FREELAND, LUZERNE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
C&D Recycling is a National Priorities List (NPL) site approximately 3 miles northeast of Freeland Borough in Foster Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Site soils, groundwater, surface water, and sediment contain lead at levels of public health concern. Fugitive dusts contained lead during site securing and erosion control activities. Pond Creek, a small community, lies about 1 mile north of the site. Approximately 300 people reside within a 1-mile radius of the site. The distance from the nearest residence to the site is approximately 300 feet. Past completed exposure pathways for lead in surface soils and air existed for on-site workers. Past, present, and future potential exposure pathways for lead in off-site soil, surface water, sediment, and air also exist for children and other nearby residents. Finally, past, present, and future completed exposure pathways for lead present regionally in groundwater also exist for nearby residents. Because the site is secured with a chain-link fence and not accessible to the public, on-site exposure to contaminants is not likely. The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have concluded, based on the information reviewed, that the non-site related lead identified in private wells is of public health concern. Long term exposure to lead in drinking water may cause adverse health effects. Children are at greatest risk for developing health effects from exposure to elevated levels of lead in drinking water.
The community has expressed many concerns about the site. Health concerns include questions about adverse pregnancy outcomes, lead exposure, and long-term public health implications of on-site disposal of stabilized contaminated materials. The community is also concerned about possible arsenic and selenium poisoning (see Attachment). Other concerns involve questions about the environmental data collected to date. The community concerns are addressed in both the Community Concerns Evaluation section in the Attachment of this document.
The C&D Recycling site is an indeterminate public health hazard because information needed to evaluate potential exposure pathways is not available. The information that is needed includes air monitoring data that are to be collected during remediation. Possible past exposures through air cannot be evaluated with the environmental data available. A health consultation is being prepared for the people in the surrounding community that will evaluate illnesses for which the community has expressed a concern. That health consultation will be available for public comment on or about June 28, 1993. The information and data developed in the Public Health Assessment for the C&D Recycling site, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, have been evaluated by the ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. Because of the past, current, and possible future exposure to lead in groundwater (which is not site-related) at levels of public health concern, the Panel determined that community health education and a site-specific biological indicators of exposure study are indicated. ATSDR, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, will provide environmental health education for the population residing near the former C&D Recycling facility to assist the community in understanding possible adverse health outcomes associated with exposure to lead.
In cooperation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) will evaluate the public health significance of this site. More specifically, PADOH will determine whether health effects are feasible and will recommend actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, to conduct public health assessments of hazardous waste sites.
C&D Recycling is a National Priorities List (NPL) site in Foster Township, Luzerne County, about 3 miles northeast of Freeland Borough and 4 miles southwest of White Haven Borough (Figure 1). The inactive site covers approximately 45 acres in a rural area and was formerly used for dairy farming. The area is accessible by paved roads from the north and west of the property, but the contaminated area is enclosed by a fence. The main site building is in the northwest corner of the property and covers approximately 10,000 square feet. Other related structures at the site include a shed, a weigh station, and an old furnace. Several abandoned farm structures including two barns and a milk house are also on site. Physical sources of contamination at the site are site soils (including ash). Other contaminated environmental media include off-site sediments and surface water.
Lurgan Corporation operated this facility for 10 to 15 years when it was foreclosed in 1979. The company recovered copper from cables and wires supplied by AT&T Nassau Metals Corporation and several other firms. After the 1979 foreclosure, all of the operating assets were sold to a newly formed corporation, C&D Recycling. C&D Recycling operated the facility from 1979 until early 1984. C&D Recycling was also involved in the recovery of copper from scrap cable and wire. Specifically, C&D Recycling received shipments of lead-cased and plastic-cased cable and wire. The lead-cased cable was sorted, placed on pallets, and shipped back to the designee. In order to reclaim the copper wire, the casings were mechanically stripped. The cable was stored on site in large piles. Any plastic remaining on the copper wire was burned off and the recovered copper was shipped back to the supplier. The burning process at the site, before 1981, involved the use of an open burning pit next to the old furnace.
On April 21, 1981, a number of residents of Foster Township sent a letter to State Senator Martin L. Murray expressing concern about open burning operations at the site (1). Subsequently, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (PADER), Bureau of Air Quality Control, notified C&D Recycling in May 1981 that the open burning operation resulted in smoke emissions that were visible beyond the property boundary. Emissions that are visible beyond property boundaries are a violation of state law. As a result, C&D Recycling moved the open burning pit to the other side of the property and installed air pollution control equipment in an attempt to comply with state regulations. In February 1983, PADER levied a $100 fine against C&D Recycling for violation of the Air Pollution Control Act. C&D Recycling ceased operations in 1984. In 1985, the site was proposed for the NPL of hazardous sites, and in September 1987, a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was conducted at the site.
Three separate remedial actions have taken place at the site. In April, 1985, approximately 68 tons of material from open burn pits were removed from the site. Nassau undertook actions to control erosion and runoff from the site. The actions included consolidating and covering ash piles, regrading, seeding, and runoff controls. Runoff controls included installing silt fencing, placing hay bales and rip-rap in strategic areas to prevent erosion, and extending the surface water drainage pipe into the bottom of the shale pit to prevent erosion of soil on the northern bank of the shale pit. The erosion and runoff controls were completed in 1987. Nassau contracted with the BES Corporation to remove plastic casings stockpiled at the site. That operation was completed in December 1988. A total of 234 trailer loads containing approximately 2 million pounds of material were removed from the site. Also in 1988, ATSDR conducted a preliminary health assessment of the site. Currently, the site is unused and a chain-link fence, installed in 1986, encloses the operations area and the most contaminated area of the site. For the purpose of this public health assessment, PADOH will refer to the area inside the chain-link fence as the site.
A Record of Decision (ROD) was issued by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on September 30, 1992. The ROD's selected remedy addresses ash, soil, sediment, buildings, and structures. The selected remedy includes decontamination and/or demolition of contaminated buildings and structures; stabilization of contaminated soil, ash, and sediment, as needed; and disposal of the stabilized and/or decontaminated material into an off-site landfill. The ROD also gives the potentially responsible parties 180 days to provide information on an on-site containment cell for on-site disposal of material. On-site disposal must comply with Pennsylvania's residual waste management regulations, provide a remedial alternative equally or more protective of human health and the environment, and be cost effective (17).
On February 21, 1990, a site visit was conducted by Kandiah Sivarajah, Robert M. Stroman, Robert Reister, and Ronald Masitis, PADOH; Charles Walters, ATSDR, Region III; and members from PADER and EPA Region III. Also present during the site visit were a citizen representing Concerned Citizens of Foster Township and two Foster Township supervisors. During the site visit, PADOH and ATSDR toured the site and met nearby residents. EPA's Remedial Project Manager described the site's features and provided an update on EPA's activities.
The site was observed to be secured with a chain-link fence that enclosed the contaminated area of approximately 10 acres. A furnace, behind the main facility, was observed to be rusting. Surrounding the furnace were several huge wire bales piled 20 feet high providing visual evidence that all physical debris at the site has not been removed. No environmental sampling was conducted during the site visit.
On October 8 and 9, 1991, a field investigation was conducted in the area around the C&D Recycling site by J.E. Godfrey, who is also a member of PADOH's Health Assessment Team, and a member from PADER. Robert M. Stroman joined the field investigation on October 9, 1991. The purpose of the field investigation was to determine structured aspects of local geology in order to identify probable directions of groundwater flow, to determine the cause of the low pH and elevated lead content in residential Well #1, and to determine the possible source for lead found in nearby residential well water.
