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PETITIONED PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

HANSEN CONTAINERS
GRAND JUNCTION, MESA COUNTY, COLORADO

SUMMARY

The Hansen Container Company Site (also known as the Layton Brothers Drum Company andthe Rocky Mountain Drum Company) was an 11-acre drum recycling facility on the southernedge of the Grand Junction city limits, Mesa County, Colorado. The facility reconditionedstructurally sound drums from the mid-1950s until January 1991 (ATSDR,1991a). In March 1991, two Grand Junction residents petitioned the Agency for ToxicSubstances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to prepare a petitionedpublic health assessment (PPHA) for the Riverside community (CCRA,1991).

In response to the petition, ATSDR conducted an initial scoping of the site in 1991 andissued a publichealth advisory to inform the community and local and federal agencies aboutconditions that indicated that the site may pose an urgent health hazard. In particular,the public health advisory was issued to address the following concerns: (1) the presenceof large amounts of lead at the facility at levels of health concern, (2) evidence ofcontact with lead-contaminated soils because of unrestricted access to the site and thelikely migration of contaminantsoff the site, and (3) the probability of adverse health effects from exposures to on-sitelead. The health advisory recommended that access to the site be restricted to reduceand/or eliminate exposures to site contaminants (ATSDR, 1991f).

Issuance of the public health advisory prompted several results: access to the site wasrestricted, blood lead testing of the residents was conducted, soil samples were collectedfrom the residential yards, and health professionals and community members received healtheducation. In September 1991, blood lead samples were collected from 287 children andadults in the area. Sampling analysis identified six children younger than 6 years oldwith slightly elevated blood lead levels. In response to these data, the ColoradoDepartment of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), under a cooperative agreement withATSDR, provided healtheducation to the community and to local health professionals concerning leadexposures. CDPHE also conducted follow-up actions of the individuals with slightlyelevated blood lead levels 11 and 14 months after the initial testing and again inSeptember 1994. The results indicated that the blood lead levels were no longer a publichealth concern.

In January 1995, ATSDR completed a PPHA that classified the site as a past publichealth hazard and a no publichealth hazard. The classification of past public health hazard was assigned becausechildren and adults had unrestricted access to the site and might have been exposed tolead at concentrationsof public health concern. The classification of no public health hazard was assignedbecause the facility had ceased operations in 1991, access to the site was restrictedsince 1992, and the drums were removed from the site.

In September 1996, the PPHA was released for public comment.At that time, ATSDR learned that the removal actions were completed at the site earlier in1996. The site was remediated under a joint effort by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). The EPA removed drums and debris that remainedon the site after its closure and stabilized and immobilized the contaminated on-sitesoil. DOE removed the stabilized soil and buildings that existed on the site through theUranium Mill Tailing Remedial Action program, which the agency manages.

The EPA collected and analyzed independent clean-up confirmation samples of remainingsoils. ATSDR reviewed and evaluated the data collected to ensure that the removal wascompleted and that no contaminants remained on the site at levels of public healthconcern. ATSDR determined that the completion of the removal actions at the siteeliminated the contaminants of concern that previously existed at the site, and thisprocess eliminated the pathways for human exposure to the contaminants and the potentialfor adverse health effects.

This document represents the final release of the PPHA and evaluates the latest datagathered after the completion of the removal actions at the site. Currently, ATSDRclassifies the site as a no public health hazard because the removal actions eliminatedthe contaminants of concern previously detected on the site. No further actions arerecommended for this site.

BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The Hansen Containers Company (also known as Layton Brothers Drum Company and the RockyMountain Drum Company) was an 11-acre drum recycling facility at 530 Lawrence Avenue (Figure 1) on the southern edge of Grand Junction, MesaCounty, Colorado (Ecology and Environment, Inc., 1991a). The facility was bordered to thenorth and east by a railroad yard, to the southwest by an automobile crushing/scrap andsalvage business, and to the west by the Riverside community (Figure 3). The Riverside neighborhood was within one-halfmile of Hansen Containers; the closest residence was within 50 feet west of the site. TheRiverside community is east of the Colorado River and downstream from the confluence ofthe Colorado and Gunnison rivers (EPA, 1991a). The sitecoordinates are 39° 3' 45" north latitude, 108° 34' 00" west longitude (Morrison Knudsen Corporation, 1992).

