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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

AGRICULTURE STREET LANDFILL
NEW ORLEANS, ORLEANS PARISH, LOUISIANA


HEALTH INVESTIGATION ACTIVITIES

Blood Lead Screens

In 1986, the blood lead levels of children living in Gordon Plaza and Press Park were all below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline of 25 ug/dL. In 1986, children living in Gordon Plaza and Press Park were screened for lead. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health and ATSDR conducted a door-to-door survey and a blood lead screen [17]. A presurvey was conducted which included a census of the children living in the area and a questionnaire on the number and age of children in the home, daytime activities of the children, and a history of lead testing. One hundred and eighty nine children in the Gordon Plaza and Press Park subdivisions were tested. The analysis conducted to assess lead exposure was erythrocyte protoporphyrin. Random samples were analyzed for lead. The average blood lead level was 12.5 ug/dL. The highest blood lead recorded was 21 ug/dL. The blood lead range was < 5 ug/dL to 21 ug/dL.

Since 1985, the CDC has decreased the level of blood lead that is considered to indicate blood lead poisoning in children. This decrease in acceptable blood lead levels in children has occurred because more sensitive measures about the effects of lead have indicated that lead is more toxic to children than was originally known. CDC now considers a children with a blood lead level below 10 ug/dL not to be lead poisoned (Table A-3 in appendix II). Since this revision of the blood lead standard, children that live on the ASL site have been screened.

Results from the 1993 blood lead screening program from the Helen Levy Health Center were reviewed as an indication of the current blood lead levels of children living in the area of the Agriculture Street Landfill Site [18]. The results indicated that 83% of the children with addresses on ASL had blood levels below 10 ug/dL: 11% within 10-14 ug/dL; and 6% were within 15-19 ug/dL (Table 16).

Table 16. 1993 Helen Levy Clinic Results of children with ASL addresses (Jan.-Sept.)

Blood lead level
(ug/dL)
Number of children Percent of children tested
<10

10-14

15-19

15

2

1

83

11

6

Twenty-four children that lived on the ASL were screened at the Helen Levy Center between January and December 1994. The results indicated that 83% of the children with addresses on ASL had blood levels below 10 ug/dL and 17 percent of the children were within the 10-14 ug/dL (Table 17).

Table 17. 1994 Helen Levy Clinic Results of children with ASL addresses (Jan.-Sept.)

Blood lead level
(ug/dL)
Number of children Percent of children tested
<10

10-14

20

4

83

17

In February, March, and April of 1994, additional blood lead screens were conducted for children residing on the ASL by the City of New Orleans [19]. The results indicated that 80% of the children with addresses on ASL had blood levels below 10 ug/dL and 20% of the children were within the 10-14 ug/dL (Table 18).

Table 18. 1994 Results of City of New Orleans Blood Lead Screen for the ASL site.

Blood lead level
(ug/dL)
Number of children Percent of children tested
<10

10-14

20

5

80

20

The results of the 1993 and 1994 blood screen (Helen Levy Center and City of New Orleans Special Study) of children on ASL indicate that the most of the children tested have not been lead poisoned. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for interpretation of blood lead results, blood lead levels below 10 ug/dL indicate that lead poisoning has not occurred. For the children tested with blood lead levels 10 ug/dL and above, CDC recommends that the children should be retested.

As compared to the other children tested at the 7 public health clinics in New Orleans, the children tested that lived on ASL had a lower percentage of blood leads over 10 ug/dL than the rest of the city. Forty-four percent of the children tested at the 7 public health clinics had blood lead levels over 10 ug/dL as compared to only 18% of the children living on ASL with blood lead levels over 10 ug/dL. Fourteen percent of the children tested at the city clinics had blood lead levels greater than 20 ug/dL. There were no children with blood lead levels over 20 ug/dL that lived on the ASL site.

