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Oak Ridge Reservation

Oak Ridge Reservation: Public Health Assessment Work Group

Public Health Assessment Work Group

January 20, 2004 - Meeting Minutes


Attendance

ORRHES Members attending:
Bob Craig (Chair), Tony Malinauskas, LC Manley, Don Box, James Lewis, Pete Malmquist, David Johnson, George Gartseff, and Kowetha Davidson

Public Members and others attending:
Liz Bertelsen (telephone), Gordon Blaylock, Danny Sanders, John Merkle and Tim Joseph (DOE)

ATSDR Staff attending:
Bill Taylor, Paul Charp, Melissa Fish, Jack Hanley, and Lorine Spencer (telephone)

Purpose

The purpose of the meeting was to present and discuss material relating to the initial release of the White Oak Creek Radionuclide Releases Public Health Assessment (PHA).

Meeting Minutes

Pete Malmquist moved that the November 17th and December 15th Draft PHAWG minutes be approved. The motion was seconded. The motion passed. The draft meeting minutes for November 17th and December 15th were approved.

White Oak Creek Radionuclide Releases Public Health Assessment (Initial Release)

All figures and tables identified refer to the tables and figures as listed in the Initial Release of the White Oak Creek PHA.

Figure 13. Map of the White Oak Creek Study Area

Paul Charp told the group that the map shows the area that ATSDR concentrated on as the White Oak Creek study area.

Figure 14. Population Demographics Around the Watts Bar Reservoir

Paul Charp explained that the population estimates with a one-mile buffer are in green and the population estimates with a five-mile buffer are in yellow. The Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) boundary is also in green.

In response to Danny Sanders' question about the timeframe for the population demographics used on Figure 14, Paul Charp said that he did not work on the demographics so he was not sure. Paul said that he would verify the years included in the population demographics for Figure 14.

Paul Charp stated that the inset table with the numbers in Figure 14 needs to be larger—it is difficult to read.

James Lewis asked if there is a correlation between the buffer zone and the floodplain.

Bob Craig said that the one-mile buffer is probably measured from the high water mark.

Pete Malmquist said that the floodplain would be close to the river itself, so going out one-mile would put a person outside of the floodplain.

Figure 15. Population Distribution on the Watts Bar Reservoir

Paul Charp said that Figure 15 is based on population density. Most of the population around the Watts Bar Reservoir is in the 54-201 people per square mile population density range.

A work group member suggested that the term "per square mile" be added to Figure 15.

Table 2. Estimated Discharges (in curies) of Radionuclides from White Oak Creek

Paul Charp said that Table 2 shows the estimated discharge (in curies) of radionuclides from White Oak Creek from the years 1949 to 1994.

Responding to a question regarding whether there were data prior to 1949, Gordon Blaylock said that prior to 1949 the release of radionuclides from White Oak Creek was not well documented and only gross beta counts were taken. Gamma counting of radionuclides was developed in about 1956. Gordon believes that ORNL contributed to the development of gamma counting of individual radionuclides. From 1944 to 1949 the estimates by Cowser and Snyder of radionuclides that were released from White Oak Lake were based on the average of the release of radionuclides for the next five years. However, there are some early papers that report that the quantity of individual radionuclides released from White Oak Lake varied considerably.

Figure 16. Population Distribution of Meigs, Rhea, and Roane Counties From 1940 to 2000

Paul Charp used Figure 16 to show the population distribution over a 60-year time period in Meigs, Rhea, and Roane counties.

Figure 17. Population Distribution of Spring City, Kingston, Rockwood, and Harriman From 1940 to 2000

Paul Charp used Figure 17 to show the population distribution over a 60-year time period in Spring City, Kingston, Rockwood, and Harriman.

Paul Charp said that the colors for Kingston and Harriman are too similar and that they need to be changed.

James Lewis wondered if it had been considered that the older population might have spent more time in the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers than the current population.

Pete Malmquist said that Rockwood and Harriman were both heavy mill towns so the population was constant as far as the work base.

Figure 20. Possible Exposure Situations Along the Clinch River

Paul Charp said that Figure 20 is a modification (to address White Oak Creek concerns) of what the group had previously seen in the Y-12 Uranium PHA.

