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PRELIMINARY PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

ST. LOUIS AIRPORT
HAZELWOOD INTERIM STORAGE/FUTURA COATINGS COMPANY
ST. LOUIS, ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI


SUMMARY

The St. Louis Airport/Hazelwood Interim Storage/Futura Coatings Company, a National Priorities List site, is in St. Louis County, Missouri. The site, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) activity, is near the St. Louis International Airport and the McDonnell Douglas Corporation. From 1946 to 1973, the site was used to store radioactive materials resulting from uranium processing. High levels of uranium, thorium, radium, and radon were detected in soil, groundwater, and air. The site is still being used to store radioactive materials. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry considers the St. Louis Airport site to be an indeterminate public health hazard. Although there are emissions of radon and the presence of thorium in on-site air and off-site soils and the emission of radiation resulting from the presence of these materials is not currently considered a health hazard. At present conditions, the concentration of radon off-site is indistinguishable from background levels. However, in the past, these contaminants may have been present at levels of health concern.

Citizens have concerns regarding cases of cancer reportedly found among residents living near five hazardous waste sites. These citizens requested the Missouri Department of Health to investigate cancer occurrences in the area of the sites. The results of the health statistics review and cancer inquiry by the Missouri Department of Health appear in the Public Health Implication section. ATSDR's detailed response to comments and concerns received during the public comment period appear in the Appendix C.

ATSDR made the following recommendations in order to protect public health in areas surrounding the sites: 1) characterize groundwater, surface water, sediment, and soil for chemical contamination on and off site, 2) characterize off-site surface soil and air for radiological contaminants, 3) implement dust controls during remediation. The Health Activities Recommendation Panel recommended this site for follow-up health studies and for community health education follow up. The Public Health Actions section describes which actions have been taken and which actions are planned by ATSDR and other federal or state agencies. Included in these actions is that ATSDR will review additional off-site soil and groundwater data when available from DOE and the Missouri Department of Health will periodically conduct follow-up assessments of the cancer incidence in the Hazelwood, Latty Avenue areas of St. Louis.


BACKGROUND

A. Site Description and History

The St. Louis Airport/Hazelwood Interim Storage/Futura Coatings Company site is in St. Louis County, Missouri. The site, which is composed of three smaller storage areas, was combined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into the present National Priorities List (NPL) site. These areas were the St. Louis Airport Storage Site (SLAPS), the Hazelwood Interim Storage Site (HISS) and the Futura Coatings Company site (FUTURA) (Figure 1). The HISS and FUTURA areas share common facilities. These three facilities were grouped together because of similarities of contaminants; proximity to each other; contaminated haul roads, including portions of Hazelwood Avenue, Pershall Road, and McDonnell Boulevard, between the areas; and air release of radon-222 (Rn-222). The sites also show the possibility of similar threats to public health (Mitre, 1988). The areas are also listed on the Department of Energy (DOE) Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP).

The SLAPS is the largest of the three areas, covering 21.7 acres, and is approximately 15 miles northwest of downtown St. Louis. To the south is Banshee Road and a Norfolk and Western Railroad line, to the west is Coldwater Creek, and to the north and east is McDonnell Boulevard. Next to the SLAPS is the St. Louis International Airport on the south. The Berkeley Khoury League Park is to the north, and the McDonnell Douglas Corporation is to the west and southwest. The SLAPS slopes to the west toward the creek, which is about 20 feet below the site and 500 feet above mean sea level (Figure 2).

The HISS and FUTURA areas, which cover about 11 acres, are approximately 0.5 mile from SLAPS and approximately 2 miles northeast of the St. Louis Airport control tower. They are bounded on the north by Latty Avenue; on the east by the city of Berkeley; on the south by Hazelwood, the Norfolk and Western Railroad, and a tributary of the Coldwater Creek; and on the west by Coldwater Creek (Figure 3). The associated off-site locations collectively known as the Latty Avenue Vicinity Properties. Businesses located along Latty Avenue are adjacent to the HIS and Futura sites are shown in Figure 4.

