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PRELIMINARY PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

MONARCH TILE, INC., FLORENCE DIVISION
LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA


SUMMARY

The Monarch Tile, Inc. site is located at the intersection of Helton Drive and Rickwood Road,Florence, Lauderdale County, Alabama. The site was owned by Stylon Corporation from 1954until 1973. Monarch Tile, Inc. has operated the facility since 1973. Monarch Tile, Inc. and theformer Stylon operation produced glazed ceramic tiles. Former operations included the use ofglaze materials containing compounds of zinc, lead, and barium. The discharging of wastewaterinto ditches adjacent to the site prior to 1960 has left sediments in the northern drainage ditchescontaminated with heavy metals. Settlement ponds in use from 1960 to 1976 resulted in heavymetal contamination of the southern drainage areas. Since 1979 Monarch Tile, Inc. has not usedhazardous materials in their production process.

The residents of the surrounding community expressed a number of health concerns includingrespiratory, neurologic, and arthritic problems. Residents also stated that the cancer rate wasunusually high for their community.

There are no completed pathways as yet identified by the available environmental data. Althoughheavy metals have been discovered in the ditches leading away from the site, an exposedpopulation could not be identified.

We classified the site as an indeterminate public health hazard. The available data do not indicatethat humans are being or have been exposed to levels of contamination that would be expected tocause adverse health effects. We also could not find health outcome data to indicate adversehealth effects due to Stylon's or Monarch's past or present operations. However, because of thelimited amount of data available from the site, and particularly the absence of surface soil data, thesite should be classified as an indeterminate public health hazard.

Additional sampling of the off-site sediments and soil should be conducted to describe the extentof contamination at the site.

The ATSDR Health Activities Recommendations Panel has determined that no follow-up healthactions are indicated at this time.


BACKGROUND

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) in cooperation with the Agency for ToxicSubstances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, ADPH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommendactions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federalagency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by theComprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) toconduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

Monarch Tile, Inc. (the site) is a 26.8 acre site located at the intersection of Rickwood Road andHelton Drive in Florence, Lauderdale County, Alabama (Figures 1 & 2). The site was firstoperated by Stylon Corporation from 1954 to 1973. In 1973, Stylon went bankrupt and the sitewas leased to Monarch Tile, Inc. Monarch Tile, Inc. is an active manufacturer of ceramic tiles. The site is divided into Plants 1 and 2 (Figure 3).

Plant 1 is located north of Rickwood Road on approximately 9.3 acres of land. The plant isfenced and bounded to the north by a YMCA, the south by Plant 2, the east by a residentialdistrict across Helton Drive, and west by Alabama Gas Company. Prior to 1960, Plant No. 1emptied effluent to a sump located on the north of the property and discharged into a nearbydrainage ditch. After 1960, this drainage was routed to settling ponds near Plant No. 2 at thesouthern end of the site (Figure 3).

Plant 2 is located south of Rickwood Road on approximately 17.5 acres of land. The area isbounded on the north by Plant 1, the south by James Joiner Bus Lines and Nichols Wire, the eastby a residential district opposite Helton Drive, and the west by an open field. Plant 2 receives rawmaterials by railroad for the manufacture of ceramic tile. The area contains a lime flocculationunit and separator, built in the early 1960's to remove solids from the waste effluent. The solidsare removed to the city landfill. In 1980 Monarch Tile, Inc. constructed a 150 foot trench toreceive some of the waste sludge. This practice continued until 1988 when all waste sludge wastaken to the city landfill.

Plant 2 also contains a number of settling ponds with natural clay linings. Earlier, Stylonconstructed two settling ponds that were connected in series to collect wastewater. This practicecontinued until the first pond was closed because of the settling of discarded material. In 1959the pond was closed, leaving the sediments in place and covered with fill dirt. After 1959, theeffluent from settling pond 1 drained into settling pond 2 where its effluent was dischargeddirectly into the east drainage channel. This practice continued from 1960 to 1970. Presently,three settling ponds are connected in series. The liquid effluent from the separator is sent to thefirst pond and then drawn off into the second and third ponds sequentially, and the liquid from thethird pond is drawn off into the sanitary sewer system.

Runoff from the area of Plant 2 is drained into a ditch at the southeast corner of the site. Thisditch continues to flow for about 1.5 miles until it empties into Sweetwater Creek. SweetwaterCreek runs into the Tennessee River approximately 1.75 miles downstream of this confluence.

