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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

ROWE INDUSTRIES GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION
SAG HARBOR, SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK


SUMMARY

The Rowe Industries Site, which is on the National Priorities List, is in Sag Harbor, Suffolk County, New York. The facility operated as a small tool and motor manufacturing plant from 1961 to 1974. During these years, waste water was discharged into drains leading east from the building, into drywells, onto the land surface, or into a small pond further east. On-site subsurface soils and on and off site surface water, sediments, and groundwater are contaminated with volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Due to contamination discovered in 1983, residences with contaminated wells were connected to a public water supply in March 1985, preventing further exposure via this route. A potential public health threat exists for residents of houses adjacent to the site whose homes may be accumulating volatile organic vapor levels from contaminated soil gas.

The remedial investigation determined that levels of groundwater contamination have not significantly decreased since 1984 on or off-site; therefore, a source of continuing contamination remains on-site. Existing groundwater contamination could, if no remedial actions are taken, contaminate other area private wells.

Based on the information reviewed, this site currently poses an indeterminate public health hazard. As noted in the pathways analysis section, human exposure to contaminated groundwater has occurred. This past exposure is considered a public health hazard because persons were exposed to contaminants in private drinking water supplies at levels that may result in adverse health effects. There is a potential for further exposure to contaminated media through ingestion, dermal absorption and inhalation if no remedial actions are taken. These media include groundwater, off-site surface water and sediments, and soil vapor through vapors entering basements of nearby private residences.

Citizens in the area of the site expressed concern over groundwater contamination of private and public wells at the time of discovery of the contamination. The present concerns are regarding wells not connected to the public water supply and past exposures.

The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) has made recommendations to (1) continue to monitor private and public water supplies near the site, (2) survey soil gas off-site, and (3) remove the contaminant sources on-site.

The data and information developed in the public health assessment for the Rowe Industries Groundwater Contamination site, Sag Harbor, New York, has been reviewed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendations Panel for appropriate follow-up with respect to health actions. Because of past exposure to contaminated drinking water, the panel determined that follow-up health actions are needed. Specifically, the panel determined that those persons exposed in the past should be added to NYS DOH's registry being developed for VOC exposures from drinking contaminated water. In addition, the panel determined that community health education be performed for the persons who were exposed to contaminants in their drinking water. This action has already been performed by the NYS DOH.


BACKGROUND

In cooperation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, the ATSDR and NYS DOH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to conduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites.

A. Site Description and History

All figures and tables in this public health assessment are in Appendices A and B, respectively. The Rowe Industries site is located in the Town of Southhampton on the South Fork of Long Island (Figure 1). The site is on the east side of the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike in the Town of Southhampton, about 1,500 feet south of the Village of Sag Harbor boundary (Figure 2). The property is about 8.5 acres in size. About one acre is covered by the building, and about one acre is a paved parking area. The remaining 6.5 acres are undeveloped and are wooded with trees and brush. A pond is about 300 feet northeast of the building. The western portion of the property is a relatively flat lawn area. The small pond and wetland area are located in the northeast portion of the property. The property is bounded on the north by a residential property, on the south by private residences on Lily Pond Road, on the east by the Town of Southhampton Nature Conservancy land and on the west by the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.

Rowe Industries, or R.I. Liquidation Corporation, operated at this site from 1961 to 1974. On December 31, 1974, ownership of Rowe was transferred to Aurora Products Corporation. Nabisco purchased Aurora on May 28, 1971 and sold Rowe assets, except the Sag Harbor property, on July 14, 1978. The Sag Harbor site was sold to Sag Harbor Industries (SHI) in July 1980. Rowe dissolved on April 20, 1982. The site was not used from 1974 until it was sold in 1980. Sag Harbor Industries continues to occupy the site and conduct manufacturing, primarily coil winding. This includes electronic assembly, wire winding and stripping, a limited varnish vacuum process, epoxy pour, wave soldering and wire moldings coating. In addition, part of the property is leased for manufacturing art restoration tables, and for an electronics laboratory.

Rowe manufactured small motors that were used in small appliances such as hair dryers and small tools. Rowe also manufactured transformers that were incorporated into Aurora's model racing car sets. Many types of organic solvents were used to degrease oil-coated metal parts that were used in the manufacturing process. A former employee of Rowe Industries indicated that many types of solvents were discharged directly from two vats into drains leading east from the building, into drywells, directly onto the land surface or to a small on-site pond further east. Occasionally, the drywell in the wooded area would back-up and overflow. The former employee noticed discoloration of the soil around the pond and drywell.

The building was completely destroyed by fire in 1962. The former employee stated that 40 to 50 drums of chemicals which were in the barrel storage area were buried beneath the east parking lot during the razing of the building.

Sampling results from private wells were the first evidence of groundwater contamination in the area. In January 1983 the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SC DHS) collected a sample from a private well and found high levels of organic chemicals. The SC DHS then surveyed 46 private wells in the area and investigated nearby commercial establishments to identify possible sources. Fourteen private wells had levels of organic compounds above New York State Department of Health guidelines in effect at the time. The wells with contamination were all north of Rowe Industries, in the direction of groundwater flow. Two private wells immediately south of the Rowe facility were not contaminated. The SC DHS installed 39 monitoring wells to define the plume and pinpoint the source. A plume was found coming from the Rowe Industries site, travelling north. The SC DHS collected sludge samples from pipes that went from the Rowe building to drywells. These samples were contaminated with several organic compounds. In August 1984, the SC DHS requested funding from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) for extending a public water supply to the affected residences. This request was forwarded to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). In January 1985, the US EPA contracted with the Suffolk County Water Authority to extend its public water supply mains into the affected area, and contracted with the Town of Southhampton to install individual hookups to the water mains. This work was completed in March 1985.

The US EPA initiated cost recovery actions which led to a negotiated Order on Consent with Nabisco Incorporated and Sag Harbor Industries (SHI) to conduct a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS). Remedial Investigations (RI) follow preliminary site investigations conducted by town, county, state and/or federal agencies that verify hazardous wastes are present and that the wastes pose a significant threat to public health and the environment. The RI is carried out to determine the nature and extent of contamination. The Feasibility Study (FS) uses RI information to develop alternative remedial actions that will eliminate the site's threat to public health or the environment. The Rowe Industries site was nominated to the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1985. In June 1989, a Preliminary Health Assessment was issued for the site; it was prepared by the NYS DOH under a cooperative agreement with the ATSDR. A draft RI was submitted to the US EPA in May 1990, and, after revisions, resubmitted in February 1992. An FS was submitted to the US EPA for the site in March 1992. A Record of Decision (ROD) was signed for this site on October 1, 1992.

B. Actions Implemented During the Public Health Assessment Process

Private wells identified at the public meeting were sampled by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in October 1992. None of the wells sampled were found to contain site-related contamination. At this meeting, NYS DOH staff discussed the potential health effects of ingestion of water contaminated with chemicals from the site and informed residents that a NYS DOH physician is available for specific concerns and problems.

C. Site Visit

Mr. William Lowden of the NYS DOH inspected the Rowe Industries site in July 1988. The site, now occupied by Sag Harbor Industries, consists of a one story brick building. A fence extends from the sides of the building and restricts access from the front, but this fence does not completely surround the site. No chemicals were being used in the current manufacturing process.

Small dark stained areas were seen in the former drum storage area behind the building. There is a fence around the former drum storage area. An attempt was made to inspect the on-site pond, but the area is heavily overgrown and access was not possible. No physical or other hazards were observed.

The most recent site visit was conducted on September 10, 1992, by Mr. Geoffrey Laccetti of the NYS DOH. Sag Harbor Industries continues manufacturing at the site. The site consists of a one-story brick building with a paved parking lot on both sides and behind the building. A barbed wire topped fence extends from the sides of the building and completely encloses the paved areas on the sides and behind the building, including the former drum storage area. Any barrels with product in them are stored in a secure building on-site. An attempt was made to inspect the on-site pond. Access from a dirt road off Lily Pond Road was not possible due to heavy overgrowth of vegetation. Trespassing in this area outside the fence is highly unlikely due to the extremely dense vegetation. There is a private residence off Lily Pond Drive, west of the site, that is about 20 feet from the fence. No physical or other hazards were observed.

D. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

The NYS DOH estimated, from the 1990 Census, that 1,298 people live within 1 mile of the Rowe Industries site. This population increases during the summer months due to vacationers. The population within 1 mile of the site is 99 percent white. The site is located within census tract 1907.04 in which 6.4 percent of the population is under 5 years of age, 16.8 percent is 5-19 years of age, 58.3 percent is 20-64 years old and 18.4 percent is 65 years or older. Socio-economic data are not yet available from the 1990 Census. The median household income in 1979 for this census tract was $19,031 with 6.9 percent of the families having income below the poverty level.

Land Use

The majority of the land near the Rowe Industries site is used for residential housing. Most private residences are year round, single family homes. Several of the homes on Carroll Street have gardens and small numbers of farm animals. Only a few commercial buildings are near the site. North of the site is a small commercial bakery which was formerly a gasoline station. Further north are several more gasoline stations. West of the site is a New York Telephone Company building. A gasoline station and a village landfill (currently being used only as a transfer station) are south of the site.

Natural Resource Use

The entire area, aside from houses supplied with public water due to site contamination, is served by private wells and on-site sewage disposal systems.

The only stream in the area is Ligonee Brook. The brook originates in Long Pond which is located southeast of the site (see Figure 1). Ligonee Brook normally is dry until it reaches Sag Harbor Turnpike, at which point discharging groundwater causes it to flow. A catch basin/drywell which collects storm water runoff is on Carroll Street. These basins are used on Long Island to increase groundwater recharge rates.

There are no public water supply wells within a one mile radius of the site.

E. Health Outcome Data

The NYS DOH maintains several health outcome data bases which could be used to generate site specific data if warranted. These data bases include a cancer registry, congenital malformations registry, heavy metals registry, occupational, lung disease registry, vital records (birth and death certificates), and hospital discharge information.

In 1990, the NYS DOH reported on breast cancer incidence rates for small geographic areas of Nassau and Suffolk Counties for the years 1978-1987. An evaluation of this study is included in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation section.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

Concerns regarding private well water quality and the need to protect the quality of the underlying aquifer were expressed during the initial discovery of the groundwater contamination. These same concerns were expressed at the public meeting held for this site on September 9, 1992. Several residents of the area requested their wells be sampled. Other residents were concerned about the potential health effects of past exposures from ingesting contaminated water. Several residents that are near the plume but whose wells have not been contaminated requested to be connected to the public water supply. There were also concerns regarding the plan to release treated water into the local marine waters.

On March 3, 1993, the NYS DOH sent copies of the public health assessment for the Rowe Industries site to all known interested parties requesting concerns and comments on the report. Responses to public comments received by the NYS DOH are included in Appendix C.


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