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

PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

FEED MATERIALS PRODUCTION CENTER (US DOE)
[a.k.a. FERNALD ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PROJECT]
HAMILTON AND BUTLER COUNTIES, OHIO

BACKGROUND

Purpose and Scope

This public health assessment for the Fernald site addresses the human health hazards from exposure to chemical and radioactive materials released to the environment and transported to off-site communities. It does not address exposures of Fernald workers to radioactive or hazardous materials on site. Workers may be expected to be exposed to hazardous materials at higher levels than the general public; however, they are also trained in the use and safe handling of hazardous materials and their exposures are monitored. Additional information about health activities involving Fernald workers can be obtained by contacting the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). A contact person for NIOSH is identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.

Site Description and History

The Fernald facility is a 1,050-acre complex near Fernald, Ohio, about 17 miles northwest of downtown Cincinnati. The location of the site and surrounding area is shown on the map in Figure 1. The facility is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and produced high-purity uranium metal products for the defense industry. Construction of the plant began in 1951. Production began in 1953 ended in 1988-1989. The former production facilities occupy 136 acres of the Fernald facility complex. The layout of the facility is shown in a map on Figure 2.

Throughout its operating history, from 1951 to 1988, the site was called the Feed Materials Production Center (FMPC). In November 1989, the Fernald site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) National Priorities List (NPL). In 1991, the DOE officially announced the end of the production mission and renamed the site the Fernald Environmental Management Project (FEMP). All current activities involve remediation of the site and nearby contaminated areas, including monitoring chemical and radioactive materials in on-site and off-site environmental media (e.g., groundwater, soil). In this public health assessment, we will use the terms "Fernald site" and "Fernald facility" to refer to the site in both the past and present, without regard to name distinction and without restriction to a particular time frame.

The area around the site is mainly residential and rural and the land is chiefly used for farming and raising cattle. There is some light industry within a 2-mile radius of the site. The towns of Fernald, Ross, New Baltimore, and New Haven are located within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the site.

Figure 1.
Location of the Fernald site and surrounding area
Figure 2.  Layout of the Fernald facility
(Reference: Killough et al. 1998b)

The DOE is remediating the Fernald site in accordance with agreements with EPA and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA). The primary DOE contractor for the site is Fluor-Daniel Fernald. Other contractors during the plant's history include the Fernald Environmental Management Company, Westinghouse Environmental Management Company, and the first contractor to operate the facility, National Lead of Ohio.

Historically, uranium products from the Fernald site were shipped to other DOE sites in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Those products included fuel cores and targets for nuclear reactors, and uranium feed materials for enrichment. Sources of uranium for Fernald productions included ores and materials recycled from other DOE facilities. Recycled materials, including those with enriched or depleted uranium, were processed beginning in late 1962. Small amounts of thorium metal were also produced during the mid 1950s.

The Fernald facility received and shipped uranium compounds for various production operations. Approximately 54% of the material received and shipped was natural uranium, 20% was enriched uranium, and 26% was depleted uranium (Voilleque et al. 1995). Various types and amounts of radioactive materials were used and produced at the Fernald facility and potentially released to the environment. Uranium trioxide (UO3 or orange oxide) and uranium tetrafluoride (UF4 or green salt) were produced in the greatest quantities.

In July 1995, the Fernald Citizens Advisory Board, a federal site-specific advisory board consisting primarily of local representatives, recommended that the Fernald property be used for a variety of purposes, but that residential and agricultural uses of the land be prohibited. Discussion of future land use of the Fernald property is on-going among DOE and other interested stakeholders. Pursuant to further recommendations of the Fernald Citizens Advisory Board and its predecessor, the Fernald Citizens Task Force, DOE constructed a disposal cell on site to contain waste materials, and contaminated soils, from on-site production areas. A portion of the site will be used as a natural resource area. A decision on the future land use of the remainder of the property has not been finalized, and the subject is still open for discussion.