Bedrock outcrops, combined with published geologic reports, indicate that an anticlinal axis crosses the site near its northern border. Horizontal beds appear in the road cut about 75 feet southeast of monitoring Well #2 and in exposures about 300 feet to the east in a proposed housing development. At the southern part of the site, siltstone and shale beds of the Mauch Chunk Formation dip consistently to the south southeast. While no outcrops are visible immediately north of the site, published geologic maps indicate a strongly folded syncline from which coal was mined 1/2 mile to the north. The driller's log for monitoring Well #8 (R.I. Appendix D) repeatedly refers to "horizontal banding, horizontal laminae and horizontal fractures parallel to bedding." That information, combined with outcrops of the younger Pottsville group on the property containing residential Well #1 (Figure 2), near Route 940, support the argument for locating the anticlinal axis just south of the northern property line.
Therefore, preferential directions of groundwater flow are concluded to be generally northward north of the site and generally southward from the anticlinal axis (groundwater divide) toward the site's southern boundary. Water levels from deep and shallow wells suggest that groundwater flow may be more southwesterly near topographically higher portions of the site and south-southeasterly near the headwaters of Mill Hopper Creek (Figure 3). The groundwater contour map shows elevation contours at the southern part of the site approximately coinciding with the direction of local and regional formation strike (N-80o-E), thereby implying groundwater flow (at right angles) toward the south southeast in the direction of bedding plane dip. In addition to bedding planes, numerous vertical bedrock joints (fractures) striking approximately north-south, and visible in nearly every outcrop, further contribute to the southward component of groundwater flow. Such geologic controls on groundwater flow are well documented throughout Pennsylvania and occur repeatedly in similar geologic settings. With the possible (however, unlikely) exception of residential Well #10, residential wells east and west of the site are highly unlikely to intercept groundwater flowing from the site. In any case, no definable groundwater contaminant plume (see Environmental Contamination and Other Hazards section) has been associated with the C&D site at the present time.
The site is approximately 4 miles west southwest of the Borough of White Haven. Woodlands are present to the north, south, and east of the site. The headwaters of Mill Hopper Creek are in the southern part of the site and a pond is approximately 300 feet to the south. The area around the site is sparsely populated with several homes within 1/2 mile of the site. The closest home lies approximately 300 feet west of the site. The area within a 1-mile radius of the site has a population of approximately 300 persons. The majority of the population reside in the Pond Creek area, at a trailer court south of Pond Creek, and in a housing development to the east. There is no municipal water supply to the site area, and residents are dependent upon private wells.
Several strip mines lie within a 1-mile radius of the site to the north and south. There is no evidence that people residing near the site frequently come in contact with the aforementioned wetlands, creek, or strip mines. Although coal mining activities occur at locations in the area, no subsurface mining activities or strip mine blasting occur on or adjacent to the site.
The Bureau of the Census has released total population figures for Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) in Pennsylvania. Foster Township has a population of 3,372. Freeland Borough, which lies approximately 3 miles west of the site, has a population of 3,909, and White Haven Borough, which lies approximately 4 miles northeast of the site, has a population of 1,132 (2). Detailed population characteristics of the 1990 Census are not available. Therefore, all data on detailed population characteristics will be from the 1980 Census.
The 1990 Census reports that the population of Foster Township was 3,258 (3). However, the number was changed during the intercensus period. White Haven Center is a state operated mental retardation facility presently housing approximately 450 adult patients ranging in age from 19 to their late 80's. This facility is outside the White Haven Borough boundary; however, the 1980 Census included approximately 700 White Haven Center residents in White Haven Borough rather than in Foster Township. The later census figure for Foster Township is 3,962. The census tape used by PADOH and all hard copy publications for detailed population characteristics use 3,258 as the population. Of the total population, only two were non-White and 20 were of Spanish origin. The population was 51.4% female. The median age of the population was 37.8 years, of which 17.4% were 65 years of age or older. This is considerably older than the corresponding figures for Pennsylvania - median age was 32.1 years, and 12.9% of the population was age 65 and older. However, these figures are comparable to those of Luzerne County where the median age was 35.9 years, and 16.4% of the population was 65 years and older.
The 1985 per capita income of Foster Township was $7,558. This per capita income is lower than that of Luzerne County - $8,873, and much lower than that of Pennsylvania - $10,228 (4). Historically, the source of economy of Luzerne County was mineral-based, but has changed to an economy that is based on the service trade, retail, and commercial industries. Manufacturing has been declining because many companies have moved south or out of the country to minimize climate-related costs and also to take advantage of cheaper labor. Health care is a major industry in the region with four large hospitals and numerous related support industries. The percentage of elderly people within Luzerne County is one of the highest in the nation. Other large companies that retain facilities within the county include RCA, Owens - Illinois, Bryden American, Air Products, Offset Paperback, and Nabisco (1).
The 1990 Census reports a 4.35% loss of population from 1980 in Luzerne County with 69.3% of the MCDs reporting a loss of population. Generally, urban areas have lost population to surrounding areas, which is a national trend. Two areas experiencing growth were the Greater Mountain Top area and the Greater Back Mountain area, both in the vicinity of Wilkes-Barre in the Wyoming Valley. In the rural site area (Foster Township), services are received from more distant urban areas. Residents of the site area are served by the Hazleton School District with the closest elementary school in Freeland Borough (5). The birth rate for Foster Township for the combined years 1988 and 1989 was only 8.5 per 1,000 population, which indicated a sparsity of young families. Hazleton General Hospital serves the bulk of the hospital needs of the area (6). The closest nursing homes in the county are also in Hazleton (7).
Using state health databases, special studies, or other relevant health outcome databases, it may be possible to determine whether certain health effects are higher than expected in areas surrounding hazardous waste sites. This section introduces these databases used for this public health assessment and discusses their limitations. An evaluation of the usefulness of this health data in relation to the C&D Recycling site is presented in the Public Health Implications section.
PADOH maintains a resident birth and death registry (including infant deaths) that is nearly complete (99% or greater). The infant deaths are subdivided as neonatal (under 28 days) and post-neonatal (28-364 days). Pennsylvania records all fetal deaths from 16 weeks gestation and over. However, in Pennsylvania, fetal deaths under 16 weeks gestation are not required to be reported. The result is that adverse pregnancy outcome, which may imply spontaneous abortions in early pregnancy, is not available from state records. The birth certificate in Pennsylvania does include a section entitled Confidential Information for Medical and Health Use Only; however, those data are not routinely summarized and completeness and accuracy of the data vary.
During the site visit and again during a March 14, 1991, telephone conversation with Robert M. Stroman, PADOH, a resident, who resides about 1,500 feet upgradient of the site, expressed concern that her drinking water, as well as the drinking water of nearby residences, may have been or may become contaminated with lead. She was especially concerned about the health of the children who may be exposed to lead in their drinking water and desired to know if the residential areas near the site were contaminated. In addition, on March 18, 1991, Robert M. Stroman was contacted by another resident who resides about 1,200 feet upgradient of the site. She expressed concern that there is an abnormally high incidence of adverse pregnancy outcome in the area and questions whether it may be associated with the site.
The community is particularly concerned about the possibility of allowing on-site disposal of stabilized materials. The community feels that containment cells (as a remedial measure) have not been used long enough to determine long-term effectiveness and that acid rain may allow leaching and release of contaminants into soil and groundwater over time.
On March 19, 1992, PADOH placed a notice in The Standard Speaker newspaper, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, informing the public that the Public Health Assessment for C&D Recycling was available for comment. At the end of this first comment period, i.e., May 6, 1992, PADOH did not receive comments on the assessment.
ATSDR received a petition request for a public health assessment on the C&D Recycling site on May 29, 1992. The petitioner was not aware that a public health assessment had already been issued for public comment. The petitioner subsequently requested ATSDR (and ATSDR concurred) that the public health assessment be reissued for public comment. Comments and the response to the comments received during the second public comment period are presented in the Attachment at the end of this public health assessment.