PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
NEWHALL STREET NEIGHBORHOOD
(a/k/a Bryden and Morse Streets Residential Properties, CERCLIS No. CTN000103143)
(a/k/a Rosem Site Residential Properties, CERCLIS No. CTN000103142)
HAMDEN, NEW HAVEN COUNTY, CONNECTICUTSeptember 9, 2004
The conclusions and recommendations in this Public Health Assessment are based on the data and information made available to the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will review additional information when received. The review of additional data could change the conclusions and recommendations listed in this document.
The purpose of this Public Health Assessment (PHA) is to evaluate environmental sampling data from residential yards in the Newhall Street neighborhood, in Hamden, Connecticut, to determine whether landfill waste materials present a public health hazard. This PHA builds upon results of several health consultations and a PHA previously prepared by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) (under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry [ATSDR]). These previously prepared documents address the public health significance of landfill waste materials at the Hamden Middle School, two town parks, and the Newhall Street School, all located in the Newhall Street neighborhood. This PHA builds upon information contained in the previous evaluations, but data analyzed in this document have not been evaluated previously.
Environmental investigations in the Newhall Street neighborhood have focused on surface and subsurface soils from residential yards. Investigations have found elevated levels of lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and arsenic in both surface and subsurface soils. These results are consistent with sampling data from other areas in the neighborhood where landfill waste was disposed (for example, Hamden Middle School, Rochford Field, and Mill Rock Park). In 2001 and 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed contaminated soils at 13 residential properties because surface soil contamination was so high that immediate action was needed to reduce exposure.
To evaluate public health implications from contaminants in soil in the Newhall Street neighborhood, CT DPH first considered the available environmental data and how people might become exposed to contaminants. If there is no exposure, there is no threat to public health. In cases where exposure is possible, CT DPH compared maximum concentrations of contaminants with health-protective comparison values. This screening step rules out exposures that have little likelihood of causing adverse health effects. When contaminant concentration exceeded comparison values, CT DPH further evaluated the exposures to determine the likelihood that such exposures would result in adverse health effects.
People could be exposed to landfill contaminants in the Newhall Street neighborhood through direct contact with contaminated soil (ingestion of soil, skin contact, inhaling soil particles). CT DPH evaluated exposures to lead in soil using a screening model that relates soil lead levels to blood lead levels. This model indicates that at properties with the highest concentrations of lead in surface soil, there is the potential for increases in blood lead levels in children above levels of concern for adverse health effects. Fortunately, these homes were cleaned up by EPA, so exposures are no longer occurring. However, many other homes still have elevated levels of lead in soil. If those are not cleaned up, future exposures could result in elevated levels of lead in children's blood. CT DPH reviewed blood test results to identify any children in the Newhall Street neighborhood who had elevated blood lead levels. No elevations were found that could be linked to lead exposure from landfill waste. CT DPH's evaluation of cancer and noncancer risks shows that adverse health effects from exposure to elevated levels of arsenic and PAHs in soil are unlikely.
ATSDR has a categorization system whereby the level of public health hazard at a site is assigned to one of five conclusion categories. From its review of the available environmental data, CT DPH has determined that the properties with the highest lead levels posed a "public health hazard" in the past (that is, before EPA performed soil cleanup activities). On the basis of current conditions and available data, "no apparent public health hazard" currently exists. However, this hazard category will be re-evaluated once the full nature and extent of landfill waste contamination of the Newhall Street neighborhood is determined.
This PHA also contains an evaluation of health outcome data. CT DPH evaluated the health survey information collected by the Quinnipiack Valley Health District (QVHD), which included reported cases of cancer. CT DPH verified reported cancer cases in Connecticut Tumor Registry records. CT DPH's qualitative review suggested that the number and types of cancer that were reported in the health survey conducted by QVHD do not exceed what would be expected to occur. For illnesses other than cancer, it was not possible to evaluate scientifically whether the reported illnesses are in excess of what would be expected to occur because there are no data on background rates of these illnesses. However, from the number of dwellings surveyed, CT DPH believes the number and type of reported illnesses are not unusual. CT DPH also evaluated the most recent published cancer incidence data for the town of Hamden and found no statistically meaningful elevations in cancer incidence among Hamden residents.
