PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
LITCHFIELD AIRPORT AREA
(a/k/a PHOENIX GOODYEAR AIRPORT)
GOODYEAR, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) prepared this Public Health Assessment (PHA) to evaluate whether a public health hazard exists as a result of potential environmental exposures from the contamination at the Phoenix Goodyear Airport (PGA) North site. Another objective of this report was to investigate and address the health concerns of the residents in the Goodyear area, including former Unidynamics workers.
This report uses available environmental data from the site and information collected from members of the community regarding their health concerns. There were 81exposure histories taken of which 31people were former Unidynamics employees, and the remaining 50 were community residents who lived or had lived in the area at some time since 1960. There were many concerns, including health concerns, of residents and former Unidynamics workers that were related to living near the PGA North site or previous employment at the former Unidynamics facility. These community concerns are identified and addressed in the public health assessment.
This public health assessment found the following:
- Public drinking water supply wells in the area are clean and present no public health hazard.
- Globe Wells # 1 and #2 are private wells that provide water to small irrigation canals used to irrigate agricultural fields on the northern portion of the PGA North site. The water from these wells flows into a holding pond area which is also connected to the small irrigation canals. These wells were found to contain levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) above USEPA's maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 micrograms per liter (µg/L). However, toxicological evaluation shows the level of TCE is one that would not be expected to cause adverse health effects for residents either through inhalation, ingestion, or dermal exposures.
- Globe Well #2 was also found to have traces of perchlorate. However, the level of perchlorate was not above ADHS's health-based guidance level (HBGL) and would not be expected to cause adverse health effects if children play or drink the water or if farmworkers use it to cool themselves off or drink during the hot summer days. Exposure to the water in the small irrigation canals on the northern portion of the PGA North site would not be expected to cause adverse health effects and is classified as no apparent public health hazard.
- There are many physical hazards along the small irrigation canals connected to the Globe Wells and the holding pond area on the northern portion of the PGA North site that present a public safety hazard. These include rusted broken metal and cement pipes that children can crawl into, a large unprotected open well which a child could fall into, rusty piping around the Globe wells, rusted metal laying on the ground, dangerous electrical outlets, and other physical hazards that could hurt children who play in the area. When the water is not flowing through the canals, the underlying tunnels are left open and leave an area where children could fall into and get hurt. Since new housing developments are being built in the nearby area bringing in new residents, the condition of the Globe wells and small irrigation canals will also present a public safety hazard to children in the future.
- The water from the SunCor Well 33-A, which has a carbon filter treatment system, is being used for irrigation of the golf courses and ornamental lakes in the Pebble Creek housing development and the new SunCor housing development. As long as the carbon filter treatment system for SunCor Well 33-A is maintained and monitored, the water used for irrigation purposes and ornamental lakes is safe and presents no apparent health hazard.
- There are two private wells at the Park Shadows Apartments. The level of TCE in the irrigation well is below USEPA's MCL of 5 µg/L and poses no apparent public health hazard. TCE has not been detected in the drinking water well.
- A community survey revealed that many residents in the Goodyear area are concerned about living near the Unidynamics facility (part of the PGA North site).
- The on-site soil contamination presents no public health hazard because the site is fenced. The on-site thermal oxidizer has been turned off, which eliminates any related present air pollution issues. There are not enough data to determine if or how much dioxin was in the thermal oxidizer emissions when it was operating. However, the levels of TCE in the past air emissions of the thermal oxidizer were below ambient air screening levels and posed no apparent public health hazard.
- Former Unidynamics workers have voiced major concerns about their health problems that have developed subsequently to their employment at the plant. Some of the health problems expressed by former workers, such as respiratory, heart, nerve, and eye problems, appear to be consistent with long term exposure to working with high levels of TCE. As with any occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals over time, the possibility exists that some of the health conditions of former workers may have been caused by their exposures to the chemicals that were used at the Unidynamics plant. However, ADHS is not able to directly link the cause of these health problems to past exposures to chemicals at the plant because many confounding factors are involved. ADHS found historic occupational exposure to chemicals at the Unidynamics plant to be an indeterminate health hazard to workers.
- The most common health complaints expressed by both the community residents and former workers were respiratory problems including asthma. Respiratory problems in former workers, among other health problems, are consistent with occupational studies conducted analyzing long term exposure to TCE. These types of symptoms for community residents are also consistent with living in a very active agricultural and farming area such as Goodyear. Almost any farming activity causes dust, particulate matter, and pesticides to get into the air which can cause breathing problems for community residents who live nearby.
