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PETITIONED PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

GREAT LAKES CHEMICAL CORPORATION
EL DORADO, UNION COUNTY, ARKANSAS


SUMMARY

The Great Lakes Chemical Company (GLCC) manufactures elemental bromine and brominated compounds from salt brines extracted from deep wells. These chemical compounds are used for a variety of industrial and agricultural applications. The facility was constructed in 1965 on 1,200 acres of land southwest of El Dorado, Arkansas. Great Lakes Chemical Company generates a variety of hazardous and nonhazardous wastes. Community members are concerned that emissions from Great Lakes Chemical Company are causing an increased incidence of motor neuron disease (in particular, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS] or Lou Gehrig's disease). This public health assessment is an evaluation of available environmental data, health outcome data, and community health concerns related to chemicals released by Great Lakes Chemical Company to determine possible human health impact. No environmental monitoring data were available before 1987.

Environmental sampling data before 1987 are not available to evaluate the potential health impact of Great Lakes Chemical Company emissions. However, a review of available environmental sampling data show that the on-site soil and groundwater are contaminated with brominated compounds. Human exposure to these media is limited because public access to the site is restricted and on-site groundwater is not being used for drinking water. No chemical contaminants detected in the nearest residence at levels of health concern. A review of blood samples showed no evidence of a correlation between blood bromide levels of nearby residents and adverse health effects. ATSDR also found no association between environmental contamination from any source (including GLCC) and motor neuron disease mortality in El Dorado, Arkansas. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has classified this site as No Apparent Public Health Hazard based on the levels of contaminants found around Great Lakes Chemical Company.


PURPOSE AND HEALTH ISSUES

The Great Lakes Chemical Corporation (GLCC) El Dorado plant facility extracts and produces bromine and various brominated chemical products near El Dorado, Arkansas. Residents living near GLCC petitioned the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in 1992 to evaluate the potential health impact from GLCC to the residents El Dorado. The community was specifically concerned that GLCC brominated compound emissions were causing increased incidence rates of motor neuron disease (in particular, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS] or Lou Gehrig's disease). In response to the petition, ATSDR has completed three health consultations detailing specific environmental health issues and two exposure investigations to evaluate potential exposure to brominated compounds. The purpose of this public health assessment is to summarize past investigative findings, to identify current potential human exposures by evaluating existing environmental sampling data, and to recommend appropriate public health follow-up activities.

Site Background

The El Dorado plant of GLCC was constructed in 1965 on 1200 acres of land in southern Arkansas [1]. In addition to GLCC, other industries in the area include a petroleum refinery, a hazardous waste incinerator, a carbon black plant, and other chemical production facilities. A map with the location and demographics of GLCC is located in Appendix A. GLCC extracts salt brines from deep groundwater wells and manufactures elemental bromine commercially. Various brominated compounds are also produced commercially during this process including ethylene dibromide, methyl bromide, and ethyl bromide. Although some products have been discontinued, the GLCC still manufactures elemental bromine and brominated organic compounds for a variety of industrial and agricultural applications [2]. The waste brine (or debrominated brnine) is treated and reinjected into the ground through a deep injection well disposal method.

Throughout its manufacturing processes, GLCC generates a wide range of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes that have been disposed in several on- and off-site locations [1, 2]. Waste management practices at GLCC currently operate under several permits issued by state and federal agencies. These permits include: 1) a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit to treat hazardous wastes at selected process treatment areas and to dispose hazardous waste at on-site landfills, 2) a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to discharge stormwater and other water effluents from the facility to local surface water. There are 39 on-site solid waste management units (SWMUs) that include landfills and pits for disposing solid wastes and ponds for collecting and aerating spent process brines and spent process water. Ten of the SWMUs have undergone closure activities and the remaining 29 SWMUs are either active or will soon go through closure activities [3]. The Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) inspects this facility at least annually and in some cases quarterly and requires monitoring of on- and off-site soil, groundwater, surface water, and stack emission samples and the submission of monitoring results to state and federal agencies for review. Results of ATSDR's evaluation of the environmental monitoring data are presented in the Discussion section of this document.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

Citizens living near GLCC are concerned that exposure to brominated compounds from industrial activities at GLCC may be causing the motor neuron disease ALS. ADEQ has also received numerous complaints regarding chemical odors from GLCC air emissions and subsequent breathing difficulties and nose irritations [4].


DEMOGRAPHICS

There are 3,026 people living within a one mile radius of GLCC (Appendix A) [5]. The population is 75% white, 24% black, and less than 1% is Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut. Of the total population, 13% are under age six and 10% are age 65 and older. There are about 700 females of reproductive age (15-44 years) in the area.


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