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HEALTH CONSULTATION

BALLY GROUNDWATER
(a/k/a BALLY GROUND WATER CONTAMINATION)
BALLY BOROUGH, BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA


SUMMARY

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) asked the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) to reevaluate the Bally Groundwater Site (the site) in Bally, Pennsylvania, to determine if the site is still a public health hazard to area residents. A 1993 Public Health Assessment, published by ATSDR and PADOH, concluded that the site was a public health hazard from past exposure in well water to volatile organic chemicals, principally trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene.

The site no longer poses a public health threat to local citizens. The municipal water supply is treated to remove harmful chemicals, and the borough has passed ordinances that 1) require households and businesses to connect to and use public water, and 2) forbid the use of private wells and the drilling of new wells within the plume of contamination. Pumping of the public well also contains the plume and prevents its migration to areas beyond the borough.


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The Bally Groundwater Site (the site) is a volume of contaminated groundwater beneath and near the Bally Engineered Structures plant in Bally, Berks County, Pennsylvania (Figures 1 and 2). From about 1960 to 1965, the company and its predecessor used lagoons Exiting ATSDR Website on the property to dispose of waste volatile organic compounds (VOCs), predominantly trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE) [1]. As a result, private and public wells in Bally Borough were contaminated down gradient of the site. By 1966, the lagoons were filled, and the area was converted to a parking lot for plant employees and visitors. In 1982, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) discovered the organic solvents (up to 4,000 parts per billion (ppb) total VOCs) in Bally Borough Well #3 (Figure 3). The well was temporarily taken out of service and an alternate well farther to the east was used temporarily to supply the town. The status and use of private wells is unknown to PADOH from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. In 1987, Well #3 was fitted with appropriate treatment (i.e., air stripper) and returned to service. Today, it still serves Bally residents with safe drinking water, and all residences are required by local ordinance to be connected to that supply. The well is pumped at a rate about twice the actual demand volume in order to contain the contaminant plume [1]. Excess water is discharged into a local creek after treatment.

In September 1993, ATSDR and PADOH published a Public Health Assessment (PHA) for the site [2], which contains further historical information and site data. The PHA concluded that the site was a public health hazard from past exposure to VOCs through well water. The PHA further concluded that if EPA's Record of Decision (ROD) were followed, further exposures would be reduced or eliminated. That ROD required, among other things, (a) abandonment of appropriate existing wells; (b) institutional controls on the use of operable wells and construction of new wells; and (c) extraction and treatment of groundwater until contaminant levels fall below Federal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for drinking water [1].

According to EPA documents available on the Internet [1, 3], Bally Borough has two ordinances in effect to prevent exposure to contaminated groundwater. One requires all residences and businesses to connect to and use public water, and another prohibits additional well drilling within the borough. After the PHA was published, an additional monitoring well was installed farther down gradient in 1997 (MW-23I, Figure 30. Since January 2000, EPA records show that contaminants of concern have been declining and are now at concentrations of less than 1 ppb in MW-23I. Therefore, private wells far down gradient and beyond borough boundaries are not impacted by the site.


SITE VISIT

On November 16, 2001, J. E. Godfrey of PADOH visited the site, photographed the air stripper on Well #3, and located MW-23I in a field near the borough boundary (Figure 3). No other observable changes were seen in the site and surrounding area since 1993. Currently, the plant is used for warehousing of material and not as a manufacturing facility (oral communication with EPA representative)


CHILD HEALTH INITIATIVE

ATSDR and PADOH recognize that infants and children may be more sensitive to exposures than adults when encountering contaminated soil, air, or water. Children are smaller than adults, resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure per body weight. They are shorter, and therefore closer to the ground where they may breathe more dust and heavy vapors. The developing body systems of children can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occur during critical growth stages. Therefore, ATSDR and PADOH are committed to evaluating their special interests at the Bally Groundwater site.


CONCLUSIONS

The Bally Groundwater Site no longer poses a public health hazard to residents of Bally Borough and down gradient areas. Public well water is properly treated to remove VOCs to levels at or below the concentrations set forth in Pennsylvania's safe drinking water standards. Continuous pumping of the municipal well also functions to contain the plume of groundwater contamination to an area within the borough boundary. Therefore, private wells beyond the borough boundary which might not be covered by borough ordinances, are not affected.


RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Continue pumping and treating contaminated groundwater as prescribed in the 1989 ROD, which requires that remediation continue until contaminants of concern in the aquifer are at or below the MCLs for drinking water.

2. Continue enforcement of borough ordinances, which require use of the municipal water supplyand forbid the use of private wells and the drilling of new wells.


PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN

No further public health action is required for the Bally Groundwater Site.


REFERENCES

1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2000. Five-Year Review Report. Bally Groundwater Site, Bally Borough, Pennsylvania.

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 29, 1993. Public Health Assessment for Bally Groundwater Contamination, Bally, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, June 28, 2001. Record of Decision (ROD) Abstracts, Bally Groundwater Contamination, Bally Borough Pennsylvania.


PREPARER OF REPORT

J.E. Godfrey, P.G.
Licensed Professional Geologist
Pennsylvania Department of Health


CERTIFICATION

This Health Consultation for the Bally Groundwater Site was prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the health consultation was initiated.

Roberta Erlwein
Technical Project Officer, SPS, SSAB, DHAC


The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC), ATSDR, has reviewed this health consultation and concurs with its findings.

Richard E. Gillig
SectionChief, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


FIGURES

Bally Groundwater Site Location Map
Figure 1. Bally Groundwater Site Location Map

Bally Borough Site Location Map
Figure 2. Bally Borough Site Location Map

Bally Borough Layout, Bally Groundwater Contamination Site
Figure 3. Bally Borough Layout, Bally Groundwater Contamination Site


Table of Contents

  
 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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