PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
WEST WINFIELD, HERKIMER COUNTY, NEW YORK
The Hiteman Leather site is a former commercial tannery at 173 South Street (New York StateRoute 51) in the Village of West Winfield, Herkimer County. The village is about 20 milessouth of Utica and 100 miles west of Albany, New York. Historical records indicate that varioustanneries operated at the site from 1820 until 1968. Also, the site was used by a machine shop, atire recapping company and a cookie company. Process waste from the facility was discharged toa series of unlined waste lagoons. Untreated effluent from the lagoons was allowed to flow intothe Unadilla River and an on-site wetlands. The solids which settled and accumulated in thelagoons were periodically excavated and deposited in other areas on the site. The waste lagoonswere allowed to drain and were filled with soil. However, visibly stained soils and analyticaldata indicate that significant levels of chromium, antimony and arsenic remain in soil. Low levelgroundwater, surface water and sediment contamination with chromium is also documented.
The Unadilla River, which borders the site, is a popular recreation site. An upstream waterfalland town park (less than 0.25 miles away) encourage use of the river near the site. The banks ofthe Unadilla River were stabilized to reduce erosion from the site and reduce contaminantmigration. The physical hazards related to former structurally unsafe buildings were reducedwhen the buildings were removed; however, some debris remain on-site. The perimeter sitefence appears to be effectively restricting access to on-site contaminants. The area surroundingthe site and the village are served by public drinking water that is obtained from groundwaterwells. While not likely to be affected by site contaminants, public water was sampled in 1997and the water did not contain site-related contaminants. The New York State Department ofHealth (NYS DOH) requires that the public water supply wells be sampled for metals every threeyears. The closest private well is 500 feet across the Unadilla River from the site. This well wassampled in 1986, 1990 and 1999 and was not contaminated. A cemetery that is adjacent to thesite has a well that was damaged in 1991 and has not been used since. If the well is reactivated,NYS DOH staff will sample the water for site-related compounds.
Nearby residents expressed concern about possible exposure to contaminated surface soil,groundwater, sediments, surface water and fish in the Unadilla River and about on-site physicalhazards. This public health assessment was made available for public review in July 2000, and asummary of these comments and NYS DOH responses are presented in Appendix D. On-sitecontamination and physical hazards are addressed by the existing access restrictions whichminimize potential exposure. Off-site contamination, including the Unadella River, is below health comparison values.
Based on the information reviewed and the current site conditions, there are no known significantexposures. Thus, the site is categorized as no apparent public health hazard (Appendix C). Although there are currently no completed exposure pathways of public health concern at thissite, exposures in the future are possible, should contaminants at the site be made available forhuman exposure without remediation. The potential migration of on-site contamination to theUnadilla River and sediments should continue to be monitored. In the absence of siteremediation, site access restrictions must be maintained and controls on future use implemented.
Under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR), the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) will evaluate the public healthsignificance of the Hiteman Leather site in this document. More specifically, ATSDR and NYSDOH will determine whether health effects are possible and will recommend actions to reduce orprevent possible health effects. The ATSDR is a federal agency within the U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response,Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) as amended by the Superfund Amendmentsand Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986, to conduct public health assessments at hazardouswaste sites proposed for the National Priorities List (NPL). The Hiteman Leather site wasproposed to the NPL in September 1998 and was placed on the NPL in 1999.
The Hiteman Leather site is on 173 South Street (NYS Route 51) in the Village of West Winfield(Figure 1). Various tanneries operated at the site from about 1820 to 1968. Also, the site wasused by a machine shop, a tire recapping company and a cookie company. The site covers over14 acres. It is bordered to the south by the Unadilla River, to the west by the West WinfieldCemetery, to the north by several private residences and small businesses and to the east bySouth Street. The site includes a two acre wetland, a section of the Unadilla River and a largeopen area. The open area was occupied by several storage and production buildings as well asthree waste water lagoons. There currently is no surficial evidence of the former lagoons. Thebuildings were demolished under the guidance of United States Environmental ProtectionAgency (US EPA) in 1996 and 1998. A sketch of the site is included as Figure 2.
The waste stream generated at the facility mirrored changes in technology. The vegetable-basedtanning solutions originally used were replaced by acid solution, mineral based (chromium salts)products. The chemical processing changes lessened the time required for leather tanning, butcreated the wastes which are now the focus of this report.
The waste waters generated by the facility were discharged to two unlined lagoons. The solidswere allowed to settle and the untreated liquids were allowed to overflow into the adjacentUnadilla River and onsite wetlands. Periodically, the solids were excavated and used as fillaround the banks of the lagoons. In 1959, there was a large fish kill in the Unadilla Riveradjacent to the facility. An investigation determined that the event was caused by an overflowfrom the waste lagoons. Thus, a third lagoon was built to increase the waste water retentiontimes.
NYS DOH staff visited the site on several occasions. A site visit in March of 1999 confirmedthat a perimeter fence was in place and effectively deterring site trespass. Staff also witnessedthat the unsafe on-site structures had been demolished, but that some debris remained. A singlefisherman was in the waterfalls area of Unadilla River, approximately 0.2 miles upstream of thesite. In December 1999, staff collected a water sample from the nearest private well.
The NYS DOH estimated from the 1990 Census (US Bureau of the Census 1991) that 975 peoplelive within one mile of the site. This population is 99.5% white. The percent of persons ofHispanic origin is less than 1%. Based on the 1990 census, 8.1% of the population is under 6years of age, 21.7% is 6-19 years of age, 53.1% is 20-64 years of age, and 17.1% is 65 years orolder. In 1990 there were 183 females of reproductive age (ages 15-44) in the area. The medianhousehold income for the area was $27,338 in 1989, with 8.9% of the population living belowthe poverty level (US Bureau of the Census 1992). The following chart compares thesedemographics with statewide averages. There are several schools and a senior housing complex in the area.
|New York State||Area within 1 mile of site|
1989 Median Income
% Below Poverty Level
The site is in a semi-rural area of Herkimer County. The site and neighboring properties arezoned for industrial, commercial and residential uses. About 150 homes are within l/2 mile ofthe site. The Unadilla River is on the southern border of the site. A village park is less than l/2mile to the east.
The Unadilla River is used for fishing, swimming and wading. People fish and wade in the riverupstream and adjacent to the site. Groundwater is used by the Village of West Winfield's publicwater supply. Their supply wells are about 0.3 miles upgradient (northeast) of the site. Agroundwater well previously used for irrigation in the neighboring West Winfield Cemetery hasbeen damaged and unused since 1991. The nearest private well is 500 feet across the UnadillaRiver from the site and is unlikely to be affected by the site because of the groundwaterseparation provided by the river.
Local residents expressed concerns about the following:
- Consumption of fish caught from the Unadilla River near the site.
- Potential health effects from exposure to contaminated surface soils.
- Potential groundwater contamination.
- Contamination of sediment and surface waters of the Unadilla River.
- The structural integrity and physical hazards presented by the former on-site buildings.
The discussion which follows addresses these community concerns. Also, the public was invitedto review this public health assessment during the public comment period in July 2000. Asummary of the comments and NYS DOH responses are included as Appendix D.
The environmental data in this section were gathered during several investigations, primarily in1992 (SAIC Engineering, Inc. 1992) and in 1994 and 1996 (US EPA 1999). The primarycontaminant of concern (chromium) was identified in surface soils, subsurface soils,groundwater, surface water and river sediments. However, samples were analyzed for otherchemicals potentially related to former site uses, including solvents and metals. Antimony andarsenic were also elevated in on-site surface soil. Chromium was primarily found in the trivalentform. This form is generally less toxic than the hexavalent form. The following sectionssummarize the results of the investigations on the Hiteman Leather site.
Surface and Subsurface Soils
Total chromium levels in on-site surface soils, identified in the Remedial Investigation (RI/FS)(SAIC Engineering, Inc. 1992), ranged from non-detect to about 120,000 milligrams perkilogram (mg/kg). Soil samples which were analyzed for total chromium and hexavalentchromium show that the primary contaminant is trivalent chromium; hexavalent chromium isless than 0.1 percent of total chromium. The highest level of trivalent chromium was detected insoils near the wetlands. According to the proposed remedial action plan, chromiumcontamination above 200 mg/kg was generally limited to the upper six feet of soil. In general,chromium levels in soils decreased with depth.
In November 1994, 32 surface soil samples were collected in the wetlands and lagoon areas ofthe site (historically the most contaminated areas). The samples were taken from soil at zero tosix inches below ground surface after the removal of any surface vegetation. The samples wereanalyzed via portable x-ray fluorescence, and a portion of these samples were sent to a laboratoryfor confirmatory analysis. Total chromium levels in these surface soil samples ranged from 8 to103,000 mg/kg. Also during this sampling, antimony was detected in surface soil at levels up to1880 mg/kg and arsenic was detected at levels up to 96 mg/kg. These levels of chromium,arsenic and antimony were detected in the most highly contaminated areas and are abovebackground and health comparison values.
The US EPA collected 210 soil samples in June 1996 to delineate the extent of chromiumcontamination at the site. The US EPA soil samples contained chromium to a depth of ten feetbelow grade at concentrations as high as 75,000 mg/kg. The highest concentrations of chromiumwere in soils near the former lagoon area. Toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP)analyses performed on 17 of the 210 soil samples did not find chromium at levels above thehazardous substance regulatory limits. Hexavalent chromium was detected in 5 out of 25 soilboring samples analyzed for metals. Hexavalent chromium ranged from 0.10 to 1.9 mg/kg(average: 0.58 mg/kg) and total chromium ranged from 17.9 to 44,800 mg/kg (average: 2,230mg/kg). In all cases hexavalent chromium was less than 0.1 percent of total chromium.
The highest level of chromium in unfiltered groundwater samples was 14,600 micrograms perliter (mcg/L), a value that exceeds the NYS DOH drinking water standard of 100 mcg/L. However, filtered groundwater samples collected at the same time did not contain chromiumlevels above drinking water standards and only 2 of the 21 filtered groundwater samplescollected by the US EPA in 1996 contained chromium (at levels below the public drinking waterstandard). Antimony and arsenic were not detected at levels above health comparison values inthe water samples. On-site groundwater is unlikely to affect existing private wells because theyare not in the direction of groundwater flow or are separated by the Unadilla River. Exposure toon-site groundwater is possible should wells be installed and untreated water used on-site.
No off-site surface soil samples were collected during the site investigations. However, on-sitesurface soil sampling defined the extent of soil contamination, none of which extended to the siteboundaries. Also, any contamination that might have resulted from stormwater runoff wouldmove into the river, where sampling was done. No off-site wetlands are affected by the site.
Public drinking water in the Village of West Winfield is supplied by wells that are about 1500feet northeast of the site, in the opposite direction of groundwater flow. These wells were lastsampled in 1997 and have not been affected by the Hiteman Leather site. NYS DOH requiressampling for metals analysis every three years. The area surrounding the site is supplied by thispublic water supply. The closest private well is across the Unadilla River, about 500 feet southof the site. The Unadilla River is a groundwater divide, so this well is unlikely to be affected bythe site. This well was sampled in 1986, 1990 and 1999, and was not contaminated. No furthersampling of this well is planned unless new information warrants additional sampling. Acemetery that is adjacent to the site has a well that was damaged in 1991 and has not been usedsince. If the well is reactivated, NYS DOH staff will sample the water for site-relatedcompounds.
The data in the RI/FS (SAIC Engineering Inc., 1992) do not indicate significant surface watercontamination. Chromium was detected at 33 mcg/L in one out of three unfiltered surface watersamples collected by the US EPA in 1996. This surface water sample was collected from theUnadilla River near the wetland area.
Contamination in the river sediments may be associated with past disposal activities and/orcontaminant migration from the Hiteman site. The highest level of chromium (6,900 mg/kg) inthe sediment was in a river sediment sample collected along the northern bank of the UnadillaRiver, near the contaminated wetland sediments and soils. Downstream sediment samples hadlower concentrations of chromium (20 to 135 mg/kg). In addition, flooding and erosion couldincrease contamination of surface water and river sediments.
A recent study found that about one fourth of crayfish sampled had detectable levels ofchromium, with a maximum of 6.1 mg/kg. Hexavalent chromium in biological systems isreduced to trivalent chromium in the bodies of animals (ATSDR 1998), therefore, any chromiumin fish or shellfish is likely to be in the less toxic trivalent form. The maximum level does notexceed public health comparison values for chromium in fish and shellfish. This pathway is eliminated from further consideration.
Some demolition debris remains on-site from the 1998 building razing. This debris would be ahazard to site trespassers if access restrictions are not maintained.
This section of the public health assessment (PHA) identifies potential and completed exposurepathways associated with past, present and future use of the site. An exposure pathway is theprocess by which an individual may be exposed to contaminants originating from a site. Anexposure pathway has five elements: (1) a contaminant source; (2) environmental media andtransport mechanisms; (3) a point of exposure; (4) a route of exposure; and (5) a receptorpopulation.
The source of contamination is the source of contaminant release in the environment (any wastedisposal area or point of discharge); if the original source is unknown, it is the environmentalmedia (soil, air, biota, water) which are contaminated at the point of exposure. Environmentalmedia and transport mechanisms carry contaminants from the source to points where people maybe exposed. The exposure point is a location where actual or potential human contact with acontaminated medium may occur. The route of exposure is the manner in which a contaminantactually enters or contacts the body (i.e., ingestion, inhalation, dermal absorption). The receptorpopulation is the persons who are exposed or may be exposed to contaminants at a point ofexposure.
Two types of exposure pathways are evaluated in the PHA; a completed exposure pathway existswhen the criteria for all five elements of an exposure pathway are documented; a potentialexposure pathway exists when the criteria for any one of the five elements comprising andexposure pathway is not met. An exposure pathway is considered to be eliminated when any oneof the five elements comprising an exposure pathway has not existed in the past, does not exist in the present, and will never exist in the future.
There are no current completed exposure pathways related to site contaminants. A fenceprecludes access to areas of contamination. Private and public drinking water wells are notbelieved to be in areas potentially affected by contamination and sampling has confirmed that they are not contaminated.
The extent to which past exposures to contaminated soils on-site may have occurred is unknown. Workers and trespassers at the site, prior to the installation of the site perimeter fencing inDecember 1994, were potentially exposed to contaminants in on-site soils via incidentalingestion, direct contact and inhalation of soil particulates. Although the site is now fenced andaccess is limited, the fence needs to be maintained to continue to restrict access in the future. Future exposures to contaminants in on-site soil may occur if the site is not remediated andaccess is not restricted.
Exposure to chromium contamination in sediments may occur by dermal contact and incidentalingestion during recreational activities such as wading or fishing. Chromium up to 6,900 mg/kgin sediments are below health comparison values, since little of the chromium is in thehexavalent form, and will not be further discussed. However, if additional site contaminants areallowed to migrate this potential pathway may become a greater health concern. The banks ofthe Unadilla River were stabilized under the direction of US EPA, which should reduce erosionand contaminant migration into the river.
Although chromium was found in unfiltered water samples, it was not detected at levels abovehealth comparison values in filtered water samples. This suggests that chromium in the samplesfrom the monitoring wells is in suspended sediments, not in the groundwater itself. However,because there are no current exposures and there are no potential exposures in the direction ofgroundwater flow, this potential exposure pathway is eliminated from further consideration.
Like the river sediments, current contaminant levels are below health comparison values. However, if additional contamination is allowed to migrate off-site, this exposure pathway may need to be re-evaluated.
To evaluate the potential health risk from contaminants of concern associated with the HitemanLeather site, the NYS DOH assessed the risk for cancer and noncancer health effects. The risk ofhealth effects depends primarily on contaminant concentration, exposure route, exposure frequencyand duration. Additional information on the NYS DOH assessment of the toxicologicalimplications for this site is in Appendix B. Although there are currently no completed exposurepathways at this site, we evaluated potential exposures in the past in surface soils and the potentialfor exposure in the future, should contaminants at the site be made available for human contactwithout remediation.
Chromium was detected in on-site surface soil at levels as high as 120,000 mg/kg. The extent towhich workers or trespassers at the site were exposed to contaminants in surface soil prior to theinstallation of the site perimeter fencing (December, 1994) is unknown. The primary toxic effectsassociated with ingestion of large amounts of chromium are kidney damage, birth defects andadverse effects on the reproductive system (ATSDR, 1998). In general, trivalent chromium is lesstoxic than hexavalent chromium. Although the risks of noncarcinogenic effects from incidentalingestion of chromium-contaminated surface soil are not completely understood, the existing datasuggest they would be minimal for both on-site workers and trespassers who may have beenexposed in the past or may be exposed in the future to trivalent chromium (the predominant form ofchromium at the site). Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenic potential oftrivalent chromium (US EPA 1999). Dermal exposure to high levels of hexavalent or trivalentchromium has resulted in allergic reactions, particularly to people who are very sensitive tochromium. These allergic reactions are characterized by redness and swelling of the skin (ATSDR,1998). The existing data obtained from the Hiteman Leather site suggest that dermal exposure tochromium-contaminated on-site soil could cause allergic skin reactions in some workers andtrespassers.
Workers and trespassers may have been exposed in the past to elevated levels of antimony in surface soil. The primary health effects associated with exposure to high amounts of antimony are disturbances of the gastrointestinal tract (such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and ulcers), altered electrocardiogram (heart) readings, and increased blood pressure (ATSDR, 1992). The existing data suggest that past exposure to the highest levels of antimony found in soils (1880 mg/kg) would pose a low increased risk for noncarcinogenic health effects to trespassers or workers. Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenic potential of antimony (ATSDR, 1992).
Arsenic is a known human carcinogen (ATSDR, 1993). Studies of people exposed to high levels ofarsenic in drinking water in foreign countries provide evidence of an association between arsenicingestion and skin cancer. Currently, there is a debate within the scientific community about USEPA's quantitative estimates of risk (ATSDR 1993). The existing data suggest that chronicexposure in the past to the highest levels of arsenic found in surface soils (78 mg/kg) would pose alow increased risk to trespassers or on-site workers. Noncarcinogenic risks for arsenic would beminimal.
There are currently no known exposures to chromium, antimony or arsenic in soil at the HitemanLeather site. However, the potential for increased risk of adverse health effects exists for peoplethat may be exposed in the future, should site conditions change so that soils becomes available for human contact.
There are currently no significant exposures to the community living near the site. For this reason, the NYS DOH has not evaluated health outcome data specifically for the site and there are no community health studies planned at this time. However, the NYS DOH maintains several health outcome databases, which could be used to generate site-specific data if warranted in the future. These databases include the cancer registry, the congenital malformations registry, the occupational lung disease registry, vital records (birth and death certificates) and hospital discharge data information.
The ATSDR Child Health initiative emphasizes the ongoing examination of relevant child healthissues in all of the agency's activities, including its mandated public health assessment activities. The ATSDR and NYS DOH considers children when we evaluate exposure pathways and potentialhealth effects from environmental contaminants. We recognize that children are of special concernbecause of their greater potential for exposure from play and other behavior patterns. Childrensometimes differ from adults in their susceptibility to hazardous chemicals, but whether there is adifference depends on the chemical. Children may be more or less susceptible than adults to health effects, and the relationship may change with developmental age.
The Hiteman Leather site is near recreational waters, a public park and a residential neighborhood. A perimeter fence prevent children from access to on-site contamination. Potential exposures tosite contaminants off-site were evaluated further in earlier sections.
On-site workers and trespassers may have been exposed to site contaminants in the past; theexisting data suggest the risk for noncarcinogenic health effects would be low for exposure toantimony and minimal for arsenic in soils. Also, the risk for carcinogenic health effects would below for exposure to arsenic in soil. Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenicpotential of trivalent chromium and antimony. However, dermal exposure to chromium-contaminated on-site soil may have caused allergic skin reactions in some workers and trespassers.The extent to which workers or trespassers at the site were exposed to contaminants in surface soilprior to the installation of the site perimeter fencing is unknown. Therefore, the site presented anindeterminate public health hazard in the past. Contaminants in soil at the site could present apublic health concern if the site is not remediated and land use changes to make contaminantsavailable for human exposure. A fence around the site hasreduced the potential for current andfuture exposures. Therefore, based on ATSDR Public Health Hazard Classification (Appendix C),the Hiteman Leather site presents no apparent public health hazard.
- The site fence must be maintained to reduce access as long as contaminants remain on-site.
- Actions, such as institutional controls, should be implemented to preclude changes in site use which could expose people to site contaminants.
- Existing building debris should be removed to further reduce physical hazards and theattractiveness of the site to trespassers.
- A long-term monitoring program should be developed to evaluate potential off-sitecontaminant migration through groundwater and runoff to the Unadilla River.
Actions Completed During the Public Health Assessment Process:
- Although public and private drinking water supplies are not downgradient of the site, NYS DOH sampled the wells for site-related contaminants. None were detected.
- A fence was built around the site by US EPA in 1994. Maintenance repairs were completed in 1996.
- The US EPA directed the demolition of structurally unsound buildings in 1996 and 1998.
- The US EPA stabilized the north bank of the Unadilla River in 1996. Approximately 500 linear feet of rip rap was installed.
Public Health Actions Planned
- The NYS DOH and the ATSDR will coordinate with the appropriate agencies regardingactions to be taken in response to the recommendations provided in this report.
- The NYS DOH will evaluate the public water supply sampling results for metals every three years. The closest private well, which is 500 feet across the Unadilla River, will not be resampled unless new information warrants additional sampling.
This Public Health Assessment was prepared by the New York State Department of Health under acooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It isin accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the Public Health Assessment was begun.
Gregory V. Ulirsch
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch (SSAB)
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)
The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this Public Health Assessment and concurs with its findings.
Chief, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR
New York State Department of Health
Gregory A. Rys
Public Health Specialist
Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation
Donald W.R. Miles
ATSDR Grant Coordinator
Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation
Thomas B. Johnson, Ph.D.
Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Office of the Assistant Administrator
Technical Project Officer
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1992. Toxicological Profile forAntimony. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. ATSDR/TP-91/02.
ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1993. Toxicological Profile forArsenic. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service.
ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1998. Toxicological Profile forChromium (Draft Update). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public HealthService.
GHR Engineering Associates, Inc. 1989. Draft First Phase Remedial Investigation SummaryReport, Hiteman Leather Company Site, West Winfield, New York. December 21.
NYS Department of Health (NYS DOH). 1997. Health Consultation, Hiteman Leather, WestWinfield, Herkimer County, New York. June 2.
SAIC Engineering, Inc. 1992. Remedial Investigation Report, Hiteman Leather Company Site,West Winfield, New York.
US Bureau of the Census. 1991. 1990 Census of the population and housing summary tape file 1B. US Department of Commerce.
US Bureau of the Census. 1992. 1990 Census of the population and housing summary tape file 3A,CD-ROM. US Department of Commerce.
United State Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 1999a. From website: www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/nar1523.htm
United States Environmental Protection Agency 1999b. On-line Integrated Risk Information System: http://www.epa.gov/ngispgm3/iris/subst-fl.htm.