Table 6. Conservative Screening Indices for Radionuclides in the Clinch River

Paul Charp said that Table 6 came from the Task 4 Report and the table identifies which isotopes were evaluated. The bold values represent radionuclides for each pathway that were carried into the next iteration of analysis in Task 4.

Figure 21. Comparison of Predicted Annual Average Concentrations of Cs 137

Paul Charp said that Figure 21 is also from the Task 4 Report and that it compares the amount of cesium-137 in the Clinch River as predicted and measured at two different locations.

Paul Charp said that a key point of Figure 21 is that concentrations in the Clinch River decrease over time either because of decay or because of bulk flows going down stream. Remember that close to White Oak Creek and further down toward K-25, the releases from Milton Hill are sufficient to scour the bottom of the river because there is not a lot of sediment in those areas. Cs-137 radioactivity at the sampling locations in the Clinch River is decreasing more rapidly than would be expected from radioactive decay. In this Figure, in a span of ten years it has gone down by a factor of ten.

Figure 22. Annual Average Cs 137 Concentrations in Shoreline Sediment

Paul Charp said that Figure 22 is an example of predicted annual average concentrations of cesium-137 in shoreline sediments shown for Clinch River mile 14 where the water would not scour the bottom.

In response to a question about whether the figure was a result of a homogenized mixture of soil samples, Paul Charp said that the figure is predicted from a model ran in the Task 4 Report.

James Lewis asked when they quit dredging the river. Gordon Blaylock said that the river was dredged in 1963 and hasn't been dredged since.

Table 7. Past Exposure Pathways Evaluated by the Task 4 Report

Paul Charp said that the pathways listed in Table 7 include fish consumption, water ingestion, meat ingestion, milk ingestion, and walking along the sediment as pathways that ATSDR evaluated to see if there was a potential impact from past releases.

Table 8. Locations and Exposure Scenarios Considered in the Task 4 Study

Paul Charp told the group that Task 4 also looked at the five areas that would possibly be most impacted from past releases from White Oak Creek. These five areas included Jones Island, Grassy Creek, K-25, Kingston Steam Plant, and the City of Kingston.

Table 9. Summary of Estimated Organ-Specific (Equivalent) Radiation Doses For Past Exposure Pathways

Paul Charp and Bob Craig pointed out that fish consumption for Jones Island resulted in the largest dose. However, although the table lists the estimated organ-specific equivalent radiation doses, there are insufficient data (except to the thyroid) available to indicate at what exact radiological dose a particular organ will be adversely affected or result in a specific public health issue.

Table 10. Ratio of Organ-Specific Radiation Doses Relative to Fish Ingestion at Jones Island

Paul Charp said that doses at the other locations are several orders of magnitude less than the estimated dose at Jones Island, which indicates that doses downstream from Jones Island are not as high.

Table 11. Maximum Radionuclide Concentrations in Lower Watts Bar Reservoir Sediment

Paul Charp explained that Table 11 showed the maximum radionuclide concentrations in Lower Watts Bar Reservoir surface and subsurface sediment below the confluence of the Clinch and Tennessee River. Paul indicated that some of the highest concentrations were for cesium-137, plutonium-241, and strontium-89.

Gordon Blaylock asked where the samples were taken from Watts Bar. Paul Charp said that he did not know but would get that information when he returned to his office.

Figure 23. Radionuclide Concentrations in Surface Sediment vs. Subsurface Sediment

Paul Charp said that when ATSDR looked at surface sediment versus subsurface sediment, cesium-137, cobalt-60, and strontium-90 were the highest. Thus, these are the ones that ATSDR focused on for recreational use of water and recreational use of the shoreline.

Table 12. Maximum Radionuclide Concentrations in Lower Watts Bar Reservoir Surface Water

Paul Charp said that the maximum radionuclide concentrations in Lower Watts Bar Reservoir surface water should be indicative of those who use water for recreational use or if the water is taken up for potable water use. Paul also pointed out that the concentrations for cesium-137, cobalt-60, hyrdogen-3, plutonium-238, plutonium-239, strontium-90, and uranium-total are well below the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) maximum contaminant screening level for radionuclides.

A work group member suggested that the dates be included as a footnote on this table.

Table 13. Maximum Radionuclide Concentrations in Lower Watts Bar Reservoir Area Fish

Paul Charp explained that ATSDR obtained data for the maximum radionuclide concentrations in Lower Watts Bar Reservoir area fish for cesium-137, cobalt-60, and strontium-90 (with bone) from the Department of Energy (DOE).

Tony Malinauskas asked if the numbers were derived regardless of the fish species. Paul Charp responded—yes, but later on it is broken out by fish species.

A work group member suggested that the dates be included as a footnote on this table.

Table 14. Current Exposure Pathways Evaluated for the Lower Watts Bar Reservoir

Paul Charp explained the current exposure pathways evaluated for the Lower Watts Bar Reservoir. Paul pointed out that dredging did not include deep channel dredging.

Table 15. Estimated Whole Body Radiation Doses For Current Lower Watts Bar Reservoir Exposure Pathways

Paul Charp described the estimated whole body radiation doses for current Lower Watts Bar reservoir exposure pathways.

Paul Charp said that for the sediment pathway the whole body dose is less than 20 mrem/year and if uncertainties are taken into account this might result in the whole body dose being below the number that EPA recommends.

Paul Charp said that for the fish consumption pathway, the whole body dose is from fish caught below the confluence of the Clinch River and Watts Bar. This indicates that anybody consuming fish below the confluence—you are safe.

Table 16. Summary of Radionuclides Evaluated for the Clinch River Area

Paul Charp provided a summary of the radionuclides evaluated for the Clinch River area, which is heavily impacted by White Oak Creek. Paul Charp said that 90% or more of the radioactivity released into White Oak Creek was in the form of tritium (H-3).

LC Manley asked what form of tritium was released. Paul Charp and Gordon Blaylock said that it was most likely tritiated water.

Table 17. Current Exposure Pathways Evaluated for the Clinch River Area

Paul Charp explained the current exposure pathways that were evaluated for the Clinch River area.

Table 18. Estimated Radiation Doses From Current Shoreline Recreational Activities

Paul Charp described the estimated radiation doses from current shoreline recreational activities. Paul explained that locations such as above the Melton Hill Dam, Emory River (to some extent), Tennessee River above the mouth of the Clinch River, and streams leading to the Clinch River were used as a background. The study area locations were below the Melton Hill Dam in the Tennessee River.

Paul Charp said that even in the study area locations the doses to the whole body and organs is not very high. Bob Craig added that some are considerably above background.

John Merkle asked why the term "whole body" is repeated in various sections of the table with different numbers. Paul Charp said that he would look into the issue regarding the repetition in the table.

Pete Malmquist said that ATSDR needs to specify the Tennessee River so that everyone is considering the same area of the Tennessee River.

Table 19. Estimated Radiation Doses From Current Consumption of Geese and Turtle

Paul Charp described the estimated radiation doses from current consumption of geese and turtles. Paul said that the (human) bone surface receives the highest dose. When the dose is expanded over the entire body it is a fairly low dose.

Gordon Blaylock asked where the turtles were collected. Paul Charp said that most were from below Melton Hill.

Gordon Blaylock asked where the geese were collected. Paul Charp said that he believed they were collected from the location below Melton Hill and that he would find out who collected the samples.

Paul Charp pointed out that isotopes should be added to the table.

Table 20. Estimated Radiation Doses From Current Consumption of Fish

Paul Charp explained that for the estimated radiation doses from current consumption of fish, ATSDR looked at the Tennessee River below the confluence with the Clinch River and the Clinch River below the Melton Hill Dam. Paul added that the doses were expressed in millirem calculated from age of intake to age 70.

Paul Charp told the group that the sunfish species had an interesting (high) concentration of strontium. Paul also pointed out for a 10-year-old consuming sunfish from the Clinch River below the Melton Hill Dam, the dose is still fairly high—71.7 mrem, assuming that they eat the fish bones.

James Lewis asked if there were any observations of mutations or abnormalities in fish, turtles, or deer and does anyone monitor that type of thing?