The Hansen Containers Company (Hansen Containers) operated from the mid-1950s untilJanuary 1991 (ATSDR, 1991a). The facility consisted of onelarge main building and several much smaller buildings and sheds (Figure 2). Much of the property was littered with drumsand drum debris. Hansen Containers obtained a permit for incineration in 1976, andfacility operators started afterburning at the facility. The process of afterburning wasintended to achieve complete combustion of the materials burned. However, photographicevidence available to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)indicates that combustion was probably incomplete even after the afterburner process wasadded. The facility received used steel and plastic drums from a variety of facilities.Operations at the facility consisted of reconditioning structurally sound drums used totransport chemicals and other materials. If the drums did not meet specifications, theywere sent off site as scrap for recycling (CDPHE, undated).The facility was permitted to store low-level radioactive waste.

The reconditioning operations consisted of the incineration of partially cleaned drums,bead blasting of the drums in preparation for painting, and painting of the drums.Partially cleaned drums were placed upside down on a metal conveyor that went through anincinerator approximately 50 feet from the southeastern corner of the main building on thesite. The incinerator operated mostly at night and produced a low temperature burn (lessthan 900 °F) to prevent warping of the drums (ATSDR, 1991c).Ideally, any non-combusted organic liquid residues would then be 98% destroyed in asecondary burn chamber operated at 1,200 °F. ATSDR evaluated the facility's incineratorand noted that the lack of doors on the burn chamber most likely hampered operation of theafterburner and precluded proper combustion (ATSDR, 1991e).Based on the incinerator design, up to 300 pounds of material could be burned from thedrums each hour (MCBOH, undated). Residue from the drumswould drip on the ground, and residue on the conveyor would smoke; the residue that smokedproduced an ash that is considered a hazardous waste.

After incineration, the drums were taken to the bead blaster, where they were blastedwith small lead pellets before painting. The bead blaster is within 50 feet of theincinerator. Staff from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)Air Pollution Control Division reported that the blaster operated without a filter (ATSDR, 1991a); this could have allowed lead and other metals tobe deposited on the residential area west of the site via air, surface water runoff, orworkers' and/or trespassers' clothing (Ecology and Environment, Inc., 1991a). Lead pelletswere visible on the soil in the area near the bead blaster. After the bead blasting, thedrums were spray painted while they rotated on a roller in the southeastern part of thebuilding. Then the drums were placed on a conveyor belt, where they were dried by heatfrom gas-fired jets as they moved through the drying booth.

In 1985, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted the facility for treating, storing,transporting, and disposing of hazardous wastes without the required permits. The CDPHEcited incinerator operators for opacity (blackness) violations and for not operating theincinerator's afterburner at proper temperature (ATSDR, 1991a).Riverside community residents reported that the incinerator plume left blackparticulates on their cars and the roofs of their homes and that they had to close allwindows and turn off evaporative coolers to escape the effects of the plume. The MesaCounty Board of Health prepared an enforcement analysis that indicates the facilityviolated the 20% opacity standard on several occasions from 1982 through 1987; a maximumopacity of 80% was measured in August 1987. The state of Colorado also cited the facilityon allegations pertaining to the effectiveness and operation of its air pollution controldevices. Since 1988, The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating HansenContainers for the illegal handling and disposal of hazardous wastes.

Wastes generated at the site included waste ash from the on-site furnace, dust filterresidues from blasting operations, and paint related wastes (CDPHE,undated). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that up to 240,000 drumswere stored at the site, and approximately 100,000 were left on site in 1991, when thefacility ceased operations (ATSDR, 1991f). The CDPHE concludedthat the facility received more drums than it could recondition (CDPHE,undated). It was reported that a "pit" was excavated in a 400-square-footarea left of the loading dock at the site, that it was filled with gravel, received thecontents of drums, and was then covered with soil (ATSDR, 1991d).

