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PETITIONED HEALTH CONSULTATION

ASHLAND PETROLEUM COMPANY (a/k/a ASHLAND OIL)
CATLETTSBURG, BOYD COUNTY, KENTUCKY


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The purpose of this health consultation is to provide a site status update for the Ashland Petroleum Company site and to identify public health actions and recommendations. ATSDR has incorporated responses to comments received during the public review process in this document.

The Ashland Petroleum Company’s Catlettsburg facility (Ashland Oil) is a petroleum refinery and petrochemical plant located on the Kentucky banks of the Big Sandy River. The states of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia converge in this area, separated by the Big Sandy and Ohio Rivers. While this part of the Appalachian plateau is generally considered to be rural, several major metallurgical and petrochemical industrial facilities are located along the rivers.

In 1983, Ashland began operating a reduced crude conversion (RCC) plant, which used new technology to produce 25 percent more gasoline from crude oil. Shortly thereafter, residents in Wayne County, West Virginia complained of a greyish white, corrosive dust settling onto their houses and cars. Samples collected and analyzed by the State of West Virginia showed the dust be highly alkaline [1].

The Cooper Elementary School, located about one-half mile north of the facility, was evacuated several times during the mid-1980's because of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide emissions from Ashland. The school has since been shut down [2].

From 1983 through mid-1988, approximately 800 air pollution complaints were registered with federal, state, and local air pollution control agencies in the Ashland, Kentucky; Huntington, West Virginia; Ironton, Ohio Tri-State Area. This area includes Boyd and Greenup Counties in Kentucky, Wayne and Cabell Counties in West Virginia, and Lawrence County in Ohio. Most of the complaints cited the Ashland refinery at Catlettsburg, Kentucky as the source of the air pollution [3].

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) responded to these complaints and public concerns by initiating various air quality and health studies in the Tri-State Area in cooperation with state and local agencies. In 1991, the USEPA Regions 3, 4, and 5 and the states of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio formalized a joint, multimedia geographic initiative for the 2300 square mile Tri-State Area. The partnership, known as the Tri-State Geographic Initiative (TGI), identified air quality as its top priority and made plans to conduct an air pathway risk assessment [2].

An ATSDR representative initially participated in the TGI’s Risk Assessment Work Group, but ATSDR has not been involved in that effort since late 1993. Due to the unavailability of ambient air quality data, the health assessment process was put on hold. However, in 1996 and 1997 the TGI collected a significant amount of air quality data. ATSDR received and began reviewing this data in March 1998.


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