Gordon Blaylock said that fish and other aquatic organisms have been observed in White Oak Lake with abnormalities. (However, abnormalities occur in all populations. The question should be whether there is an increase in the frequency of abnormalities in the population due to radiation exposure. In some insects in White Oak Lake an increased frequency of chromosomal aberrations have been observed.) Abnormalities have been found in deer on the reservation but whether there is an increased frequency of abnormalities in the deer population is unknown. (In natural population of organisms mutations occur, and most of the time these mutations or abnormalities are eliminiated, if they are not beneficial to the population). Most organisms are part of a food chain, and organisms with abnormalities are rapidly eliminated – they are food for the other organisms. If the abnormality is caused by a dominant gene, the abnormality is eliminated in one generation. If the abnormality is caused by a recessive gene, the abnormality may persist in the population for many generations and is only expressed when the gene becomes homologous.

LC Manley asked if there had been problems with frogs, especially at ORNL.

Gordon Blaylock answered that frogs would get into pond 3513, a waste disposal pond, and reproduce. The sediment and water in the pond contained relatively high levels of radionuclides from the waste disposal system. As the frogs matured from tadpoles to adult frogs, they were exposed to relatively high levels of radionuclides. The adult frogs, which contained high body burdens of radionuclides would leave the pond and were run over in the street or stepped-on on the sidewalk.

The DNA of Gambusia, the mosquito fish, which lived in this pond was examined and found to differ from the DNA of control populations. Certain types of DNA were related to the reproductivity of the mosquito fish.

Table 21. Summary of Public Health Implications From ATSDR's Evaluation of Past and Current Exposure to Radionuclides Released to the Clinch River/Lower Watts Bar Reservoir

Paul Charp said that he would let the group review Table 21 on their own after they had read the document.

In response to Bob Craig's statement saying that ATSDR's conclusion is no, no, no-health threat, Paul Charp said that the doses are even lower now than they were in the Task 4 Report.

Additional Discussion Regarding the White Oak Creek Document

Gordon Blaylock said that occasionally a turtle that could be radioactive would move out of White Oak Lake into the Clinch River. However, a person's dose would be low because the chance of a person getting more than one would be highly unlikely.

Responding to Paul Charp's question about how territorial certain fish species are, Gordon Blaylock said that sunfish are territorial and that striped bass do migrate.

Jack Hanley said that regarding the locations for sunfish, people usually catch sunfish from the shoreline. In order to get to the sunfish in the sample locations, a person would need a boat, which is why ATSDR was wondering how far sunfish would migrate. Would they migrate to the dam where people would sit on the shoreline and fish?

Gordon Blaylock said that sunfish migrating to the dam would not be likely. Sunfish would not go from White Oak Creek up to Melton Hill Dam.

James Lewis said that he has listened to people talk about the 100-year flood. Does heavy rain cause the sediment to become questionable?

Gordon Blaylock responded that floodwater immediately picks up the surface sediment.

James Lewis asked if sediment from Watts Bar concentrate in other locations—such as at the base of the dam?

Gordon Blaylock responded saying that sediment accumulates behind dams and would accumulate behind Watts Bar Dam. Gordon believes that TVA has a program to remove the accumulation of sediment near the dams. Sedimentation will also occur in other locations in the reservoir: in floodplain areas during high water conditions, in areas where a stream enters the reservoir, or in areas where the current slows down as a result of the depth or width of the reservoir. These are areas where the radionuclide such as Cs-137 and other radionuclides that have a high affinity for binding with sediments will be deposited.

In response to Bob Craig's question about lost inventory, Gordon Blaylock said that a lot of inventory from White Oak Lake was lost when White Oak Lake was drained.

Bob Craig said that he would like the PHAWG comments regarding the White Oak Creek document to be collated and submitted to the ORRHES.

Kowetha Davidson said that she does not want the work group to rush the comments just so that they are ready for the February ORRHES meeting. The group needs to do a good job–not a rush job. The PHAWG comments will need to be discussed and refined.

When looking back to the Y-12 document, James Lewis said that a lot of written comments were submitted after the ORRHES meeting, which created other issues and concerns.

