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HEALTH CONSULTATION

ERIE AG SERVICES
ERIE, WHITESIDE COUNTY, ILLINOIS


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The purpose of this initial Health Consultation is to evaluate from the information available any known or potential human health hazards for Erie Ag Services. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) prepared this health consultation using site-specific information provided by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). IDPH included observations made during a visit to the site and the surrounding area in this document.

Erie Ag was a retail supplier and custom applicator of pesticides and herbicides for agricultural use. In July 1980, Erie Ag moved its operation from Twelfth Street in Erie, Illinois, to the site on Albany Road. Erie Ag operated at this site until approximately 1995. The site was a privately-owned farmstead before use by Eric Ag [1].

The site occupies approximately 8 acres in a rural, agricultural area. The north side of the facility is bordered by a surface water drainage ditch (Main Ditch) and Stropes Road. The east side is bordered by Albany Road, the south side by Interstate 88, and the west side by a farm field. The site is approximately 2 miles north-northwest of Erie, Illinois, and 3 miles northwest of the Rock River. Two private homes are within a quarter mile northeast of the site. No known sensitive populations are within a 1-mile radius of the site (Attachment 1).

During site operation, the primary structures on the site were a centrally located office/shop, a fertilizer storage and mixing barn, grain silos, several smaller outbuildings, and many bulk storage tanks. Four shallow wells (30 feet or less in depth) also were on the site. One well was in the office and was used for drinking, personal hygiene, and washing equipment. The other three wells were in the barn area and were used for mixing chemicals [2].

The subsurface geology of the area consists of alluvium over glacial outwash composed predominantly of permeable sands and gravel. Bedrock (a permeable Silurian dolomite) may be beneath more than 250 feet of outwash materials. Aquifers in the area include the glacial outwash, the Silurian dolomite, and the deeper Ordovician and Cambrian aquifers. The aquifers of concern are the sand and gravel of the glacial outwash and the underlying Silurian dolomite. The area is considered highly susceptible to aquifer contamination because of the permeability of the surficial alluvium [3].

In June 1986, IEPA conducted an on-site investigation in response to a complaint by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). IDOT could not maintain a grass covering in a drainage ditch that receives runoff from the site. The investigation documented several on-site spill areas, runoff areas with dead vegetation, and a burn pile (with burnt herbicide and pesticide containers). No containment structures were present for bulk tanks, and general problems were noted with the handling and disposal of fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide products. IEPA took two samples of ponded liquid on the site and they took one sample off the site (from a road ditch) at the time of the initial inspection. All the samples contained elevated levels of atrazine, alachlor, cyanazine, metolachlor, and trifluralin (Attachment 2) [3].

On October 5, 1987, IEPA collected a water sample from the shop well. The sample results showed the presence of elevated levels of atrazine, alachlor, metolachlor, and metribuzin. Because of this finding, IEPA requested that IDPH collect water samples from the two private wells northeast of the site (G220 and G221). The samples collected on December 10, 1987, did not contain any herbicide or pesticide contamination.

This site was added to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act Information System (CERCLIS) in November 1989. In the fall of 1991, B&V Waste Science and Technology Corporation conducted a screening site inspection. In November 1994, IEPA installed four shallow (approximately 20 feet in depth) groundwater monitoring wells (G101 - G104). Samples were collected from these wells and an off-site well (G220) in 1994, 1995, and 1996. Groundwater elevations were taken from these monitoring wells and used to estimate the direction of groundwater flow. A review of the groundwater elevations suggest that groundwater flow direction under the site varies considerably, from west-southwest to east-southeast [3].

IDPH conducted a site visit on November 20, 1997. At that time, IDPH noted that the original buildings are still on the site and are now being used by what appears to be a trucking company and a seed supply service.


