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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

MONTICELLO MILL TAILINGS (DOE) AND
MONTICELLO RADIOACTIVELY CONTAMINATED PROPERTIES
(aka MONTICELLO VICINITY PROPERTIES)


CONCLUSIONS

The Monticello Mill Tailings Site (MMTS) is a public health hazard because of the radioactive tailings that are present on site. Public access to the mill site is restricted; only persons involved in remediation are allowed on site. Persons involved in the remediation are required to be monitored each time they leave the mill site.

Tailings from the mill site were also dispersed off site throughout the city of Monticello by the wind, in surface runoff, and by individuals who used the tailings for fill or construction purposes. Remediation of the vicinity properties is ongoing and is scheduled for completion in 1998. However, there are properties in the community that may not be addressed by current remedial actions for various reasons (i.e., properties whose owners have refused remediation, areas outside the 8-mile radius clean-up boundary, properties that contain naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), or properties where the brick veneer was left behind). The remaining number of refusal properties is less than 5, and it is the intention of DOE, EPA, and UDEQ to clean up all properties. Unless supplemental standards are approved, properties will be cleaned up to the 40 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 192.12 standard. EPA and UDEQ will consider supplemental standards (alternative clean-up levels including institutional controls) only if they are protective of human health and the environment and are in compliance with applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements. EPA and UDEQ have no statutory requirement to clean up NORM. Property owners with such materials will be contacted and given the opportunity to have NORM disposed of in a repository. The potential still exists for individuals to be exposed to low levels of radiation at those properties.

The shallow alluvial aquifer is contaminated from mill site releases, and there is concern because it overlies the deeper Burro Canyon Aquifer, which is used as a drinking water source. However, the Mancos Shale and fine-grained units on the Dakota Sandstone Formation, which separates the Burro Canyon Aquifer from the alluvial aquifer, act as aquitards to limit downward migration from the alluvial aquifer. Direct human contact with contaminated groundwater from the shallow alluvial aquifer appears unlikely, and we have no reports of this aquifer being used as a source of potable water; therefore, there is no current public health risk through this particular medium. Potential for future exposure also exists for anyone (e.g., residents, workers, tourists, hunters, hikers, and ranchers) who might use the shallow alluvial aquifer as a future water source.

Contamination in the soil and water represent a potential for contamination of game animals present on the mill site and Montezuma Creek area. The potential also exists for contamination of domestic cattle raised in the Montezuma Creek area. In the fall of 1996 the EPA and UDEQ staff conducted a study of the body burden of contaminants in tissues and organs of deer and cattle that consumed water and vegetation from the Montezuma Creek floodplain. Cattle and deer from a background reference area were also sampled. The meat, liver kidney, and ribs are being analyzed for radionuclides and nonradionuclide contaminants. Although the analyses have not yet been completed, preliminary results indicate little or no contaminant uptake in cattle or deer above the uptake in the reference area animals. Humans could potentially experience exposure by eating food crops that accumulate contaminants if they were to be grown in the Montezuma Creek area or in a contaminated yard.

Representatives of the Health and Safety Laboratory of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission performed a study of approximately 215 workers at the Monticello Ore Concentrating Plant in 1957 to determine the levels of radioactive dusts exposures workers were experiencing. The study revealed that there was no effective dust control equipment throughout the plant. It also showed that 86 employees out of the total plant population were exposed to average dust concentrations above the maximum allowable concentration (MAC). Nineteen of those were exposed to greater than five times the MAC. The areas in the mill that exceeded the MAC were the ore sample plant, crushing areas, sample preparation area, and yellow cake drying area. The survey showed that workers in the mill experienced no hazard from external radiation (beta plus gamma or gamma only).

ATSDR representatives reviewed EPA's Riggan's Mortality Tapes and identified two large percentage rate changes for white males and one large percentage rate change for white females living in San Juan County between 1950 and 1970. Between the years of 1950 and 1959 and 1970 and 1979, there was a 395% increase in trachea bronchus lung pleura cancerous deaths in men. Tracheobronchial lymph nodes tend to be the site of greatest concentration for inhaled uranium and thorium. There was also a significant excess of deaths from prostate cancer between 1960 and 1969 compared with rates for the U.S. population during the same period. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among Mormon males. Radiation has not been shown to be a factor in increasing the chances of developing prostate cancer. Between 1960 and 1969 and 1970 and 1979, there was a 287% increase in breast cancer mortality in white females. Exposure to high levels of radiation is known to increase females' chances of developing breast cancer. ATSDR representatives used the CDC WONDER system to review renal failure for males and females in San Juan County. The database covers mortality for the years 1979 to 1991. There were four cases for males, and the age-adjusted rate was equal to the average rate for all counties in Utah that had reportable cases during the same period. There were 11 cases for females, and the age-adjusted rates were higher for San Juan County than for any other county in Utah. The age-adjusted rate for white women was double the rate for all other races in San Juan County.

