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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

MURRAY SMELTER
MURRAY, SALT LAKE COUNTY, UTAH


SUMMARY

The proposed Murray Smelter National Priorities List (NPL) Site in Murray, Utah, is no apparent public health hazard based on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)evaluation of available environmental data, testing of blood lead and urine arsenic levels inGrandview and Doc and Dell Mobile Home Park residents, and community health concerns. Murray Smelter operated from 1902 - 1949 and resulted in contamination of the area soils witharsenic, cadmium, and lead.

Health effects due to arsenic, cadmium, and lead are unlikely due to limited exposure to these metals. This conclusion is based on an evaluation of blood lead and urine arsenic levels inchildren and adults from Grandview and Doc and Dell Mobile Home Parks. No elevated bloodlead or urine arsenic levels were identified. This conclusion is also based on a toxicologicalevaluation of worker exposure situations which indicated that exposure levels were too low toresult in health effects. However, if exposure circumstances change so that the amount ofexposure increases significantly, health effects could occur. Therefore, remediation ofcontaminated soil should be done based on the potential for health effects as indicated by the soillevels of those metals.

Although shallow groundwater on the Murray Smelter site is contaminated with arsenic, it is notbeing used as a source of drinking water by local private or municipal well water users.

BACKGROUND

In this public health assessment, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)evaluates the public health significance of the proposed Murray Smelter National Priorities List(NPL) site in Murray, Utah. More specifically, ATSDR has reviewed available environmental andhealth outcome data and community health concerns to determine whether adverse health effectsare possible. In addition, this public health assessment recommends actions to reduce, prevent, oridentify more clearly the possibility for site-related adverse health effects. ATSDR, in Atlanta,Georgia, is one of the agencies of the U.S. Public Health Service. The Superfund law(Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 [CERCLA]as amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 [SARA]) requiresATSDR to conduct public health assessments of hazardous waste sites within 1 year of the site'sproposal for the NPL.

This public health assessment has a distinctly different purpose than the risk assessment that theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing on the Murray site (1). This publichealth assessment evaluates the overall public health significance of the site. EPA's riskassessment identifies the maximum risks to humans from site-related contaminants if there was noclean-up of the site. It is used to guide cleaning up the site.

A. Site Description and History

The proposed Murray Smelter NPL site is northwest of the corner of State Street and 53rd SouthStreet in the City of Murray, Salt Lake County, Utah (see Appendix 1, Figure 1). Murray isapproximately 6 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Murray Smelter is an abandoned lead smeltering facility which the American Smelting andRefining Company (ASARCO) operated from 1902 through 1949 (2). The smelting processproduced large amounts of a dark, rock-like waste material called slag that contains highconcentrations of heavy metals such as lead. During and after the operation of the smelter, theslag was used widely as railroad ballast, road base, parking lot gravel, and fill. About 80,000 tonsof the slag remain at the site. When the Murray Smelter was operating, it also released metals andother materials to the air, resulting in contamination of the soil around the site. We do not knowthe extent of this soil contamination, and determining its specific origin is difficult because nearly100 smelters operated in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Concrete, asphalt, and other commercial or manufacturing facilities and small industries now usethe Murray Smelter site. The site also includes two mobile home parks, Doc and Dell's andGrandview (Figure 1)(3). Slag areas and slag in soil are present on the site. The commercial portion of the site is fenced except along Little Cottonwood Creek. The residential on-site areas are not fenced. On-site remnants of the smelter operation include two large smokestacks, a foundation wall of one building, the old office building, and the slag piles (2). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on January 18, 1994, that the Murray Smelter site be placed on the NPL (3).

Figure 1
Figure 1.

B. Site Visit

ATSDR staff members conducted three site visits. John Crellin, PhD, from ATSDR in Atlantaand Susan Muza from the ATSDR Region VIII Office in Denver visited the site on October 27,1994. They met with representatives of EPA, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality(UDEQ), the Salt Lake County Health Department, and the City of Murray and toured the site.

Ms. Muza, Dr. Crellin, Laura Barr, and Ahmed Gomaa, MD, ScD, from ATSDR in Atlantatoured the site and met with representatives of EPA; UDEQ; the City of Murray; and ASARCO,the responsible party, on April 17- 18, 1995.

Drs. Crellin and Gomaa made a site visit on October 30 - 31, 1995 to provide technical assistancefor an exposure investigation of residents of the Grandview and Doc and Dell Mobile HomeParks. This study was conducted by Salt Lake City/County Health Department, and Kleinfelder(a contractor for ASARCO) staff. During this site visit, Dr. Crellin also met with ASARCO andCity of Murray staff.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resources Use

As indicated on Figure 2 and based on data from the 1990 census, about 20,000 people live within 1 mile of the Murray site. Most of those individuals are white. There are about 2,100 children 5 years or younger, 2,700 individuals 60 years or older, and 4,200 women of child-bearing age (18-45 years old).

Figure 2
Figure 2.

Figure 1 depicts the locations of schools, parks, bodies of water, smelter sites, and city wells within a mile of the site.

D. Health Outcome Data

Using state and federal health databases, it may be possible to determine whether there is a higherthan expected number of certain health effects in the area around the Murray site. However, forreasons discussed in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation section of this public health assessment,it was not possible to perform such an evaluation at this site.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

A mail survey solicited health concerns of the 77 residents of Grandview and Doc and Dell MobileHome Parks and 47 other area residents identified by Murray city officials. Each person receiveda letter requesting health concerns, a fact sheet on public health assessments, a form to list healthconcerns, and a stamped return envelope. Residents could also call in their health concerns to atoll-free voice mail number.

Fifteen households responded. Six individuals identified health concerns and nine indicated thatthey had no health concerns about the Murray Smelter site.

The health concerns and ATSDR's response appear below. Whenever a person gave a name andaddress, we responded with a letter acknowledging receipt of the form, and followed up with acall when requested.

Concern: Four individuals asked whether the drinking water supply is safe to drink.
    These four individuals, as residents of the Grandview or Doc and Dell Mobile Home Parks, obtaintheir water from the Murray city water supply. The water from this supply is safe to drink. TheMurray city wells are public water supply wells which are tested routinely. Murray city wellsand other local municipal wells draw groundwater from the deep principal aquifer which is notcontaminated by the Murray Smelter site. Although the shallow groundwater on the MurraySmelter site is contaminated with arsenic, there are currently no drinking water wells on or nearthe site which draw water from this aquifer. There may be a few private wells near the site thatdraw groundwater from the intermediate aquifer. ATSDR recommends continued monitoring ofboth the shallow and intermediate aquifers on the Murray Smelter site.
Concern: Two individuals asked whether the allergies, seizures, and pain that their family members were experiencing could be related to the Murray Smelter site.
    No, they are not related to the Murray Smelter site contaminants, which are arsenic, cadmium,and lead. Discussions in the Pathways Analyses and Public Health Implications sections of thispublic health assessment indicate that known contaminant levels are not high enough to cause anyhealth effects in adults.
Concern: One individual asked whether the dust in the area represents a health risk.
    By themselves, the contaminants in area dust (arsenic, cadmium, and lead) do not represent ahealth risk. Blood lead and urine arsenic testing of Grandview children in the fall of 1995indicated that lead and arsenic concentrations are well within safe limits.
Concern: Two individuals asked whether it is safe to eat vegetables grown in area soils.
    There is no information available to address this concern. We recommend that people consuminghomegrown produce from gardens in contaminated areas (Figures 3 and 4) use 2 feet of clean fill in preparing their gardens.
Concern:One individual expressed concern about the large trucks that regularly go past her mobile home.
    We investigated this situation during our second site visit. The Grandview Mobile Home Parkand a facility supplying dry concrete materials throughout Utah share the same entry road. Wehave asked the City of Murray to perform further investigation of the possible safety hazard ofthis situation. We contacted the person expressing this concern and gave her the name of theindividual following up for the City of Murray.

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