Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content

PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

US DOE MOUND FACILITY
[a/k/a MOUND PLANT (USDOE)]
MIAMISBURG, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, OHIO


SUMMARY

Under current site conditions, the Mound Plant poses no apparent public health hazard to off-sitepopulations. This means that, although members of the public may be exposed to contamination inthe environment from the Mound Plant, presently and in the future, the levels of contamination arenot high enough to cause adverse health effects. We define "current" as beginning January 1, 1987.

We considered historic releases of materials from the Mound facility and we identified one pathway where past exposures to environmental contamination could have resulted in adverse health effects:

In 1982 and 1983, releases of wastes from the Mound sanitary sewage treatment facility tothe Great Miami River posed a temporary public health hazard to people swimming,boating, or fishing downstream in the river. These releases of under-treated wastes to theriver were transient. People who were exposed to river water during the time of thesereleases could have become ill, although there were no reported water-related diseaseoutbreaks in the area during this period. There have been no reported problems with the Mound sanitary sewage treatment facility since 1986.

We did not identify any other historic releases of contamination from the Mound facility that posed a public health hazard, but some historic pathways are indeterminant.

We do not have sufficient data to evaluate fully whether nonradioactive substances releasedfrom the Mound facility ever posed a public health hazard. Also, we do not have sufficientdata to evaluate fully whether polonium-210 released to the environment ever posed a publichealth hazard. The historic data do not show that either nonradioactive substances orpolonium-210 released from Mound posed a public health hazard, but the data we reviewedare not sufficient to state they did not pose a public health hazard, either.

We have been told that additional environmental data from the 1950s exists in laboratorynotebooks, and we have been asked by members of the public to review those notebooks. We are presently investigating the feasibility of doing that.

Other historical releases of radioactive materials to the environment from the Mound facility,including plutonium-238 and tritium, did not pose a public health hazard. We lookedextensively at both plutonium-238 and tritium data, and we have sufficient data to make that determination.

There are no existing health data that apply specifically to the population that could have beenexposed to contamination from the Mound facility. Most of the existing local health outcome datadescribe the population of Montgomery County. Health statistics on the county population are notindicative of exposures to releases from the Mound facility, in part because there are many industrialfacilities in the county that release much larger quantities of hazardous materials into theenvironment than Mound does.

We collected people's concerns in the Miamisburg community over several years for this publichealth assessment. Many people expressed concerns for their family's health and the numbers ofcancers in their neighborhoods. Community concerns and our responses are presented in the mainpart of this document.

We also received many written comments from the public on the Public Comment Release versionof the public health assessment (the predecesor document to this Final Release version). Publiccomments and our responses to them are presented after the Glossary, on the pages numbered H-1through H-82.

In 1994, scientists from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and theEnvironmental Protection Agency's National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory collectedenvironmental samples near the Mound Plant. We released the data from this investigation early in1996. We present our evaluation of these data in Appendix E.

Based on the data and information reviewed for this public health assessment, we have norecommendations for health studies in the general population near the Mound Plant or among the workers at the Mound Plant.

ATSDR staff plan to continue to monitor developments at the Mound Plant and review new information as it becomes available.


DOCUMENT NOTES

  1. In this public health assessment, the term "Mound Plant" refers to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility in Miamisburg, Ohio, as it exists today.
  2. The site was named the "Mound Laboratory" at the time operations began in Miamisburg in1948. This was the name of the site for almost 29 years. When the Department of Energywas established on October 1, 1977, the site was renamed the "Mound Facility," andsubsequent site documents reflect this name change. By 1982, site documents indicate arelaxation of the newer name. The annual environmental report for 1982 refers to the site asthe "Monsanto Research Corporation - Mound", or simply "Mound," and the latter name("Mound") is found on documents throughout the middle and late 1980s. In 1985, Moundwas administratively organized under the DOE Albuquerque Operations Office and namedthe "Mound Plant". However, the name "Mound Plant" does not appear consistently on sitedocuments until 1992 or 1993. The most recent environmental report (June 1997) refers tothe site as the "Miamisburg Environmental Management Project (MEMP), also known asthe Mound Plant." The name of the site, as depicted on the cover of this public healthassessment is the name of the site as it is listed in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's CERCLIS (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Information System) database.

    We will use the terms "Mound facility", "Mound site", "Mound", or simply, "the site" torefer to the site both in the past and present, without regard to the name distinction and without restriction to a particular timeframe.

