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HEALTH CONSULTATION

LEFFINGWELL ROAD PIPELINE SPILL
BERLIN TOWNSHIP, MAHONING COUNTY, OHIO


DISCUSSION OF THE ISSUES

The US EPA Region V On-Scene Coordinator asked ODH to evaluate the health risks to area residents with regard to the results of the US EPA sampling of their well water. Based on the November 6, 1997, US EPA and OEPA sampling results and other historical well sampling data (Appendix A), the two wells currently have the potential to pose a health threat to residents that use these wells as their drinking water supply.

17467 Leffingwell Road
Sampling of the well at 17467 Leffingwell Road over the past several years indicates a progressive deterioration of the quality of the water taken from this well (Appendix A). Samples taken by both private contractors and the agencies in the fall of 1997 indicate that the "water" from the well contains large amounts of sediments and other suspended solids (up to 40%), making it undrinkable. Levels of a variety of metals (arsenic, beryllium, copper, lead, manganese, nickel, and zinc) in this turbid well "water" far exceed US EPA drinking water standards (Maximum Contaminant Levels and Action Levels) for these substances. The dissolved metals detected in this well water included only iron and manganese, both typical constituents of the groundwater obtained from bedrock aquifers in this part of northeast Ohio. This indicates that the bulk of the metals contamination in this well comes from sediment that has or is accumulating in the well, possibly resulting from the corrosion of solid metal particles from a deteriorating well casing.

Chloroform was detected at trace levels (< 1.0 ppb) in both the "turbid" and "clear" water samples taken by US EPA and the OEPA sample taken at the same time from this well. Levels are far below US EPA drinking water standards for chloroform (MCL = 100 ppb) and probably result from the resident’s attempts to chlorinate the well.

TPH (Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons) is a non-chemical specific measurement of petroleum hydrocarbons in environmental media. No comparison values have been developed for these materials in drinking water supplies, and the health risks represented by the presence of TPH in well sediments cannot be determined. This well has been sampled 10 times in the past decade for the volatile components of petroleum hydrocarbons (hydrocarbons most likely to contaminate groundwater), including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes, and there have been no detections of these chemicals in any sampling event.

The residents at this home are not currently using this well as their drinking water source, using water trucked in from an outside source (Joe Freadle, US EPA, pers. comm.).

17550 Leffingwell Road
Sampling of the well at 17550 Leffingwell Road by OEPA in the fall of 1996 had no detects. Sampling of this well by US EPA on November 6, 1997, indicated the presence of low levels of the semi-volatile compound di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate in both the initial sample and a duplicate. These levels approach the US EPA drinking water standard for this chemical (MCL = 6.0 ppb). This chemical is known, however, as a common laboratory contaminant, and it was not detected in the OEPA sample taken from this well at the same time. Copper was also detected as a "total metal" at 52.7 ppb but was not detected as a "dissolved metal" in the same sample.

Of primary concern is the highly-elevated levels of lead detected in the US EPA sample and its duplicate and in both "total metal" and "dissolved metal" samples. Total lead was found at 608 ppb in the initial sample and at 76.7 ppb in the duplicate sample. Dissolved lead levels were at 139 ppb and 134 ppb, respectively. All four samples exceed the US EPA Action Level for lead in public drinking water supplies (15 ppb).

Elevated lead levels can cause adverse health effects in people, especially children who tend to absorb a higher proportion of the lead ingested compared to adults (ODH, 1996). Lead absorbed will typically accumulate in bones and teeth. Potential health effects from lead ingestion included central nervous system disorders; impaired mental development, lowered IQs, and decreased growth rates in children; reduced birth weights and increased incidence of adverse birth outcomes; increased blood pressure; anemia; and impaired kidney function (ODH, 1996).

Of further concern is the subsequent sampling of the water at this locality by OEPA, within minutes of the US EPA samples, that indicated the presence of lead at levels of 5.3 ppb: many orders of magnitude below the previous US EPA samples and below the US EPA Action Level (15 ppb). Apparantly, as the water continues to flow from the resident’s pressure tank, the levels of lead decreased dramatically. This makes obtaining a reliable reading of the actual levels of lead in the raw water coming into the house from the well difficult. It presents a dilemma in how to interprete the health risks represented by these lead levels. The resident also has a water treatment system that is between the pressure tank and the tap (point of exposure to the water). ODH does not know what effect, if any, this treatment system may have on lead levels at the point of use.

Other wells in the area that were sampled by the agencies on November 6, 1997, did not have levels of chemicals or metals above US EPA drinking water standards. The use of these wells as a drinking water supply does not pose a health risk to residents, based on the results of this most recent sampling.


CONCLUSIONS

  1. The quality of the water taken from the well at 17467 Leffingwell Road has progressively deteriorated over the past two years with "water" from the well currently containing large amounts of suspended sediments and other solids (up to 40%), making it unusable as a potable water supply. Levels of the metals arsenic, beryllium, copper, lead, manganese, nickel, and zinc in turbid well water samples exceed US EPA drinking water standards (MCLs and Action Levels). Dissolved metals detected in well water included only elevated levels of iron and manganese, both typical of groundwater from local bedrock aquifers. US EPA sampling suggests that the bulk of the metals in the well "water" come from sediment that has or is accumulating within the well, possibly resulting from corrosion of metal particles from a deteriorating well casing.

  2. Sampling of the well at 17550 Leffingwell Road by US EPA on November 6, 1997, indicated the presence of very high levels of lead (both total lead and dissolved lead) in the well water at concentrations that exceed the US EPA Action Level for lead in drinking water supplies (Pb = 15 ppb) by several orders of magnitude. Ingestion of lead at these levels by residents could result in the development of adverse health effects. However, there is some uncertainty as to the validity of these results as the subsequent OEPA sample taken minutes after the US EPA sample had lead at concentrations below the lead Action Level and significantly below the US EPA results (2.8 ppb vs. 608 ppb).

  3. Other wells sampled by the agencies on November 6, 1997, did not have chemicals or metals at concentrations exceeding US EPA drinking water standards, and their use as a drinking water supply does not currently pose a health hazard to these residents.

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