DISCUSSION

Several sampling events have taken place at Erie Ag from 1986 to 1996. The media sampled include groundwater, surface water, sediments, and soils. The chemicals found are alachlor, atrazine, butylate, chlorpyrifos, cyanazine, metolachlor, metribuzin, pendimethalin, trifluralin, ammonia, and nitrates. Some data sets do not clearly specify which of the four on-site wells were sampled. The locations of some soil and sediment samples are also not known with certainty because sample locations were not clearly specified. Tables 2 and 3 show some key groundwater sample results and the most recent soil sample results (Attachments 3 and 4). Attachment 5 shows the sample locations for those results.

The maximum concentration of each contaminant detected in the soil and groundwater samples was compared with appropriate background and comparison values (Attachment 7). Contaminants with concentrations exceeding comparison values or background levels or for which no comparison values exist are discussed in further detail.

Sample results from the off-site private well (G220) have indicated the presence of some recent low level concentrations of atrazine in the water. Although the levels detected have been less than the comparison value, they may indicate the migration of contaminants off the site. Sample results from the office and production wells have also shown elevated levels of alachlor, atrazine, and cyanazine, some above comparison values.

Sample results from the monitoring wells showed the presence of elevated levels of alachlor, atrazine, cyanazine, metolachlor, and nitrates. Some sample results for these wells varied greatly and may in part be due to the varying groundwater direction.

The most recent soil sample results show some herbicide and pesticide contamination. The levels of alachlor and metolachlor were above comparison values.

Alachlor, also known as "Lasso," is used as a selective herbicide for controlling grasses and broadleaf weeds. It is used mainly on corn and soybean fields. Contact with alachlor can cause skin and eye irritation. Animal studies suggest that drinking water containing alachlor for long periods may damage the liver, kidneys, eyes, and spleen. We found no evidence that alachlor causes cancer in humans, but it is classified as a probable human carcinogen because it has been linked to tumors in mice and rats. The highest level of alachlor detected in monitoring well samples was 380 parts per billion (ppb). Long-term exposure to this level may be associated with a low increased risk of developing cancer. The highest level of alachlor detected in soil samples was 2,400 parts per million (ppm). Long-term exposure to soil with this amount of alachlor may lead to a low increased risk of developing cancer [4].

Atrazine, also known as "AAtrex," belongs to a group of herbicides known as the triazine herbicides. The triazine herbicides are used to control a variety of broadleaf weeds and grasses growing in agricultural crops. Atrazine can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as skin allergies. Animal studies suggest that drinking water containing atrazine for long periods may damage the heart and liver. We found no evidence that atrazine causes cancer in humans, but it is classified as a possible human carcinogen because it has been linked to tumors in rats. The highest level of atrazine detected was 120 ppb in the office well. Based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) reference dose (RfD) of 0.035 milligrams per kilogram per day (mg/kg/day), long-term exposures would not be expected to cause adverse health effects. However, because the level of atrazine found in some of the water samples exceeds the USEPA maximum contaminant level (MCL), long-term consumption of the groundwater from on-site wells is not desirable [5].

Cyanazine, also known as "Bladex," also belongs to the triazine group of herbicides used to control broadleaf weeds and grasses. Animal studies suggest that the triazine herbicides may damage the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver. Long-term exposure may also affect blood chemistry and body weight. Based on limited animal studies, USEPA has classified cyanazine as a possible human carcinogen because it has been linked to tumors in rats. The highest level of cyanazine detected was from a monitoring well sample at 92 ppb. Based on the RfD (0.002 mg/kg/day), long-term exposures to this level may lead to adverse health affects. Because the cyanazine found in some water samples exceeds the lifetime health advisory, long-term consumption of the groundwater from on-site wells is not desirable [5].

Metolachlor, also known as "Dual," is used as a selective herbicide for controlling grasses and broadleaf weeds. It is used mainly on corn and soybean fields. Animal studies suggest that metolachlor may affect the testes, body weight, and the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Based on limited animal studies, USEPA has classified metolachlor as a possible human carcinogen. The highest level of metolachlor detected was 380 ppb in a monitoring well sample. Based on the RfD (0.15 mg/kg/day), long-term exposures to levels of this magnitude are not likely to cause adverse health effects; however, this level exceeds the lifetime health advisory for this chemical. The highest level of metolachlor detected in soil samples was 45,700 ppm. Based on the RfD, long-term exposures to levels of this magnitude would not be expected to cause adverse health effects in adults; however, children exposed to those levels could experience adverse health affects [6].

Nitrate was detected in several monitoring wells at levels much greater than the MCL. In infants, nitrates affect the blood's ability to carry oxygen and causes methemoglobinemia, a condition known as "blue baby syndrome." Infants less than four months of age are most susceptible. Because the nitrate found in some water samples exceeds the MCL, long-term consumption of the groundwater from on-site wells is not recommended [7].


CONCLUSIONS

The site poses a potential public health hazard to the people currently working on the site. Workers may be exposed to contaminated groundwater and contaminated soils. The site currently does not pose a public health hazard to residents near the site, although some evidence suggest that contaminants are migrating off the site through groundwater, and future exposure to unacceptable levels of contaminants is possible.

During past operations at Erie Ag, employees may have been exposed to various agricultural chemicals during loading and mixing activities, open burning activities, and through contaminated groundwater (Attachment 6). The possible health effects associated with these past activities cannot be evaluated without further information about the levels and duration of exposure and any protective measures employees may have taken.

IEPA documented past off-site surface water and soil contamination in road ditches. Maintenance crews may have been exposed to various agricultural chemicals during mowing or other activities. The possible health effects associated with these past activities cannot be evaluated without further information about the levels and duration of exposure.


RECOMMENDATIONS

Because of the potential for on-site workers to be exposed to contaminated groundwater and soil, IDPH recommends:

  1. That on-site wells not be used for drinking water or personal hygiene purposes.

  2. IEPA determine the extent of contaminated soils. Those areas with extensive contamination should have the soils removed or covered.

Because of the potential for future exposure to contaminated groundwater, IDPH recommends:

  1. Periodically sampling monitoring wells and other on-site wells.

  2. Periodically sampling residential wells northeast of the site.

PREPARER OF REPORT

Steve Johnson
Environmental Toxicologist
IDPH Rockford Regional Office


REFERENCES

  1. Personal communication with Kerry Keller, IEPA , November 1997

  2. Personal communication with Gene Forster, IEPA , November 1997

  3. IEPA - Division of Land Pollution Files, Erie Ag Services.

  4. IEPA - Chemical Information Sheet, Alachlor, June 1990

  5. IEPA - Chemical Information Sheet, Triazine Herbicides, December 1989

  6. USEPA - Health Advisory Summary, Metolachlor, January 1989

  7. IDPH - Nitrate in Drinking Water

CERTIFICATION

This Erie Ag Services Health Consultation was prepared by the Illinois Department of Public Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the health consultation was begun.

Gail D. Godfrey
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR


The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this health consultation and concurs with its findings.

Richard E. Gillig
Chief, State Programs Section
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
ATSDR


ATTACHMENT 1

Site Location Map
Attachment 1. Site Location Map


ATTACHMENT 2

Table 1.

Ponded Surface Sample Results, Initial IEPA Inspection June 1986
Sample Location Detected Pesticides (ppb)
Trifluralin Atrazine Alachlor Metolachlor Cyanazine
Ponded liquid near tanks
(on-site sample)
240 17,000 11,000 29,000 7,900
Ponded liquid near storage building
(on-site sample)
320 9,300 6,700 77,000 7,000
Ponded liquid from road ditch
(off-site sample)
3.4 1,300 180 1,600 210
ppb = parts per billion
Source - IEPA


ATTACHMENT 3

Table 2.