B. Site Visit

Dr. Brian J. Hughes and Ms. Janice Gilliland from the ADPH visited the site on November 12,1993. The site visit included an inspection of the manufacturing process, the area surrounding theplants, and the ditches leading off site as far as Cox and Sweetwater Creeks. The following wasobserved:

  • The site is divided into two plants. Plant 1 is located on the northern part of the property and is separated by Rickwood Road from Plant 2 on the southern part of the property. Both plants are fenced and access is controlled. The Plant 1 area is well vegetated including the ditches that lead off-site.
  • There were pieces of tile scattered in some of the areas on the site.
  • A ditch runs behind Plant 1 from the southeast to the northwest. This ditch continues off site until it flows into Cox Creek, the confluence of which is about a mile north of the site. At the time of the visit, the creek was shallow and narrow with no sign of current or former fishing activities. There were no signs of children playing in the ditch.
  • A second ditch next to Plant 2 flows southerly beside the railroad tracks that run along the western boundary of the site. This ditch receives storm water from approximately 2/3's of both plants; however, the ditch was dry at the time of our visit and was overgrown with brush. We saw no evidence of children playing in the ditch.
  • A trench was constructed in the southern part of Plant 2 to hold sludge that couldnot be put into the city landfill. The trench is filled with a grayish clay-like materialand is no longer used. The material in the trench has hardened and we saw nosigns of the material escaping from the trench due to erosion.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

According to 1990 census data, the population of Lauderdale County is 80,249. It is 89.7%white and 10.3% black and other races. The median age is 34.9, and the population density is121.4 persons per square mile. The on-site worker population consists of approximately 400male and female employees.

The 26.8 acre site is located within the City of Florence, Alabama, in a mixed residential/industrialarea. According to the 1990 census, the population of Florence is 36,426. The population is 82.1% white, 17.1% black, and 0.8% other, with a median age of 34.5years.

A geographic information computer software program called Atlas GIS was used to estimate thepopulation within a 1/2 mile radius of the site (1). The program bases estimates of populations onthe percentage of block groups contained within the specified radius, and is only an approximationof the actual population in the defined area. Atlas GIS gives an estimated population within 1/2mile of the site as 2199 people living in 997 households with an average household income of$26,005.

The City of Florence has several universities and colleges including the University of NorthAlabama, Faulkner University, and International Bible College; thus the age groups with thehighest and second highest populations are the 15-19 and the 20-24 year old groups, respectively. We contacted three schools within 1/2 mile of the site regarding their student enrollments:Bradshaw High School, Sylvan Learning Center and Discovery Child Care. Bradshaw HighSchool has an enrollment of approximately 915 students in grades 9-12. Sylvan Learning Centerhas 36 students and Discovery Child Care has approximately 50-60 students.

Land Use

The area around the site is mixed industrial and residential. Residential properties in the area areused secondarily for light agriculture (pecan trees and vegetable gardens). Land use in the areaalso includes recreational facilities, churches, apartments, medical facilities, and other similar uses.

Natural Resource Use

The site lies in the Highland Rim section of the Interior Low Plateau physiographic province (2). The area is characterized by rolling uplands underlain by a red clay mantle ranging from 50 to 100feet thick. Limestone deposits underlay this mantle with Fort Payne Chert underneath thelimestone.

Water sources in the Florence area are used for domestic, industrial, municipal, navigational, andrecreational purposes. Two surface water intakes located on Pickwick Lake and Cypress Creeksupply water to the cities of Sheffield and Florence. A few private wells exist in the area of thesite, but these are limited to uses other than domestic drinking water and a public water system isavailable for all inhabitants.

The site sits on a topographical divide. The direction of groundwater flow from the southern partof the site is in a southwesterly to westerly direction, and flow from the northern part of the plantis in a northwesterly to westerly direction, depending on the level of precipitation. For example,the groundwater flows southeast during December (a comparably dry month), but shifts to the west during March (a comparably wet month).

Because the site sits on a topographical divide, surface water from the facility runs both north andsouth (Figure 5). The northerly direction of flow runs into a drainage ditch that empties into CoxCreek, which is designated as suitable for fish and wildlife. Cox Creek runs into Cypress Creek,which also is designated as suitable for fish and wildlife, and serves as a source for the publicwater supply. Cypress Creek flows into the Tennessee River. The southerly direction of the flowruns into a drainage ditch and joins Sweetwater Creek. Sweetwater Creek flows into theTennessee River. The Tennessee River is heavily used for recreational purposes, such as fishingand swimming, and for industrial purposes.

D. Health Outcome Data

The State of Alabama does not maintain a cancer registry, but the ADPH compiles an annualreport on cancer mortality rates. Rates are published by state and county. In addition, the reportalso compiles rates on other causes of death and statistics on infant and perinatal mortality. ADPH maintains databases on elevated blood lead levels for children and adults. These reportswill be discussed in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation subsection of the Public Health Implications section.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

ADPH determined community concerns by holding two Public Availability Sessions at theFlorence-Lauderdale Public Library on January 13, 1994. ADPH announced the PublicAvailability Sessions by sending notices to residences within a 1/2 mile radius around the site. Addresses were obtained from the Florence City Directory. The notices gave interested personsan opportunity to voice their concerns by calling or writing the ADPH or by attending themeetings. Eighteen people came to the sessions, and three responded in writing. Conversationswith residents of Florence revealed the following concerns:

  • Are there any exposures to environmental contaminants that are responsible for the high cancer rate in the area?
  • Are respiratory problems (allergies and asthma) caused by the substances present at the site?
  • Is there any danger to children from contamination (e.g., lead) on the site?
  • Can neurologic problems, such as dizziness, headaches, forgetfulness, depression, seizures, or swelling of the eyes be caused by substances at the site?
  • Can the contaminants trigger arthritis?

These concerns will be addressed in the Community Health Concerns subsection of the Public Health Implications Section.


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