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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

RODALE MANUFACTURING COMPANY INC.
EMMAUS, LEHIGH COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

SUMMARY

The Rodale Manufacturing site, a National Priorities List (NPL) site, is at the corner of Sixth and Minor Street in the Borough of Emmaus, south of Allentown in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The 1.2-acre site is secured and is not accessible to the public. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (PADER) files indicate that the former owners of the site, Rodale Manufacturing, used on-site cesspools or injection wells to dispose of various electroplating wastes from 1961 until 1967. No documentation was found to indicate what waste disposal practices were used prior to 1961. PADER files indicate that, in 1961, approximately 3,000 gallons per day of rinse water from zinc and copper plating and acid brass dipping operations were disposed in a borehole (injection well), 431 feet deep.

Water is supplied to area residents by the Emmaus Borough Water System (EBWS). The borough supplies 4,311 meter connections (over 16,000 people) with groundwater pumped from six production wells, all within a 3-mile radius of the site. Emmaus production well #5, approximately 0.7 miles northwest of the site, was taken out of service in 1981 because it contained elevated levels of trichloroethene (TCE). During the site investigation of January 1989, water samples of the on-site injection wells, monitoring wells, public supply wells, and private wells were obtained. High levels of the volatile organic compounds were detected in the injection wells and monitoring wells. Also, elevated levels of TCE were detected in a public supply well (29 µg/L) and a private well (11 µg/L). Lead was found in a public supply well at 7.3 µg/L. Therefore, exposure to contaminated groundwater represents a completed exposure pathway for residents of Emmaus using contaminated borough public well water and private well users whose wells are downgradient of the site.

The site represents a public health hazard because of risk to human health from the past exposures to contaminants that may cause adverse health effects. Current exposures are below levels of public health concern, but future exposures may occur if further groundwater remediation plans are not implemented. Quarterly testing of the supply wells provides information on levels of contaminants that may be present. Water that is distributed by EBWS to the people must not contain levels of contaminants that exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). A private well survey was completed in 1993. Some private wells were contaminated, but concentrations of contaminants were below levels of public health concern. Monitoring is needed to be sure levels do not increase.

Community members have expressed concerns about using the EBWS for their drinking water. Former employees have expressed concerns about exposures that may have occurred when they worked at the facility. People are also concerned about children who may play or live near the site.

The information and data developed in the public health assessment for the Rodale Manufacturing site, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, have been evaluated by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities. The Panel determined that the site be reevaluated after the results of the well survey and sampling of private wells are available. These results are needed to determine if health professions education or further follow-up health investigations are needed. In addition, the Panel will determine if community health education should be conducted once the results of the private well survey and sampling are available.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated it would address the need for another source of potable water if contamination is found above safe drinking water standards in private wells; will consider institutional controls, if possible, to restrict the installation of wells in areas of contamination if necessary; conduct a well survey and expand groundwater sampling to determine the extent of contamination; determine if other sources of contamination are possible; evaluate site conditions and determine if additional remediation is necessary at the source; and address soil contamination with consideration for the possibility that people may come into direct contact with the contamination.

To date, a water quality study, which included a well survey, has been completed by Square D, the current site owner, for a 3-mile radius of the site. Some low levels of volatile organic compounds were detected in some of the private wells. EPA provided information to the people using those wells about the contamination and how they could reduce exposure. The results of the survey and the activities conducted by EPA will be provided to HARP.

In addition, the water quality study indicated that further site groundwater remediation would be beneficial. A proposal to pump and treat on-site groundwater is currently under review by EPA. If the proposal is approved, the system should be in place by the fall of 1994.

BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The Rodale Manufacturing Company site is located on Sixth and Minor Streets in the Borough of Emmaus, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (1) (Figure 1). The Rodale Manufacturing Company facility was a 4,000 square foot, u-shaped warehouse and manufacturing building. The narrow, inner courtyard, approximately 40 feet wide and 200 feet long, contained the old production/injection wells (Figure 2). The site is in a residential area. The nearest home is approximately 25 feet east of the building. Row homes are directly across Minor Street to the north and a small business, Sharp Steel Rule Die, Inc., is on the southwest corner of Sixth and Minor Street. Homes are located south of the site, over 100 feet from the building.

The southern part of the building, which forms the prong of the u-shape, was demolished in 1989 because of structural hazards and also to facilitate remediation and investigation of the courtyard. The remaining building was demolished in August-December 1993.

Four monitoring wells (MWs) were installed in 1988 and were placed around the perimeter of the facility. MW #1 is at the southeastern corner of the building along a railroad track. MWs #2 and #3 are north of the building on Minor Street, and MW #4 is west of the facility on the sidewalk of Sixth Street. For the purpose of this public health assessment, the monitoring wells are considered off-site. The site includes only the former building area and the portion of the site enclosed by the 8 to 10-foot high fence (Figure 2) (2).

A fence with gate was at the east side of the courtyard (currently, the entire site is fenced). The injection wells are arranged in an east-west pattern. Well #3 is outside the gate; well #4 is 50 feet west of the gate; well #1, which contained an air-stripper unit, is approximately 100 feet from the gate; and wells #2, #5 and #6 are near one another, approximately 180 feet west of the gate. The courtyard is concrete and the area where part of the building was demolished in 1989 is covered by stones.

The remaining building was demolished in 1993; however, at one time, a small portion of the building was leased to Lehigh Mechanical, a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning company. This business had to vacate the building at the end of 1991.

The site was a silk factory prior to Rodale's ownership, but no information is available concerning its operation. The site was owned by Rodale Press Company from the 1930s until 1957. Rodale Press is a publishing company that moved to a new location in 1957 (3). Rodale Manufacturing Company became operational at the site shortly thereafter. The Rodale Manufacturing Company was sold to the Square D Company in 1975. The Square D Company is the present owner of the property (4).

Rodale Manufacturing used the site from the late 1950s until 1975 to make wiring devices and electrical connectors, which were sold to various utility companies throughout the United States. The manufacturing processes included various electroplating techniques. Records from PADER, Bureau of Water Quality Management files, indicate that well #1, an injection well, was used for disposing various wastes from 1961 until 1967. Wells #2 and #3, also injection wells, were used for disposal. Appendix A provides a summary of information on wells existing prior to the facility closure in 1986. PADER files indicate that the Borough of Emmaus has records showing that the electroplating room at Rodale Manufacturing was connected to the Emmaus sanitary sewer in January 1967. That suggests that the injection wells may not have been used after late 1966 or early 1967. Square D took over the operations on July 15, 1975, and continued manufacturing electrical wiring devices until February 1986.

An additional well indicated as WW #08 on Figure 2 was discovered following the 1989 demolition. The well is cylindrical, about 6 feet in diameter, brick-lined, and open to a depth of 55 feet below land surface. The function of that well is unknown.

In March 1981 when Square D was in the process of installing new equipment, they uncovered a capped borehole (well #1) used by the former owner, Rodale Manufacturing Company. In September 1981, Square D Company met with PADER, Bureau of Water Management, to discuss the water disposal practices of the plant's former owner, Rodale Manufacturing Company. Square D Company told PADER that they uncovered well #1 during their plating waste treatment upgrade and they discovered wells #2 and #3 after talking to maintenance personnel. PADER files indicated that in 1961, approximately 3,000 gallons per day of rinse water from zinc and copper plating and acid brass dripping were disposed in a 431-feet deep borehole known as well #1. Square D Company then agreed to voluntarily cleanup the three cesspools and to install a volatile organic compound (VOC) stripping unit on well #1 in order to abate groundwater contamination beneath the Rodale site. In 1983, the VOC stripper was put in place with PADER approval. After Square D's production operations ceased in February 1986, PADER required that the stripper well be maintained for the purpose of reducing TCE in the groundwater. Concentrations of TCE at the air stripper outlet during initial testing were as high as 26 ppm (April 30, 1984) and had dropped to 0.0027 ppm (March 2, 1988), indicating the effectiveness of the air stripper in reducing contamination levels (2). The stripper was active until mid-1989 when it was removed because of deterioration. A proposal to use this well to pump and treat groundwater is currently under review by EPA.

Contamination migrated off site, and entered the public water supply system through public water supply well #5. The well was shut down upon discovery of the contamination in 1981. An air stripper is now operational on public water supply well #7. Contamination levels in the public water supply after treatment and blending are now at or near zero. Some private wells were found to contain low levels of contaminants in 1981. A water quality study, which included a well survey, for a 3-mile radius around the site was completed in 1993. Additional private wells were identified during the survey that contained low levels of volatile organic compound (VOCs). EPA provided information to the people using those wells on the contamination and how to reduce exposure.

Voluntary remedial actions performed to date by the Square D Company include:

  1. In June 1981, Kohl Brothers, Inc., was contracted to cleanup Injection Well #1. A total of twenty 55-gallon drums of sludge and solid waste material was removed from the well by July 1981 and disposed at the Chemical Waste Management facility in Emmelle, Alabama. The well was pumped and approximately 80,000 gallons of contaminated well water was removed and disposed at the DuPont Environmental Services facility in Deepwater, New Jersey (2).
  2. Clean-out of Injection Well #2 began in August 1981. Injection Well #2 was pumped, and 250 gallons of liquid was removed and disposed at the DuPont disposal facility via tank truck (2).
  3. Clean-out of Injection Well #3 began on September 25, 1981. Thirteen 55-gallon drums of waste material were removed and disposed at the Chem Waste facility in Emmelle, Alabama (2).
  4. When Square D closed the facility in February 1986, most hazardous materials were removed at that time by S&W Waste, Inc. Forty-nine drums and a few pounds of dry materials consisting of acids, bases, oils, greases, and paints were removed. Gold Shield Solvents Company removed six drums (189 gallons) of TCE (2).
  5. In March 1988, limited sludge sampling was conducted at suspect locations (plating and rubber milling pits) by AnalytiKEM. Laboratory results are discussed in the Environmental Contamination and Other Hazards section of this public health assessment. The material from these pits was removed by IT Corporation in July 1988 and disposed at ChemClear in Baltimore, Maryland.
  6. If the pump and treat proposal is approved by EPA, the system is scheduled to be operational by fall of 1994.

Square D Company changed consultants during the site investigation process. In early 1989, Roy F. Weston, Inc. (Weston) was retained in place of SNR Company as the primary environmental consultant. In December 1990, Geo-Environmental Consultants, Inc., (GEC) replaced Weston as the environmental consultant for the site.

The Rodale Manufacturing site was proposed to be placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) on July 29, 1991. A Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) is scheduled for this Update Eleven NPL site in spring of 1995.

B. Site Visit

On September 23, 1991, a two-hour site visit was conducted at the Rodale Manufacturing Company site. Mr. Thomas Hartman, Mr. Robert M. Stroman, and Mr. Francis Bertovich represented the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH). A representative from PADER, EPA, and two representatives of Geo-Environmental Consultants, Inc., represented Square D, the current owner of the site. The representatives of Square D conducted a tour of the site which included the property around the site and an inspection of the interior of an on-site building. The building was secured, and the lot behind the building was enclosed by a 10-foot barbed fence with a locked entrance. This area was not accessible to the public. At the time of the site visit, a small business was operating in the building, but they vacated the premises at the end of 1991.

The site is located in Emmaus Borough in a residential area with homes and a small business, Sharp Steel Rule Die, Inc., at the west corner of Sixth and Minor Street. The closest residence is within 25 feet on Minor Street.

Four capped and locked monitoring wells were around the perimeter of the site. An abandoned air stripper was on the south side of the building within the fenced property. A paved and stone gravel area of the fenced property indicated where an attached building had been demolished because of its deteriorating condition and to provide room for additional site remediation. A 5-foot square, 50-foot deep, brick cistern was in the area of the demolished building. Several small capped wells were also observed. Well #1, a deep well used for dumping contaminants, was observed (1).