Table 19. Comparison of Blood Lead Levels Between Children Living on ASL versus Children Tested at the New Orleans Health Clinics

Blood lead levels
(ug/dL)
Percent of test results from children who live on Agriculture Street Landfill Site

1993 1994 1994
Helen Helen Special
Levy Levy Study
Percent of test results from children tested at the city clinics


(1993)

<10
83 83 80
17 17 20
0 0 0
56
10-20 30
>20 14

Cancer Incidence and Other Health Outcome Data

LOPH/SEET released a health consultation at the request of residents living on the Agriculture Street Landfill Superfund site. The health outcome data reviewed included cancer incidence rates and birth statistics. The review cannot determine cause-and-effect relationships. This consultation served as a screening to identify unusual patterns of adverse health effects and provides residents with a way to compare the health effects in their area with a similar, but larger population. Results of the review and recommendations are available under a separate cover, Health Consultation: Review of Health Outcome Data for the Agriculture Street Landfill Site, New Orleans, Louisiana, Cerclis No. LAD981056997, October 22, 1997.

Health Survey

The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana conducted a health survey of 328 adults and children (approximately one third of the residents of ASL) who reside in Gordon Plaza and Press Park [20]. Even though the findings of this survey indicate that there are illnesses in the community, we cannot determine if the illnesses at the ASL site are occurring at a rate higher than is expected for a community not residing on a Superfund Site. A comparison group (illness rates from a community not living on a Superfund Site) is needed to show what the expected rates are for certain health problems in the general population so that it can be determined if the illnesses at the ASL Site are occurring at rates which are "greater than expected".

One hundred and eighty six adults (72 males and 114 females) and 144 children (66 males and 79 females) were surveyed. Most respondents were African American. One hundred and thirty two out of the 144 children were born in the community. The results of the study indicated that 55% of the pregnant women reported a problem related to child birth. Obstetric conditions reported included premature delivery, birth defects, long hospital stays for newborns, respiratory problems, and low birth weight.

The results of symptoms reported by adults and children were tabulated separately. The highest percentage of reported symptoms in adults were related to respiratory and neurological problems. Forty percent of adult respondents reported chest pains and dizziness. Table 20 presents the findings of the adult reported health complaints.

Table 20. Reported Health Complaints in Adults

Type of Health Complaint Percentage Population Reporting Symptom
RESPIRATORY

chest pain
congestion problems
asthma
bronchitis


40
24
18
16
EARS AND EYES

blurriness of eyes
itching eyes
conjunctivitis
ringing ears


31
30
25
24
MUSCLE AND JOINTS

joint aches and pain
numbness
tingling hands and feet
joint stiffness


36
34
32
30
SKIN AND HAIR

itching skin
skin rashes
peeling skin


30
28
22
NOSE, THROAT, ALLERGIES

sinus problems
sore throat
hoarseness
phlegm
allergies


34
32
30
30
26
NEUROLOGICAL

dizziness
depression
fatigue
sleep problems
memory loss
insomnia


40
26
25
24
20
19
OTHER

blood testing
diarrhea
sudden weight change
lack of appetite
bladder infection


24
24
24
23
22

The highest percentage of reported symptoms in children were ear infections, asthma, and conjunctivitis. Table 21 presents the findings of the child reported health complaints.

Table 21. Reported Health Complaints in Children

Type of Health Complaint Percentage Population Reporting Symptom
RESPIRATORY

phlegm
sore throat
allergies
coughing
nose bleeds
congestion problems
asthma
bronchitis


25
23
15
14
14
21
32
20
EARS AND EYES

ear infections
eye pains
burning eyes
itching eyes
conjunctivitis


40
12
14
17
36
MUSCLE AND JOINTS

joint aches and pain



18
SKIN AND HAIR

itching skin and skin rashes



30
NOSE, THROAT, ALLERGIES

sore throat
phlegm
allergies


23
25
15
NEUROLOGICAL

dizziness
hyperactivity
nightmares
speech problems
learning problems
slurring speech


8
23
12
11
11
10
OTHER

blood testing
diarrhea
sudden weight change
lack of appetite
vomiting/nausea
anemia


25
24
13
13
9
13

Ten incidences of cancer were reported by the respondents. Fifteen incidences of abnormal growth (tumors) were reported.

The study concluded that this is "a community that suffers from an inordinate number of health complaints. There are obvious signs of severe mental stress related to the community crisis. Many residents appear to have reached a breaking point."


COMMUNITY CONCERNS

The following questions were raised by representatives from the Agriculture Street Landfill site community. Responses were collected by the Louisiana Office of Public Health/Section of Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology (LOPH/SEET) from the agencies involved with these issues, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the City of New Orleans Mayor's Office of Environmental Affairs (OEA).

  1. Why was the playground equipment moved from Press Park, but the playground area not remediated further? Children continue to play in "contaminated" area.
  2. Per the Mayor's Office of Environmental Affairs, and the U.S. EPA: EPA removed the arch climber at the Press Park Community Center to address the issue of the elevated levels of lead in the soil underneath. The play equipment was removed to access the soil; then clean soil and sod were placed over the area, making the area soils safe for play. The arch climber was to be moved to another location of the Press Park Community Center, but broken bars on the climber made it unsafe for children to play, so the climber was not re-assembled. No further actions are planned for the Press Park Community Center until the remedy is implemented.

  3. Was there a threat of run-off and migration of chemicals from the contaminated undeveloped area during the May '95 flood?
  4. Sediments from flood waters could come from industrial properties and/or the Agriculture Street Landfill site, however, the dense plant cover on the undeveloped part of the site limits the amount of soil and contaminants that could be washed away. (The drainage area is the Higgins Boulevard Canal, which covers an area over 400 acres, including about 80 acres of the Agriculture Street Landfill site.)

    According to the U.S. EPA, "Evidence of washed off contaminants was not found in soils tested off-site, (nor in canal nor in sediments)". It was concluded that contaminants from the Agriculture Street Landfill site would be a very small part of the overall sediments and contaminants that may be washed in the flood waters, and therefore would not pose a threat.

  5. What happened to EPA's Feasibility Study? Why was it not given to the community? When will it be completed?
  6. According to the U.S. EPA, Technical Feasibility Studies have been drafted, and policies and remedial options are being reviewed. It is expected that EPA will release these studies, with the proposed options and solutions, in the near future.

  7. An explanation is needed concerning "buried drums" located on the site.
  8. When EPA was identifying the boundaries of the Agriculture Street Landfill site, various information was reviewed, (including historical records, aerial photographs, and geophysical surveys of the property) to determine if there were barrels buried on the site. However, no buried drums were found. Drums do exist within the undeveloped area of the site, but these drums do not pose a health risk to the community. They contain trash generated from activities done on the site including dirty clothing worn by workers during sampling activities; soil and water from drilling groundwater wells; water from cleaning sampling equipment, and other waste from site sampling activities.

  9. The fence bounding the undeveloped area has holes, and it is possible for people/children to gain access to the restricted contaminated area.
  10. The U.S. EPA put up a fence and posted warning signs around the undeveloped portion of the site to limit access and exposure to contaminants. LOPH/SEET checked on the condition of the fence on January 7, 1996. Tears and gaps in the fence were found and this information was passed on to EPA and the city. EPA continues to maintain the fence during remediation.

  11. The grass needs to be cut on the undeveloped area.
  12. According to the U.S. EPA, "Maintenance of the undeveloped area is an issue that EPA will include in the general proposed plan for the site for public review and comment. The final remedy selected for the site will include this aspect."

  13. Litter and abandoned tires have accumulated in the developed area and need to be cleaned up.
  14. Per Sharon Harrington, Mayor's Office of Environmental Affairs (OEA): "The OEA notified the Sanitation Department about the tire pile at the intersection of St. Ferdinand Street and Higgins. The Sanitation Department cleaned up the tire pile November 15, 1995." However, this is an ongoing concern by the city of New Orleans.

  15. The residents of the Seniors Home are not being informed about the activities and decisions concerning the site.
  16. EPA has responded to this issue by scheduling meetings exclusively for residents of the Seniors home. The information provided at public meetings for the community is also presented to residents of the Seniors Home, typically the following morning. LOPH/SEETis planning to provide this same service. A separate meeting for the Seniors will be conducted on the morning after the public meeting. The same information will be provided.

  17. Representatives of the Sewerage and Water Board (S &WB), Cox Cable Company, and Telephone company, have been opposed to providing services to residences on the site, because of its "hazardous" ranking.
  18. Per Sharon Harrington, Mayor's Office of Environmental Affairs: "OEA requested that Theola Garrett of the Sewerage and Water Board attend the meeting to address concerns about S & WB service. Ms. Garrett reiterated that residents of Gordon Plaza and Press Park should receive prompt service and asked that citizens notify her if they do not receive such: 585-2169."


CONCLUSIONS

  1. Agriculture Street Landfill (ASL) is a former landfill that has been developed in part for residential use. Site contaminants have been detected in soil, dust, air, and garden produce. Residents may be exposed to site contaminants through ingestion, dermal contact, or inhalation. The primary contaminants are metals, PAHs, volatile organic compounds, and pesticides.

  2. The undeveloped area of the site has been classified as a public health hazard. The highest levels of contaminant have been detected in the undeveloped area. Although access to this area has been restricted by a fence, individuals continue to access this area and may come in contact with the elevated levels of lead and arsenic in the soil. If this area was developed for future residential use, exposure to lead, arsenic , and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the soil would pose an unacceptable health risk to residents.

  3. The majority of the residential area and the Press Park Community Center have been classified as no apparent public health hazard since the levels of contaminants in the soil are generally below levels of health concern. There are scattered pockets of lead, arsenic, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contamination that need to be addressed to limit any possibility of exposure at levels of health concern.

  4. The Moton Elementary School poses no public health hazard since the levels of contamination in the soil, air, and water were well below levels of health concern.

  5. Utility workers may have infrequent contact with the contaminants in the subsurface soil. Based on these short-term exposures no health effects are expected to occur in workers from ingestion or dermal contact with the soil.

  6. The levels of contaminants detected in air (indoor and outdoor) are not expected to produce health effects based on short-term exposures. It is not known if the levels reported during the one hour sample period are representative of long-term exposures.

  7. Low levels of contaminants have been taken up in garden produce at the site, however the levels in the vegetables are below levels that would cause health effects in residents that eat this produce.

  8. There was no build up of methane or other gases from the landfill in homes or buildings on the site that would pose a health threat; however, soil gas investigations are still underway. The results of these sampling efforts will be released in a health consultation under separate cover.

  9. There were no contaminants found in the tap water that would affect the drinking water quality.

  10. There was no indication that paint, dust, or tap water was contributing to the lead exposure of residents.

  11. The results of the 1993 and 1994 blood screen (Helen Levy Center and City of New Orleans Special Study) of children on ASL indicate that the most of the children tested have not been lead poisoned.

  12. As compared to the other children tested at the 7 public health clinics in New Orleans, the children tested that lived on ASL had a lower percentage of blood leads over 10 ug/dL than the rest of the city.

  13. Even though the findings indicate that there are illnesses in the community, we cannot determine if the illnesses are occurring at a rate higher than is expected for other communities.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Measures should be taken to limit residents' exposure to areas of soil contamination at levels of health concern.

  2. Access to the undeveloped area of the landfill should continue to be restricted. The site fence should be maintained so that trespassing cannot occur.

  3. If the undeveloped area is developed for residential use, measures should be taken to reduce levels of contamination in the soil.

  4. Children with blood lead levels greater that 10 ug/dL should be retested according to CDC and the State of Louisiana Guidelines for lead poisoning.

Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Recommendations

In accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 as amended, LOPH/SEET and ATSDR have evaluated the Agriculture Street Landfill Site for appropriate health follow-up activities.

HARP recommended that the results of the 1994 blood lead screening performed by the City of New Orleans be obtained and reviewed to determine the current status of lead exposure of children living on the site and to assess if further public health actions were warranted to reduce lead exposure in children living on the site. HARP further recommended that public health education be provided to assist residents in understanding their exposure to site related contaminants.

Public Health Action Plan

The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for the ASL site contains a description of actions undertaken or planned by ATSDR and LOPH/SEET. The purpose of the plan is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards, but provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

Action Undertaken

  1. LOPH/SEET and ATSDR have prepared a resource guide for the community. The purpose of this resource guide was to inform residents of the agencies and offices involved in the health, environmental, and economic issues of the ASL Site. A copy of the resource guide was mailed to all residents on the ASL Site in October 1995.

  2. In November, 1995 physician health education was provided to 1,153 specialists in the Orleans Parish.

  3. A fact sheet was prepared on vegetable gardening for ASL residents and was distributed to community members during the public meeting on February 28, 1996.

  4. Community concerns (i.e. dumping in residential areas; weed overgrowth in undeveloped area; holes in the fence on the undeveloped site; reluctance of service workers to do repairs; removal of contaminated soil at the Press Park Community Center playground) collected during the November 8, 1995 meeting with concerned citizens of ASL have been submitted to the appropriate agencies or officials for responses and action.

  5. The data from the 1994 special lead screen from the City of New Orleans have been obtained, reviewed, and the findings incorporated into the health assessment.

  6. ATSDR, Division of Health Studies, has reviewed the findings of the health outcome data to determine if follow up health activities are required.

ACTIONS PLANNED

  1. LOPH/SEET and ATSDR will continue to address public health concerns as they are obtained from the community.

REFERENCES

  1. Expanded Site Investigation. U.S. EPA Region VI, 1993.

  2. Remedial Removal Integrated Investigation Report. Agriculture Street Landfill Site. New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana. March 1995, Prepared by Ecology and Environment, Inc. for U.S. EPA, Region 6, Dallas, Texas.

  3. Remedial Removal Integrated Investigation - Supplemental Sampling Event Report. Agriculture Street Landfill Site. New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana. November 1995, Prepared by Ecology and Environment, Inc. for U.S. EPA, Region 6, Dallas, Texas.

  4. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for lead. 1993.

  5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for arsenic. 1993.

  6. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for antimony 1992.

  7. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for aluminum 1992.

  8. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for barium 1992.

  9. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for cadmium 1993.

  10. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for chromium 1992.

  11. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for nickel 1996.

  12. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for vanadium 1992.

  13. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Atlanta, Georgia, Toxicological profile for PAHs. 1993.

  14. Louisiana Office of Public Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Letter to Ursula Lennox, Region VI of the US Environmental Protection Agency, re: Comments on the ASL Proposed Plan. May 12, 1997.

  15. Impact of lead-contaminated soil on public health. ATSDR, May 1992.

  16. Letter to Mr. Kenneth Lanier, Environmental Epidemiology, Office of Public Health from Simon M. Shane, Louisiana State University. March 16, 1994. Lead content of eggs.

  17. Results of blood lead screen conducted in Gordon Plaza and Press Park. 1986.

  18. Results of 1993 Helen Levy Clinic blood lead screen.

  19. Results of 1994 Helen Levy Clinic blood lead screen.

  20. The Agriculture Street Landfill Health Survey, Beverly H. Wright, Ph.D., Oct. 21, 1994.

PREPARERS OF THE REPORT

Barbara Cooper, M.S.P.H
Louisiana Office of Public Health

Tina Forrester, Ph.D.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Konrad Eppel, M.S.P.H.
Louisiana Office of Public Health

Erica M. Caesar, M.S.P.H.
Louisiana Office of Public Health



ATSDR Regional Representative

George Pettigrew
ATSDR Region 6


Technical Project Officer

William Greim
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation


CERTIFICATION

The Agriculture Street Landfill Public Health Assessment was prepared by the Louisiana Office 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 assessment was begun.

William Greim.
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)
ATSDR


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

Richard E. Gillig
Chief, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


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