PETITIONED PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
WEST PULLMAN IRON & METAL
(a/k/a WEST PULLMAN/VICTORY HEIGHTS)
CHICAGO, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS
The West Pullman/Victory Heights/Maple Park site consists of two abandoned industrial properties. The Navistar International Transportation Corporation (Navistar) property is commonly called International Harvester (IH) and the NL Industries, Incorporated property is commonly called Dutch Boy (DB). These industries were active from the early part of this century until the early 1980s when the factories were closed and abandoned. These are adjacent sites located in the mixed industrial and residential Calumet area of southeast Chicago. A member of the community petitioned the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to review available environmental and health data for both properties and make recommendations regarding potential health effects.
There is a potential exposure to residents via incidental ingestion or inhalation of lead-contaminated soil along the north/northeast roadways bordering the Dutch Boy site. On-site surface soil presents a potential health hazard to remedial workers and trespassers. Current site security appears to adequately prevent casual entrance onto the site.
In the past, on-site workers and trespassers were exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the surface soil. PAHs and PCBs in the on-site soil do not constitute a current or future hazard to public health.
Residents near the International Harvester site have a potential for exposure to PAHs, arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, manganese, vanadium, and zinc in on-site surface soils. This exposure could result from contact or incidental ingestion of contaminated soil and dust. Based on current knowledge regarding the characteristics of these substances, however, exposure to the levels of contaminants present at this site are not likely to cause adverse health effects. The integrity of the fence surrounding the site appears to be an ongoing issue, and the site is easily accessible to trespassers. The potential for exposure to asbestos and PAHs exists via inhalation from dust resulting from site remediation activities.
In the past, workers and trespassers on the site were potentially exposed to PAHs, arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, manganese, vanadium, and zinc. Site security was not established until the summer of 1997, and pedestrians could enter the site before that time. According to the petitioner, the area was a common shortcut for area residents. At the levels detected and the short duration of probable exposure, adverse health effects are unlikely to occur as a result of exposure to these site substances.
Asbestos is present on the site as a component of other materials such as siding. It is possible that workers and trespassers were exposed to asbestos in the past via inhalation of asbestos-laden dust. While data do not exist to evaluate past exposures, adverse health effects are unlikely due to the limited exposure that occurred during the period of work at the site.
Currently, for people trespassing on the site, both the Dutch Boy and the International Harvester properties represent a potential public health hazard. Limited data are available to assess potential off-site exposures to site-related contaminants, and therefore, exposure to off-site contaminants from the International Harvester and Dutch Boy properties is classified as an indeterminate public health hazard.
The West Pullman/Victory Heights site consists of two abandoned industrial properties. The Navistar International Transportation Corporation (Navistar) property is commonly called International Harvester (IH) and the NL Industries, Incorporated property is commonly called Dutch Boy (DB). These sites are adjacent and located in the mixed industrial and residential West Pullman/Victory Heights/Maple Park area of southeast Chicago. The sites are surrounded on three sides by active or abandoned industrial properties. Roadways border the north and east sides of the properties. Christ Universal Temple Church abuts the northwest corner of the IH property. The southern edge of the combined property runs along the Metralink rail line. Immediately beyond the rail line are residences and the play yard of an elementary school (see Appendix A, maps 1 and 2). The closest residence is 250 feet from the IH site and 600 feet from the DB site. The school is approximately 625 feet from the site. Map 3 in Appendix A gives demographic information on the population living within 1 mile of both properties.
Lead-based paints were produced at the 5-acre Dutch Boy site from 1937 to1980. Operations were shut down in 1980, and the site is currently a vacant lot. Demolition and salvaging activities occurred from 1983 to 1986 (1). In 1985, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) notified the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) that five people were diagnosed with lead poisoning linked to salvaging activities at the Dutch Boy site (2). IEPA determined that airborne solid lead particles released from building surfaces during demolition activities were the source of exposure (2). These activities were stopped after lead and asbestos were determined to pose an imminent danger to the surrounding community. An additional four people were identified with elevated blood lead levels during subsequent sampling by the IDPH.
