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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

U.S. NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE, NEW LONDON
GROTON, NEW LONDON COUNTY, CONNECTICUT


CONCLUSIONS

  1. ATSDR considers confined areas in the Nautilus Museum to be an indeterminate public health hazard because air sampling data are not available to determine if an explosive hazard exists. Soil gas concentrations of volatile organic compounds including benzene, toluene, and xylenes were detected at the Goss Cove Landfill. However, samples were not analyzed for methane, a gas produced by decaying matter, common at landfills. Since the Nautilus Museum is built on top of the landfill, soil gases may accumulate in the utility tunnel and mechanical room of the museum building. Proposed Phase II sampling will include methane analysis.
  2. A past completed exposure pathway has been identified for children who came in contact with contaminants through unintentional ingestion, inhalation, and dermal absorption of contaminated sediment and surface water in Area A. In the past, Area A Downstream Watercourses posed a health hazard to children who came in contact with lead and DDT contaminated sediment. This area is no longer a public health hazard because the Navy has installed a fence, preventing children from contacting contaminated sediment.
  3. ATSDR has determined that the other sites under the Remedial Investigation do not pose a public health hazard because of either the lack of exposure of people to contaminants, or the estimated low exposure dose to which people would be exposed.
  4. Currently, concentrations of contaminants detected in the unfenced portion of the Area A Downstream Watercourses do not pose a health hazard for children. However, because sediment movement may occur over time due to natural occurrences, and because children are known to play in the stream alongside the road to the North Lake recreational area, a potential exposure pathway exists for children who come in contact with surface water and sediment contaminants.
  5. Lead levels detected in one off-base residential well represents a public health hazard to young children and the fetuses of pregnant women who drink lead contaminated water.
  6. Sodium levels detected in five off-base private residential wells are of public health concern to persons on salt restricted diets.
  7. During residential well sampling, one of the 23 sampled wells showed VOC contamination. Another residential well showed cadmium contamination. Upon resampling both of the wells, no contaminants were detected. Levels of contaminants detected and the inability to find contamination during subsequent samplings of the wells indicate that exposures would be of short duration. Exposure to the concentrations of VOCs and cadmium detected in residential wells is not a public health hazard.
  8. DDE contaminated sediment have migrated off base into a residential area by way of a seasonal stream. Current concentrations of DDE present in sediment do not represent a public health hazard to children or adults who may come in contact with the sediment; however, since the residents obtain their drinking water from a natural spring (surface expression of groundwater), although unlikely, the potential exists for residents' drinking water to become contaminated.
  9. If the Goss Cove Landfill is proposed for use as a recreational area in the future, soil sampling must be reevaluated to determine potential exposure of construction workers and visitors who may be exposed to contaminated soil in the Goss Cove Landfill area.
  10. Residents are concerned that people are possibly being exposed to contaminants in Thames River dredged material, which may have been deposited on their residential property.
  11. ATSDR has evaluated the Connecticut Tumor Registry data (health outcome data) to determine if excess cancer rates exist in the towns of Groton and Ledyard and if those excess cancers could be associated to contaminants at or migrating from the New London Submarine Base. At this time, it is not possible to associate elevated cancer rates to exposures to environmental contaminants at or migrating from the New London Submarine Base.

RECOMMENDATIONS

During the Public Comment Release Period for the New London Submarine Base Public Health Assessment, the following recommendations were carried out.

  1. Data provided to ATSDR did not contain analysis of soil gas samples for methane. Include methane in further soil gas analyses. Additionally, perform air monitoring in the confined spaces within the museum at locations that are frequented by workers.

    (Monitoring of confined spaces in the museum is included in the Phase II work plan. The proposed work plan includes monitoring in a mechanical room/workshop at the lowest level in the museum. Routine monitoring for explosive gases and oxygen content is done prior to confined space entry at the present time per OSHA requirements.)

  2. Restrict access to the Area A Downstream Watercourses.

    (The Navy has installed a fence between the Area A Wetland, and another fence is under construction around the Area A Landfill to prevent people from walking through the wetland area closest to the landfill.)

  3. Evaluate groundwater contamination near the off-base private residential drinking water wells to characterize the source and extent of contamination.

    (The Navy as well as the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection in conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Health Services resampled those wells that were identified by ATSDR as having "contamination". All samples that were analyzed for VOCs showed no detectable VOCs. In one residential well that was reanalyzed for cadmium, no cadmium was detected.

    The Phase II Remedial Investigation, scheduled for initiation in the summer of 1993, will further evaluate hydrogeology and groundwater flow direction near the off-base wells.)

  4. Advise those residents who are drinking lead contaminated well water (from the two off-base private residential wells that showed lead levels to be 32 ppb and 39 ppb) that children and pregnant women should not drink the well water because of the estimated increase in blood lead levels.

    (On October 23, 1992, the Navy send notifications to those residents with whose wells had elevated lead levels then, followed up with additional sampling on January 15, 1993. Results of this latest sampling showed no detectable lead in the community well north of the base where lead was previously detected at 39 ppb.

    Results for the residential well where lead was previously detected at 32 ppb showed a lead level of 37 ppb in a first draw sample closest to the well. Upon flushing, readings at that point and at a source farthest from the well showed levels of 11 ppb and < 3 ppb. The Navy has notified the residents of the results and has provided them with information on the lead in drinking water, its sources, and how individuals can protect themselves).

  5. Residents using well OSW 23 should allow their water to run for a few minutes prior to collecting it to allow any contaminants coming from piping to be flushed out.

    (The Navy has notified the residents of the sampling results and has provided them with information on the lead in drinking water, its sources, and how individuals can protect themselves).

  6. Advise residents on salt-restricted diets of elevated sodium levels detected in four off-base private residential wells.

    (On October 23, 1992, the Navy send notification letters to those residents whose wells had elevated sodium levels.)

  7. Determine the hydrogeological connection between surficial water flow of the seasonal creek where DDE was detected and the resident's drinking water spring in order to determine the likelihood of continuous migration of contaminants.

    (The Navy plans to develop a program to determine if there is a hydrogeological connection between the wetland/stream and the spring used for drinking water on Sleepy Hollow Pentway.)

  8. Perform further environmental sampling of sediment and surface water in Goss Cove to determine if potential exposure pathways exist for children who play in sediment and surface water at Goss Cove.

    (Sediment sampling of Goss Cove is proposed in the Phase II Remedial Investigation Work Plan.)

  9. Determine the locations of any off base deposition of Thames River dredged material to evaluate the likelihood that people may be exposed to potential contaminants in the dredged material.

    (The dredge material that residents referred to was taken from the Thames River in the 1950s by Navy contract with the Army Corps of Engineers. ATSDR has contacted the Army Corps of Engineers about the location of deposited Thames River dredge material, but has not yet received any information. ATSDR will incorporate relevant information in the future updated public health assessment.)

  10. Perform air monitoring within the manholes to determine if levels of VOCs pose a physical explosive hazard to workers or a health hazard based on inhalation and/or dermal absorption of potential contaminants. Workers who enter manholes should wear protective clothing.

    (As required by NAVSEA S-6470-AA-SAF-010 (Gas Free Engineering Program) and Chapter 27 of OPNAVINST 5100.23C (Confined Space Entry Program (Non-Maritime), it is required that individuals trained as "gas free engineers" conduct air monitoring prior to entrance of a confined space. Prior to entrance, there are specific ventilation, air sampling and certification requirements that must be met. Sampling in confined spaces for contaminants other than combustible gases and oxygen content is the responsibility of the base industrial hygiene community.)

Recommendation still under consideration:

  1. In accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) as amended, the New London Submarine Base has been evaluated for public health actions. ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) has determined that based on this evaluation and on current site conditions, an environmental health education program is recommended to advise public health professionals and the local medical community of the nature and possible consequences of exposure to contaminants at the New London Submarine Base. The value of obtaining a complete and accurate exposure history will be stressed as part of this program. In addition, information on the contaminants detected above health comparison values may include, but not be limited to, the physical nature of the contaminants, potential exposure pathways (i.e., soil, water, air, food), exposure routes (i.e., inhalation, ingestion, dermal), potential health effects, symptoms of exposure, and testing and treatment, if known). ATSDR's Division of Health Education will carry out the program in conjunction with the local medical community.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

The public health action plan (PHAP) for New London Submarine Base contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR and other government agencies at and in the vicinity of the submarine base subsequent to the completion of this public health assessment. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that this public health assessment not only identifies public health hazards, but also provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. Included is a commitment on the part of ATSDR to follow-up on this plan to ensure that it is implemented. The public health actions to be implemented are as follows:

A. Actions Undertaken

  1. ATSDR held a public availability session during the initial site visit to meet with residents and to document their health concerns.
  2. The Navy has installed a fence between the Area A Wetland, and another fence is under construction around the Area A Landfill to prevent people from walking through the wetland area closest to the landfill.
  3. ATSDR met with the mayors of Groton and Ledyard as well as other Groton and Ledyard officials to collect local information and concerns from their constituencies.
  4. The Navy has sampled off-base private residential wells to determine if people are being exposure to contaminants through groundwater.
  5. The Navy held a public meeting to discuss the results of private well sampling with residents.
  6. The Navy mailed letters to residents notifying them of elevated levels of sodium, boron (proven to be erroneous) and lead in their drinking water wells.
  7. ATSDR held a public meeting to discuss the health effects of boron in residential drinking water.
  8. The CTDHS in conjunction with the CTDEP sampled off-base residential wells for VOCs and inorganic chemicals. All wells tested showed levels below health comparison values.
  9. The Navy investigated laboratory boron methodology and determined laboratory interference with boron analysis.
  10. The Navy resampled surface water in the Thames River and off-base residential wells to determine if boron was present in drinking water. No boron was detected.
  11. The Navy resampled two off-base (one community well and one private residential) wells that previously had lead concentrations above health comparison values. The community well showed lead levels below health comparison values. The residential well showed elevated lead levels as high as 37 ppb when first drawn.
  12. The Navy has notified this resident that the lead level present in their well is a health hazard to children, pregnant women, and women contemplating pregnancy.

B. Actions Planned

  1. ATSDR will review on-base environmental plans and information as they pertain to changes in future land use.
  2. ATSDR's Division of Health Education will provide environmental public health education for civilian health care providers to assist the community in assessing possible adverse health outcomes associated with exposure to lead in their drinking water.
  3. The Navy plans to further characterize off-base groundwater to determine actual or potential contaminant migration from on-base to off-base areas.
  4. The Navy is designing plans for a detailed hydrogeologic investigation of residential well OSW 11, its groundwater and surface water interaction.
  5. ATSDR will provide an annual follow up to this PHAP, outlining the actions completed and those in progress. That report will be placed in repositories that contain copies of this public health assessment and will be provided to persons who request it.
  6. Communication and information exchange with off-base residents will continue. If additional information on exposure to contaminants at this site becomes available, ATSDR will re-evaluate this site for additional follow-up health activities.

ATSDR will re-evaluate and expand this PHAP when needed. New environmental, toxicological, or health outcome data, or the results of implementing the above proposed actions may determine the need for additional actions at the New London Submarine Base.


PREPARERS OF REPORT

Carole Diamond Hossom
Environmental Health Scientist
Defense Facilities Assessment Section
Federal Programs Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Gail Godfrey
Environmental Health Scientist
Defense Facilities Assessment Section
Federal Programs Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

C. Virginia Lee, M.D., M.P.H.
Medical Officer
Defense Facilities Assessment Section
Federal Programs Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Edward Gregory, Ph.D.
Demographer
Defense Facilities Assessment Section
Federal Programs Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Reviewers of Report

Diane Jackson
Chief, Navy Unit
Defense Facilities Assessment Section
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

John E. Abraham Ph.D., M.P.H.
Chief, Defense Facilities Assessment Section
Federal Programs Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

ATSDR Regional Representative:

Ted Bazenas
Public Health Advisor
EPA Region I


REFERENCES

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  2. Federal Facilities Agreement, U.S. Naval Submarine Base New London. U.S. EPA, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Connecticut Department of Health Services, Draft, July 1992.

  3. Installation Restoration Study, Naval Submarine Base - New London, Groton, Connecticut: Atlantic Environmental Services, Draft August 1991.

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  6. Connecticut Department of Health Services News Release, July 8, 1990. Subject: State Modifies Advise on Eating Fish Containing PCBs.

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