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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

WASTE INC. LANDFILL
MICHIGAN CITY, LA PORTE COUNTY, INDIANA


SUMMARY

Waste Inc. is a former landfill in Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. The site accepted waste from varying sources including industry, residences, restaurants, and hospitals. This site is classified as a public health hazard because evidence exists that individuals are eating fish from Trail Creek which could be contaminated by chemicals which may include site related chemicals, i.e. PCB and mercury. Exposure by ingestion of mercury and PCBs for greater than 1 year could cause adverse health effects. There is an indeterminate health hazard for individuals exposed to contaminated surface soil, primarily due to the lack of sampling data for this environmental media.

Populations at known risk are individuals eating fish from Trail Creek, and swimmers in Trail Creek. Children and women of child-bearing age are at special risk of adverse health effects by eating fish caught in Trail Creek.

Michigan City residents were primarily concerned with site-related cancer causing agents. Based on a review of the data, the significant increase of cancer in this county was not due to site related chemicals.

The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), in cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), will be submitting recommendations to: 1) continue to monitor the levels of contaminants in the fish of Trail Creek, 2) better characterize off-site surface soil and air contamination, 3) implement health follow-up and other activities, 4) reduce and prevent exposure to site related chemicals, and 5) improve certain toxicologic data gaps.


BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The Waste Inc. Landfill site is in LaPorte County, Indiana, in Michigan City (Appendix A, Figure 1). It is bounded by U.S. Highway 12 to the northwest, the Michigan Auto Builders Company (with private residence) and the Sullair Corporation to the north and east, Trail Creek to the east and south, Michigan City property to the south, and Lake Aluminum Corporation (property owned by Northern Indiana Steel Supply Company, Inc. - NISSCO) to the west. Residential areas lie 1/4 mile east/southeast and 1/2 mile west of the site. The site consists of approximately 32 acres situated on a former wetland area. It includes the Lin-see, Ltd. property to the north. The most prominent feature of the site is the landfill mound, which is approximately 35 feet high and encompasses most of the site. Other structures on the site include: decontamination and drum storage areas, an abandoned frame office building (10 by 20 feet), a steel shed (20 by 35 feet), and a fuel pump and associated underground storage tank. A gravel driveway that previously provided access to the north-central portion of the site from U.S. Highway 12 is currently blocked by a locked steel gate that is approximately 8 feet high.

Two fences are located in the northwest portion of the site. The site is restricted on the north and northeast sides by a chain-link fence. On the west side the site is restricted by a metal fence which separates the site from the Lake Aluminum Corporation property. The southern and eastern boundaries of the site along Trail Creek are not fenced, and a large opening exists in the fencing along the northern boundary of the site.

Prior to the development of a landfill on the site, the property was a marshy lowland, part of which was used for agricultural purposes. Beginning in the 1940s, foundry sand was used to fill the low areas in the northern and western portions of the site. Large piles of scrap metal from the neighboring metal recycling facility encroached on the western portion of the site in the 1950s and 1960s. The site was unlined and there were no dikes to control runoff. From 1965 to 1972 the site was operated as an unpermitted landfill by Dis-Pos-All Services Division, a division of NISSCO. In November 1970, Dis-Pos-All Services submitted a proposal to the Indiana Stream Pollution Control Board for the operation of their existing landfill. Under this proposal, the site would be limited to accepting only wood, paper, and cardboard, and would use foundry sand as cover material. The Board issued a non-objection letter to this proposal in July 1971. Several subsequent inspections (1973-1983) by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), however, determined that the site was accepting unapproved materials for disposal and was not properly covering combustible materials. In August 1974, the site was ordered closed and covered with clay. In 1972 NISSCO sold its disposal operation to Waste Inc. In May 1975, Waste Inc. submitted an application to the Board for construction and operation permits. This application was denied. Through an appeal process, however, the site continued to operate. In May 1981, an Agreed Order was executed between Waste Inc. and the Board, which set conditions for the continued operation of the site. In August 1982, a Consent Order was signed, effectively closing the site except for allowing the acceptance of foundry sand for disposal and permitting Waste Inc. to begin covering the site with clay. From 1971 to 1982, various types of wastes were deposited in the landfill including, but not limited to sludges, hospital and health care wastes, municipal refuse, household waste, paint wastes, solvents, restaurant wastes, foundry sand, oil, automotive wastes, plating wastes, and cutting fluids.

In 1983, in response to the State of Indiana enforcement actions, a Court Order demanded proper closure of the site. In December 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Field Investigation Team (FIT) collected sediment samples from Trail Creek along the site's southern boundary. Analytical results for these samples detected low concentrations of metals, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other organic compounds. At the same time, FIT collected a sample from a shallow well on the site property. The only detected compound in the shallow well sample was heptachlor, which was a widely used insecticide. The FIT personnel also observed leachate streams discharging into Trail Creek from the site.