- Many community residents are concerned about the emissions from the IMSAMET facility, an aluminum recycling plant near the southwest corner of the Goodyear Airport. This facility is not connected to the PGA Superfund Site. However, ADHS investigated complaints about facility emissions in response to community concerns during the PGA North site survey. The type of industrial process conducted at IMSAMET will release smoke, odor, and particulates (small particles) into the air. Since 1995, Level II source testing, conducted by IMSAMET, for criteria pollutants have indicated that the facility is in compliance according to the permit conditions listed by Maricopa County with the exception of a test conducted in 1999. The 1999 test, conducted by Maricopa County, showed elevated levels of carbon monoxide. The results are being verified. Even though the levels of particulates in the emissions are within acceptable limits, the inhalation of particulates may cause respiratory irritation, aggravate mucous membranes, and create discomfort in those people already prone to respiratory problems.
- ADHS staff have conducted three epidemiological studies that reviewed mortality and incidence data in Maricopa County including the Goodyear area. The data from these studies indicated that there were not elevated mortality or incidence rates of total cancers or leukemia in the Goodyear area between 1965 and 1990.
ADHS concludes that no apparent public health hazard exists as a result of ingestion, dermal, or inhalation exposures by residents to the contaminated groundwater at the PGA North site given the current data. Physical hazards are present around the small irrigation canals and the Globe wells located on the north end of the PGA North site contaminated groundwater plume. These physical hazards present a public safety hazard to children. Historic occupational exposure to chemicals at the Unidynamics plant have posed an indeterminate health hazard to workers.
The Phoenix Goodyear Airport (PGA) Superfund site is located in Goodyear, Maricopa County, Arizona, approximately 17 miles west of downtown Phoenix. The site is divided into two separate project areas, PGA North and PGA South. This public health assessment evaluates whether a public health threat exists at the PGA North site. The PGA North site consists of the former Unidynamics facility located on Litchfield Road. There is a contaminated groundwater plume that extends approximately 2 miles northward from the facility. The physical boundaries of the PGA North site are Thomas Road to the north, Litchfield Road to the east, Yuma Road to the south, and near Bullard Road to the west. Figure A1 in the Appendix shows the location of the PGA North site.
Unidynamics began operation in 1963 as a research development and manufacturing plant producing ordinance and electromechanical defense systems in defense and aerospace applications. As a defense contractor, Unidynamics was responsible for the design, development, production, testing, and support of tactical and strategic weapon and defense systems. A variety of chemicals such as nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, tear gas, explosive powders, paints, glues, oils, acetone, and radioactive materials were used in this industry. Workers were involved in machining, welding, mechanical and electrical assembly in making defense items such as missile heads, hand grenades, initiators, detonators, tear gas, and other products for defense purposes.
From 1963 to 1974, waste was generated and disposed of on the Unidynamics property. In 1981, ADHS discovered that groundwater in the PGA area was contaminated with solvents and metals. As a result, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) added the PGA site to the National Priorities List (NPL) in September 1983. In 1984, USEPA began a remedial investigation of the Goodyear Airport area to characterize the site, discover the extent of the contamination, and identify possible sources. The Crane Company (Crane Co.) bought the Unidynamics business and property in 1985. In the early 1990's, Crane Co. sold the Unidynamics business to Pacific Scientific Energy Dynamics located in Chandler, Arizona where several former Unidynamics workers are presently employed. Crane Co. continues to own the former Unidynamics property and is responsible for the clean up activities at the site.
The contaminants identified at the PGA North site are chlorinated solvents (mainly trichloroethylene (TCE), acetone, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and perchlorates (the primary oxidizer in solid rocket fuel, explosives, and pyrotechnics). TCE and perchlorate are present in the soils located on the Unidynamics property as well as in the groundwater. Radioactive sources were removed in 1980 and 1984. In September 1990, USEPA issued an Administrative Order directing the Crane Co. to conduct soil and groundwater remediation for the PGA North site in accordance with USEPA's 1989 Record of Decision (ROD) for the PGA Superfund site. In response to the Administrative Order, Crane Co. began groundwater monitoring, groundwater cleanup, and soil cleanup programs which still continue.
1.2 Site Visit
Site visits were conducted by ADHS staff on several occasions during the summer of 1999. The groundwater plume, which extends north of the Unidynamics facility, underlies agricultural fields near Bullard Road, one farm, new housing developments with golf courses, and some construction areas. However, the land over the groundwater plume is not considered part of the Superfund site since it is not contaminated. Figure 2 in the Appendix shows the location of the Unidynamics facility and the groundwater plume. Photographs of the PGA North site are included in the Appendix. The following observations were made:
- The PGA North site consists of the former Unidynamics facility, and the related groundwater contamination that extends approximately 2 miles northward of the Unidynamics facility. Above the groundwater plume are alfalfa fields, one farm, new housing developments, the Roosevelt Irrigation District (RID) Canal, and some construction areas.
- The Unidynamics property is completely surrounded by a chain-link fence preventing public access.
- There is an air-stripper system on the southwest corner of the Unidynamics property. Access is restricted by a fence surrounding the unit.
- A thermal oxidizer, which has been shut down by USEPA, is located on the Unidynamics property. The unit is surrounded by a fence.
- The Pebble Creek housing development is located north of the large Roosevelt Irrigation District (RID) canal. The new SunCor housing development, which is currently under construction, will be located south of the RID canal and east of Bullard Road. This development will include ornamental lakes and a golf course over the area where the groundwater plume is located.
- The Globe wells are located south of the RID canal and west of Bullard Road. They provide irrigation water to the nearby agricultural fields located to the west of Bullard Road through a series of small irrigation canals that border the fields. Trichloroethylene (TCE) has been detected in these wells. The water from the small irrigation canals appears to flow into a large holding pond area that also borders the RID canal. There is trash along the edges of these water holding areas indicating that children may play in this area.
- There are many physical hazards along the smaller irrigation canals and the holding pond area. These include rusty broken metal pipes, large broken cement pipes that children can crawl into, a large unprotected open well which a child could fall into, rusty piping around the Globe wells, and rusted metal objects on the ground.
- The Park Shadows Apartments are located approximately one-half mile south of the Unidynamics facility. It encompasses 44 acres and has one private irrigation well and one private drinking water well. There are several playgrounds located throughout the apartment complex.
- The Phoenix-Goodyear Airport (PGA South) is located south of Yuma Road and the PGA North site.
- The IMSAMET Aluminum Plant is located near the southwest corner of the Phoenix-Goodyear Airport, approximately one mile southwest of PGA North site, but is not part of the PGA Superfund site. The facility recycles aluminum and is characterized by large piles of aluminum dross.
Census data indicate that in 1990 approximately 5,200 persons lived in the Goodyear area. This has tripled to approximately 15,500 in 1999. New housing developments and shopping centers continue to be built throughout the area bringing more people to the west valley area of Phoenix.
The Goodyear area is a very active agricultural and farming community located 17 miles west of Phoenix. At one time, Goodyear, Inc. grew cotton throughout the west valley area for military use, mainly to be used in tires for aircraft and other military equipment. The former Unidynamics plant began producing materials for the Department of Defense in 1963 contaminating both soil and groundwater in the area. The facility closed in 1990 (Malcolm Pirnie, 1999b).
Remediation activities are being conducted throughout the PGA North site. A large agricultural property is located just east of Bullard Road and north of McDowell directly over the groundwater plume. It has been sold to SunCor, Inc. and is currently being built into a housing division with golf courses and ornamental lakes.
The water table under the PGA North site is situated 100 and 130 feet below the land surface. The subsurface consists of alluvial material (silty sands and gravel with intermittent clay lenses) that is subdivided in hydrogeological units based on hydraulic properties. Groundwater in the upper hydrogeologic unit flows toward the north-northwest. Vertical gradients of the groundwater are downward due to regional pumping of groundwater for irrigation and water supply and due to infiltration recharge to the groundwater environment (S.S. Papadopulos & Associates 1998).
ADHS has conducted three epidemiological studies that review mortality and incidence data in Maricopa County, including the Goodyear area. The first two epidemiological studies provide and analyze both mortality and incidence health data for a twenty-year time span from 1965 to 1986 for Maricopa County. The follow-up incidence study provides mortality data from 1987 to 1990. The data provided in these studies indicate that there have not been elevated mortality or incidence rates of total cancers or leukemia in the Goodyear area between 1965 and 1990. The results of these studies are provided below.
Age-specific total cancer and leukemia mortality rates were not statistically elevated in the Goodyear area during 1966 to 1986 when compared to the national rates of the United States. Cardiovascular diseases were elevated for 45 to 64 year olds only for the time period from 1982 to 1986. Deaths from injuries were statistically elevated in the Goodyear area during the entire time period from 1966 to 1986 in various age groups.
The ADHS conducted this study to measure the incidence rates of childhood leukemia and all cancers during the period 1965 to 1986 among the zero to 19-year-old resident population of Maricopa County. There was no statistically elevated incidence of total cancers or leukemia in the Goodyear area when compared to the remaining areas in Maricopa County. There also was no statistically elevated incidence of total cancers or leukemia for ages zero to 19 years in the Goodyear area when compared to the same age group nationwide during 1965 to 1986.
This study was conducted in 1993 as a follow-up study to the previous incidence study. There were no reports of childhood leukemia during the years of 1987 to 1990 in the Goodyear area.
In summary, the Goodyear area did not have elevated rates of cancer, and childhood leukemia during the years 1965 to 1990. These studies have limitations which are described in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation Section, 5.2.
The overall mission of ADHS and ATSDR is to address the public health concerns of the residents who live near hazardous waste sites, such as the PGA North site. This public health assessment documents the community concerns of the residents living near the PGA North site. Identifying and addressing the concerns of the community near a Superfund site is crucial if the public health assessment is to satisfy its purpose of helping the public and health professionals understand the health risks posed by a site. This section describes the various concerns, including health concerns, voiced by the community residents who live near the PGA North site and addresses the questions of suspected exposures to the contamination from the PGA North site.
ADHS was asked by community residents to conduct an investigation into the various concerns of the residents in the Goodyear area and former Unidynamics workers. Although ATSDR public health assessments are not designed to address worker issues, the ADHS agreed that it would conduct a general survey of the concerns of the residents and former Unidynamics workers. A general survey of concerns can be used to address community concerns that otherwise may not be identified, provide environmental health education to clarify confusing issues for residents, and assist in determining if further investigations may be needed.
One previous resident has been particularly active in developing an awareness about the contamination on the PGA North site in the Goodyear community and with former Unidynamics workers. She is concerned that many community residents and former Unidynamics workers were exposed to the contamination at the Unidynamics facility and are experiencing adverse health effects. On behalf of her father, a former Unidynamics worker who is ill, and other Unidynamics workers, her goal is to have these issues brought out in the open and addressed in this public health assessment.
ADHS agreed to develop and conduct the survey with the understanding that this survey would not constitute a scientific investigation or epidemiological study on health conditions in the area. The survey described in this public health assessment cannot be used to identify the cause of any specific health problems in the community nor can it identify past exposures and link them to present health problems.
In response to the community's request, ADHS developed an exposure history questionnaire that was used in the survey. The purpose of the exposure history questionnaire was threefold:
- To determine the source of drinking water of the caller (possible sources being private or municipal wells). This allowed ADHS to clarify the community's concerns related to drinking water issues.
- To identify and address the various concerns, including health concerns, of community residents and of former Unidynamics workers. This process helped the ADHS staff to address community concerns on a one-to-one basis to correct many of the misunderstandings and to avoid confusion that residents have related to the site.
- To provide environmental health education materials to residents in the area.
Former Unidynamics workers were asked to describe the type of work they did at the plant and the working conditions. In addition, participants were asked if they smoked or were exposed to cigarette smoke in the home, and if they had any hobbies where they were exposed to chemicals, metals, or fumes. Copies of the exposure history forms used for the survey are included in the Appendix.
At the request of Goodyear residents, ADHS submitted public service announcements to area newspapers on several occasions to inform residents that a public health assessment was being conducted for the Goodyear area and to encourage them to participate in the survey process. Several residents became actively involved by calling other residents and former Unidynamics workers encouraging them to participate in the survey, and to express their questions and concerns about living near the PGA North site. Reporters from the local press contacted ADHS staff on a regular basis to obtain updated information on the survey, the health assessment, and other site related issues.
When Goodyear residents called ADHS, they were asked to answer the questions on the exposure history questionnaire. Many community residents provided ADHS with additional names to contact. ADHS contacted those residents, who were then asked to answer the questions on the exposure history questionnaire. Those residents that could not be reached by telephone were sent a letter explaining the public health assessment process and an exposure history form.
Residents were informed both verbally and in writing that the preliminary survey was not a scientific survey but was a means of identifying and addressing various community concerns related to the PGA North site. If a caller had health concerns, they were told that the information would not be used to make any medical diagnosis, or to determine if any health condition was related to living near the PGA North site or previous employment at the Unidynamics plant. The ADHS sent packets to residents that contained information on the chemicals of concern at the site (TCE and perchlorate), on exposure pathways (fact sheets), on the public health assessment being conducted at the site, and on historical site background (USEPA newsletters). Many callers were very appreciative of the time ADHS staff spent addressing their concerns and for the specific information sent to them. At the request of a former resident and other community residents, the ADHS sent site-related toxicological information (including diagnosis and treatment of exposures) to 20 doctors in the surrounding area.