  3. This public health assessment addresses exposures of people to radioactive and non-radioactive substances released off site to the environment from the Mound facility. It doesnot address exposures of Mound workers to radioactive or hazardous materials on site. Workers may be expected to be exposed to hazardous materials at higher levels than thegeneral public. Workers are also trained in the use and safe handling of hazardous materials and their exposures are monitored.
  4. Current DOE internal regulations require all DOE facilities to meet worker safety and healthstandards developed by the Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and HealthAdministration (OSHA). However, DOE facilities are currently exempt from externalregulation and enforcement. In May 1993, Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Learyannounced the Department's position that its more than 100,000 workers should have thesame health and safety protection afforded private sector employees. In May 1996, the DOEbegan a pilot project to have OSHA evaluate the current safety and health program at theDOE Argonne National Laboratory in Du Page, Illinois, and respond to employeecomplaints. Information obtained during the Argonne pilot is expected to help DOE andOSHA determine the resource needs of OSHA to assume responsibility for worker safetyand health at all DOE sites. Nevertheless, DOE staff do not expect Mound operations to fall under the regulatory arm of OSHA for several years(1).

    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH(2)) is responsible forconducting research into potential health hazards experienced in the workplace and forproviding recommendations for exposure standards to OSHA. NIOSH is research-orientedand is not a regulatory agency. To date, there have been no NIOSH studies of workers at theMound Plant. However, the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory,Occupational Medicine Group, studied worker mortality at the Mound facility for the years1943 through 1979 and released three reports which we have described briefly in this publichealth assessment. NIOSH is currently evaluating the feasibility of updating the Moundworker mortality studies. In a separate project, NIOSH is considering the feasibilty ofincluding Mound workers in a study of hazardous waste workers involving other DOE sites. For further information about worker studies, contact the NIOSH Division of Surveillance,Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies - Health-Related Energy Research Branch, inCincinnati, Ohio, at 513-841-4400.

  5. This public health assessment also does not explicitly address exposures of hazardousmaterials to visitors to the Mound Plant. This is because we do not think that visitors have been, or will be, exposed to hazardous or radioactive materials at levels of health concern.
  6. A concerned citizen pointed out to us that the Mound Plant is not completely fenced off; (seethe Community Concerns section of this document). Others have told us that they know ofpeople who trespassed on the developed property (where both environmental and industrialhazards are highest). Nevertheless, security has always been an important aspect ofMound's operations, and trespassing does not appear to have ever been a large problem. Therefore, we do not expect that trespassers have been exposed to quantities ofenvironmental contamination on site that would have caused health problems.

  7. We note that the Mound Plant is undergoing extensive cleanup under the ComprehensiveEnvironmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, as amended). DOEcoordinates on-site and off-site restoration of contaminated properties at Mound with theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Environmental ProtectionAgency. The City of Miamisburg, citizens groups, and other interested people in the community are also involved in discussions and recommendations involving cleanup activities.


  8. We reviewed many documents dating back as far as 1946 for this public health assessment. The documents include newspaper articles; monthly, quarterly, and annual health physicsand environmental monitoring reports; environmental data collected independently of DOE;and CERCLA documents containing extensive investigations of contamination in on- and off-site soils, air, and water.


  9. This public health assessment contains discussions and evaluations of the data we reviewed. We discuss what we consider to be the most important exposure pathways in theEnvironmental Contamination and Evaluation section in the main part of this report. Someof our investigations of historical releases of hazardous and radioactive materials from theMound facility involved many steps. We relegated the details of those investigations to theappendices for the benefit of those readers who are interested in this supplementalinformation. We also placed our evaluation of the environmental data we collected aroundthe Mound Plant in 1994 with the EPA National Air and Radiation EnvironmentalLaboratory into an appendix because it is quite lengthy. Finally, we provided, in anotherappendix, a discussion and a description of health data that may be of interest to some readers.


  10. We have included at the end of this document a glossary of terms that are frequently used bypublic health officials. Not all of the terms in the glossary are used in this public healthassessment. The glossary was prepared by scientists at ATSDR for health assessors to usefor many purposes. We included it in this document to help readers become familiar withthe terminology that we use. In response to public comments, we have also added radiationterms to the glossary in this version of the public health assessment. We obtained the definitions for the radiation terms from the Health Physics Society on the Internet.

BACKGROUND

Site Description

The Mound Plant is a Department of Energy (DOE) production facility in Montgomery County, Ohio, in the city limits of Miamisburg. The two remaining active production programs at the site are the manufacture of electric power sources for satellites and spacecraft, and the recovery of tritium from materials used at other DOE sites. In 1998, the DOE is planning to announce whether these programs will remain at the Mound Plant or transfer to other facilities.