CT DPH received community health concerns during numerous public and private meetings with area residents. Their concerns have been identified and addressed in this PHA.
Based on its evaluation of the environmental data, CT DPH's recommended actions include the following:
- Residents should avoid digging or other activities that disturb soils beneath the ground surface in the neighborhood;
- the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) should continue to oversee further investigations of landfill waste in the neighborhood, which should proceed as quickly as possible;
- QVHD should offer free blood lead screening in the Newhall Street neighborhood;
- QVHD should expand the health concerns survey originally conducted in 2001 to areas known to have landfill waste that were not included in the previous survey; and
- QVHD, CT DEP or Olin Corporation should perform a follow-up inspection on each of the properties where CT DEP found lead above the trigger value of 1,200 mg/kg and cleanup has not yet occurred. The inspection should focus on whether actions taken to reduce exposure (e.g., mulching bare soil) still provide an effective barrier to direct contact with soil.
In response to a comment received from the community during the public comment period, CT DPH, in conjunction with the QVHD, held a public health open house on Saturday, June 26, 2004. Free blood lead screening and blood pressure checks were offered. CT DPH made a presentation summarizing the results, conclusions, and recommendations of the PHA. An environmental medicine doctor from the University of Connecticut was available to answer residents' questions about potential health effects from living near contamination from landfill.
In June 2004, QVHD completed its evaluation of community health and environmental concerns based on an expanded community survey that was administered during the winter 2004.
This PHA focuses on environmental investigations in residential yards. The document begins with a general summary of the history of the site and actions that have already been taken to protect people from exposure to contamination. This is followed by a presentation of the results of soil sampling in the neighborhood and an explanation of how people could be exposed to contamination in the soil. The public health implications section, which follows the exposure section, describes the likely health effects from exposure to residents of the neighborhood. Finally, community health questions and concerns are identified and answered, conclusions and recommendations are presented, and a public health action plan is proposed. In preparing this report, CT DPH relied on all currently available data. Additional environmental sampling is planned for the neighborhood. CT DPH will evaluate the new data as they become available. It is possible that the conclusions and recommendations presented in this PHA could change to reflect new sampling results.
The portions of the neighborhood that are the focus of this PHA are delineated in an attached map (Figure 1, Attachment A). It is important to note that the lines on the map do not necessarily represent the limits of the landfill, but rather the lateral extent of soil sampling that has been conducted thus far. The landfill limits are still being investigated. Sampling in the residential neighborhood to determine the extent of landfill materials is ongoing.
In January 2001, CT DEP began investigating soils in the neighborhood to identify where landfill materials were present and whether there were elevated levels of contaminants. This investigation was initiated after environmental studies at the nearby Hamden Middle School, Rochford Field, and Mill Rock Park indicated the presence of elevated levels of metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soils. PAHs are chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of organic substances. In the Environmental Data Section, individual PAH compounds are identified and quantified. More about PAH toxicity is provided in Attachment F.
CT DEP's initial investigation in January 2001 focused on surface and subsurface soils from selected public right-of-way grass strips between the sidewalk and road. The selected areas may have been filled in the past, according to CT DEP's review of historical aerial photographs. CT DEP's investigation indicated the presence of elevated levels of contaminants including lead, arsenic, and PAHs in accessible surface soils and in soils at depth (up to 8 feet below ground surface) in many locations throughout the Newhall Street neighborhood. CT DEP observed non-native material, such as ash, cinders, slag, and other debris, in the soil samples they collected. The results of this sampling helped CT DEP identify initial boundaries of the landfill and areas on which to focus subsequent investigations.
Subsequent investigations in the neighborhood focused on defining the nature and extent of contamination in surface soils of residential yards. Surface soils are the most accessible soils. Children and adults could be exposed to contaminants on a daily basis in surface soils in their yards, especially if contaminants are present in areas that are not covered (i.e., bare earth not covered with grass, asphalt, or other barriers). For this portion of the investigation, CT DEP received assistance from EPA. In April 2001, EPA sampled surface soils (0-6 inches below ground surface) from approximately 76 residential properties. The purpose of EPA's investigation was to identify properties with surface soil contaminant levels so high that immediate action was needed to reduce potential exposure.