The Silos Project (formerly known as Operable Unit 4) is one of the five areas at the Fernald site designated by the EPA as requiring remediation. The project includes Silos 1 and 2 (the K-65 silos), Silos 3 and 4, and nearby structures. Radioactive waste has been stored in Silos 1 and 2 since the 1950s. Silo 3 contains cold metal oxide and thorium waste; Silo 4 is unused. Remediation of Silo 3, which involves removing and stabilizing the waste and transporting it to an off-site disposal facility, is currently in progress. The work plan is scheduled for submission in 2000 and completion of remediation is expected in fiscal year 2003. For Silos 1 and 2, an Accelerated Waste Retrieval Project is underway, in which waste will be removed from the silos and placed in transfer tanks. Ultimately, the wastes will be transferred to an off-site disposal facility. A Radon Control System will be put in place for worker and public protection before, during, and after retrieval of the material. This phase of the Silos 1 and 2 project should reduce the risk associated with storage in the current silos and is the first step in final remediation of the silos. The process of selecting the waste treatment method to be used is underway. Additional information about the Silos Project can be obtained by contacting the EPA Region V representative for the Silos Project, identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.

Demographics

Demographic information characterizes the communities surrounding the Fernald site and is used by ATSDR to evaluate human exposure pathways and health outcome data. Delineating the number of children, elderly, and women of child-bearing age is important because these persons tend to be more sensitive to adverse effects from environmental exposures than the general population (ATSDR 1993; Klaassen 1996). Information about racial and ethnic characteristics can help identify sub-populations that have increased sensitivities or that may be underserved and require additional attention.

The Fernald site is located in Hamilton and Butler Counties, Ohio. The majority of the site property is located in the northern end of Hamilton County; a smaller portion is located in the southern portion of Butler County. The area around the site is predominantly residential and rural. Several farms are located within 1 mile of the site boundary. The nearest farm is located adjacent to the southeastern boundary of the Fernald Site property; the farm has been active since the Fernald facility was in operation.

Figure 3 summarizes the demographic data from the 1990 Census for persons residing within one mile of the Fernald Site property boundary (ATSDR 1999a). According to the 1990 U.S. Census, 922 persons reside in 333 housing units located within 1 mile of the Fernald site boundary. Of these persons, 110 persons (or 12% of the total population) are 6 years old or younger, and 57 persons (6%) are 65 years old or older. There are 215 females (or 23%) between the ages of 15 and 44 residing within 1 mile of the Fernald site boundary. Most residents within 1 mile of the facility are white (917 persons, or 99.5%); a very small percentage of the population (11 persons, or < 1%) is composed of persons who are either black; American Indian/Native Alaskan; Asian or Pacific Islander; of other race; or of Hispanic origin.

Tables 1A and 1B present demographic data for persons residing with 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) and 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the site. Persons residing with 5 and 10 kilometers of the site are demographically similar to persons residing within close proximity (1 mile) of the site. There is a slightly higher percentage of non-white persons (i.e., black, American Indian/Native Alaskan, Asian, other race, Hispanic origin) residing within 10 kilometers (95.1%), as compared to 5 kilometers (99.2%) or 1 mile (99.5%), of the site. This increase is due to the greater number of black persons residing within 10 kilometers of the site. Ross, New Baltimore, and New Haven are the largest townships within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the Fernald site.



Figure 3. Demographic characteristics of the population residing within 1 mile of the Fernald site
(Reference: ATSDR 1999a)

Table 1A. Demographic characteristics of the population residing within 5 and 10 kilometers of the Fernald Site property boundary (based on the 1990 Census)*

Characteristic

Butler Co. @ 5 km

Hamilton Co. @ 5 km

Total Pop. @ 5 km

Butler Co. @ 10 km

Hamilton Co. @ 10 km

Total Pop. @ 10 km

Total Pop.

5,032

4,094

9,126

30,098

55,225

85,323

Total Area (in sq. mi.)

22.4

28.1

50.5

74.1

85

159.1

Pop./Sq. mi.

224.6

145.6

180.7

406.1

649.7

536.2

White

4,989

4,062

9,051

29,593

51,548

81,141

Black

10

6

16

210

2,883

3,093

American Indian

5

5

10

28

84

112

Asian

6

8

14

116

280

396

Hispanic Origin

21

10

31

118

333

451

Other Race

1

3

4

33

97

130

< 6 Years Old

550

437

987

2498

6,501

8,999

> 65 Years Old

372

349

721

1845

4,012

5,857

Women 15B44 Years Old

1,181

943

2,124

5,785

13,457

19,242

Key
@ 5 km (or @ 10 km) = within 5 or 10 kilometers of the Fernald facility boundary

Total Pop. = total number of persons
sq. mi. = square miles
Pop./Sq. mi. = total number of persons per square mile


* Based on the 1990 Census for Butler and Hamilton Counties (ATSDR 1999a)


Table 1B. Summary of demographic characteristics of the population residing within 5 and 10 kilometers of the Fernald Site property boundary (based on the 1990 Census)*

Characteristic

Percent of Population Residing Within 5 Kilometers of Site

Percent of Population Residing Within 10 Kilometers of Site

Total Percent Population

100.0

100.0

White

99.2

95.1

Black

0.2

3.6

American Indian/Native Alaskan

0.1

0.1

Asian

0.2

0.5

Hispanic Origin

0.3

0.6

Other Race

< 0.0

0.1

< 6 Years Old

10.8

10.5

> 65 Years Old

7.9

6.9

Women 15 -44 Years Old

23.3

22.6

* Based on the 1990 Census for Butler and Hamilton Counties (ATSDR 1999a)


ATSDR Activities

Site Visits and Public Availability Sessions

ATSDR conducted an initial visit to the Fernald site in May 1992. DOE staff and their contractors provided ATSDR representatives with a site tour and provided information about clean-up activities at the site. ATSDR representatives described the public health assessment process to DOE staff. Subsequent to this initial meting, ATSDR staff have made numerous trips to the site to attend or participate in meetings held by DOE, local organizations such as the Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health, Inc. (FRESH), and site-specific advisory boards. Both DOE and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) sponsor site-specific advisory boards. The DOE sponsors the Fernald Citizens Advisory Board (FCAB). The DHHS sponsors the Fernald Health Effects Subcommittee (FHES). ATSDR holds an ex officio position on the FCAB and co-sponsors the FHES along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH). Additional information about these organizations and advisory boards is provided below.

In 1993, ATSDR sponsored public availability meetings in the Fernald area. These meetings were held in public buildings in Ross and Crosby townships. ATSDR representatives invited community members to come and meet with them to discuss their health concerns related to the site. The meetings were arranged so that people could discuss their concerns with ATSDR staff either one on one or in small groups. Staff from CDC and Boston University assisted ATSDR in conducting the public availability sessions. Community concerns expressed in these and other meetings are documented and addressed in the "Community Concerns" section of this report.

Environmental Sampling and Health Consultations

Since 1993, ATSDR staff visited the Fernald area numerous times to collect samples of environmental media, such as soil, air, water, and home-grown vegetables. In addition, we have been monitoring radon levels in the ambient (outside) air and in private residences near the Fernald site since 1993. EPA's National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Montgomery, Alabama, is assisting ATSDR in collecting and analyzing the environmental samples. This work was initiated largely in response to community concerns about the reliability of environmental data collected by DOE (and contractors) for the Fernald site. To date, ATSDR and NAREL have not noted any major discrepancies in environmental concentrations of radioactive materials in our data and the data generated by DOE.

ATSDR and NAREL designed the sampling and analysis workplans to address various questions about the impact on the surrounding environment, and the implications for public health, of releases of radioactive materials from the Fernald site. Except for results involving radon measurements in private residences and outdoors (ambient measurements), the results from the ATSDR and NAREL environmental sampling program have been previously reported in four Health Consultations prepared by ATSDR (ATSDR 1995a, 1995b, 1996a, 1996b). The "Exposure Pathways Analyses" section of this document briefly describes these sampling efforts, presents analytical data, and discusses the findings of the Health Consultations. The only remaining, ongoing portion of the ATSDR and NAREL sampling program is ambient radon measurements. This program is also discussed in the "Exposure Pathways Analyses" section, as well as in Appendix F of this document.

Health Education

In response to recommendations from the health care providers' workgroup of the FHES, ATSDR co-sponsored two educational workshops for health care providers in the Cincinnati area. The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Mercy Health Partners were also sponsors. The workshops were held in November 1998 and on February 22, 2000, at the Fairfield Mercy Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Both workshops were open to all health care providers in the Cincinnati (and Fernald) area. Representatives from ATSDR, NIOSH, the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and Fluor-Daniel Fernald (the primary DOE contractor at the Fernald site) presented information about exposures to chemicals and radioactive materials from the Fernald site and related health effects, the Fernald Medical Monitoring Program and Fernald Workers Medical Monitoring Program, and sources of medical and health information. Additional information about these workshops can be obtained by contacting the representative identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.

Fernald Site Stakeholders Groups

Fernald Health Effects Subcommittee (FHES)

DHHS sponsors the FHES, part of the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Public Health Service Activities and Research at DOE Sites. The mission of the FHES is to provide community-based advice and recommendations to CDC and ATSDR concerning the agencies' public health activities at the Fernald site. The FHES is composed of up to 30 members, chosen to represent the Fernald community. Officials from OEPA, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and the Hamilton County General Health District serve as ex officio members. FHES meets several times per year, and meetings are open to the public. Additional information about the FHES can be obtained by contacting the FHES representative identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.

Fernald Citizens Advisory Board (FCAB)

The FCAB, formerly known as the Fernald Citizens Task Force, is sponsored by DOE. The mission of the FCAB is to provide recommendations to these governmental agencies regarding specific concerns about remediation and future use of the Fernald site and disposal of waste materials associated with cleanup. The FCAB consists of approximately 15 members representing various elements of the local community. Officials from DOE, EPA, OEPA, and ATSDR serve as non-voting ex officio members. Additional information about the FCAB can be obtained by contacting the FCAB representative identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)

In response to community health concerns related to the Fernald site, the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) has conducted several investigations to estimate the amount of radioactive materials released from the Fernald site during its years of operation (1951 through 1988) and to assess what health effects might be expected to result from exposure to this radiation. These efforts began with the Fernald Dosimetry Reconstruction Project (FDRP) and continued with Phases I and II of the Fernald Risk Assessment Project. The FDRP estimated past releases of radioactive materials from the Fernald site, transport of these materials in the environment, and dose to individuals living near the site. Additional information about the FDRP is provided in Appendix D of this report.

The Fernald Risk Assessment Project built on the information produced in the FDRP to estimate population-level risks for the entire community surrounding Fernald. Phase I evaluated lung cancer mortality risk, and Phase II provided screening-level risk estimates for incidence of kidney cancer, female breast cancer, bone cancer, and leukemia. These investigations are discussed in more detail in the "Health Outcome Data" section of this report.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH, part of the CDC, has conducted (or initiated) several investigations involving Fernald workers. These projects are mentioned briefly in the Health Outcome Data section of this document. ATSDR has not reviewed these studies in detail because the focus of the public health assessment is on off-site exposure to Fernald residents. Additional information about NIOSH activities at the Fernald site can be obtained by contacting the NIOSH representative identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.

The Fernald Medical Monitoring Program (FMMP) and the Fernald Workers Medical Monitoring Program (FWMMP)

In January 1985, Fernald area residents filed a class action lawsuit against National Lead of Ohio (the Fernald site manager from 1954 to 1985) and DOE. These legal actions resulted in a Settlement Fund and the establishment of the Fernald Medical Monitoring Program (FMMP) and the Fernald Workers Medical Monitoring Program (FWMMP).

The focus of the FMMP is on residents of the Fernald community. The objectives of the FMMP are to (1) provide a complete medical evaluation of the current health status of eligible persons, (2) provide a comprehensive evaluation of risk factors for illnesses or diseases of participants, (3) provide education to participants on how to modify risk factors for illness or disease, and (4) establish a good baseline database which may be useful for subsequent epidemiological research (Pinney 1999a). Additional information about the FMMP is provided in the "Health Outcome Data" section of this report.

The Fernald Workers Medical Monitoring Program (FWMMP) is similar to the FMMP, but its focus is on Fernald workers. Therefore, information gathered by the FWMMP is focused on occupational history. The FWMMP has about 3,000 participants, and participants are administered medical exams annually. To date, data collected for the FWMMP are not computerized. This report focuses on potential off-site exposure to Fernald residents, so it does not discuss the FWMMP in detail. Additional information about the FMMP and FWMMP can be obtained by contacting the representatives identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.

Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health, Inc. (FRESH)

FRESH is a local community group that advocates cleanup of the Fernald facility, works to educate the surrounding communities, and promotes responsible environmental restoration and public health and safety. Funding for FRESH is provided by the W. Alton-Jones Foundation, public contributions, and membership dues. FRESH holds monthly open meetings to provide residents with an update on Fernald-related issues. FRESH also publishes a newsletter five to six times per year. A representative from FRESH also serves on the FHES. Additional information about FRESH can be obtained by contacting the representative identified in the "For Additional Information" section of this report.


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. #