Mound was built in the late 1940s under the auspices of the War Department. Until recently, the mission of the Mound Plant included research, development, and manufacturing components for nuclear weapons. Mound scientists conducted many research and development projects, including a program from the mid-1950s until 1985 to study radioactive isotopes, such as those of uranium and thorium. DOE ended each of these programs or transferred them to other facilities. Today, a large portion of the activity at the Mound Plant is related to environmental cleanup of the site.

Mound was operated by the Monsanto Chemical Company from 1948 until 1961, and the Monsanto Research Corporation from 1961 until 1988. EG&G Mound Applied Technologies, Inc. took over operations of Mound from Monsanto in 1988. Babcock and Wilcox of Ohio, Inc. assumed operations in 1997. Each of these companies contracted to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1948-1974), the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (1974-1977), or the U.S. Department of Energy (1977 to present). In 1993, DOE made final a decision to close the Mound Plant under the DOE Weapons Complex Reconfiguration Program. As of May 1996, DOE has leased 18 buildings to Miamisburg Mound Community Improvement Corporation, a non-profit community economic development organization, for use by 21 businesses. DOE, Babcock and Wilcox of Ohio, and the Miamisburg Mound Community Improvement Corporation (MMCIC) are working closely with the City of Miamisburg and with community organizations to promote development of private business opportunities at the site.

Miamisburg is a community of 18,000 people(3) 10 miles southwest of Dayton, Ohio. Many residences, five schools, Miamisburg's downtown area, and 6 of the city's 17 parks and playgrounds are within 1 mile of the Mound Plant. The 1990 U.S. census indicated that more than 887,000 people live within a 20-mile radius of the plant. See the maps and tables beginning on page 5 for additional demographics information.

Mound Road, on the eastern side of the plant, is lined by residences and provides access to the plant's main gate. There is a fence around the site. A Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) freight line is along the plant's western border. The Miamisburg Community Park and an abandoned part of the old Miami-Erie Canal are further west of the Conrail tracks. Main Street is on the western side of the canal bed; residences, businesses, and the Great Miami River lie further west of Main Street. The Great Miami River is approximately a half mile from the Mound Plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Mound Plant to the National Priorities List (NPL) on November 21, 1989 (CERCLIS No. OH6890008984). The primary reason for its listing was that Mound scientists discovered nonradioactive organic chemicals (volatile organic compounds) in monitoring wells on site in 1986. ATSDR and DOE entered an Interagency Agreement in August 1991 to enable ATSDR to conduct public health assessments at DOE sites.

Site Visits

ATSDR staff conducted their first site visit to the Mound Plant on May 18 and 19, 1992 [1]. DOE and EG&G Mound Applied Technologies personnel provided a site tour and overview of their remediation and environmental monitoring programs at the initial meeting. ATSDR staff provided an overview of the ATSDR public health assessment process and discussed conducting a health consultation on plutonium in the Miami-Erie Canal near the Mound Plant. During this visit, ATSDR staff also met separately with the city manager of Miamisburg and members of two citizen's groups, Miamisburg Environmental Safety and Health (M.E.S.H.) and Neighbors in Need, to discuss their concerns as neighbors to the Mound Plant.

Since the initial site visit, ATSDR representatives attended several Mound Plant CERCLA(4) Quarterly Public Meetings, a Mound Action Committee meeting, and other DOE Mound Plant public meetings [2]. ATSDR staff made a short presentation at a DOE Mound Plant CERCLA Quarterly Public Meeting in November 1992 to introduce themselves to the public and to describe the work they would be doing in the area [3]. ATSDR staff also met with the Miamisburg city manager, the mayor, and other city staff to discuss ATSDR activities in the Miamisburg area [4]. At other times, ATSDR personnel met privately and in conjunction with DOE public meetings with members of M.E.S.H. and Neighbors in Need to discuss those citizens' concerns [5].

In September 1993, ATSDR released a health consultation addressing plutonium-238 in the soils in the Miami-Erie Canal beds and Miamisburg's Community Park [6]. At about the same time, ATSDR released a draft document describing plans to collect environmental samples off site near the Mound Plant and analyze them for radioactivity [7]. ATSDR staff worked with staff from EPA's National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Montgomery, Alabama, to develop and conduct the environmental sampling plans. ATSDR personnel visited Miamisburg and formally presented these documents to personnel from DOE and EG&G Mound Applied Technologies, the Miamisburg city manager and legal counsel, the Miamisburg City Council, and the public [8].

Demographic Statistics
Figure 1. Demographic Statistics

TABLE 1. POPULATION DATA TABLE.