Comparison of Water Sample Results
Sample
Date
Sample
Location
Contaminant (in parts per billion)
(comparison value)
Alachlor
(2 MCL)
Atrazine
(3 MCL)
Cyanazine
(1 LTHA)
Metolachlor
(70 LTHA)
Nitrate
(10,000 MCL)
10/5/87 Office Well 1.2 18 - 20 NAF
12/10/87 G220 - - - - NAF
G221 - - - - NAF
10/26/88 Office Well 1.7 120 59 45 NAF
12/7/88 G220 - - - - NAF
5/10/90 Office Well 1.1 24 0.83 6 NAF
6/4/91 Office Well - 19 - 4.9 NAF
N. Prod. Well 61 62 12 - NAF
S. Prod. Well 0.16 21 - 4.7 NAF
12/28/94 G220 - - - - 10,500
G101 - 0.81 - - -
G102 84 4.4 34 110 40,800
G103 1.8 3 0.18j 12 6,400
G104 8.8 21 2.3 78 135,000
4/20/94 G220 - 0.16 - - NAF
3/1/95 G220 - - - - 3,030
Office Well - 15 - 14 130
G101 - 0.77 - - 3,830
G102 60 16 28 95 25,100
G103 2.9 2.6 - 19 2,460
G104 25 22 5.4 110 118,000
4/24/96 G220 - 0.13 - - 3,000
G101 0.03 1.8 0.6 0.25 5,100
G102 6 4.5 5.5 32 7,500
G103 0.65 4.6 0.1 4.4 3,500
G104 380 87 92 380 172,000
NAF - Not Analyzed For
MCL - Maximum Contaminant Level
LTHA - Lifetime Health AdvisorySource - IEPA
- Not Found Above Detection Level


ATTACHMENT 4

Table 3.

Soil Sample Results, March 1995
Compound Sample Location Comparison
X101 X102 X103 X104 X105 Value (ppm) Source
Alachlor 730 2,400 1,200 4.3 9.1 500 IDPH
Metolachlor - 45,700 760 12 13 8,000 RMEG
IDPH - calculated value based on standard child soil intake assumptions and the USEPA Reference Dose
RMEG - Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guide
ppm - parts per million
Source - IEPA


ATTACHMENT 5

Key Sample Locations
Attachment 5. Key Sample Locations


ATTACHMENT 6

Table 4.

Completed Exposure Pathways
Pathway Name Source Medium Exposure Route Receptor Population Time of Exposure Exposure Activities Estimated Number Exposed Chemicals
On-site Surface Soils Contaminated Soils Surface Soils Ingestion
Inhalation
Dermal
Employees Past
Present
Future
Working outside on-site 6 Table 3
Off-site Surface Soils Contaminated Soils Surface Soils Ingestion
Inhalation
Dermal
IDOT Employees Past
Present
Future
Maintaining road ditches 5 Table 3
On-site Surface Water Contaminated Water Ponded Water Dermal Employees Past Working outside on-site 6 Table 1
Off-site Surface Water Contaminated Water Ponded Water Dermal IDOT Employees Past Maintaining road ditches 5 Table 1
Private Wells Groundwater Water Ingestion
Dermal
Employees Past
Present
Future
Consumption and use of well water for personal hygiene 6 Table 2
Private
Wells
Groundwater Water Ingestion
Dermal
Residents Present
Future
Consumption and use of well water for personal hygiene 6 Table 2
IDOT - Illinois Department of Transportation


ATTACHMENT 7

Comparison Values

In order to evaluate possible human health effects, estimated exposure doses to the site related contaminants have been compared with the health effects information in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Toxicological Profiles and chemical-specific guidelines developed by USEPA. For noncarcinogenic effects, ingestion exposure assumptions for children are used because they ingest more liquid per body weight than adults.

The comparison values used in this health consultation are specific contaminant levels in a specific environmental media. The values used include USEPA Reference Doses (RfDs), Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guides (RMEGs), Lifetime Health Advisories for Drinking Water (LTHAs), Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), and USEPA cancer slope factors..

A RfD is an estimate of the daily human exposure to a contaminant below which non-cancer adverse health effects are unlikely to occur. RMEGs are based on RfDs. LTHAs represent the level of a contaminant in drinking water (with a margin of safety) at which adverse noncarcinogenic health effects would not be anticipated during a lifetime of exposure. MCLs represent contaminant concentrations that USEPA deems protective of public health (considering the availability and economics of water treatment technology) over a lifetime exposure.


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