After EPA had completed its activities in the neighborhood, a number of residents whose properties had not been sampled by EPA asked to be included in the sampling. To respond to these requests, CT DEP initiated a supplemental soil sampling program. So far, CT DEP has sampled surficial soil at over 20 additional residences in the neighborhood. To qualify for sampling, a residence must have observed waste materials in the yard or there must be a reasonable suspicion of waste materials being present.
In August 2002, additional soil sampling in the neighborhood was performed by the Olin Corporation, one of the parties identified by CT DEP as being potentially responsible for the landfill waste material. Olin's primary focus was to better define the extent of fill material at depth in the neighborhood and to define the limits of landfill waste materials (Malcolm Pirnie 2002). Although their focus was soils at depth, they collected approximately 75 surface soil samples (0-3 inches below ground surface) in addition to the 139 depth samples. Depth samples were collected down to 20 feet below ground surface. Surface soils were analyzed only for lead and arsenic. Elevated levels of lead and/or arsenic were found in 23% of the surface soil samples taken by Olin.
In April 2003, CT DEP and the entities potentially responsible for placing contaminated landfill waste in the neighborhood and adjacent areas (Hamden Middle School, Rochford Field, and Mill Rock Park) finalized a consent order. The consent order allocates responsibility among the parties for investigation and remediation of the contamination. It also sets out a framework for further investigation and remediation of the site and provides a plan for public involvement.
EPA "Time Critical" Soil Removal Action
EPA completed soil removal activities on 13 residential properties during the period October 2001 to January 2002 (Lockheed Martin 2001, Weston Solutions 2003). Contaminated soil was removed by EPA to a depth of approximately 18 inches. The soil removal action served to eliminate the potential for adults and children to contact very high levels of contaminants in accessible surface soils of these yards. The soil removal action by EPA is not a permanent remedy because in most cases, contaminants remain in soils deeper than 18 inches.
Properties were selected for soil removal based upon whether contaminant levels in surface soil exceeded immediate action trigger values1 established by CT DPH in collaboration with EPA and others. At all 13 properties, lead levels exceeded the immediate action trigger level. At some of the 13 properties, arsenic and/or PAHs exceeded trigger levels as well.
Home Visits With Residents
During May and June 2001, CT DPH and EPA met with most of the residents of the approximately 76 properties that were sampled by EPA. Soil results were provided to each resident and next steps were discussed. CT DPH answered questions about exposure and health impacts. A fact sheet prepared jointly by EPA and CT DPH about ways to reduce exposure to soil was distributed to residents (the fact sheet is included in Attachment B). At properties where EPA removal actions were planned, EPA and CT DPH met with residents on multiple occasions.
Voluntary Blood Lead Screening
Because lead is a primary contaminant in the landfill waste, the Quinnipiack Valley Health District (QVHD) offered free blood lead screening to neighborhood residents on August 1, 2001. The screening was open to anyone interested, but residents were specifically targeted who had elevated lead in soil with children residing in the home. The purpose of the screening was to identify cases of lead poisoning among neighborhood residents so that further investigation could occur to identify possible sources of lead exposure. No individuals came to the screening.
QVHD Lead Exposure Follow-Up Activities
CT DEP referred a number of homes to the QVHD for lead exposure follow-up activities. The homes referred for follow up were those homes with elevated lead in surface soil, where young children reside (or visit often), that were not scheduled to receive an EPA immediate soil removal action. In some cases, an EPA soil removal action was not possible because the elevated lead in soil was from lead paint, not landfill waste materials. In other cases, the lead elevation was not high enough to trigger immediate EPA action. Lastly, some homes were discovered through the CT DEP supplemental soil-sampling program after EPA had already completed its soil removal activities in Hamden.
QVHD follow-up actions for elevated lead in soil varied depending on the specifics of the situation. Activities they conducted included the following.
- Providing educational materials to residents about reducing exposure to lead paint in soil.
- Providing educational materials to residents about health impacts to adults and children from exposure to lead.
- Conducting home visits to observe the condition of the backyard and suggesting ways to reduce soil exposure (such as mulching bare soil).
To learn about potential elevated blood lead levels in children residing in the Newhall Street neighborhood, the QVHD performed a manual search of all QVHD files in the Newhall Street area for elevated blood lead levels. The QVHD found three children with elevated blood lead who resided in the Newhall Street neighborhood since 1978 (when record keeping began). Two of these children had been relocated from another town into the Newhall Street neighborhood because of elevated blood lead levels they had received while living in another town. These two children had continual decreases in their blood lead levels while in residence in the Newhall Street neighborhood. Peeling paint with toxic levels of lead was the known risk factor for the third child. CT DPH recognizes that this search would not identify a child with elevated blood lead who may frequently visit a grandparent or other relative but not reside in the neighborhood.
QVHD Community Health Concerns Survey
During May and June 2001, staff from the QVHD collected health information from the neighborhood using a community concerns interview form (see Attachment C). QVHD staff visited 125 homes in the Newhall Street neighborhood. In some homes, information was collected through a personal interview with the resident. In other cases, the resident completed the survey form themselves. Each of the 125 targeted homes were visited as many as three different occasions if an occupant was not found at home. After the third attempt, an interview form was left at the residence. The survey was intended to collect information (for qualitative evaluation) about health symptoms and health concerns among residents living in the area known to have landfill waste present. Completed survey forms were received from 55 of the 125 targeted homes.
Public Meetings and Public Availability Session
CT DPH staff participated in four public meetings and hosted one public availability session to present health and exposure information to residents and respond to residents' questions and concerns. In addition, CT DPH staff provided health and exposure information and answered questions at citizen advisory group meetings.
Methane Screening in Homes
Beginning in April 2001, the Town of Hamden Fire Marshall's office sponsored a methane screening program in the neighborhood. The program was initiated in response to residents' concerns about methane after elevated levels of methane were found beneath the boiler room floor in the adjacent Hamden Middle School. Although the source of the methane in the school was never definitively linked to the presence of landfill waste, residents wanted assurance that dangerous levels of methane were not present in their homes. The methane screening program was voluntary. Residents of 12 homes requested and received methane screening. Methane was not detected in any homes.
In addition to the methane screening conducted by the Hamden Fire Marshall's office, CT DEP collected and analyzed indoor air samples from approximately 20 residences built on known landfill areas at the site in 2001. CT DEP collected air samples from the basement or lowest level of the house, if there was not a basement. DEP's mobile laboratory analyzed the air samples for methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Methane was not detected in any of the indoor air samples. No VOCs were identified that were attributable to landfill waste.
Residential Structural Evaluations
Many of the residents have concerns about settling problems in their homes and possible structural damage and safety issues. Beginning in late 2001, CT DEP hired structural and geotechnical engineering consultants to assess the issue of excessive settlement of foundations due to the loose fill over which many houses were built. Engineers identified 42 homes with possible settlement problems. At 34 of these homes, evidence of building cracks and settlement was observed during field visits. At four homes, crack gauges were installed across cracks in interior walls and exterior foundations to monitor any further movement. Detailed field visits were conducted at four homes with the most severe settlement. At all four homes, settlement has occurred to the extent that structural damage to beams and columns may have occurred. However, further investigation by structural engineers determined that none of the homes have damage so severe that occupants are in imminent danger. Engineering contractors made recommendations regarding repairs that could stabilize the homes. In 2004, CT DEP plans to further evaluate the structural condition of homes built on top of fill material. CT DEP intends to include structural repairs with remediation of the site, where warranted.
Demographics The portions of the neighborhood that are the focus of this health consultation are delineated by the red lines in the map in Attachment A. Within this area, there are about 238 homes with approximately 600 residents.
1 The immediate action trigger levels used in Hamden are 1,200 mg/kg for lead, 150 mg/kg for arsenic, and 10 mg/kg for benzo(a)pyrene. These levels are risk based and are intended to trigger action to reduce exposure within 6 months.