During ATSDR's public availability sessions, residents of Monticello reported deteriorating clothes on clotheslines and chrome trim on automobiles and disintegrating screen doors. We do not know the extent of emissions from the mill's roaster stack when the mill was operating; however, we believe that emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfuric acid from the stack might have accounted for the reported occurrences.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Establish local ordinances to prevent installation in the contaminated alluvial aquifer of wells that would supply potable water.
  2. Continue to remediate those properties that exceed standards in 10 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1020 and 40 CFR 192.12 and monitor all properties that have exceeded standards in either of these laws to ensure that remedial actions have removed the tailings.
  3. Continue to monitor the wastewater treatment plant effluent to ensure that limits set by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Quality are not exceeded.
  4. Ensure that residents of Monticello scheduled to have their yards remediated do not consume edible food crops grown in their yards until remediation is completed.
  5. Evaluate the need for sampling any food crops for human consumption that are grown in the future in the Montezuma Creek floodplain.
  6. Continue sampling deer and cattle to determine if a potential food chain pathway exists for potential human uptake. ATSDR scientists concur with the activities and recommend that EPA and UDEQ continue to study and monitor the body burden of contaminants in tissues and organs of deer and cattle.
  7. Continue to monitor the Burro Canyon Aquifer downgradient of the mill site. If site-related contaminants increase to levels of public health concern, initiate a definitive well survey and follow-up monitoring of any private wells identified in the survey.
  8. Analyze the database containing radon measurements for the vicinity properties and determine what specific health actions are appropriate. ATSDR is scheduled to begin this evaluation during calendar year 1998. The completion and success of this activity depends on the quality and quantity of data as well as the financial funding provided by DOE.
  9. Continue to analyze the radon concentrations that are being released from the tailings piles to determine whether off-site concentrations are at levels of public health concern.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIONS

Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Recommendations

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended, requires the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to perform public health actions needed at hazardous waste sites. To determine whether public health actions are needed, the data and information developed in the Monticello Mill Tailings Site (MMTS) and Monticello Vicinity Properties (MVP) Public Health Assessment were evaluated by the ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) for follow-up health actions. Because people have potentially been exposed to MMTS contaminants at levels of health concern in the past and present, follow-up health actions related to the MMTS and MVP are indicated at this time. Human exposure is believed to be occurring or to have occurred in the past because of human interaction with pathways of exposure, and there is an indication or allegation that adverse health conditions are occurring or have occurred in the area population that may be related to exposure to hazardous substances from the MMTS. HARP identified the need for site-specific environmental health education and the need for the consideration of health studies.

Public Health Action Plan

The public health action plan for the MMTS and MVP National Priorities List sites contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR staff members and other government agencies at and in the vicinity of the sites after completion of this public health assessment. The purpose of this public health action plan is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards but also provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

ATSDR

The off-site area, the vicinity and peripheral properties, is being considered for follow-up public health actions. Exposure to contaminants from past and current activities at the MMTS suggests the need for health studies and further education efforts.

Health Studies

  1. There are completed exposure pathways and the allegation of substantial exposure and serious diseases. The panel has determined that health studies need to be considered that would address the level of current and past exposures and their relationships. The ATSDR site representative is currently working with ATSDR's Division of Health Studies (DHS) representatives to formulate a plan of action.
  2. The occurrence of renal failure will be investigated in conjunction with the health studies efforts.
  3. ATSDR's Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC) representatives plan to thoroughly investigate and analyze the Department of Energy's (DOE) residential/property database which contains environmental data for each off-site property. DHS representatives will also integrate an analysis of the database into their health studies activities. The completion and success of this activity is dependent on the quality and quantity of data as well as the financial funding provided by DOE. The community's Monticello Uranium Mill Impact Survey and the leukemia study performed in the 1980s both contain pertinent information to the above efforts. These resources are an integral part of helping more clearly define exposure and disease rate to determine what is occurring medically.

