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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

NEW BEDFORD SITE
NEW BEDFORD, BRISTOL COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS


CONCLUSIONS

Based on the information reviewed, ATSDR has concluded that this site is of public health hazard because of the risk to human health resulting from ongoing exposure to PCBs via ingestion of contaminated fish within harbor waters and dermal contact with PCB-contaminated sediments in and near the "hot-spot" areas.

  1. Completed exposure pathways to site contaminants were identified. Individuals ingesting seafood harvested from restricted waters could be exposed to hazardous levels of PCBs, lead, and cadmium. Individuals accessing the estuary shoreline can also incur significant PCB exposure via dermal contact and inhalation of ambient air.

  2. Ingestion of PCB contamination levels such as those detected in harbor seafood has been associated in animal studies with increased cancer risk, decreased immune function and increased prevalence of low birth weight.

  3. Human studies have demonstrated an association between regular ingestion of cadmium levels such as those maximum levels detected in clams harvested from the harbor and surrounding waters with increased risk of kidney dysfunction.

  4. Animal studies have demonstrated adverse health effects resulting from exposure to PCB levels such as those that would be expected following dermal contact with shoreline sediments near the "hot-spot" areas. Such adverse health effects include immune system suppression, gastrointestinal cysts, decreased thyroid hormone secretion, fat accumulation in the liver and increased cancer risk.

  5. The planned removal of the "hot-spot" sediments as well as those in the estuary and harbor with PCB levels of 50 ppm or greater will largely remove the health risk associated with dermal contact to these sediments. This remediation will also reduce the migration of PCBs through the food chain. It can not be currently determined, however, when harbor seafood will be safe for consumption.

  6. The planned incineration of "hot-spot" sediments will nearly completely destroy the PCBs contained in these sediments if the incinerator operates under proper conditions. The lead contamination that was detected in these sediments will not be destroyed. If the incinerator's particulate filtration system fails to operate under optimal operating conditions, individuals frequenting areas near the incinerator including a local playground may be exposed to increased lead levels emanating form the incinerator.

  7. The planned dredging of Hot-Spot sediments will result in temporary elevation of PCB levels in ambient air where the dredging will occur. Individuals near the area during the dredging period will not incur an increased cancer risk since chronic exposure to elevated PCB levels will not occur.

  8. Levels of VOCs which enhance PCB volatilization and mobility through sediment and water have not been completely characterized at the site.

  9. It is extremely unlikely that local municipal water supplies will be impacted by contamination detected at the site. Private ground water usage near the harbor has not, however, been completely characterized.

  10. It has been reported that security at the Aerovox plant could be improved. The risk, however of individuals accessing the bluff at the plant near the "hot-spot" areas and incurring physical injury from falling is minimal since a fence is situated between the plant grounds and the bluff.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In order to protect the public health of individuals engaged in activities on or near the New Bedford Harbor Site, the MDPH in conjunction with ATSDR puts forth the following recommendations:

  1. The ban promulgated by MDPH restricting fishing activities in or near the harbor remain in effect. Patrolling of harbor waters for illegal fishing activities should continue until safe levels have been maintained.

  2. Further monitoring of seafood harvested from fishing areas proximal to New Bedford Harbor for PCB and heavy metal contamination be conducted in order to determine long term trends in seafood contamination levels.

  3. Given its proximity to playground sites, the location of the PCB incinerator be reconsidered or the playground relocated to an area distant to the site of the proposed remediation.

  4. Smoke stack output of the incinerator should be monitored for hazardous emissions especially for lead, exposure to which may pose a health risk. Monitoring of ambient air lead levels in the densely populated areas of New Bedford near the proposed incineration site should also be considered. The MDPH should determine those areas within New Bedford where the highest prevalence of childhood lead poisoning exist. This will enable environmental and health officials to determine more accurately those areas where individuals would be sensitive to further lead exposure. This crucial information would supplement environmental and meteorologic data needed for the effective placement of ambient air monitors during the recommended monitoring program. Baseline monitoring should be conducted before start-up and monitoring should be continued during the incineration period.

  5. Monitoring of sediment migration should be ongoing when remedial dredging is being conducted.

  6. The use of groundwater near harbor waters should be ascertained. If usage of such waters presents the possibility of exposure to hazardous environmental contaminants, these waters should be monitored. If such monitoring has been conducted, these results should be forwarded to ATSDR so that they can be incorporated in an addendum to this public health assessment.

  7. Monitoring for VOC contamination should be conducted in harbor waters and ground waters at the Aerovox plant.

  8. Security against trespassing at the Aerovox plant should be improved.

  9. The estuary shoreline near the playground at Sawyer's Cove should be secured against trespassing.


HEALTH ACTIVITIES RECOMMENDATION PANEL (HARP) RECOMMENDATION

The New Bedford Harbor Site has been evaluated by ATSDR's Health Activitie Recommendation Panel (HARP) for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. Since PCB registry and serum lead monitoring programs are currently operating within the MDPH, the Panel determined that additional follow-up health activities are not indicated at this time.


PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIONS

The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for the New Bedford Harbor NPL Site contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR and/or the MDPH at and in the vicinity of the site subsequent to the completion of the this Public Health Assessment. For those actions taken at the site, please see the Background section of this document. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that this health assessment not only identifies public health hazards but 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/MDPH to ensure that it is implemented. The public health actions to be implemented are as follows:

  1. The Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment within MDPH will continue to monitor cancer incidence rates for the Greater New Bedford area.

  2. The Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment within MDPH will determine whether local, state, and federal agencies are conducting monitoring of seafood from New Bedford Harbor and associated waters of Buzzard's Bay. Review of available data will be conducted by the Bureau in order to determine if consumption of fish caught from these waters continues to pose a health hazard.

  3. The Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment within MDPH will review and analyse the results of annual serum lead monitoring conducted on children in the New Bedford area. This will be done in order to identify those areas where the risk of adverse health effects resulting from additional lead exposure may pose a concern.

  4. MDPH will apprise USEPA of any specific areas within New Bedford where childhood lead poisoning prevalence is elevated. Consideration of this information may aid in placement of monitoring devices if the suggested ambient air lead monitoring is conducted.

  5. If monitoring of seafood sold in local markets in the New Bedford area is incorporated into USEPA's Record of Decision for the remainder of the harbor, MDPH will provide technical assistance for such monitoring. In addition, the Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment will review the results of such monitoring in order to evaluate any health risk that may be associated with consumption of such seafood.


CERTIFICATION

The public health assessment for the New Bedford Harbor site was prepared by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the public health assessment was begun.

Gregory V. Ulirsch
Technical Project Officer, SPS, SSAB, DHAC

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this public health assessment, and concurs with its findings.

Robert C. Williams
Director, DHAC, ATSDR


PREPARERS OF REPORT

William C. Strohsnitter
Environmental Analyst
Community Assessment Unit
Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH

Jeffrey D. Purvis
Chief, Community Assessment Unit,
Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH

Suzanne K. Condon
Director
Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH

ATSDR REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE

Louise House
Regional Operations
Office of the Assistant Administrator, ATSDR

ATSDR TECHNICAL PROJECT OFFICER

Gregory Ulirsch
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Remedial Programs Branch


REFERENCES

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, USPHS, Draft Toxicological Profile for Lead, Prepared by Technical Resources Inc., February, 1988.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, USPHS, Draft Update Toxicological Profile for Selected PCBs (Aroclor 1260, -1254, -1248, -1242, -1232, -1221 and -1016), Prepared by Syracuse Research Corp., October, 1991.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, USPHS, Toxicological Profile for Cadmium, Prepared by Life Systems Inc., October 1991.

American Congress of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, Documentation of Threshold Limit Values, 4th Ed., Pg. 104, 1980.

Battelle Memorial Institute, Duxbury, Massachusetts, Final Report for Modeling of the Transport, Distribution and Fate of PCBs and heavy metals in the Acushnet River/New Bedford Harbor/Buzzards Bay system, EBASCO Contract 4236-MOD-0019, September 1990.

Carroll GJ, Thurnau RC, Mournighan RE, et al. "The Partitioning of Metals in Rotary Kiln Incineration", Proceedings of the Third International Conference on New Frontiers for Hazardous Waste Management, September 10 - 13, 1989. NUS Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Chau YK, Wong PTS, "Organic Lead in Aquatic Environment", Chapter 4 in Biological Effects of Organolead Compounds, Phillippe Grandjean ed. CRC Press Pub. Boca Raton, Fla, 1984.

Denison RA, "Incinerator Monitoring: The Critical Link between Source and Receptor", presented at the Conference on Incinerator Monitoring Techniques in Assuring Performance and Building Public Trust held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 6, 1990.

Di Toro DM et al. "Toxicity of Cadmium in Sediments: The role of acid volatile sulfide", Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol 9, pp 1487-1520, 1990.

EBASCO Services Inc., Draft Final Hot Spot Feasibility Study; New Bedford Harbor, USEPA Contract 68-01-7250, July, 1989.

EBASCO Services Inc., Draft Final Baseline Public Health Risk Assessment; New Bedford Harbor Feasibility Study, USEPA Contract 68-00-7250, August, 1989.

EBASCO Services Inc., Draft Final Feasibility Study of Remedial Alternatives for the Estuary and Lower Harbor/Bay, New Bedford Harbor Massachusetts, Volumes 1 - 3, USEPA Contract 68-01-7250, August, 1990.

EBASCO Services, Inc., Final Air Monitoring Report: New Bedford Harbor Pilot Dredging and Disposal Study, prepared for USEPA Region I under EPA Contract No. 68-01-7250, 1990.

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Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, "Needs Assessment for October 1988 to September 1989", Boston, MA., 1989

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Metcalf and Eddy Incorporated, Boston, MA, Acushnet Estuary PCBs Data Management Final Report, USEPA Contract 68-04-1009 September, 1983.

Miller DT et al. "Human Exposure to PCBs in Greater New Bedford, Massachusetts: A Prevalence Study", Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Vol. 20 pp 410 - 416, 1991.

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Letter to Barbara Reily, Wehran Engineering, from Dr. George Walmsley, Chairman Board of Health, Regarding Private Groundwater Usage In Fairhaven, September 10, 1985, Administrative Record for Atlas Tack Co, USEPA; Boston, MA

Memorandum to Mary Sanderson, Remedial Project Manager, from Suzanne K. Condon, Director and Robert S. Knorr, Deputy Director, Division of Environmental Health Assessment; Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Regarding Request for Additional Information Relative to Contaminated Fish Consumption and the Greater New Bedford PCB Health Effects Study, March 28, 1990.

Telephone conversation on May 31, 1990 with Dartmouth Water Works and William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Division of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the Source of Municipal Drinking Water for the Town of Dartmouth.

Telephone conversation on June 1, 1990 with Acushnet Board of Health and William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Division of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the Source of Municipal Drinking Water for the Town of Acushnet.

Telephone conversation on April 22, 1993 to Office of Fairhaven Town Clerk from William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the 1992 Total Population the Town of Fairhaven.

Telephone conversation on April 22, 1993 to Office of City of New Bedford Election Commission from William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the 1991 Total Population the City of New Bedford.

Telephone conversation on April 22, 1993 to Office of Dartmouth Town Clerk from William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the 1992 Total Population the Town of Dartmouth.

Telephone conversation on April 22, 1993 to Office of Acushnet Town Clerk from William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the 1992 Total Population the Town of Acushnet.

Telephone conversation on July 10, 1990 with the National Marine Fisheries Service, Gloucester, MA and William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Division of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the Total Weight of Fish Caught in 1989 by Commercial Fishing Vessels Registered with New Bedford Harbor as Home Port.

Telephone conversation on July 10, 1990 with the Division of Marine Fisheries, Massachusetts Department of Fish, Wildlife and Law Enforcement and William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Division of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the Number of Commercial Fishing Vessels Registered with New Bedford Harbor as Home Port.

Telephone conversation on July 26, 1990 with the Assistant Director, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Division of Environmental Health Assessment, MDPH, Regarding the Frequency of Childhood Serum Lead Monitoring.

Telephone Conversation on September 5, 1985 to Jeff Osuch, Superintendent, Board of Public Works, Fairhaven, from Barbara Reiley, Wehran Engineering, Regarding Source of Fairhaven Municipal Wells Administrative Record for Atlas Tack Co. USEPA; Boston, MA.

Telephone Conversation on April 18, 1990 with the New Bedford Department of Health, and William C. Strohsnitter, Environmental Analyst, Division of Environmental Health Assessment, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Regarding Source of Municipal Drinking Water for City of New Bedford.



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