Fencing encloses the entire property; no breaches were noted during a site visit conducted in 1997. Basements and open chambers on the site have been either filled or partitioned off with yellow caution tape. Open manholes are covered by concrete slabs. Debris piles were originally covered with plastic sheeting, but only remnants of the sheeting remain. Weeds and trees have covered much of the exposed soil. In 1996, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a unilateral administrative order to NL Industries under the Comprehensive Environmental Recovery, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to secure, sample, and clean up the site.
International Harvester manufactured heavy machinery at their 21-acre site from 1903 to 1983. Primary operations included woodworking, on-site power generation, metal forging, punching, heat treating, machining, and painting. Operations stopped in 1983, and the site is currently a vacant lot. In 1987 the property was purchased with the intention of building low income housing.
Although the property is fenced, significant breaches are present along the Metralink rail line side (2). There are many physical hazards on the site, such as open, water-filled manholes, basements, and other chambers. Weeds and trees have covered much of the exposed soil. Contaminants of concern are PAHs, lead, and asbestos from work processes, degraded building materials, and accidental spills. ATSDR sent a letter addressing the sites physical hazards to the IEPA project officer and the EPA Region V director of Superfund on August 1, 1997 (Appendix B). Navistar entered the voluntary site remediation program in 1996 with IEPA as the lead agency.
The ATSDR headquarters staff members and Region V representative performed a site visit on June 25-26, 1997. During this visit, ATSDR met with the regional ATSDR and EPA staff members to discuss sampling and ongoing work at the site. ATSDR met with the petitioner and other community members to obtain their concerns. ATSDR also attended a scheduled meeting with the Maple Park/Victory Heights Advisory Council, an established community advisory panel formed with the EPA and IEPA as members.
The U.S. census data of 1990 indicates a total population of 36,967 persons living within one mile of the site (Appendix A, map 3). African-Americans comprise 93% of the population, whites approximately 6%. The remaining 1% of the population is composed of American Indians, Aleuts, Eskimos, Asian or Pacific Islanders, or other races. Approximately 8% of the population is of Hispanic origin. Children of 6 years and younger make up 10% of the population. Individuals older than 64 years make up approximately 7% of the local population. The area is considered middle class; the median yearly income is approximately $27,000 to $32,000.
Land use of the DB and IH properties did not change during their operation as businesses. The properties have remained inactive since being abandoned in the early 1980s. Remediation plans have been accepted for both sites. Planned future development is for light industry under the city of Chicago's Brownfields program. EPA has oversight for the Dutch Boy site remediation and IEPA has oversight for remediation of the International Harvester site.
In 1985, lead testing was conducted on area residents. Two adults and three children who had been on the site from 1983 to1986, were reported to have elevated blood lead levels. These elevated levels were attributed to the demolition activities at the Dutch Boy site (2). ATSDR does not have the original documentation of these elevated blood lead levels and relies on statements in previous reports for this information. In June of 1986, the Chicago Department of Public Health provided residents with blood lead screening. An additional four people were identified with elevated blood lead levels. The data show that greater than 90% of the blood lead levels were below 20 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dL), the CDC suggested level of concern at the time for blood lead. In 1996, the City Health Department offered blood lead screening to neighborhood children. Only eight children were tested. It is not known how large an area was tested or how the community was informed of the testing. According to the city, all were below 10 µg/dL. The West Pullman neighborhood was included in the Southeast Chicago Health Outcome Data Study (3). No other health outcome studies have been performed on this population.
Specific health concerns of area residents include the following: asthma, allergies, aggressive behavior in children (especially children of high school age), cancer (breast and prostate), low birth rate, heart problems (neighbor has a pacemaker), rashes, kidney problems, and sarcoidosis.
Dutch Boy - The petitioner expressed concern regarding exposures to lead at the DB site. Prior sampling showed other chemicals present on the DB site and community members questioned why these are not also being addressed. Community members requested health information on identified contaminants, exposure likelihood, exposure routes, and possible health effects.
International Harvester - The petitioner and other residents are concerned about thick, black, oily sludge that enters their basements after a heavy rain. According to the petitioner, this is the same type of sludge that is found in manholes on the IH property. The petitioner requested sampling for contaminants in surface water flowing off-site to address health concerns.