Bob Craig said that the PHAWG is part of a team and that the PHAWG has seen and approved all of the data sources, now the PHAWG needs to look at the document and see if it is valid from the PHAWG point of view. PHAWG needs to start off with its comments and then get ORRHES' comments as well as the comments from other agencies. For the Initial Release of the PHA, the PHAWG has the opportunity to help ATSDR put out a better document. PHAWG's role is to make the PHA more informative for the public. PHAWG needs to begin the process.

Jack Hanley reminded the group that after the Initial Release of the PHA, there is a Public Comment version of the PHA that will be distributed to a wider audience than the Initial Release version of the PHA.

James Lewis said that his point is that for the Y-12 Uranium PHA, ORRHES members were given a very brief window to read the general public's comments and ATSDR's responses to those comments. James told the group that he is bringing up the Y-12 document because he does not want the same mistakes to be repeated for the White Oak Creek PHA. Enough time should be allowed in the process of reviewing ATSDR's responses to the comments so that if technical challenges occur—those challenges can be adequately addressed and communicated.

Tony Malinauskas said that he is more interested in ATSDR's responses to the comments, than the comments themselves. James Lewis agreed with Tony's comment.

Jack Hanley said that ATSDR's responses were also sent out in advance and that ATSDR provided two presentations regarding ATSDR's responses to the comments. PHAWG had more than a month to review ATSDR's responses.

James Lewis said that some of ATSDR's responses to the general public's comments were relatively weak. The time period was too short for PHAWG and ATSDR needs to do a better job responding to the public's comments in the White Oak Creek PHA than they did in the Y-12 Uranium PHA.

Regarding the issue of the PHAWG's comments on the Initial Release of the White Oak Creek PHA, Jack Hanley said that if the timeframe became an issue, the comments could be sent out to ORRHES members and an ORRHES conference call could be established between the February ORRHES meeting and the April ORRHES meeting.

It was decided that Bob Craig would summarize and collate all of the comments that are received regarding the initial release of the White Oak Creek PHA. Comments need to be submitted to Bill Taylor (hard copy or electronic form) by February 9th so that Bob Craig can collate them and have the comments ready for discussion at the February 17th PHAWG meeting.

New Business—Communication Plan

Pete Malmquist said that ATSDR must be able to explain what is in the PHA documents fairly quickly to the general public. ATSDR needs to communicate the findings of each PHA with the public in a way that the general public can understand. A complete and specific communication plan should be ready when the initial release of each PHA is mailed out. We need to request that ATSDR and its proper divisions and branches come up with a communication plan.

Pete Malmquist provided an example that the general public does not even know who ATSDR and ORRHES are, let alone what they do. This combined with the fact that there has not been any prior communication; the general public will never understand what a "no apparent public health hazard" means when it appears in a PHA—ATSDR needs to explain this. Can't someone in ATSDR do this sort of work? Dr. Falk needs to get the appropriate division doing this type of work.

James Lewis asked Pete Malmquist to explain what he thought was the problem when Jack Hanley and Paul Charp met with the newspaper to explain the White Oak Creek issue.

Pete Malmquist responded that the reporters did not understand the issue, which can lead to total confusion in the newspaper. Jack Hanley and Paul Charp could not talk in a language that could be easily understood by the general public. The agency should be doing a better job of communicating. It is not Jack and Paul's job to do this, it is someone else's job and the job is not being performed.

Pete Malmquist said that he had heard in a previous meeting that prior to making presentations, the PHA documents are reviewed by ATSDR. In Pete's opinion, a review means that people other than the technical people should review the document. If ATSDR requires a review, during this review, ATSDR should figure out how to communicate the findings to the general public in simple terms. Pete added that different audiences would require different terms and approaches.

Bob Craig said that ATSDR has developed official language that they must use. Kowetha Davidson responded that ATSDR's official language can be explained and should be explained in each particular circumstance. A narrative can be included and used as a tool to help explain the findings and ATSDR's official language.

John Merkle said that in respect to improving the accuracy of a newspaper article, someone knowledgeable from ATSDR about ATSDR's official terms and how to explain them should meet with the media in advance so that everything is explained and understood.