Affidavits dated in June and April 1984 stated that when employees opened the drumsprior to cleaning, the contents sometimes spilled on the ground; that chemical and oildrum wastes were allowed to spill and accumulate on the ground and the saturated top soilwas scraped and placed into drums for local disposal; and that wastes (xylene, toluene,and caustics) were often poured or dumped on the ground behind the facility's officebuilding (EPA, 1991a).

In a letter dated March 9, 1991, two Grand Junction residents petitioned ATSDR toprepare a publichealth assessment of the Riverside community (CCRA, 1991).The community expressed concerns about (1) health effects associated with exposures toon-site and off-site contaminants, (2) lead exposures to site workers during working hoursand the potential for exposures to family members from lead transported on workers'clothes, (3) migration of on-site contaminants to neighboring houses through surface waterrunoff, (4) inhalationand dermal exposuresto particulates and gases from the incineration process and from smoldering drums leavingthe incinerator, (5) exposure to dusts generated during the process of emptying the drums,and (6) exposure to contaminants through ingestion ofcontaminated garden produce. One resident expressed concern about the incidence of cancerin the community. The residents indicated that they accessed the site for recreationalpurposes and rode motorcycles on the site and that children played on the site and hadaccess to the soda machine and the basketball hoop within 50 feet of the incinerator andbead blaster. They also indicated that they believed children as young as 12 years oldworked at the facility.

In July 1991, the Emergency Response Branch, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Region VIII, inspected the dust emissions control equipment of the bead blastingoperations and concluded that the operation was not adequate and was uncontrolled attimes, and that the process created the potential for migration to off-site areas. EPAconcluded that the incinerator operation was also inadequate, resulting in incompletecombustion of wastes, and noted evidence that operators disposed of the incinerator ash byheaping it on the site (EPA, 1991a).

On September 9, 1991, after the initial site scoping visit, ATSDR issued a publichealth advisory for the facility and adjacent community to inform the EPA, the State ofColorado, the County of Mesa, the City of Grand Junction, and the public of the apparenthazard to public health related to the site. The scoping visit is part of the petitionprocess. During the visit, ATSDR staff observed conditions and obtained information thatindicated that the facility probably posed an urgent health hazard. The health advisorywas issued to address the following concerns: (1) the presence of large amounts of lead atthe facility at levels of health concern, (2) evidence of contact with lead-contaminatedsoils because of unrestricted access to the facility and the likely migration ofcontaminants off the site, (3) the probability of adverse health effects from exposure toon-site lead, and (4) the lack of actions to reduce or eliminate exposures to sitecontaminants (ATSDR, 1991f). There were several results of thepublic health advisory: blood lead testing of the residents was conducted, soil sampleswere collected from the residential yards, access to the site was restricted, and healthprofessionals and community members received health education.

From September 16 through September 27, 1991, a census study and blood lead screeningwere conducted at the Riverside community. The blood lead samples were collected from 287children and adults in the area. The results identified six children younger than 6 yearsold with slightly elevated blood lead levels. CDPHE, under a cooperative agreement withATSDR, conducted follow-up actions of the individuals with slightly elevated blood leadlevels 11 and 14 months after the initial testing and again in September 1994. The resultsindicated that the blood lead levels were no longer a public health concern.

As directed by the EPA, Ecology and Environment's Technical Assistance Team (TAT) firstsampled the site from July 16 through July 18, 1991. Team members conducted the samplingto determine the presence and extent of surface contamination on the site. The site wasdivided into 50-foot x 50-foot grids for sampling purposes. The initial results indicatedthe presence of organic and inorganic contamination on the site. As a result of theanalysis and the concerns that the community expressed to ATSDR, a community-wide samplingeffort was conducted from September 24 through September 26, 1991. One hundred fourteencomposite samples were collected and analyzed for metals, volatile and semi-volatileorganic compounds, pesticide/polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxin. Results of thissampling indicated that the contaminant levels detected in surface soils of thesurrounding community could not be attributed to the site. At that time, the Uranium MillTailing Remedial Action (UMTRA) program cleanup of the residential area had alreadyoccurred. On October 15 and 16, 1991, TAT conducted a third sampling round was conductedto determine the presence of subsurface contamination at the site. During this samplingeffort, trenches were excavated and samples were collected and analyzed for organics,pesticides, and metal contamination. Sampling analysis indicated that contamination wasconfined to the top 6 to 12 inches of soil (Ecology and Environment, Inc., 1992c). Ecologyand Environment, Inc. prepared a summary of the sampling events and concluded that thesite had surface lead contamination in the vicinity of the incinerator and operationsbuilding. The incinerator, incinerator pit, and ash drum showed cadmium, chromium, cobalt,and mercury contamination. In the report, Ecology and Environment, Inc. concluded thatnone of the contamination detected on site had impacted areas that were sampled in theadjacent community. TAT determined that the contamination appeared to be confined to thesurface and that soil fixation for the surface lead contamination should be successful (Ecology and Environment, Inc. 1992c).

On September 8, 1992, the EPA began removal actions at the Hansen Container site (EPA, 1992a). EPA staff planned to excavate the contaminated soilto a depth of 12 inches and "pile" it for later fixation (Ecology and Environment, 1993). The removal activities werecompleted in 1996. As part of the remediation process, the EPA removed 27,000 drums fromthe site, and the Department of Energy (DOE) hauled off the debris from a 20,000square-foot warehouse that EPA demolished. EPA stabilized and immobilized 12,000 tons ofcontaminated soil. The contaminated soil was mixed with a mix of cement and water toeliminate its potential for migration. After treating the soil, DOE disposed of the soilas mill tailings as part of the UMTRA program. The EPA collected and analyzed independentclean-up confirmation samples of remaining soils. Air monitoring conducted during fixationactivities confirmed the presence of sulfur compounds in the fixated soils; DOE disposedof the fixated material.

In 1993, following the EPA's technical direction, the TAT continued site assessmentsampling to determine the presence and extent of surface contamination at the site (Ecology and Environment, 1994). In June 1995, TAT conductedfield activities that included environmental sampling, non-sampling data collection, andsite activity photodocumentation. At that time, TAT collected background and downgradientsoil, surface water, and sediment samples from the Colorado River to determine whethercontaminants at the site might have migrated to area surface water and sediments (Ecology and Environment, 1995b). In November 1995, TAT releasedthe analytical results of the sampling activities conducted at the site to determinewhether contaminants that could have impacted these areas may have migrated to poolingareas downgradient of the site (Ecology and Environment, 1995c).

To simplify the presentation of the new data (after removal actions) in relation to thedata presented in the public comment version of the petitioned public health assessment(PPHA), ATSDR moved the following sections of the public comment version of the documentto Appendix B: the Summary, environmentalcontamination and Other Hazards, Pathway Analysis, Public Health Implications,Conclusions, and Recommendations.

B. Site Visit

On May 21, 1991, Glenn Tucker, ATSDR Region VIII regional representative, andrepresentatives from CDPHE, the Mesa County Health Department, and the Grand Junction FireDepartment visited the site (ATSDR, 1991f). As part of thisvisit, the staff met with the petitioners and examined the periphery of the facility andthe Riverside neighborhood.

From July 15 through July 17, 1991, Susan Muza, ATSDR Region VIII regionalrepresentative, and John Crellin, ATSDR, Remedial Programs Branch, conducted a second sitevisit. This visit included discussions with petitioners, residents of the Riversidecommunity, and representatives of the Grand Junction Fire Department, Mesa County HealthDepartment, CDPHE, and EPA Region VIII (ATSDR, 1991f). Thestaff noted that the site was virtually unrestricted; the gate that would secure the fencewas lying on the ground and the fence had wide openings that did not restrict entrance tothe site. The main building was constructed of thin tin siding that was pushed aside in atleast one location and could provide access to a child. There were hundreds of medium size(5-gallon) plastic containers inside the building; the contents were believed to be anorganophosphate or carbamate compound. The open area of the site contained approximately100,000 drums, several stacks of crushed car bodies mixed with crushed drums, andmiscellaneous piles of metal debris that appeared to be obstructing something beneath thedebris (in one location, it appeared that a pile of ash was covered by a metal debrisveneer). Staff also noted several children (from less than 2 to more than 10 years old) inthe Riverside neighborhood; some were riding bicycles on a vacant lot between Crawford andRockaway Avenues. This lot may have been the open lot the facility reportedly used tostore equipment and dump scrap and sand-like material (ATSDR,1991a).

The petitioners stated the following: (1) the incinerator was discharging a black plumethat left black particulates on cars and on the roofs of petitioners' homes; residents hadto close the windows in their homes and turn off evaporative coolers and air conditionersto escape the effects of the plume; (2) children play on the site and access the sodamachine and basketball hoop; (3) youths as young as 12 years old have worked on the site;(4) the residential area consists mostly of renters, and no private drinking water wellswere identified in the neighborhood; (5) several residents rode their motorcycles on thesite; and (6) the health effects indicated in the petition letter (i.e headaches,nosebleeds, and allergies) ceased after the facility closed.

From September 16 through September 27, 1991, staff visited the area again to conduct acensus study and blood lead screening as a followup to the health advisory issued onSeptember 9, 1991. During this visit, ATSDR Region VIII Regional Representatives SusanMuza and Glenn Tucker and an ATSDR Headquarters team composed of John Crellin, AntonioQuiñones-Rivera, Ronald J. Dutton, Ahmed Gomaa, and Cynthia Lewis met and collaboratedwith staff and representatives from the CDPHE, EPA Region VIII, Mesa County HealthDepartment, Grand Junction Fire Department, Concerned Citizens Resource Association, andthe petitioners. Dr. Lewis made arrangements to use the Bethel Baptist Church in GrandJunction for the census and blood draw. From September 23 through September 27, 287 bloodsamples were collected from Riverside residents and analyzed.

C. Demographics,Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

As part of the September 16­19, 1991 census, 172 home sites were identified in thearea; 148 of these were occupied, and census data were obtained from 139 homes. Most ofthe dwellings bordering the facility were rental units. There are approximately 700 to 800residents with an ethnic makeup evenly distributed between non-Hispanic whites andHispanics living in the area, mainly people of Mexican descent (ATSDR,1991f). Riverside is east of the Colorado River and immediately downstream from theconfluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers (ATSDR, 1991g).During the afternoons, prevailing winds in Grand Junction are from the southeast (Ecologyand Environment, Inc., 1991a). Figure 1.3 (Appendix A) presents the demographics breakdown of a1-mile buffer zone around the site.

The Riverside community area was classified as a single unit residential zone, eightunits to the acre. The Hansen Container site is classified as industrial zones I1 and I2.The Riverfront Trail is a recreational pedestrian and bicycle trail that crosses theRiverside area and exists along the Colorado River. The trail leads to the Riverside Parkand, in the future, will link the Watson Island and Connected Lakes Parks (Barrett, 1992).

According to a state engineer, there are 200 wells within a 2-mile radius of the site;however, groundwater in the area is salty and reportedly has never been used for humanconsumption (ATSDR, 1991a). The Riverside community issupplied with municipal water. There are no known private drinking water wells in thecommunity.

Most of Riverside is in the 100-year flood plain (Lang, 1992).The annual arithmetic mean precipitation, averaged over a 30-year period (1951-1980), is 8inches, including the liquid water equivalent of snowfall for the area of Grand Junction (USDOC, 1990). Few homes in Riverside have lawns to provideground cover. Reportedly, Hansen Containers used a vacant open field located betweenCrawford and Rockaway Avenues to store equipment and dump scrap and a sand-like material (ATSDR, 1991a).

The Headstart children's facility is in the northwestern corner of the Riversideneighborhood at 134 West Avenue. The facility serves only 4-year-old children from theRiverside community and other communities. Thirty-eight children participate in theHeadstart program. There are three elementary schools beyond a 1-mile radius of the site:Scenic, Broadway, and Wingate elementary schools (Paiz, 1992).

D. Health Outcome Data

Using health databases, it may be possible to determine whether certain health outcomesoccur more frequently than expected in the communities. This section identifies therelevant available databases. The data presented will be evaluated in the Public HealthImplications section.

  • The Colorado Central Cancer Registry (CCCR) has been a part of CDPHE since 1968 and is Colorado's statewide cancer surveillance program. CCCR collects pertinent data on all malignant tumors except basal and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin. The registry classifies each incidence report by type of tumor; stage of disease at time of diagnosis; treatment methods; and the age, sex, race, and residence of the patient (CCCR, 1990). The CCCR registers approximately 90% of the cancer cases diagnosed in Colorado (CCCR, undated). Data on cancer incidence for the Grand Junction area are available to specific zip codes for the years 1979­1981 and for 1988 and the following years. The database does not include information on addresses.

  • St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction has maintained a tumor registry since 1980. Community Hospital has had a registry since 1986, and the Veterans Administration has had a registry since 1988 (ATSDR, 1991b), (ATSDR, 1991a).

  • Mortality and morbidity data are available from the CDPHE Vital Records Unit. A mortality data program called MORTABS allows evaluation by International Codes for Disease codes, year, sex, and age. Birth defect and low birth-weight data from birth certificates are also available.

  • During September 1991, CDPHE and ATSDR collaborated in a voluntary blood lead testing program of 287 individuals in the Riverside community. The results of this project are summarized and evaluated in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation section.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

In 1991, two Grand Junction residents petitioned the Agency for Toxic Substances andDisease Registry (ATSDR) to conduct a public health assessment of the Riverside community.Community members were concerned that residents were or could be exposed to lead,pesticides, volatileorganic compounds, and other contaminants from the site (ATSDR,1991f). Other concerns are presented below (CCRA, 1991):

  • Children exposed to on-site contaminants through dermal or incidental ingestion;

  • Occupational exposures to lead via dermal, inhalation, and ingestion pathways;

  • Potential for exposures to family members because of lead transport on workers' clothes;

  • Transport of contaminants from the facility to neighboring houses through runoff from water used to flush trucks and trailers on the site; dermal contact and inhalation of dust carried off site through surface water runoff.

  • Inhalation of particulates and gases from the incineration process and from smoldering drums leaving the incinerator; inhalation of dusts generated during emptying of drums;

  • Dermal exposure to particulates and polymers; and

  • Exposure to contaminants through ingestion of contaminated garden produce.

At the time of the petition, residents reported that children and adults gained accessto the site; that the children accessed the soda machine and basketball hoop, and adultsrode their motorcycles on the site; and that children played on drums at the site. Theyalso indicated that a plume from the incinerator left black particulates on cars and roofsin the community (ATSDR, 1991g). Residents described episodesof nausea, headaches, general fatigue, nosebleeds, allergies, burning eyes and nose, andstrong chemical odors and indicated that the symptoms abated after the incineratoroperations ceased (ATSDR, 1991d). One resident expressedconcern about the incidence of cancer in the community.

The Hansen Containers Site Petitioned Public Health Assessment was released for publiccomment from September 30, 1996, to November 12, 1996. Copies of the petitioned publichealth assessment (PPHA) were mailed to the petitioners, the Concerned Citizens ResourceAssociation, local government officials, Colorado Department of Public Health andEnvironment, local Environmental Health Department, Department of Energy contractors, andthe Environmental Protection Agency. Copies of the document were also available to thecommunity and interested parties at the Mesa County Public Library. News releases weresent to the newspapers in the state. The comment period was intended to give the publicand/or interested parties an opportunity to review and provide additional comments and/orconcerns pertaining to the Hansen Containers Site Petitioned Public Health Assessment. TheDivision of Health Assessment and Consultation of the Agency for Toxic Substances andDisease Registry received comments during the period and incorporated the responses intothe document. The final release of this document presents the evaluation of the datacollected during and after the removal activities at the site and represents the latestavailable data for the site. The new data were incorporated into this final document, andthe information presented in the Summary, Environmental Contamination and other Hazardssection, the Pathway Analysis section, the Toxicological Implications section, and theConclusions and Recommendations sections of the public comment release version of the PPHAwere moved to Appendix B.


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