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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

RESIN DISPOSAL SITE
JEFFERSON BOROUGH, ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA


SUMMARY

Resin Disposal is a National Priorities List (NPL) site located approximately one-half mile west of the town of West Elizabeth in Jefferson Borough, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The landfill waste is chemically and physically heterogeneous but generally contains elevated concentrations of benzene, styrene, naphthalene and lead. Approximately 85,000 tons of waste were deposited in the landfill. Site soils, groundwater, surface water, sediment and seeps are contaminated with volatile organic compounds and other chemicals.

Approximately 1,900 people reside within a mile radius of the site. The distance from the nearest residence to the site is approximately 300 feet. There are currently no known completed exposure pathways associated with this site that would have a significant impact on public health. However, exposure to contaminated groundwater may occur in the future in the event of significant off-site migration of site contaminants. Since the site is capped with 4-9 feet of soil and partially secured with a chain-link fence and geographically not readily accessible to the public, on-site exposure to contaminants should be minimal.

The Resin Disposal site currently represents an indeterminate public health hazard since comprehensive data are not available for all environmental media to which humans may be exposed. Available data indicate that humans are not being or have not been exposed to levels of contaminants that would be expected to cause adverse health effects. However, if in the future contaminants would migrate off-site and impact residential wells, adverse health effects could occur.

The data and information developed in the Resin Disposal Public Health Assessment have been evaluated for appropriate follow-up health actions. The ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) determined that no follow-up public health actions are necessary. ATSDR will reevaluate this site and conduct appropriate public health actions, if new data become available that indicate a need to do so.

Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) will continue to review groundwater sampling data for nearby residential wells downgradient to the site. ATSDR and PADOH will coordinate with the appropriate authorities in the event significant contamination would be found in a residential well to cease/reduce exposure and obtain an alternate supply of potable water.


BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corporation (PICCO) Resin Disposal site is a National Priorities List (NPL) site located approximately one-half mile west of the town of West Elizabeth in Jefferson Borough, Allegheny County (Figure A). The site is currently owned by Hercules, Incorporated (Hercules) and covers approximately 1.8 acres at the head of a narrow valley on the site of a former coal strip mine. Approximately 85,000 tons of waste were deposited at the landfill. The landfill waste is chemically and physically heterogeneous but generally contains elevated concentrations of benzene, styrene, naphthalene and lead.

Hercules purchased the business and facilities, including the property in 1973 from PICCO. According to Hercules Jefferson Plant employees, between 1950 and 1964, the site received an estimated 77,000 tons of production wastes from the PICCO Plant located at 120 State Street, Clairton, Pennsylvania. These wastes are primarily composed of Clay Poly Cakes and Dechlor Cakes as well as clay and other solids removed by filtration of resin solutions. The filter cakes were composed of approximately 80% water, 10% aromatic solvents and 10% solids at the time of deposition. The wastes, in the form of sludge, were deposited behind earthen dikes by dumping down a topographic chute at the corner of Circle Glen Drive and Maryland Avenue above the landfill. Sometime after the use of the landfill was discontinued, a soil cover, approximately 4-9 feet thick, was placed on top of the landfill. The cover material was apparently derived from native on-site soils as evidenced by the presence of coal fragments and the fact that the cover is the same type as the other site soils. The cover soils later became vegetated with grasses (1).

The potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the site contamination installed a leachate collection system in 1973. An oil/water separator was installed downslope of the toe of the lower dike in order to treat leachate which was seeping from the soils below the dike. As a result of site characterization in 1981, Weston who was hired by Hercules recommended that a leachate collection trench be installed below the lower dike to collect leachate and groundwater downgradient of the lower dike. In 1983, this trench was installed and directed into the shallow underlying bedrock so that a complete interception of seepage was achieved. Liquids collected in the trench were sent through the oil/water separation tanks. Presently, the oil which is collected is burned at the Hercules Jefferson Plant boiler. The water phase collected from the leachate collection system is being discharged through the Jefferson Borough Sanitary Sewer System to the West Elizabeth Sanitary Authority extended aeration treatment plant under a contractual agreement approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (PADER) (1).

In August 1989, a collection basin approximately 10 feet by 10 feet by 5 feet deep was installed to accommodate a leachate surface seep. This seep had appeared approximately 10 feet upgradient from the existing leachate collection trench on the west end of the trench. A collection pipe was installed from this basin downslope to the original leachate collection trench. Upon completion of the modification, the surface seep was eliminated.

In addition to the collection trench, there have been efforts to recover non-aqueous phase product from several downgradient monitoring wells which were found to contain product. These efforts appear to have been effective in removing the limited quantities of non-aqueous phase product present in these wells prior to the installation of the leachate collection trench. Monitoring was discontinued in July 1990 since no product had been observed since September 1989.

A Preliminary Health Assessment for the PICCO/Resin Disposal site was prepared by ATSDR on November 15, 1988.

B. Site Visit

On March 6, 1991, a two-hour site visit was conducted at the PICCO Resin Disposal site. Mr. Robert M. Stroman and Mr. Douglas Klimchok represented the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) and Ms. Deborah McNaughton represented PADER. In addition, Mr. Charles Walters represented ATSDR Region III; Mr. Kevin Wilmot represented the Allegheny County Health Department; and Mr. Marvin Livesay and Mr. David Cosbie represented Hercules. Areas of special interest included site security, dikes, drainage areas, the closure cap, and the proximity of nearby residents to the site. During the site visit, Ms. McNaughton and Mr. Cosbie identified and discussed the significance of the areas of special interest.

The site was observed to be partially secured in that a chain-link fence restricted passage at the entrance to the site. Wooded areas and a 5-20 foot high cliff partially restricted entrance to the site along the remainder of the site perimeter. At the time of the site visit, the site was undergoing remediation at the entrance.

It rained during the site visit and there was visual evidence of soil erosion via surface water runoff. Mr. Livesay stated that a surface water diversion ditch needed to be dug to divert runoff into surface drainage ditches along the road leading up to the site. The oil/water separator was functioning and we were informed by Mr. Cosbie that the water is directed into the municipal sewage system. The oil is collected every week and disposed of at the Hercules Jefferson Plant.

There was no evidence of public trespass; however, Mr. Cosbie stated the nearby residents occasionally walk their dogs on the site. Mr. Walters also noticed a deer hunter's tree stand in the wooded area along the site perimeter.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

The site is surrounded by a suburban residential area to the north and west and by undeveloped property to the south and east. The land further west of the site was extensively deep-mined and strip-mined. A trailer park and several residential homes are located approximately one-quarter mile southeast and downslope of the PICCO Resin Disposal site. To the east lies the town of West Elizabeth, a mixed commercial, industrial and residential area. According to U.S. Census Bureau 1990 records, the population within a mile radius of the site is approximately 1,819.

The site is located in Jefferson Borough which had a 1990 population of 9,533, an increase of 10.3% over the 1980 Census (2). The 1980 Census indicates that Jefferson Borough was 96.8% White, with 0.4% being of Spanish origin, and 2.2% Black. There were only 39 Blacks under 16 years of age in Jefferson Borough according to the 1980 Census. In 1988 and 1989, there were a total of 211 births in Jefferson Borough of which only five were Black. The median age was 32.9, the same as that of Pennsylvania (3). The 1985 per capita income of Jefferson Borough was 10,357, slightly higher than that of Pennsylvania - 10,288, but less than that of Allegheny County - 11,454 (4).

Allegheny County has 37 hospitals and 55 nursing homes (5,6); however, none of these are within a mile radius of the site. The closest elementary school is in West Elizabeth Borough and there is a high school in Clairton City (7,8). These schools are within a mile and two miles, respectively, of the site.

Land Use

Current land use in the site area is primarily residential and agricultural/grazing. Much of the land in the immediate site area is either wooded and is not currently used or has been strip-mined and reclaimed. A small unnamed stream, approximately one to six inches deep and one to three feet wide is the only surface water in the immediate vicinity of the site. The stream, which is perennial except in its upper reaches, originates above the landfill, crosses the site, and flows through the residential area located below the site, where it flows back into the groundwater. During periods of low flow, the stream originates from a spring near the oil/water separator. The stream has no known uses and eventually flows into the Monongahela River. The Monongahela River is commonly used for boating, barge traffic and fishing.

Natural Resource Use

Three distinct hydrogeologic zones exist beneath the Resin Disposal site. Each of these zones was investigated using monitoring wells designed to isolate a specific zone. The three zones were the unconsolidated zone (soils), the mined out Pittsburgh Coal and the deep bedrock below the Pittsburgh Coal. Shallow groundwater in the unconsolidated zone moves south from the landfill and much of this is intercepted by the leachate collection trench. Downslope of the leachate collection trench groundwater moves to the south-southeast along the valley bottom. During most of the year, the unnamed stream is a gaining stream which means a component of groundwater flows toward, and discharges to, the stream.

Indications are that the groundwater in the Pittsburgh Coal is flowing toward the west in the direction of Walton Road and possibly toward the dip of the Pittsburgh Coal. However, groundwater flow on a smaller scale within the Pittsburgh Coal is complicated by the existence of mine voids upgradient and downgradient of the site. Mine voids result from the practice of room and pillar mining during the late 1800's and early 1900's. This method of mining coal involves a series of rooms separated by pillars of coal which have been left to aid in roof support of the mine (1). Groundwater in the mined-out Pittsburgh Coal is recharged through fractures in the overlying soils and bedrock. The deep bedrock below the Pittsburgh Coal is unfractured and contains only minuscule amounts of groundwater. Groundwater to the east of the site in the Scotia Hollow area and south of the site toward Alexander Avenue does not appear to be contaminated by the site.

The communities surrounding the site have access to a sanitary sewer and a public water supply. In general, most of the residents in the area of the site are connected to public water, although several residents maintain their old wells as an additional source of water. Four of the residents surveyed during the Remedial Investigation were not connected to public water and used private wells as their primary source of water. Two residents who were connected to public water also used their well water for indoor use, other than drinking (Appendix B).

D. Health Outcome Data

Health outcome databases were not used in this report for reasons discussed in the Health Outcome Evaluation section.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

A public meeting was held at the Jefferson Borough Municipal Building on May 6, 1991, regarding the Federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed action plan for the Resin Disposal site. An estimated thirty persons attended this meeting. The specific health concerns identified in the community were as follows: (1) Is my health currently at risk as a result of exposure to contaminants in my residential well? and (2) Are residents exposed to hazardous levels of site contaminants in air? These concerns are addressed in the Community Health Concerns Evaluation section.


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