  Montgomery County Miamisburg
Total Persons 573,809 17,834
Total area, square miles 461.71 9.48
Persons per square mile 1,243 1,882
% Male 47.9 47.9
% Female 52.1 52.1
% White 80.8 98.2
% Black 17.7 0.8
% American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut 0.2 0.1
% Asian or Pacific Islander 1.0 0.7
% Other races 0.3 0.1
% Hispanic origin 0.8 0.5
% Under age 10 14.5 15.2
% Age 65 and older 12.5 12.8
Source: Census of Population and Housing, 1990; Summary Tape File 1A (Ohio) (machine-readable data files). Prepared by the Bureau of the Census. Washington, DC: The Bureau (producer and distributor), 1991.


TABLE 2. HOUSING DATA TABLE.

  Montgomery County Miamisburg
Households * 226,192 6,636
Persons per household 2.49 2.62
% Households owner occupied 62.9 65.8
% Households renter occupied 37.1 34.2
% Households mobile homes 1.7 0.1
% Persons in group quarters 1.9 2.3
Median value owner-occupied households, $ 65,000 73,400
Median rent, renter-occupied households, $ 316 328
*A household is an occupied housing unit; the term does not include group quarters, such as military barracks, prisons, and college dormitories.

Source: Census of Population and Housing, 1990; Summary Tape File 1A (Ohio) (machine-readable data files). Prepared by the Bureau of the Census. Washington, DC: The Bureau (producer and distributor), 1991.

In 1993, ATSDR entered a cooperative agreement with the Association of Schools of Public Health. Through this cooperative agreement, staff from Boston University's (BU) School of Public Health, assisted ATSDR scientists to gather community concerns and to survey health outcome data in the vicinity of some DOE sites. The Mound Plant was one of the initial sites of this work. BU staff helped ATSDR staff hold public availability sessions in Miamisburg to discuss community concerns with Miamisburg residents and neighbors on November 9 and 10, 1993 [9]. Approximately 85 people met and discussed their concerns individually or in small groups with ATSDR staff. They expressed concerns about their own health, their family's health, or their neighbors' health that they felt might be related to activities at the Mound Plant. ATSDR staff discussed the ATSDR health assessment process with those who visited us, got information from them, and answered some of their questions.

Approximately 60 people attended an ATSDR-sponsored public meeting in Miamisburg in April 1994. Advertised as a public health forum, the meeting was held in response to several citizens' requests for a neighborhood health survey [10]. ATSDR staff reported they did not plan to conduct a neighborhood health survey but gave those attending the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns they had regarding the public health assessment process. Also at the meeting, an advisor to M.E.S.H., under an EPA technical assistance grant, presented his perspective on tritium releases from the Mound Plant [11].

In response to a request by Mound Plant workers, staff from ATSDR, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and BU attended a meeting organized by the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union to discuss worker health concerns [12]. About 20 workers, including the current and former union presidents, met August 4, 1994, to ask questions of ATSDR and NIOSH staff.

Fifty-six people attended An Environmental Health Workshop for the Community that ATSDR and BU sponsored in Miamisburg May 19, 1995 [13]. BU professors discussed the types of studies epidemiologists conduct, the kinds of health statistics used in public health, the types of health conditions that may be related to environmental contaminants, and how health assessors use information gathered from local health professionals and citizens. Participants included representatives of M.E.S.H., Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health, EG&G Mound Applied Technologies, the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, the Community Organizing Center, Wright State University, Antioch College, local hospitals, and other interested citizens. Twenty-one of those attending received six contact hours of continuing education credits in nursing or radiological technology.

Because members of M.E.S.H. continued to express to ATSDR and BU representatives an interest in conducting a health survey in Miamisburg after the May workshop, staff from BU met with M.E.S.H. in Miamisburg on December 8, 1995, to further discuss health surveys. Like the May workshop, the December meeting included discussions of the basis for community health surveys; however, the December meeting focused on how to design and execute health surveys. BU staff continue to advise M.E.S.H. members in conducting a community health survey. See Appendix F for further discussions.


ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION AND EVALUATION

Please see the Data Reviewed subheading at the end of this section for a partial listing and description of the environmental data that we evaluated. A more complete bibliography is included at the end of this document.

Data Evaluation: Current Exposures

ATSDR scientists reviewed the environmental data for the Mound Plant and concluded that there are no current exposure pathways to contamination from the Mound Plant that pose a public health hazard. We have considered all materials released from the Mound Plant, both radioactive and nonradioactive, individually and collectively, and their presence in all environmental media off site (such as air, water, vegetation and soil).

  1. Radioactive Substances: Mound Releases
  2. Because nearly all Mound programs included work with radionuclides, the environmental and public health concerns that stakeholders most frequently discuss are those concerning radioactive substances released from the Mound Plant. The radionuclides in the environment that are a result of Mound activities and are of greatest concern today are plutonium-238 and hydrogen-3 (tritium). However, there is strong evidence from numerous environmental investigations--including our own--that plutonium-238, hydrogen-3, and all other radioactive substances from the Mound Plant contribute a very small amount to the total radiation dose that people living near the Mound Plant typically receive. Very likely, the largest radiation doses to nearby residents are those resulting from exposures to radioactive materials that are naturally occurring.

    We acknowledge that some people near the Mound Plant have breathed, or will likely breathe, very small amounts of plutonium-238, hydrogen-3 (tritium), and other radioactive substances that will be or have been released into the air from the Mound Plant. And some people may be exposed to radioactive materials released from the Mound Plant into the area waterways (for example, tritium in the Miamisburg Community Park swimming pool). Nevertheless, there is no evidence that current environmental levels of these substances cause adverse health effects.

  3. Nonradioactive Hazardous Substances: Mound Releases

  4. The Mound Plant discharges small amounts of nonradioactive hazardous substances to the Great Miami River and to the air. People may occasionally be exposed to very small amounts of these materials. However, we do not think that releases of nonradioactive materials from the Mound Plant pose a public health hazard because the quantities of hazardous materials that are released are small and there is no evidence that the concentrations of these materials in the environment are high.

    The pattern of nonradioactive contaminants in the environment does not suggest that those materials came from Mound. Mound's compliance record with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is good; their only regulatory exceedances in 1996 were NPDES (surface water) discharges from a private business on the Mound property. Copper concentrations in water exceeded the permit limit seven times. Mound officials reported the source of the problem was identified and corrected [14]. Based on current levels of contaminants off site and current levels of releases to the air and waterways, we do not expect that releases from the Mound Plant will pose a health hazard in the future, either.

  5. Nonradioactive Hazardous Substances: Vicinity Air

  6. The Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (RAPCA) collects air samples in a six-county area (including Montgomery County) for ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter analyses. Based on the regional air data, the important indicators of air quality in Miamisburg are ozone and particulate matter concentrations. Ozone and particulate matter in air are pollutants that are both man-made and naturally occurring. The RAPCA reported that one air station in Dayton, Ohio, exceeded the current ozone standard once during 1997 (in June). The particulate matter air standard was not exceeded during 1997 at any of the RAPCA air stations that collect particulate matter samples [15].

    The U.S. EPA is in the process of implementing changes in the air quality standards for both ozone and particulate matter to reflect newer information on their harmful effects [16, 17]. The current ambient air particulate matter standards are based on the concentration of particles in air that have a mean aerodynamic diameter equal to or less than 10 micrometers (called PM10) because particles larger than 10 micrometers are generally not inhaled deeply and usually do not cause health problems. In addition to measuring the concentration of particles in air below 10 micrometers, the new ambient air particulate matter standards will also require measuring the concentration of particles in air equal to or less than 2.5 micrometers (mean aerodynamic diameter, called PM2.5). RAPCA will be collecting PM2.5 data along with PM10 data to monitor compliance with the new particulate matter air standards when equipment becomes available during 1998 [15].

    Mound scientists do not measure ozone at or near the Mound Plant, although they do collect particulate matter at their air monitors. Mound's annual environmental reports for 1995 and 1996 show the concentration of particulate matter in air samples collected off site near the Mound Plant met current state and federal standards [14, 18]. One air monitor on site exceeded the Ohio ambient air quality standard for particulate matter in 1996. The monitor is near the Miami-Erie Canal where engineers were removing trees and brush and digging up canal soils, and putting them in railroad cars to ship them off site. Mound's data indicated that air particulate matter concentrations around the site are slightly higher than is shown by the regional data. However, Mound's air monitors are designed to collect total air particulate matter, while the RAPCA's air monitors filter out particulate matter larger than 10 micrometers. Therefore, data from Mound's monitors are not directly comparable to the regional air data. Since we do not know what portion of the particulate mass collected at Mound's air monitoring stations includes particles larger than 10 micrometers, we do not know how their air data compares with the RAPCA's PM10 data.

    In addition to the pollutants discussed above, the RAPCA reported that mold concentrations in air in the Miami Valley were high in the fall of 1996 [19]. Pollen and mold concentrations are measured by the Dayton Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgeons, Inc. in Centerville, Ohio, and reported to the RAPCA for publication on their Internet Home Page [19]. Pollen and mold are naturally occurring; air concentrations are affected by weather conditions.