Education

  1. There are potential exposures where the community could be educated on specific actions that can prevent adverse health effects.
  2. There are past completed exposure pathways where specific actions, knowledge, or education can prevent or mitigate future adverse health effects. For example, physician educational seminars, community information sharing sessions, and problem-specific solving sessions.
  3. ATSDR staff will conduct a needs assessment as a basis for determining the appropriate preventative health education plan for the sites. We will identify the public health problems, community concerns, health professional and community-specific needs, and primary target populations for health education. Special needs groups, such as children, minorities, and the elderly, will be noted. ATSDR staff plan to collaborate with state and local health departments. Site-specific preventative health education needs will be categorized for either rapid response or for extended follow-up. The rapid response mechanism will be used for situations that require immediate implementation of education activities to address significant public health concerns. The purpose of the activities will be to provide health professionals and community members with the ability to minimize exposures to hazardous substances or reduce the potential for health impact. The extended follow-up mechanism will be used when the public health concerns do not require an immediate response. ATSDR scientists will provide DOE proposals for extended follow-up activities for comment.

ATSDR staff will continue to monitor the ongoing activities and occurrences in the Monticello area.

DOE

ATSDR recognizes and endorses the DOE, EPA, and state community involvement at these sites and agrees that further coordinated remediation activities are needed in this community. EPA and the state will continue oversight of DOE's activities and participation in community involvement.

Community Involvement

  1. DOE has established a Site-Specific Advisory Board (SSAB) consisting of fourteen local residents from Monticello and Blanding to advise DOE on cleanup issues affecting the local community. The SSAB is involved in advising on local training and hiring as well as future land use of the Monticello Mill Site. All meetings are open to the public.
  2. DOE and MACTEC Environmental Restoration services staff are in both Grand Junction, Colorado and Monticello. DOE has established a toll-free number (1-800-269-7145) for the public to call with questions or concerns.

Remediation Activities

  1. DOE is the responsible party for remediating the Monticello Vicinity Properties (MVP) Site, and is further responsible for certifying that the remediation is completed at each of these properties. The total number of individual MVP included in the site as of December 1996 is 420, grouped into eight operable units. By the end of 1996, 389 properties were remediated. There are an additional 29 peripheral properties. As of May 1997, 11 of these peripheral properties have been remediated.
  2. The contaminated materials from the off-site properties are being temporarily moved to the mill site and will be disposed of with the mill site tailings in a permanent repository immediately south of Monticello. DOE's contractor, OHM Remediation Services, will carry out the construction of the repository as well as perform mill site maintenance. Excavation of the repository was completed on April 27, 1996. All surface contaminants posing an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment will be placed in the permanent repository. In late May, 1997, DOE began placement of approximately 2.3 million cubic yards of mill tailings and other contaminated materials in the recently completed repository. The excavation activities will be completed by November 1998.
  3. DOE's files of public information on the Monticello Cleanup Projects are at the Monticello City Office at 17 North First East, Monticello, Utah 84535. The Information Repository is a set of documents pertaining to the Monticello projects; it includes documents on site activities, general information about the Superfund program, site-specific information, and the Administrative Record. The Administrative Record, which is a subset of the Information Repository, contains all information used to select a cleanup remedy for a particular site. The public can access the Information Repository and Administrative Record files by calling the Monticello City Office at (801) 587-2271 or visit during regular office hours between 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Monday through Friday.

PREPARERS OF REPORT

    Marcie Gallagher
    Environmental Engineer, Lead Health Assessor
    Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
    Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

    Andrew Dudley
    Environmental Health Scientist
    Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
    Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

    Richard F. Collins, MSEH, REHS, DAAS
    Senior Environmental Health Scientist
    Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
    Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

    Jo A. Freedman, PhD, DABT
    Toxicologist
    Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
    Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

    Edward Gregory, PhD
    Demographic Analyst
    Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
    Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

    Ronald E. Hatcher
    Writer-Editor
    Office of Policy and External Affairs

    Teresa Ramsey, MA
    Writer-Editor
    Office of Policy and External Affairs

    Alan Parham
    Environmental Health Scientist
    Exposure and Disease Registry Branch
    Division of Health Studies

    L. Samuel Keith, CHP
    Environmental Health Scientist
    Toxicology Information Branch
    Division of Toxicology

ATSDR gratefully acknowledges the assistance and contributions to this public health assessment by personnel with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL), and the Boston University (BU) School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health.

Reviewers of Report

    Rita Ford
    Energy Section Chief
    Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
    Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

    Sandy Isaacs
    Branch Chief
    Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
    Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

ATSDR Regional Representative

    Susan Muza
    ATSDR, Region VIII, Denver, CO

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  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #