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PRELIMINARY PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

PETROCHEM RECYCLING CORPORATION/EKOTEK
SALT LAKE CITY, SALT LAKE COUNTY, UTAH


SUMMARY

The Petrochem/EkoTek site was operated by several owners as a refinery from 1953 until 1978 and as a hazardous waste storage/treatment facility and a petroleum recycling facility from 1978 through 1988. Removal of essentially all petroleum products and hazardous wastes in tanks and drums was accomplished from 1988 - 1991. The process that will lead to the complete clean-up of the facility is ongoing. The site was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) in October 1992.

Exposure of humans to contaminants in soil and air is thought to have occurred near Petrochem. The source(s) of those contaminants in off-site areas is undetermined. Contaminants found in ambient air cannot be fully evaluated for health implications because of the lack of monitoring during plant operations.

Contaminants in the soil are arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, mercury, chlordane, dieldrin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, di-n-butyl phthalate, pentachlorophenol, and heptachlor epoxide. Children who ingest regularly large amounts (five grams or more a day) of soil contaminated with the highest levels of arsenic and cadmium have some risk for adverse health effects. The arsenic levels are typical for the Salt Lake City area. The maximum levels of barium could also cause health effects in children according to animal studies. The maximum concentrations of other soil contaminants were not a health concern.

There are four ways that humans may have been exposed: surface water, groundwater, soil gas, and waste materials. Surface-water runoff probably transported unknown concentrations of site contaminants to businesses west of the site. Residences and businesses within 1 mile of the site use municipal water for drinking water. Exposure of site and remedial workers to site waste materials may have occurred in the past.

The Petrochem/EkoTek site represents an indeterminate public health hazard because the environmental data reviewed are inadequate for fully assessing the possible impact of this site on public health.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommends that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in cooperation with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ), better characterize (i.e., what, where, how much, and the source[s] of) off-site groundwater and soil contamination.

ATSDR recommends the following public health actions: testing for biological indicators of exposure, a health statistics review, a community health investigation, and community health and health professions education.

BACKGROUND

In this public health assessment, ATSDR evaluates the public health significance of the Petrochem Recycling Corporation/EkoTek, Inc. site in Salt Lake City, Utah. More specifically, ATSDR reviewed available environmental and health outcome data, and community health concerns to determine whether adverse health effects are possible. In addition, this public health assessment will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible adverse health effects. ATSDR, in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the agencies of the U.S. Public Health Service. ATSDR is required by the Superfund law (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 [CERCLA]) as amended by Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) to conduct public health assessments of hazardous waste sites proposed for the National Priorities List (NPL).

A. Site Description and History

The Petrochem/EkoTek site was operated by several owners as a refinery from 1953 until 1978 and later as a hazardous waste storage/treatment facility and a petroleum recycling facility from 1978 through 1988. EPA has identified more than 470 potentially responsible parties including companies in the electronics and aerospace industries and the military (1,2).

Facility operations ceased in 1988 due to a notice of violation from the Utah Bureau of Solid and Hazardous Waste and the Bureau of Air Quality (3). Removal of essentially all petroleum products and hazardous wastes in tanks and drums was accomplished from 1988 - 1991. Soil and groundwater contamination remain, but the extent and kinds of contaminants have not been completely determined. Because contamination remains, the site was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) in October 1992. The full extent and kinds of site-related contamination will be determined through a remedial investigation. The possible ways to complete the clean up of the site will be identified in the feasibility study. The choice of actual clean up (remediation) methodology is usually made known through a document called a record of decision (ROD). Before remediation begins, the public is given an opportunity to review and comment on the ROD.

The Petrochem property occupies 6.6 acres at 1628 North Chicago Street in Salt Lake City, Utah. The property is bordered on the east and west by industrial and commercial properties, on the north by a junkyard and on the south by a residential district. A spur of the Union Pacific Railroad divides the property and connects with the main lines to the west. The property lies between the railroad and U.S. Route 89 and 91 (Figures 1 and 2, Appendix D).

The Petrochem/EkoTek facility collected, transported, and re-refined used oil. The facility also generated, stored, and treated hazardous wastes such as ignitable solvents and sludges containing heavy metals (4). Waste fuels were transported to the facility in rail cars or trucks and transferred to storage and treatment tanks at the site. They used the energy recovered during the burning of waste oils for its production facility and associated operations. Process heat boilers were fueled primarily by oils (#2 fuel oil and refinery distillate-similar to #2 diesel fuel) and natural gas. Under ideal conditions, excess vapors from loading and unloading waste oils and other solvents were destroyed in a flare system (5). Before September of 1982, acid sludge fumes from the acid sludge truck loading operation were vented to the atmosphere (6).

During the operation of Petrochem/EkoTek, there were approximately 60 aboveground tanks and three retention ponds (two of those ponds were concrete-lined open impoundments) in the northwest section of the property. Waste and sludge piles and an acid sludge pit were in the northeast section of the property (7). Numerous underground tanks have been removed from the property. An underground drain field remains on site. It was used to collect water from the warehouse roof and to intercept spills from off-loading railroad cars. The concrete-lined open impoundments remain on site to catch surface water runoff.

B. Site Visit

ATSDR's first involvement at this site began when Laura Barr, John Crellin, and Susan Muza of ATSDR, and Patrick Bustos and Amy Goldstein of EPA visited the site February 3 - 6, 1992 (8). Tia Leber and Bob O'Brien of UDEQ and Mel Muir of the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCHD) took ATSDR and EPA staff on a tour of the site on February 4. As described in the Community Health Concerns section, ATSDR, EPA, and UDEQ staff conducted a series of home visits February 4 - 6.

The outer perimeter of the site is securely fenced and a guard was stationed there from the beginning of removal activities in 1988 through March 1992 (9). Since then, security has been provided on a drive-by basis. Essentially all petroleum products and hazardous wastes in tanks and drums have been removed. Soil and groundwater contamination remain as do concrete-lined impoundments for surface runoff. Currently, this surface runoff is discharged to the sanitary sewer. Before the removal, there was extensive runoff from containment ponds on site. The state of Utah issued the facility several notices of violation for exceeding discharge limits. Underground conduits may be continuing to direct contaminants off site (8).

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resources

The Petrochem/EkoTek site is on the eastern edge of the Salt Lake Valley and the western edge of the Wasatch Mountains. The Great Salt Lake lies approximately 8 miles west of the site.

Demographics

There are approximately 32 residences within several hundred feet south of the site (8). This residential area is within the city limits of Salt Lake City and is identified by the residents and the city as "Swedetown." A survey of that neighborhood indicated that there are about 150 residents, including 26 children under seven years old (7). The next closest residential area in Salt Lake City is about a ½ mile southwest of the site and is called "Rose Park." The total population within a 1-mile radius of the site is approximately 5000 persons. Two schools are within a 1-mile radius of the site: Rose Park Elementary and Northwest Jr. High School (Figure 1).

Land Use

Heavy industry and light commercial properties are adjacent to Petrochem/EkoTek. In addition a major rail line, the Union Pacific, is adjacent to the site and a spur divides the site. Interstate 15 and U.S. Highways 89 and 91 separate the site from most eastern and western properties. An auto salvage yard lies directly north and a chrome plating facility lies to the east of the site. Just south of the Swedetown residential area, is a metal works company. South of that company, approximately a ¼ mile from the Petrochem/EkoTek site, is an oil refinery. The Rose Park NPL site is approximately a ½-mile west of the site. The Union Pacific Railroad spur terminates in gravel pits east of the site. The Jordan River runs north/south through the Salt Lake Valley approximately 1 mile from the site. There is a golf course about 1 mile west of the site.

Natural Resource Use

The Wasatch National Forest, approximately a ¼ mile to the east of the site, is used for hiking and other recreational purposes. A small community park is within a ¼ mile of the site. About 200 yards west of the site, is a small wetlands area including a small pond that contains mosquito fish (9, 10). About ½-mile west of Petrochem are remnants of Warm Springs Lake, which is a large wetlands listed on the National Wetlands Inventory. There are also wetland areas along the Jordan River and at the Great Salt Lake. Those wetland areas are used by large populations of migratory birds. The state capitol is nearly 2 miles southeast of Petrochem/EkoTek. Groundwater resources are discussed in the Groundwater Pathway part of the Pathways Analyses section.

D. Health Outcome Data

Utah maintains birth and death certificate databases and a tumor registry, but no birth defects registry. No health outcome data were requested because of the disparity in population size between the Petrochem area and the smallest unit for which data are available. There is a discussion of how ATSDR selects health outcomes for evaluation in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation part of the Public Health Implications section.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

At the suggestion of a SLCHD staff member, community health concerns were identified through home visits conducted jointly by ATSDR, EPA, and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ) (8). The community survey included an explanation of the role and responsibilities of EPA and ATSDR at NPL sites, and solicitation of health concerns.

The following are health concerns expressed by the residents surveyed.

  1. Employees got sick when air emissions from EkoTek were blown onto their place of business. Will there be long-term health effects from that exposure?
  2. Was the dust raised during the removal a health hazard?
  3. Several members of one family have a history of various respiratory illnesses. Are those illnesses related to Petrochem, another facility (Utah Metal), or environmental problems in the area?
  4. Should children play in the dirt in our yards?
  5. Are the vegetables grown in my garden safe to eat?
  6. Is it safe for my employees to work in the area of my business apparently contaminated by materials from EkoTek?
  7. Could EkoTek/Petrochem be the cause of the 21 cases of cancer reported in the last few years among the residents of the 32 households in the Petrochem area?

Those concerns will be addressed in the Community Health Concerns Evaluation part of the Public Health Implications Section. During the home visits, residents and business owners also complained about not receiving results of sampling done on their property. UDEQ staff who accompanied ATSDR on the home visits will provide those data and will ensure that further sampling data are sent promptly to property owners.

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