  7. Nonradioactive Hazardous Substances: Vicinity Soils

  8. Nonradioactive contaminants, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polycyclic biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, and pesticides, are widespread--though not necessarily in high concentrations--in the environment. Investigations of area soils in 1994 by Mound scientists revealed that some contaminants are found near streets and highways [20]. Those data from soil samples collected from residential properties (all within 3,500 feet of the Mound Plant) indicated that pesticide levels are higher, on average, in residential soils than in other soils in the vicinity. We do not know whether anyone will ever breathe or eat the contaminants detected in vicinity soils. We also cannot say whether the available soil data is indicative of soil at any particular location, such as on someone's private property or in someone's garden. Nevertheless, the contaminants measured in residential soils are not in high enough concentrations to pose a health hazard [20, 21].

  9. Nonradioactive Hazardous Substances: Vicinity Water

  10. Mound investigations of private wells and cisterns in 1994 revealed that some wells and cisterns had unsafe levels of lead or pesticides [22]. At ATSDR's request, staff from the Combined Health District of Montgomery County followed up with those residents who may have been affected. There is no evidence or indication that the lead and pesticides found in private wells and cisterns came from the Mound Plant.

    Mound scientists investigated surface waters and sediments on and around the Mound property in the fall of 1994 and spring of 1995 [23]. The concentrations of hazardous substances in surface waters and sediments near the Mound Plant do not pose a health hazard. The level of contamination is consistent with DOE's earlier measurements of nonradioactive substances in area soils and with urban environments. Low concentrations of contaminants, particularly semi-volatile organic compounds, are widespread in the environment; many of the contaminants are attributable to motor vehicle exhaust. Interestingly, Mound's 1994-1995 data show that the water in the Great Miami River contains very low levels of chemical contamination; many of the analytes that are typically found in the area soils, ponds, and streams are undetectable in the river water [23].

We recognize that there are other exposure pathways besides air, soil, and water, such as eating contaminated, locally grown produce, or eating fish from the Great Miami River. We examine some of these other exposure pathways in Appendix E. Our evaluations indicate that the contamination in the environment around the Mound Plant poses no apparent public health hazard by any exposure pathways that we have considered.

Data Evaluation: Past Exposures

We also looked carefully at the available historic data to determine whether people might have been exposed in the past to environmental contamination from the Mound site at levels that could have caused adverse health effects. We have divided our conclusions into three groups: a) conclusions about contamination that could have caused some people health problems, b) conclusions about contamination for which the data do not indicate that the releases would have caused anyone health problems, but for which we are lacking some important information, and c) conclusions about contamination for which we believe we have sufficient data to conclude that the releases did not ever pose a public health hazard. We discuss historic releases in the remainder of this section.

  1. Historic Mound Releases That Could Have Caused Health Problems
  2. The first group, environmental releases that could have caused health problems, includes microbiological releases from the Mound sanitary (sewage) treatment facility. Two incidents with the Mound sewage treatment facility--one in August 1982 and one in August 1983--resulted in releases that posed a health hazard to people swimming and boating in the Great Miami River downstream from the plant.

    The health hazard from releases of microbiological contamination is indicated by the results of fecal coliform testing in one of the Mound liquid effluent streams in 1982 and 1983. The standard maximum permitted level for the fecal coliform test is 2,000 MPN (most probable number of coliform colonies) per 100 milliliters (100 mL) of effluent water. In 1982 and 1983 the maximum values detected were 24,000 and 16,000 MPN per 100 mL, respectively. The fecal coliform test is an indicator test for the presence of pathogenic enteric organisms (bacteria, viruses, and protozoans); it is not a measure of them. Nevertheless, instances of high fecal coliform in effluent indicate an increased probability that pathogenic organisms are present in the effluent and that the effluent poses a public health hazard.

    Undertreated sewage may contain numerous pathogenic microbiological organisms. Specific organisms responsible for disease outbreaks associated with recreational waters are often not identified [24]. In 1982 and 1983, states' health departments did not systematically report disease outbreaks associated with recreational waters to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC estimated that the reported outbreaks during this period represented a small fraction of those that actually occurred [25]. Ohio did not report any water-related disease outbreaks of any kind to the CDC for 1982 and 1983.

    The single organism most commonly identified with water-related disease outbreaks in recreational waters is Giardia lamblia, a parasite that can cause diarrhea, intestinal cramps, fatigue, and weight loss [25]. Giardia lamblia is not a fecal coliform, and it does not come from a fecal coliform. However, the fecal coliform test indicates the presence of pathogens that are not coliform bacteria as well as those that are. Gardia lamblia is difficult to identify in sewage because it is generally present in the cyst stage, which is not amenable to laboratory examination. The human incubation period (time from exposure to illness) may be 1 to 4 weeks; illness from Giardia lamblia (called Giardiasis) is treatable. Children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems are most at risk for illness from exposures.

    Salmonella and Shigella bacteria, and Hepatitis A and Norwalk viruses may also be present in sanitary waste effluent [24]. Symptoms of these infections range from none to abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and--very rarely--vomiting, delirium, convulsions, coma, and death.

    We do not expect that anyone would suffer today from exposures to microbial pollution emanating from Mound in the early 1980s. The technical problems that Mound employees were having with the sanitary sewage treatment facility were corrected in the middle 1980s and there have been no reports of out-of-compliance fecal coliform levels in effluent since 1986.

  3. Inconclusive Historic Mound Releases (Limited Data)
  4. In the second group--contaminants for which available data do not indicate that environmental releases posed a health hazard, but for which important data are missing--we have included both air and water releases of nonradioactive substances. We are not including the microbiological releases described in the first group, but we are including all nonradioactive chemical releases before 1971. In the 1950s and part of the 1960s, chemicals were released to the waste stream that flowed off site to the river without restriction. Also, in this same period, Mound Laboratory personnel disposed of solid and liquid wastes by open burning. Since we cannot identify or quantify all of the nonradioactive materials released to the air or water, we cannot estimate possible exposures to these materials.

    We present a more detailed description of releases of nonradioactive substances from the Mound facility in Appendix A.

    In the second group, we are also including releases of polonium-210 to the air and water. We have some air and water release data and environmental sampling results for polonium-210 collected during the 1950s. However, we do not have a continuous record of either releases to the environment or environmental sampling. The data we have do not indicate polonium-210 posed a public health hazard; however, institutional controls of releases were being developed in the 1950s and were not commensurate with today's standards. Since we have data gaps, we cannot estimate with any certainty the public's exposures to polonium-210 in the environment.

    A more detailed description of releases of polonium-210 from the Mound Laboratory is in Appendix B.

  5. Historic Mound Releases That Did Not Pose A Health Hazard
  6. The third group, where we have sufficient data to say that releases to the environment did not ever pose a public health hazard, includes all radioactive materials released from Mound, except polonium-210. These materials include plutonium-238 and hydrogen-3 (tritium).

    A more detailed description of releases of radioactive substances to the environment, including plutonium-238 and hydrogen-3, is in Appendices C and D.

Data Reviewed

ATSDR scientists reviewed many Mound documents for this public health assessment. Among the most important of these were Mound's health physics and environmental monitoring reports. The plant produced monthly reports before April 1954, quarterly reports from June 1954 through 1962, semi-annual reports from 1963-1972, and annual reports for 1972-1996. These periodic environmental reports (and others) are listed separately under Part 1 of the bibliography at the end of this document.

In addition to the periodic environmental monitoring data, ATSDR staff reviewed data collected from numerous investigations, including those of the plutonium-238 spill in the Miami-Erie Canal, the Conrail Bridge shoring, the Community Park water slide construction, the 1989 EG&G Energy Measurements overflight survey, and groundwater tritium evaluations for the Safe Drinking Water Act (Potable Water Standards Project) [26, 27]. We reviewed CERCLA-related environmental data in site-scoping reports, remedial investigation reports, and Operable Unit 9 investigations of off-site wells, regional soils, surface water and sediments, and groundwater. These Mound-related documents (and others) are listed under Part 2 in the bibliography at the end of this document.

Part 3 of the bibliography includes books and references that we reviewed for this public health assessment that are not specifically related to the Mound site.

We also obtained useful information through the environmental sampling program that we conducted with the assistance of the U.S. EPA National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Miamisburg in 1993 and 1994. ATSDR and NAREL personnel set up air monitors, surveyed the area with radiation equipment, and collected samples of the soil, water, air, and vegetation [28]. NAREL personnel and their contractors analyzed the environmental samples. Appendix E includes an evaluation of these data.

Prior to the Public Comment Release version of the Mound Plant public health assessment, ATSDR scientists conducted a health consultation evaluating the plutonium-238 in the Miami-Erie Canal [6]. We also wrote letters addressing off-site wells data [29], regional soils [21], Mound's proposed treatment for Operable Unit 1 (groundwater) [30], and Mound's proposed treatment plan for mixed wastes [31].


HEALTH OUTCOME DATA SUMMARY

Health outcome data are measures of disease occurrence in a population. Common sources of health outcome data are tumor registries, birth defects registries, and death certificates. Health outcome data can provide information on the general health status of a community--where, when, and what type of disease occurs and to whom it occurs. Public health officials use health outcome data to look for trends in disease occurrence by comparing disease occurrences in different populations over periods of years. This analysis is useful to help identify the need for exposure investigations or public health intervention activities such as community education. However, health outcome data are not meant to and cannot establish cause and effect between environmental exposures to hazardous materials and adverse health effects in a community.

ATSDR scientists generally look at health outcome data for one of two reasons: (1) to evaluate the possible health effects in a population that is known to have been exposed to environmental contamination, or (2) to help address community concerns. For this public health assessment, we identified one completed exposure pathway at levels of health concern: sewage wastes released to the Great Miami River in the early 1980s. We examined water-related disease outbreak surveillance reports and did not find any indication that people became ill from those exposures. However, we recognize that if illnesses did occur from those exposures, it is very possible they were never reported to health departments. We also examined other health outcome data for the population near the Mound Plant to help address community concerns.

At the request of ATSDR, staff from the Boston University School of Public Health (BU) helped us with our review of the health outcome data. We did not identify any health databases for the community that included health outcomes other than cancers (for example, birth defects). Where cancer data were available, we looked at leukemias that have been linked in the medical literature to radiation exposure; otherwise, we looked at all cancers including leukemias. The community near the Mound Plant expressed concerns to ATSDR staff about the presence of many cancers in the community.

ATSDR staff note that we do not have evidence that anyone living near the Mound facility was exposed to enough contamination from the site to cause adverse health effects. Moreover, based on the weight of evidence (described in Appendices C and D), we eliminated as probable candidates for causing health problems in the community the contaminants of greatest concern to the community, plutonium-238 and hydrogen-3.

Most of the health outcome data for populations near the Mound Plant are county data. However, the Montgomery County population is more than 30 times larger than the population of Miamisburg and more than 100 times larger than the population within a 1- mile radius of the Mound Plant (1990 U.S. Census data). Although Montgomery County may include a portion of the population that could have been exposed to environmental releases from the Mound Plant, the county also includes many people who were not exposed to the releases. Thus, counting occurrences of health outcomes in the county population would dilute the real effect from exposures because many people were not truly exposed.

Moreover; Montgomery County is approximately 462 square miles. Many industrial facilities other than the Mound Plant are located in Montgomery County as well as in nearby Warren and Butler counties. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Toxic Chemical Release Inventory database, 49 facilities in Montgomery County reported releasing a total of more than 3 million pounds of hazardous substances into the environment in 1993 [32]. The contribution from the Mound Plant was less than 0.01% of this total. (Releases represent nonradioactive air emissions, surface water discharges, underground injections, and releases to land.) Since there are many other possible environmental exposures to account for, we cannot attribute the countywide health outcomes to exposures to environmental releases from the Mound Plant. For this reason, and because the county population is not a true representation of people exposed to releases from the Mound Plant, the countywide health data are not useful to us.

The only health outcome data for the general population near the Mound Plant that are not county-based are four reports from the Dayton Area Cancer Association summarizing cancer incidences (number and types of cancers reported) in nine area hospitals for the years 1985-1992 and, separately, cancer incidences for one of the reporting hospitals (Good Samaritan Hospital and Health Center) for 1984-1990. We do not know the residences of the people who checked into these hospitals, and we do not know whether they were exposed to environmental hazards from the Mound facility or from anywhere else. Without more information, we cannot calculate cancer rates from these data or compare cancer incidence between populations that may have been exposed to hazardous materials and those that were not, using these data. Therefore, these reports do not help us evaluate health outcomes that may be related to exposures to environmental releases from the Mound facility.

Finally, we identified three Mound worker studies. In general, worker studies may provide information on the health effects from documented exposures, and they may reflect on the safety record of the worker population. However, the Mound worker population is not the same as the general population near the Mound Plant. Mound worker health effects may be indicative of the types of exposures in the surrounding community; however, we expect the magnitude of exposures to workers to be more varied, and in some cases higher, than in the community. Therefore, we cannot infer that worker exposures are identical to those in the community around the Mound Plant.

We note that the Ohio Department of Health began to collect cancer incidence data at the zip code and census tract level in 1993. These data will be far more useful than the existing county-based health data in the future analysis of community health concerns. However, we note that, depending on actual environmental exposures to hazardous substances and the latency period between those exposures and the onset of adverse health effects, health outcome data collected since 1992 may not show effects from exposures occurring many years ago.


1. Private conversation, September 12, 1996.
2. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is under the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
3. This number is from the 1990 U.S. Census. The City of Miamisburg, Ohio, Home Page on the Internet indicates the population of Miamisburg in 1995 was 27,290.
4. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986.


Next Section     Table of Contents

  
 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #