Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content

HEALTH CONSULTATION

OUTLINING VARIOUS EXPOSURE ISSUES FROM INITIAL SITE VISIT
(a/k/a Naval Station Norfolk St. Juliens Creek Annex)
CHESAPEAKE, VIRGINIA


PURPOSE AND DESCRIPTION OF ISSUES

On Nov. 29-30, 2000, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted an initial site visit of the Naval Station Norfolk St. Juliens Creek Annex, located in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia. The purpose of the visit was to begin collecting information necessary to conduct a public health assessment, determine if immediate ATSDR public health actions were needed, and prioritize the site for future public health activities. The purpose of this document is to summarize the results of the site visit and identify the issues that ATSDR determined need additional data, information, or followup activities.

During the visit we observed the designated Installation Restoration (IR) sites and other areas where hazardous substances have been released to the environment, briefly reviewed available site-specific information, and met with a few members of the local community to identify potential public health concerns. As a result of the site tour, discussions with community members, and a preliminary review of the data currently available, we identified three issues we will address during our followup. As a result of the analysis performed to date, ATSDR believes that there are no contaminated sites or public health issues associated with the St Juliens Creek Annex that present an imminent public health hazard. Much of this assessment is based on the current land use of the annex and analysis of information associated with the identified sites, changes to the land use or identification of new sites or information will necessitate a review of this analysis.

As a result of our evaluation to date, we have identified three issues that are associated either with the annex, or the area or community neighboring the annex. All three of the issues will be described in this report although the analysis of the last issues will be accomplished as a part of another on going public health assessments in this area. The issues are identified below and will be described in more detail in the Discussion section of this report.

1. Potential for human exposure and health effects from consuming seafood caught in this area of the Elizabeth River and St Juliens Creek, and potentially impacted by contaminants released from the annex.

St Juliens Creek Annex is one of many government and private facilities along this industrial corridor with the potential to release contaminants into the environment. Our goal is not to identify the source of seafood contamination, but to evaluate the potential human exposure and health effects.

To accomplish this evaluation, we request that the Navy provide results of shellfish and finfish sampled from the creeks and rivers surrounding the annex. In addition, we will also be requesting information from other state, academic, and private organizations.

2. Potential for future human exposure and health effects from unexploded munitions and explosive material near the wharf and industrial areas.

To evaluate this potential exposure, we request that the Navy 1) provide as much information as possible concerning the operational procedures used to load, test, store, and demil munitions; 2) provide results of environmental sampling performed after remediation of wharf area sediments; 3) identify the planned land use strategy for the annex; and 4) identify how future land use decisions will be made to ensure the safety of land users.

3. Data reported in The Virginia Childhood Lead Poisoning Estimation Model: Field Test Report (1996) suggests that approximately 21% of the children age 6 years and younger, living in the area immediately north of the annex, have elevated blood lead concentrations (in excess of 10 µg/dl). The source of lead exposure for the community is not yet known.

Elevated blood lead levels in young children is a matter of concern for many areas of this region and is currently being addressed by the Virginia Department of Health. To assist the state, ATSDR will look at the other possible environmental contributions from the nearby Navy facilities and report that in the public health assessment for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. We will include the area around the St. Juliens Creeek Annex in that evaluation. Our goal is to identify how young children in this area may come into contact with lead in sufficient quantities to result in elevated blood lead levels.


BACKGROUND

Location

The St Juliens Creek Annex facility is located in the City of Chesapeake, VA. It's southern boundaries are the St Juliens Creek on the southwest and the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River on the southeast. The facility consists of 490 acres, including 407 acres of land, 14 acres of marsh, and 69 acres of surface water. There are no ponds on the annex, but approximately half of the boundary is river shoreline. In addition, Blows Creek meanders from the northern boundary, through the upper portion of the annex, and empties on the northeastern boundary at the Elizabeth River.

North of the annex are residential developments and a road bed of the Norfolk and Western Railroad. Norfolk Naval Shipyard is located less than one mile to the north. Residential developments also exist on the western side of the annex. Based on a review of maps from MapQuest (figures 1 and 2), it appears that there are approximately eight schools or childcare facilities within one mile of the northern and western boundaries of the annex. Several are within a half-mile of the boundary. Although not described well in the historical documents reviewed, an industrial waste pond exists to the east of the northern boundary and sewage disposal and industrial waste ponds exist to the south of the western boundary (Navy, 2000). There are three other NPL sites within a few miles of the annex: Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Atlantic Wood Industries, and Abex Corp. There are approximately six other NPL sites within 20 miles of the annex; the majority of these are Department of Defense (DOD) sites.

The Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River flows through a highly industrialized area, past oil storage and cresol facilities, and fertilizer plants. This section of the river is part of the intracoastal waterway and is used year-round by naval and commercial craft. Recreational boaters frequent the area during the summer months. Historical releases of industrial materials have contributed to environmental contamination in this area. It is not possible, nor is it the goal of ATSDR, to identify the source(s) of environmental contaminants in the river. However the result of the contamination is that these waters are designated by the Commonwealth of Virginia as Class IIB, suitable for bathing and fishing, but taking shellfish is prohibited (Navy, 2000).

History

The annex began operations as a naval facility in 1849, as an ordnance and materials storage facility. In 1898 the facility was equipped to assemble and break down selected types of munitions. Munition assembly continued through WWI. In peacetime, the annex supplied ammunition to the fleet. During WWII the annex mission included loading, assembling, issuing and receiving naval gun ammunition; it was also the principal experimental and test loading facility for new ammunition types. Following WWII, ordnance loading/supply operations continued, specific operations were adjusted to meet Navy training/operation needs through the Korean War and operations in southeast Asia. Ordnance operations were terminated in the 1970s. Specific operations from the 1970s on, were not described in the historical documents reviewed. It is assumed that the annex was used primarily for light industry and storage (Navy, 2000).

The peak manning level of the annex occurred during WWII with a workforce of approximately 5,200 (approximately 4,000 civilians). At this time the annex loaded, assembled, issued and received vast quantities of all types of naval gun ammunition, from 20MM to sixteen inch, except the 40MM. Shipments to the fleet alone averaged 12,500 tons a month. During the Korean War, the annex loaded and assembled gun ammunition (mainly three and five inch). At this time the civilian workforce was approximately 1,464, but the shipment quantity to the fleet was not identified (Navy, 1965). It is expected that the shipment quantity would have been significantly higher than during peace time but less than WWII. The Navy's Information Manual for St Juliens Creek (1965) states that process changes in the production planning and control, increased production efficiency by more than 200% between 1955 and 1960. It appears that shipping and receiving of ammunition and explosive materials during both war and peace time was by ship and performed at the annex's wharf area.

Current Mission

Currently the primary mission is to provide a radar testing range, which covers 35 acres of the facility. In addition the annex is also used for administrative offices, light industrial shops and storage facilities (Navy, 2000).

Waste Generating Activities

Operations that may have released hazardous materials include: metal plating, degreasing, painting, operation of hydraulic equipment, vehicles and locomotives, pest control, maintenance of lead-acid batteries, and printing. Trash and garbage generated on-base, were disposed in dumps on the annex along with waste ordnance materials (USEPA, 2000). As a result of past disposal practices, several landfills and disposal areas have been identified as potential pollution sources by the EPA and Navy (Navy, 2000).

Wastes that have been identified in the soil and ground water at various sites include: DDT and other pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), explosive materials (primarily TNT by products), solvents (primarily acetone, methylene chloride, and TCE), and some metals and inorganics (USEPA, 2000).

The EPA identified 16 potential sources of contamination. Nine of these potential sources were evaluated by EPA using the Hazard Ranking System (HRS). The annex was added to the NPL on July 26, 2000. The basis for the NPL listing was the Surface Water Overland /Flood Migration Component, specifically the Human Food Chain and Environmental Threat Scores. The other sites were not included in the evaluation due to insufficient information or because the results would not affect the HRS score (USEPA, 2000).

The Navy has been investigating the environmental conditions at the annex using the Installation Restoration Program since the 1980s. As a result of previous studies, the Navy identified 21 Installation Restoration (IR) sites and 12 EPA Photographic Interpretation Center (EPIC) Study Areas of Concern (EPIC AOCs). Four of the IR stes were cleaned up in the early 1990s by soil excavation and off-site disposal. The Navy, EPA, and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) reached a consensus of 'No Further Action' for those sites. Nine of the EPIC AOCs have been proposed for 'no further action', the other three will be investigated further. Table 1 lists each of the IR sites with the Navy and EPA identification. Table 2 lists all 12 of the original EPIC AOCs and identifies the three sites that the Navy believes warrant additional study. Figure 3 is a map showing the location of each site on the annex.


DISCUSSION

The public health assessment will evaluate the potential for a contaminated area to adversely affect public health by considering the concentration of the contaminant in the environmental media, the pathway of human exposure to the contaminant, and the toxicology of the contaminant. We will consider each of the identified contaminated sites and areas of concern on the annex, and the environmental health related questions and concerns raised by the site personnel, local community, and our own environmental health assessors.

There are three community concerns that have been identified for this area: 1) the potential human health effects from consumption of local seafood; 2) potential for individuals to come into contact with unexploded munitions, especially in the sediments around the wharf; and 3) the potential for children to have elevated blood lead levels. While it is not our primary goal to identify the initial source of contamination, we believe it is necessary to ensure that relevant exposure pathways are evaluated to identify reasonable exposure scenarios and potential health effects. These analyses will be considered as a part of the St Juliens Creek Annex public health assessment in order to address the public health concerns and issues relevant to the community in the vicinity of the annex.

Proper evaluation of each contaminated site and especially the three issues may require site-specific environmental sampling to identify the chemical concentrations the public would be exposed to in the environmental media. In order to gather the background information and sampling data necessary for the public health assessment, we request the assistance of many organizations including: the Navy, Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Elizabeth River Project, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The following information is provided to describe the potential for human exposure to environmental contaminants on the annex property or the neighboring property or shoreline for each of the three issues. Following each summary, is a brief description of the data and information necessary to evaluate the issue.

1. Potential for human exposure and health effects from consuming seafood caught in this area of the Elizabeth River and St Juliens Creek, and potentially impacted by existing environmental contaminants.

Several federal government and private industrial NPL sites are located within this general area along the Elizabeth River. As a result, a common community concern for this general area questions the safety of eating locally caught seafood. Given the low elevation of the annex, numerous landfills located relatively close to the river banks, potential for ground water contamination, and potential for contaminant transport in the ground water and surface water to the river, there is the potential for shellfish and finfish contamination in the water around the annex. Although the potential exists for contaminants from St Juliens Creek Annex to impact the quality of local seafood, it is not possible, and it is not our goal, to identify where/how seafood species come into contact with environmental contaminants. Our goal is to evaluate the potential for human exposure to environmental contaminants via seafood consumption, and evaluate the potential health effects from consuming finfish and shellfish caught in this general area.

We understand that in the area around St Juliens Creek Annex, taking shellfish is prohibited by the Commonwealth of Virginia due to the Class IIB designation of the waterway. According to the Virginia Department of Environment Quality, shellfish restrictions apply to both molluscans and crustaceans (i.e., crab, shrimp, mussels, and oysters). However, based on discussions with local community members and observation, it appears that shellfish harvesting does occur, particularly crabs. Local community members report that they believe the restrictions apply only to molluscs. In addition, there are no finfish advisories for this area and fishing is permitted in Class IIB waters.

Our objective is to understand the capture and consumption patterns, and the potential exposure of recreational and subsistence fishers, and consumers of local seafood to contaminants of concern. Our goal is to understand how to provide adequate guidance to prevent exposures to concentrations of chemicals in the local seafood that could cause adverse health effects. To accomplish this we will compare the available data describing the concentration of contaminants in shellfish and finfish samples captured in this area to shellfish and finfish advisories published by state and local authorities, and local fishing patterns.

Because a variety of fishing locations and pollution sources exist in this general area, we will evaluate the safety of eating finfish and shellfish caught in, and around, the annex as a part of the evaluation of the safety of consuming seafood caught in this general area. To accomplish this evaluation, we request that the Navy provide results of shellfish and finfish sampled from the creeks, and rivers surrounding the annex. In addition, we will also be requesting information from other state, academic, and private organizations.

2. Potential for future human exposure and health effects from unexploded munitions and explosive material near the wharf and industrial areas.

It appears that, to date, no unexploded munitions have been found on St Juliens Creek Annex although magnetic anomalies have been detected in the sediments near the wharf. Some explosive materials (TNT and TNT by-products) have been identified in some of the ground water samples, however only one of the soil samples analyzed to date contained a detectable concentration of a TNT by-product. Our primary concern is to prevent adverse human health effects to the local community from unexploded ordnance and explosive materials. Under the current land use conditions, the local community is not expected to come into contact with these materials that may be located on the annex proper. However there could be the potential for local community contact with materials that exist in the river sediments.

Currently the annex is used only by the Navy and there are no housing facilities on the annex. Under this type of land use, the local community is not expected to be exposed to unexploded munitions or explosive materials on the annex property. However, it will be important to analyze this potential impact when there is a change to the expected land use strategy for the annex. We understand that it will not be possible to guarantee that the entire area is free of unexploded munitions or explosive materials. However, it will be possible to evaluate the potential for community contact and adverse human health effects as a function of expected land use, historical operational procedures, and measured concentrations of explosive materials in environmental media the community would be in contact with. The land use strategy will be used to identify the appropriate exposure-based environmental sampling criteria and the human exposure routes required for the public health assessment. Under the current land use conditions, there is no immenent public health hazard associated with the annex land areas and a complete evaluation will be accomplished with the public health assessment assuming that the current land use conditions remain in effect for the foreseeable future. A change in the actual or planned land use will require a re-evaluation of this issue.