Pete Malmquist wanted the group to consider the possibility of a future PHA showing that there is a health hazard. If that occurs, ATSDR better have a plan to explain those findings to the general public.

Bob Craig said that it is obvious that ATSDR should have these types of experts on their staff. He suggested that ATSDR get these experts out now before the group gets into a situation in which something was not explained well or communicated well.

Pete Malmquist said that ATSDR employs communication specialists who are well paid and knowledgeable about how to communicate, and it is time that they do their job.

Kowetha Davidson said that ORRHES should also look at itself because ORRHES does have a Communication and Outreach Work Group (COWG)–However, Kowetha has not been able to get the COWG to help develop a communication plan that could be brought to ORRHES.

Tony Malinauskas asked about the status of communication materials for the Y-12 Uranium PHA. Jack Hanley responded that Melissa Fish has worked on the briefing document and that she took it around and got feedback. Based on the feedback, Melissa and Jack modified the document. ATSDR is currently putting the final touches on it. Based on the information that Melissa received, and in an attempt to reach a larger audience, two versions of the document have been created. One version is very short and very simple with lots of pictures and the other version is more like an executive summary of the Y-12 Uranium PHA. Regarding the issue of "no apparent public health hazard," Melissa Fish and Jack Hanley developed a longer description and explain what the term really means. Jack Hanley read an example aloud from the Y-12 Uranium Highlights document.

Tony Malinauskas suggested that ATSDR should take one of their documents and give it to a high school class and test it on them. This would help to see how well the document communicates.

Don Box said that NASA has a similar communications problem–they say things and people do not understand what they are saying. One thing that they have done recently is take their terms and provided a quick explanation and then used the terms in a short paragraph to help explain the meaning.

Jack Hanley said that Melissa has included a simple definition of the technical words in the margin and also has the words highlighted so that people can easily find them.

James Lewis brought up an article about trust by John Till. James said that the article explained that technical people communicate in a way that not all of the general public can understand. Only when issues and communication products are taken out into the general public are questions asked so that ATSDR can find out that certain issues are not clear to people who have not been intimately involved in the process.

The group decided that Pete Malmquist should bring up his issue/motion of the communication plan at a COWG meeting rather than a PHAWG meeting. James Lewis said that he would set up a COWG meeting to discuss Pete's issue.

Work group members pointed out that the written communication tools, developed by Jack Hanley and Melissa Fish are not the only answer, they cannot be used alone. The written materials can be used as a supplement or tool in the plan.

New Business-Future Meetings

The PHAWG will not meet on February 2nd; instead the NAWG will meet on February 2nd in the Oak Ridge Field Office.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:30 P.M.

Votes/Specific Actions Taken in the Meeting

The draft meeting minutes for the November 17, 2003 and the December 15, 2003 PHAWG meetings were approved.


Action Items

Paul Charp will verify the years included in the population demographics for Figure 14.

The inset table with the numbers in Figure 14 needs to be larger.

ATSDR should consider adding the term "per square mile" to Figure 15.

Figure 17 needs to have less similar colors for the city of Kinston and Harriman. They should not both be blue.

Regarding information contained in Table 11, Paul Charp said that he would find out where the samples were taken and provide that information to Gordon Blaylock.

Table 12 should include the dates as a footnote.

Table 13 should include the dates as a footnote.

Table 18-Paul will find out why some terms are repeated with different numbers.

Table 18 needs to have the Tennessee River locations to be more specific in the study area location.

Table 19 needs to have isotopes listed.

Paul Charp will find out who collected the geese and turtle samples that were used in Table 19.

Bob Craig will summarize and collate all of the PHAWG comments that are received regarding the initial release of the White Oak Creek PHA. Comments need to be submitted to Bill Taylor (hard copy or electronic form) by February 9th so that Bob Craig can collate the comments and have the comments ready for discussion at the February 17th PHAWG meeting.

James Lewis will hold a COWG meeting prior to the February ORRHES meeting to discuss Pete's motion/issue of ATSDR needing to develop a communication plan.

The PHAWG will not meet on February 2nd; instead the NAWG will meet on February 2nd in the Oak Ridge Field Office.


 
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