In 1946, the area was acquired by the Manhattan Engineering District of the U.S. Army and used to store uranium wastes generated by the Mallinckrodt operation in St. Louis. Wastes stored at these sites also included scrap metals, drums, covered piles, and unstabilized piles of waste generated during uranium-processing activities. At the SLAPS, the uranium-processing wastes were stored on open ground and once covered two-thirds of the area to an estimated height of 20 feet. In 1957, contaminated scrap metal and miscellaneous radioactive wastes were buried on the west portion of the SLAPS (USDOE, 1986a). In 1966, after the Continental Mining and Milling Company (CMM) purchased the property, the wastes were transferred from the SLAPS to the HISS. In 1967, CMM sold the property and wastes to the Commercial Discount Corporation of Chicago. The waste was then dried and shipped to the Cotter Corporation in Colorado. In December 1969, the Cotter Corporation purchased the remaining wastes at the HISS and shipped some material to Colorado. By late 1970, approximately 19,000 tons of uranium-processing waste (raffinate) and barium sulfate remained at the site. By 1973, most of the wastes were transferred to the Latty Avenue areas and the residual processing wastes had been removed to the Cotter Corporation in Canon City, Colorado.

Besides the wastes still present at the NPL site, additional wastes were moved to either the Weldon Springs Quarry NPL site, also in Missouri, or to the West Lake Landfill in St. Louis County. During the latter part of the 1960's, the SLAPS land was transferred to the St. Louis Airport Authority, which partially remediated a portion of the area. The remediation included demolishing existing buildings and burying the wastes on-site. The area was covered with about 3 feet of clean fill during 1969. In 1977, the responsibility for the property, but not ownership, was returned to the DOE that was formed from the breakup of the Atomic Energy Commission (USDOE, 1986b).

Further remediation of the HISS and FUTURA area in 1977 generated 13,000 cubic yards of contaminated material that were placed in a pile at the HISS area. Later, in 1979, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released the property for unrestricted use. In 1982, the HISS and FUTURA areas were placed on the DOE FUSRAP list. Also in 1982, ditches surrounding the SLAPS were sampled by Bechtel National, Inc. The results of this sampling delineated the limits of the uranium-238 (U-238) and radium-226 (Ra-226) contamination.

During 1984, additional remediation at Latty Avenue locations generated another 14,000 cubic yards that were stored in a supplementary pile at HISS (Bechtel, 1987a). Also during this time, a vehicle decontamination area was constructed, the area was fenced, and the waste piles were consolidated.

In 1985, the DOE was authorized to reacquire the SLAPS site (Public Law 98-360) and use it as a permanent disposal site for the waste existing on the site at that time. Also, contaminated soils from ditches surrounding the site and wastes stored at HISS were to be stored at the site. Erosion along the SLAPS was reduced by installing rock-filled structures along the western edge of the site. At Latty Avenue locations, monitoring wells were installed. The DOE also directed the Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) to survey the haul roads between these storage areas. On the basis of this survey, the major contaminant detected was thorium-230, (Th-230) and the portions of the haul roads to be remediated were determined. These areas included portions of Hazelwood Avenue, Pershall Road, and McDonnell Boulevard.

In 1986, the roads leading to these areas were improved and during this action, additional contaminated soils were removed from the area. Also, boreholes were drilled at the SLAPS to define the nature and extent of the contamination (USDOE, 1986a,b).

The total amount of the wastes believed to have been stored at the SLAPS is 125,150 tons, of which 241 tons were believed to be uranium, either naturally occurring (U-nat) or uranium-238 (U-238). Of this amount, the wastes perhaps consisted of 106,500 tons of raffinate, 10,200 tons of leached or unleached barium sulfate, 4,000 tons of dolomite and magnesium fluoride, 3,500 tons of scrap metal, 600 tons of U-containing sand and other contaminated materials in 2,400 drums, and 350 tons of miscellaneous wastes (Mitre, 1988).

In late 1989, the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) requested that DOE survey an additional portion of Coldwater Creek. The information garnered from this survey was used in preparing the COE's Coldwater Creek flood control project.

B. Site Visit

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a site visit on February 5, 1990. Participating in this visit were an ATSDR health physicist, a representative from the State of Missouri Department of Health, representatives from DOE and its contractor, Bechtel National, Inc., and a representative from EPA. During the site visit, a tour of the NPL site and off-site environs was given as well as a historical perspective of the operations resulting in the formation of the SLAPS.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

The SLAPS site is located approximately 10 miles northwest of downtown St. Louis in the suburban town of Hazelwood. Lambert Airport is immediately south of the site. The three areas comprising the NPL site are in a commercial and industrial area. The McDonnell Douglas Corporation is within 0.5 mile of the site and employs approximately 33,000 people. Runways from the St. Louis Airport terminate near the SLAPS boundary on the southwest edge of the site. The community closest to any one of the three areas is Hazelwood, Missouri, at a distance of less than 0.3 mile from HISS.

The six census tracts which lie within roughly 1 mile of the site had a total 1990 population of 26,657; this represents a decline of nearly 14 percent from the 1980 population of approximately 31,000. The tract containing the site had a population of 4,093 in 1990.

The 1990 population of the six tracts was 52.6 percent female and 47.4 percent male. The 1990 racial makeup of this area was 68 percent white, 31 percent black, and only 1 percent other races; however, the population of the tract containing the site was over 84 percent black. Less than 1 percent were of Hispanic origin. Approximately 14 percent of all persons were under 10 years of age, while just over 12 percent were age 65 or older.

There were 10,399 occupied units in the six tracts for an average of 2.56 persons per household. In the tract containing the site there were 1,273 occupied housing units for 3.22 persons per household. Median value of owner occupied housing units ranged from $38,400 to $87,500 for the six tracts, $47,100 for the tract with the site; this figure is suggestive of a lower income neighborhood. Nearly 70 percent of occupied housing units were owner occupied.

A recreational area, Berkeley Khoury League Park, is to the north of the SLAPS and is contaminated with radioactive wastes previously stored at this site.

Coldwater Creek forms a site boundary and is not used for any recreational activities in the vicinity of SLAPS. However, since the creek is about 19 miles in length, it is conceivable that some neighborhood may use it for recreational purposes and that some parks with recreational activities may occur along the creek. The nearest well is believed to be about 1.5 miles north of the SLAPS; however, no data are available to suggest if this well serves as a source of drinking water. There are no agricultural activities near the areas (Mitre, 1988).

D. Health Outcome Data

Health outcome databases document health effects that occur in populations. Those data, which come from sources such as state tumor registry databases, birth defects databases, vital statistics records, or other records, may provide information about the general health of the community living near a site. Other more specific records, such as hospital and medical records and records from site-specific health studies, may be used. Demographic data provide information on population characteristics are used to analyze health outcome data.

The Missouri Department of Health (MDOH), State Center for Health Statistics, analyzes and consults on health related information collected from several sources. The Center's Bureau of Health Data Analysis has available statistical information, hospital discharge data, and the Multi-Source Birth Defect Registry. The Multi-Source Birth Defect Registry consists of birth outcome data from the following sources: birth, death, hospital discharge Crippled Children's Services, and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit records.

Missouri Cancer Registry (MCR) database is a repository for all newly diagnosed cancer reported to MCR. MCR data is available from 1984 when the law mandated reporting of new cancer cases. This data is not population-based.

The Missouri Department of Health, Division of Chronic Prevention and Health Promotion, Bureau of Smoking, Tobacco, and Cancer has a cancer inquiry process. This process is designed to ensure that excess cancer reported to the Bureau of Smoking, Tobacco, and Cancer are reviewed systematically in the preliminary review phase and are presented to the Cancer Inquiry Committee. The committee can recommend either the study be discontinued or the inquiry be expanded into an investigation phase.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

This site has posed many concerns for the health and safety of the residents in St. Louis. In 1987, the ATSDR released a health consultation, but could not adequately address the site then because of limited data. In that same year, a private citizen's letter to the U.S. Senators and Representatives of the region expressed concerns about the high concentrations of radioactive materials detected in soils, sediments, and the Coldwater Creek environs.

In 1988, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a resolution stating their reluctance "that a permanent radioactive waste site near the airport would be in the best interest to area citizens or the local environment." The Board additionally remained opposed to releasing the title from the city to DOE for the purposes of site expansion (Resolution 146) unless specific conditions were met. In 1990, the Board of Aldermen voted to offer 81 acres near the airport to the DOE (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 5, 1990).

Citizens in this area of Hazelwood requested the Missouri Department of Health to investigate these cancer occurrences in the area and at other FUSRAP sites in the St. Louis area. In 1988 a citizen requested a health study of persons living near five sites in St Louis area. In 1989 a concerned citizen contacted the Missouri Department of Health regarding several cases of cancer reportedly found among the residents in the homes closest to the HISS.

On April 29, 1991, ATSDR issued a news release announcing the availability of the health assessment for this site. The Public Comment Period, in which citizens could obtain and comment on the health assessment, ran from May 15 to June 13, 1991. The announcement, a newspaper article concerning the study, and comments received by ATSDR are given in Appendix B. Personal identifiers, except for governmental agencies or national interest groups, were deleted from the material in the appendix. The agency response to the comments are given in Appendix C.


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