The interior of the building was gutted and scheduled for demolition. Abandoned floor plans that were found and kept by the representatives of Square D provided information on prior uses of areas in the building. The second floor was most likely a production area, and an air-conditioned portion was believed to have contained computers. The third floor contained carpeted executive and payroll offices.

On October 17, 1991, J.E. Godfrey, a Hydrogeologist with PADOH, visited the site and the Emmaus area. He examined areas around public supply wells for Emmaus Borough and located previously sampled wells (see Figure 3). Mr. Godfrey identified locations of additional sampling points in relation to the plume that may be added to future studies if needed. Potential non-site-related sources of contamination were observed in the area, particularly around supply well #1 (railroad staging area) and supply well #4 (quarry nearby with evidence of dumping and burning).

As of April 1994, conditions at the site have changed. Demolition of the remaining building is complete and the site is now completely fenced. An 8-foot high wooden security fence was added to the north and west sides of the site to join the chain-link fence already present on the south and east sides. An air stripper was added to the public water supply well #7. The air stripper is operating as designed.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics

A house count was made for the one-, two- and three-mile radii surrounding the site. In addition, population figures from the Rand McNally Commercial Reference Map and Guide were used. The calculated population (3.8 persons per house) was as follows: 0 to 1 mile: 10,927 people; 1 to 2 miles: 5,045 people; and 2 to 3 miles: 6,248 people. The total estimated population within 3 miles of the site is 22,220. However, the 1990 Census reports that the average number of persons per household is 2.51 for Lehigh County (5). Using this number, an estimated 14,685 people live within 3 miles of the site.

Emmaus Borough had a population of 11,157, as recorded in the 1990 Census--an increase of 1.4 percent from the 1980 population of 11,001 (6). Emmaus Borough had an older population according to the 1990 Census with 18.8 percent of the population 65 and over compared to 15.4 for both Lehigh County and Pennsylvania. Conversely, only 20.5 percent of the population was under 18 years of age compared to 22.7 percent for Lehigh County and 23.5 percent for Pennsylvania (5).

The number of schools in Emmaus Borough and their 1990-91 enrollment is as follows (7, 8):

Lincoln Elementary School (389)
Jefferson Elementary School (495)
St. Anne's School (260)
Emmaus High School (1,390)
Emmaus Junior High School (717)
Emmaus Baptist Academy (97)

These schools are served by the Emmaus Borough Water Supply. There are no nursing homes or hospitals within a 3-mile radius of the site (9, 10).

Land Use

Land use within 3 miles of the site is primarily residential and industrial. The site is within the limits of Emmaus Borough, and approximately 1.2 miles west lies the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Allentown Municipal Airport is located approximately 2.9 miles north of the site. Areas south and east of the site are not as heavily populated and are considered to be residential, with some light industrial use.

Natural Resource Use

EBWS, the sole public water supply in the area, serves approximately 4,311 metered connections with groundwater reserves that are derived from six production wells (a seventh well is no longer used because of high TCE values detected in the water in 1981). Wells #1 through #7 are drilled to depths of 315, 383, 526, 195, 461, 358, and 150 feet, respectively. The average daily water use for the Emmaus system is nearly two million gallons per day. An air stripper to remove contaminants is now operating on well #7. Water is also chlorinated and filtered before entering this integrated distribution system. Well #3, the 526-foot well, is the nearest drinking water well to the site and is in the Leithsville Formation. It produces 350,000 gallons per day (approximately 243 gallons per minute). An estimated 16,762 people are served by the six production wells.

The remainder of the population in the area (3-mile radius), an estimated 5,458 persons, predominantly south (upgradient) of the site, obtains water reserves from privately owned groundwater wells. The Leithsville and Allentown Formations and the Beekmantown Group are the most commonly tapped aquifers for those wells. The Leithsville Formation, underlying the site, transmits water through a fracture system enhanced by spaces between its carbonate rock. Wells tapping the Leithsville are drilled to a depth between 60 and 903 feet with a median depth of 200 feet beneath the surface. Across the area, depths to groundwater are typically less than 90 feet but range from a few feet to more than 200 feet below the land surface. About 98 percent of the wells tapping the Leithsville yield quantities sufficient for domestic needs. The median well yield in the Leithsville across the region is 100 gallons per minute (1).

There are complex geologic conditions in the area of the site and these will be addressed in the RI/FS. However, it is believed that due to intensive faulting, fracturing, and dissolution of carbonates in the subsurface throughout the region, all lithologies across the study area are fully interconnected. Groundwater migration is considered to be uninhibited both laterally and vertically. Large dissolution channels with approximate diameters of 15 feet in carbonate rocks allow for vast quantities of water to be transmitted over long distances.

Groundwater migrating beneath the site is expected to follow topographic influences and flow to the northwest and into the Little Lehigh Creek. This is confirmed by a groundwater level contour map of the study area (1). Recharge areas probably include South Mountain, which is located southwest of the site. Based upon well data, permeability in the area ranges between 1.4 and 260 feet per day. This high variability is the result of widely differing lithologies and complex geologic conditions. There are more than five acres of wetlands within a 3-mile radius of the site. These wetlands are hydraulically interconnected with the soils and shallow bedrock that underlie them and serve as discharge points for groundwater (1).

The surface water body closest to the site is Little Liebert Creek. Located approximately 3,000 feet west of the Rodale facility, Little Liebert Creek eventually discharges into the Little Lehigh Creek 1.5 miles northwest of the site. Little Lehigh Creek, which is classified as high-quality water and is protected for cold-water fishes, discharges into the Lehigh River approximately eight stream miles from the site.

D. Health Outcome Data

By using state health data bases, special studies, or other relevant health outcome data bases, it may be possible to compare health outcome in areas around hazardous waste sites in Pennsylvania with the state as a whole. This section introduces these data bases and discusses their limitations. An evaluation of the usefulness of these health data as they relate to the Rodale Manufacturing site is presented in the Public Health Implications section.

PADOH has maintained resident death records since 1903. PADOH maintains two major program operations related to improving the quality of information received on death certificates--the query and field programs.

The query program is a system used to track or "follow-back" with hospital personnel, funeral directors, and/or physicians when incomplete or conflicting information is found. The "follow-back" contact is usually done by telephone and is based both on a manual and computer editing procedure.

The field program attempts to improve death certificate information by educating the participants in the vital registration systems (i.e., hospital personnel, funeral directors, physicians, etc.) of the uses and importance of vital statistics data. The field program completes this mission by conducting seminars with various associations representing the types of individuals listed above. In addition to regularly scheduled seminars, the field representative makes site visits when problems with registration relating to a particular area or institution are discovered.

These long-standing programs allow mortality data to be collected at the minor civil division (MCD) level with a high degree of accuracy.

However, the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry has collected cancer data for all areas of Pennsylvania only since 1984. Field representatives interact with local hospitals to audit the accuracy of all Pennsylvania Cancer Registry Report Form information. However, the mobility of the patients, the variance in compliance rates among hospitals, and the newness of the program create difficulty in collecting meaningful data of geographic areas smaller than the county level. The most recent report, published in September 1991, is entitled Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Pennsylvania, 1988. The report only presents data applicable at the county level (smallest geographic area). PADOH is unaware of the existence of any special studies or other relevant health outcome data bases associated with this site.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

PADOH is unaware of organized citizens action groups or widespread public health concern related to this site. Contact was made with persons in Emmaus Borough as well as people involved in editing two area newspapers. Through a news article in the Allentown Morning Call (dated September 30, 1991), citizens were invited to contact PADOH regarding community health concerns or any information about the closed facility. Citizens did respond to this invitation and their major concerns were: (1) health concerns regarding the use of the EBWS; (2) occupational hazard, specifically cancer development, from prior employment at the site; and (3) concerns about children playing or living near the site. Those concerns are addressed in the Community Health Concerns Evaluation section.


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