Survey activities were conducted between May 1999 through August 1999. A total of 81 exposure histories were taken. Thirty-one questionnaires were from former Unidynamics employees, and the remaining 50 were from community residents who lived or had lived in the area at some time since 1960. Many of the former workers still live in the area, but they were included in the former workers' category. There were many concerns, including health concerns, and questions from the residents and former Unidynamics workers that were related to living near the PGA North site or previous employment at the former Unidynamics facility. The major concerns and questions are described below and then addressed in the following sections.
- Many of the community callers believe that their health problems are due to living near the PGA North site. Many residents are concerned that their children are also being exposed to the chemicals still present on the PGA North site.
- Former workers are concerned that their past exposures to the chemicals used at the Unidynamics facility have caused their current health problems. From their descriptions, direct long term inhalation and dermal contact with TCE and other chemicals occurred to many workers for many years while working at the Unidynamics facility.
- A majority of the callers are concerned that their drinking water is contaminated with TCE or perchlorate even if the source is municipal water from Goodyear or Litchfield water companies. ADHS was contacted by several residents of Park Shadows Apartments who are concerned that their drinking water, which comes from private wells, is contaminated.
- Many callers are afraid that the thermal oxidizer emissions polluted the air while in operation and have created subsequent health problems for residents throughout the Goodyear area. Some callers believe that the thermal oxidizer is still operating and the USEPA is lying to them that it has been turned off.
- Many callers believe that high rates of cancer are prevalent throughout the Goodyear area and that this has been caused by the contaminants at the PGA North site.
- Some callers said that they were healthy until they moved to the Goodyear area and began to have health problems.
- Some residents have no concerns about living near the PGA North site and called because they were curious about the remediation activities.
- Some residents think that the problem with the PGA North site is being blown out of proportion and wish it would go away.
The health conditions that were expressed are self-reported, and are not medically confirmed. Since the results are not medically confirmed (with a few exceptions), the survey data should not be used to make conclusive statements concerning the health of the residents who live near the PGA North site or those persons who worked at the Unidynamics facility.
Although ADHS staff tried to detail as much information as possible on each survey participant, this does not ensure that all pertinent information was captured. There were many factors present during the survey that allowed for uncertainty and bias in the results, as well as misleading information possible with any self-reported survey. First, participants provided information on their health conditions using different terminology and description, especially for health problems that have not been medically diagnosed. Fibromyalgia can be described in many ways including body and muscle pain, nerve pain, and even arthritis depending on the person's interpretation. Second, several ADHS staff were involved in taking the surveys. This allows for differences in how the information was interpreted and captured affecting the results. Third, participants in self-reported surveys tend to be the residents who have health problems making it difficult to find residents who are healthy. These factors can lead to a bias analysis of the results. Despite these problems, the survey provided enough information for the ADHS to identify some of the concerns that need to be addressed for the community surrounding the PGA North site.
The survey was divided into two groups. One group included community residents or previous residents who had lived in the Goodyear area or surrounding area for a period of time, but had never worked at the Unidynamics facility. The second group was comprised of former Unidynamics workers, including both those who had lived in the Goodyear area and those who had not lived in the Goodyear area.
There were 50 exposure histories taken for community residents. The most common health problems described by community residents were breathing and other respiratory problems (including asthma), and hypothyroidism. Secondary to these were: gynecological problems, fatigue, headaches, diabetes, heart problems, and high blood pressure. Other conditions that were less frequently reported by residents were Alzheimer's disease, anemia, arthritis, epilepsy, hepatitis, hysterectomy, kidney problems, lupus, multiple chemical sensitivity, pituitary gland problems, Soren's syndrome, and skin rashes. Three cases of skin cancer including melanoma were reported. Two cases of breast cancer and lymphomas were reported. One case each of the following types of cancer were also reported: bone, brain, colon, esophageal, and lung.
Of the 31 exposure histories on former workers, the most common health complaints included asthma and other respiratory problems, and heart, nerve and eye problems. Other symptoms less often reported included arthritis, fibromyalgia (a nerve condition of the muscles), headaches, hypothyroidism, throat problems, and skin rashes. Six cases of skin cancer including malignant melanoma, two cases of lung (one which is extremely rare) cancer, and one case of male breast cancer, throat cancer, adult leukemia, lymphoma, and rectal cancer were reported in this group.
The most common health complaint stated by both groups were respiratory problems including asthma. Many of the participants, some of which had moved to the Goodyear area within the past five years, stated that they started having respiratory problems after moving to Goodyear. Many residents believe this is due to the contamination at the PGA North site.