Unexploded ordnance and explosive materials may exist in the sediments near the wharf area. In addition, some of this material could have been carried by currents into other parts of the river system. Because of the uncertainty of the amounts and types of materials that may have been deposited into the wharf area sediments by materials falling off the wharf or discharges to the river, this issue is both more likely to impact the local community and be more difficult to evaluate than for explosive related materials that may be on the annex land property. While there does not appear to be an immenent public health hazard to the local community, fishers, or boater in this area, we believe that this evaluation should be addressed as soon as sufficient information is available.

For both the annex land and wharf areas, our primary concern is that individuals may inadvertently come into contact with unexploded munitions or explosive materials. To appropriately evaluate this potential, we will need to better understand the shell loading operational procedures and the storage practices, and methods used to load munitions onto ships. Specifically, what type of 'quality control testing' was performed on the loaded shells to ensure that they had been properly loaded? Were any of the shells exploded to ensure that they would fire appropriately in the field? How were the shells that failed quality control testing disposed of? Are there any records indicating if, when, and how much fell from the wharf? If shells fell into the river sediment during shipping operations at the wharf, could the shells migrate beyond the annex boundaries, carried with the sediment transported by river and tidal currents?

To evaluate this potential exposure, we request that the Navy 1) provide as much information as possible concerning the operational procedures used to load/test/store/transport/demil munitions; 2) provide results of environmental sampling performed before and after remediation of wharf area sediments; 3) identify the planned land use strategy for the annex land and wharf areas; and 4) identify how future land use decisions will be made to ensure the safety of the land users with respect to potential unexploded munitions and explosive materials.

3. Data reported in The Virginia Childhood Lead Poisoning Estimation Model: Field Test Report (1996) suggests that approximately 21% of the children ages 6 years and younger, living in the area immediately north of the annex, have elevated blood lead concentrations (in excess of 10 µg/dl). The source of lead exposure for the community is not yet known.

As a part of The Virginia Childhood Lead Poisoning Estimation Model: Field Test Report (1996), 18% of the children ages 6 years and younger, living in the residential neighborhood immediately north of the annex, between route 17 and Victory Blvd (Census tract number 517402123.00), were tested to measure their blood lead levels. The results indicate that 21% of the children living in that area have blood lead levels in excess of 10 µg/dl. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers children to have elevated blood lead levels if the lead concentration in their blood is higher than 10 µg/dl (ATSDR, July 1990).

Elevated blood lead levels have been associated with impaired growth, hearing acuity, neuro-behavioral development, and intelligence. Higher levels, can damage a child's central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive system (www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/factsheets/leadfcts.htm). Data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by CDC shows that the percentage of children (ages 1 through 5 years) in the US with elevated blood lead levels dropped from 88.2% in the late 1970s to 4.4% in the early 1990s. For these reasons it is important to understand how approximately 21% of the children in the local community may be exposed to lead in sufficient amounts to cause elevated blood lead levels.

Elevated blood lead levels in young children is a matter of concern for many areas of this region and is currently being addressed by the Virginia Department of Health in accordance with guidelines developed by CDC. To assist the state, ATSDR will look at the other possible environmental contributions from the nearby Navy facilities. Our goal is to identify how young children in this area may come into contact with lead in sufficient quantities to result in elevated blood lead levels. The results of our analysis will be reported in the public health assessment for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY). We will include the area around St Juliens Creek Annex into that evaluation; therefore, no specific information from the annex is requested at this time.


COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN THE PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT PROCESS

ATSDR believes that community involvement is invaluable and would appreciate community assistance. RAB members and other members of the community can assist by identifying community health concerns. Community members can also assist by identifying stakeholders that may have information such as effectiveness of the land use restrictions and fishing bans, frequency and consumption of seafood, and seafood sampling data. ATSDR will review RAB minutes, and Navy and EPA documents relevant to the St Juliens Creek Annex.

RAB members and others may also contact ATSDR toll-free and leave a voice message at 1-888-42 ATSDR (extension) 6055. We request that you refer to "St Juliens Creek Annex" and leave your name and a return phone number.


Next Section     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

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #