. Juliens Creek Annex reviewed in this document, as they relate to children, indicates that no current or potential future harmful exposures to site contamination exist. ATSDR concluded that past exposure to site contamination at St. Juliens Creek Annex does not pose unique health hazards for children, except at base housing areas. In the past, children who lived in the St. Juliens Creek Annex housing areas may have been exposed to lead in soil, paint, and dust at levels above the EPA action level. Lead was found in soil at the housing areas in areas where children may play, such as in soil adjacent to houses. On-base housing was closed in 2000, eliminating the potential exposure to that source of lead. Children were not expected to have easy, direct, or frequent access to soil at contaminated industrial areas while living in the on-base housing. In addition, due to the restricted access to St. Juliens Creek Annex, children are not currently expected to have any access to soil at contaminated industrial areas. The greatest potential for past exposure of children to lead was at the on-base housing areas. ATSDR reviewed blood lead sampling data collected by the Navy Medical Center in Portsmouth, VA, reviewed under Community Concerns. Some children had elevated blood lead levels, however these children are expected to have been treated quickly and thoroughly; as described by Navy regulations.
Older children who lived in St. Juliens Creek Annex housing may have had limited access to some of the IRP sites within St. Juliens Creek Annex. ATSDR does not expect that these areas were frequented by young children. Exposures to the most contaminated areas would be limited to older children, or adults. Any exposure that children might have with detected contaminants in the water or sediment in Blows Creek, St. Juliens Creek or the Elizabeth River would be low enough that adverse health effects are not expected.
Elevated blood lead levels in young children is a concern for this area and other nearby areas. VDH is addressing the issue in accordance with CDC guidelines. ATSDR discussed this issue in the PHA for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, an NPL site located one mile to the north (on the other side of this community). The Navy, VDH, CDC, and other interested agencies and organizations have undertaken aggressive childhood lead poisoning prevention programs in the general area.
In concert with CDC and VDH, ATSDR encourages those who live near St. Juliens Creek Annex with children less than 6 years old, to participate in the Navy's or VDH's lead poisoning prevention program for children. Residents interested in learning more about VDH's program may call 1-877-668-7987 (a free call within Virginia) or 1-804-225-4463 (from outside of Virginia) or refer to http://www.vahealth.org/leadsafe. Navy families who would like more information about pediatric lead poisoning prevention are encouraged to request and review information available through their Navy medical treatment site, VDH, CDC, and/or EPA. Individuals interested in learning about lead poisoning in general can call the National Lead Information Clearinghouse (1-800-424-5323, a free call).