The site was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) in July 1987 (EPA Hazard Ranking System Document). An Administrative Order by Consent between the participating Waste Inc. potentially responsible parties (PRPs) and EPA was signed in March 1987 (Consent Order). The PRPs agreed to perform a Remedial Investigation (RI)/Feasibility Study (FS) at the Waste Inc. site. In March 1987, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) conducted leachate, water, and soil sampling at the site, and the analytical results indicated the presence of some metals and organic compounds. The RI/FS began in June 1987 after the May 1987 approval of the first of three RI/FS Work Plans (Waste Inc. First, Second, and Third Work Plans). The other two work plans were submitted in November 1987 and March 1988. They addressed surface water and sediment sampling, and evaluation of on-site contamination and migration off-site. The Phase I RI activities were performed between June 1987 and August 1991 by the PRPs contractor. In February 1992 IDEM staff collected samples from Trail Creek following a complaint.

In December 1989, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a Preliminary Health Assessment on the Waste Inc. Landfill site (ATSDR Preliminary Health Assessment). Groundwater was reported to be contaminated. Off-site sediment sample contamination was reported to consist of site related chemicals: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), PCBs, PAHs, and metals. Data were inconclusive, however, because the laboratory samples were contaminated prior to analysis. ATSDR concluded the Waste Inc. Landfill site to be of potential public health concern because of the risk of human exposure to hazardous substances. Recommendations by ATSDR included collecting further sampling information which would pass acceptable quality control/quality assurance procedures and obtaining additional information on site-related chemicals and any chemicals released off-site, the populations potentially exposed, and the environmental pathways through which the chemicals can reach these populations.

In August 1991, the participating Waste Inc. PRPs submitted a Draft Baseline Risk Assessment. The objective of the Baseline Risk Assessment, also referred to as an Endangerment Assessment, is to characterize the potential risks to public health and the environment associated with the release, or threatened release, of hazardous substances at the site.

In September 1991, the participating Waste Inc. PRPs submitted a Draft Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements (ARARs) document which presents three remedial action alternatives (Draft Alternatives Array for the Waste Inc. Site). Alternative #1 is to take no action. Alternatives #2 and #3 consist of various methods of: (1) constructing a barrier that would reduce leachate production and minimize migration into the surficial aquifer and Trail Creek; (2) leachate collection, treatment, and disposal; (3) landfill gas collection, treatment, and disposal; (4) monitoring collected leachate, groundwater, and surface water; (5) restricting access; and (6) covering the landfill.

B. Site Visit

On March 3, 1992, Ms. Dollis Wright and Mr. Garry Mills of the ISDH conducted a site visit at the Waste, Inc. site. Also present were staff members from IDEM and the LaPorte County Health Department.

During the site visit, the following were observed:

  1. Access to the site was partially restricted. A chain-link fence has been installed across the front of the property and the east side, and partially on the west side. This installation took place in January 1992. Access to this area of the site near Trail Creek is not restricted. The front entrance of the fence is not secure (no lock) at this time.
  2. Ground cover throughout the site consisted of foundry sand. There was vegetation on the site that appeared to have no problem growing during the warm weather months. Reed grass was growing in several low wetland areas on-site.
  3. Near the front of the site was a frame building (former office) and a metal building (former maintenance area), which were both unsecured and deteriorated. In the frame building there were a few drums containing derived wastes from earlier RI activities.
  4. We observed a gasoline pump near the front of the site. IDEM staff explained there may be an underground storage tank buried near that area.
  5. We observed many deteriorated drums on the ground throughout the site. We also observed holes in the drums. IDEM staff explained that during the operation of the landfill, holes were punched in the drums to allow drainage of the contents.
  6. Debris ranging from old appliances, trash, and tires were observed on-site. We observed what possibly might have been asbestos on the west side of the landfill.
  7. We observed both monitoring well and piezometer locations that were mentioned in the RI.
  8. We observed the location of current and former leachate seeps in several areas on-site, especially on the east and south/southeast sides that eventually flow into Trail Creek. At the February 1992 IDEM sample location we observed what appeared to be a liquid with an oil-type sheen seeping from the bank into the water. This same type of seepage was also observed in several areas along the creek.
  9. The Michigan City Sewage Treatment Plant is located downstream from Trail Creek where we observed one of their outfalls. Further down the creek (southeast) we also observed a storm sewer outlet that flowed into the creek.
  10. There was evidence of animals on-site. We observed a squirrel and the tracks of a dog and rabbit. Fish found in Trail Creek, which is used for recreation, are mainly salmon and steelhead trout.
  11. A decontamination area from past remedial investigation activities is located on the east side of the site. There is an enclosed, secured, chain-link fence that has drums (decontaminated water and well development water) stacked two high on wooden pallets. The drums are accessible because the fence is not very high. In addition, there is a concrete pad where decontamination procedures took place.
  12. Land use surrounding the site is a mixture of residential and industrial. We observed several homes within 500 yards of the site along the banks of Trail Creek, and one home within 100 yards of the site next to the Michigan Auto Builders Company.
  13. It was also noted that Trail creek flows through a public park past the Waste Inc. site, through a residential neighborhood, and pass the Michigan City Sewage Treatment Plant which is located downstream from Trail Creek. Evidence of recreational activities were observed along both banks of the creek.

On April 5 and July 6, 1994, ISDH staff drove around the site and made visual observations outside the fence. Although the site's surface was densely vegetated, no visible changes were noted.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

In this subsection, we report distances of nearby features for this site that are not reported in the SITE VISIT subsection.

Demographics

Only a portion of Michigan City and virtually all of Pottawattamie Park are located within a 1-mile radius of the site. About 2,581 persons residing within a 3-mile radius of the site use groundwater from private wells. There are about 11,300 persons living within a 1-mile radius of the site. The distance from the site to the nearest residence is 100 feet. The 1990 census figures report 33,822 persons residing in Michigan City, 281 in the Pottawattamie Park area, and 2,463 in the Trail Creek area. The population of Michigan City includes that of the Indiana State Prison.

Land Use

Land use surrounding the site is a mixture of industrial and residential. A drainage ditch on the southwest edge of the site drains into Trail Creek. Also draining into Trail Creek is a storm sewer line constructed through the west side of the site. Trail Creek (30 feet from the site) and Lake Michigan (less than 2 miles from the site) are used for recreational activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing. Trail Creek discharges into Lake Michigan. The site itself is characterized as ranging from heavily wooded along the borders and the riverbank to open over the areas of fill.

Natural Resource Use

Available records indicate that there are 19 private wells within a 1-mile radius of the site. The results of a groundwater usage survey show that all properties within a 1-mile radius of the site receive water from the Michigan City Department of Water Works (MCDWW), and that no active private water supply wells exist within that area. Michigan City has received public water from the MCDWW since the late 1800s, and the MCDWW currently supplies water to the neighboring communities of Long Beach, Michiana, Pottawattamie Park, Trail Creek, and various other parts of LaPorte County. Municipal water is available to all areas within a 1-mile radius and most areas within a 3-mile radius of the site. Although local groundwater flow may be southward toward Trail Creek, deeper portions of the aquifer may actually flow toward Lake Michigan. Private wells are allowed within the distribution area of the MCDWW as long as they are not cross connected with the municipal water supply. Nineteen potential water supply wells are within a 1-mile radius of the site. Seventeen of these wells are out of service; one operates as a deep injection well. The status of the one remaining well is not confirmed, but is an old test well and is probably out of service.

An additional, exhaustive investigation was conducted of potential private water supply wells within a 1-mile radius of the site. The search included:

- a review of all well records available from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources;

-

interviews with the MCDWW Superintendent and the Sanitary District of Michigan City superintendent;

-

acquisition of plat maps for target areas;

-

field checks of residential areas identified by municipal personnel as possibly having private wells; and

-

interviews with personnel from corporations that were identified as having private wells in the past or possibly having operating private wells.

This investigation failed to reveal any private water supply wells in use within 1-mile radius of the site. Based on water well records, it appears that private water supplies are used outside a 1-mile radius of the site.

D. Health Outcome Data

This subsection identifies the relevant, available databases; their evaluation occurs in the PUBLIC HEALTH IMPLICATIONS section.

Cancer may be a plausible health outcome from long-term exposure to at least one of the chemicals of concern. The ISDH maintains a statewide cancer registry. Data regarding cancer incidence by city and county are not yet available. Mortality data on LaPorte County cancer deaths are available.

The ISDH has maintained a Birth Problems Registry from 1987-1991. This registry contains information on infants born with congenital anomaly(ies), low birth weight, and fetal deaths. The registry is categorized by race of mother, and the county and birth year of the infant. This data does exist for LaPorte County and the State of Indiana (ISDH, Indiana Birth Problems Registry).

The public health implications of these data will be evaluated in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation subsection.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

The following is a list of community health concerns. They were derived during a meeting with the local community held April 1, 1992, in Michigan City, Indiana.

  1. Are fish caught in Trail Creek safe to eat?
  2. My child plays on the landfill site. Will this affect his health?
  3. How does the contaminated groundwater affect the health of the surrounding community? Won't the chemicals seep into the soil?
  4. Could airborne chemicals from the site affect the health of the community?
  5. The intake pipe of the Michigan City Water Works is directly downstream (Trail Creek) from the Waste Inc. Landfill. How does this affect the quality of the water supplied to Michigan City Residents?
  6. What about the health of people with private wells, outside the 1-mile radius of the Waste Inc. Landfill?
  7. Is there a concern for cancer in the area of the site? Have any cancer studies been done?
  8. Will there be a public meeting held by ATSDR to comment on the Health Assessment?

Another public meeting was held on April 4, 1994 following the March 1st public comment release of the health assessment. Concerns about lead exposures, not necessarily site-related, were expressed. No other health concerns were reported.

These concerns will be addressed in the Public Health Implications section of this public health assessment.


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