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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans on conducting a removal action to address long-term health threats associated with environmental contamination at the Forest Street Incinerator site in Jacksonville, Florida. The EPA has requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) assess the immediate health threat at the site to determine if additional steps are required to protect public health prior to the removal action [1]. The EPA has provided ATSDR with sampling data collected during a Remedial Investigation (RI) conducted from March to November 2000. The RI was conducted to determine the extent of contamination from the past operation of a municipal incinerator at the site. The Forest Street Incinerator site is one of three sites that encompass the "Jacksonville Ash Sites." The other two sites are the Lonnie C. Miller Park and the 5th and Cleveland Incinerator [2].

The Forest Street Incinerator Site covers approximately 10.5 acres. From the 1940s to 1960's, a municipal incinerator operated at the site. The surrounding area was used for the disposal of ash waste during the period of operation. Ash waste covers much of the site, including areas east and west of the site [2]. The ash deposits are typically less than 2 feet thick, but range up to 10 feet in some areas. The deepest ash deposits are located adjacent to McCoy Creek east of the site where ash ranges to a depth of 10 feet [2]. The total area impacted by the ash is approximately 27 to 29 acres [2].

In January 1997, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in cooperation with ATSDR, prepared a Health Consultation for the site assessing limited soil sampling data. Soil samples were collected from the site and analyzed for metals. Lead was detected at a maximum concentration of 2,930 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). Based on this initial sampling data, the FDOH determined the site to be a Public Health Hazard and recommended access restriction to the northeast quadrant of the site (former incinerator area). In addition, the FDOH recommended further sampling of the site for metals and complex organic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs).

As part of the Remedial Investigation for the Forest Street site, soil/ash samples were collected. Samples were analyzed for a number of contaminants including metals and dioxin. A total of 292 soil borings and 10 new on-site monitoring wells (7-pre-existing wells) were sampled from March to November 2000. The population surrounding the community is served by a public water distribution system. It is not known if there are any private wells in the area that are being used as a potable water source[3].

On March 15, 2001, ATSDR accompanied EPA on a tour of the site to evaluate site conditions. The following observations were made at the time of the visit:

  • The site is predominantly covered with grass. Access to the site is unrestricted.

  • The site is situated in a predominately low income residential and commercial area of Jacksonville.

  • The Forest Park Head Start School is located on site.

  • Children were observed playing in the attached playground. Wood chips have been placed on the ground in the playground adjacent to the school.

  • A former Head Start Butterfly Garden is located on the school grounds. The garden is no longer used due to incinerator ash contamination.

As part of the Remedial Investigation for the Forest Street site, soil, ash, groundwater, surface water, and sediment samples were collected. Samples were analyzed for a number of contaminants including metals and dioxin. A total of 292 soil borings and 10 new on-site monitoring wells (7-pre-existing wells) were sampled.

Sampling Results


Based on sampling results in the area, the City of Jacksonville determined the background soil lead concentration to be 204 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). The EPA has established a soil screening value of 400 mg/kg for the site. Soil samples collected from the Forest Street site detected lead at a maximum concentration of 3,970 mg/kg in the surface soil, and 5,340 mg/kg in the subsurface soil (see EPA figures 5-6, ES-5). Surface soil samples exceeding the 400 mg/kg lead screening value covered approximately 29 acres. Lead concentrations were highest on site in the immediate area of the former incinerator, and at lower concentrations in the surrounding community.

The EPA performed screening analysis for 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin toxicity equivalency (2,3,7,8-TCDD TEQ) on soil samples collected from the site. All of the dioxin results were below the EPA action level of 1 microgram per kilogram (µg/kg) TCDD TEQ [2].


Lead concentrations were below the EPA screening value of 0.015 milligrams per liter (mg/l) in the groundwater monitoring wells. Only aluminum was detected above EPA's screening value for the remaining target analytes. The aluminum level was below background for the area.

Blood Lead Screening

The Duval County Health Department has offered free blood lead screening for area residents. The purpose of the screening is to identify individuals, particularly children 12 months to 6 years of age, exceeding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline of 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl). Exceedance of the CDC guidelines trigger specific health followup actions. Test results to date have shown few blood lead levels exceeding the CDC guidelines. Blood lead levels among those tested were found to be at or below the established mean concentration for Duval County [4]. In the few cases where the CDC guidelines were exceeded, a survey of the household revealed a potential source of exposure such as lead-based paint [4].


The former Forest Street Incinerator operated for decades resulting in significant ash waste in the surrounding area. Sampling was conducted to measure lead and other metals that can concentrate in ash. Dioxin and other complex organic compounds were also sampled since they can be present as a by-products of incinerated organic material. The health threat posed by these contaminants is dependent on the concentration, the amount ingested or inhaled, and the susceptibility of the population exposed. The most significant route of exposure to contamination at this site is from incidental ingestion of soil/ash. Since metals and dioxin are non-volatile, the inhalation route is of less concern and is limited to dust that may be swallowed following inhalation. The groundwater at the site does not appear to be a significant concern since sampling has not shown any significant contamination in the soil below the ash line, nor has there been any significant leaching into the water table.


The Remedial Investigation at the Forest Street site indicated wide spread lead contamination in ash-contaminated surface and subsurface soils on the school grounds and the surrounding residential and commercial properties. The EPA has established a lead screening value of 400 mg/kg for high contact areas. This value is often used as a screening tool for residential areas where frequent contact with the soil can occur, and where there is not a sufficient vegetative cover. This value is designed to protect the most sensitive members of the population. EPA has a screening level of 1000 mg/kg for low contact areas such as commercial or industrial properties. Lead was detected in the surface soil at this site up to 3,970 mg/kg. At this concentration, exposure to the soil could result in elevated blood lead levels, particularly to children who are more likely to ingest larger amounts of contaminated soil while playing. Children in the 0-to-6 year age group are most susceptible since their developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects of lead.

Access to the Forest Park Head Start school grounds is unrestricted, and children were observed playing on the school grounds during the site visit. Where ground cover (wood chips) has been placed in the playground areas on the school property, significant exposure to lead-contaminated soil should not occur. However, other areas of the school grounds are not adequately covered to prevent exposure. In addition, surrounding residential areas contain lead contamination in the surface soil exceeding the EPA screening value. Blood lead screening of residents in the area has not shown significant elevations among those tested. However, given that the testing is available on a volunteer basis, it is not certain that all the children residing in contaminated areas have been tested. In addition, low test results do not ensure that exposures resulting in elevated blood lead levels will not occur in the future. The EPA has indicated that remediation of lead-contaminated areas will be conducted in the future, and a screening level of 400 mg/kg has been established as a potential level at which soil/ash will be removed/remediate. However, in the interim period, exposure to lead-contaminated areas may be occurring. Residential areas surrounding the former incinerator are of particular concern since these areas are likely to have children in the susceptible age range (0-to-6 years) who may have frequent contact with the contaminated soil. Therefore, it would be prudent to implement some interim measures to reduce exposure in these areas prior to future EPA removal actions. Particularly in areas where soil lead concentrations exceed 1,000 mg/kg. Continued blood lead screening, health education, and covering areas of contamination can help to reduce exposures in the community.


The potential threat posed by the dioxin is dependant on the concentration and the extent of human exposure. EPA established a screening value for dioxin of 1 ug/kg [2]. None of the soil samples collected from the site during the Remedial Investigation exceeded the EPA screening value. The screening value is designed to protect people exposed in a residential setting over a life time. The exposure assumptions (e.g. soil ingestion amounts) used to derive the 1 µg/kg value are conservative and likely to overestimate the actual exposure that may occur.

Child Health Initiative

ATSDR considers the unique susceptibility of children in the evaluation of all hazardous waste sites. Children may have higher levels of exposure since they are more likely to inhale and ingest contaminated soil. Infants and toddlers are also more susceptible to the adverse effects of some contaminants which must be considered when assessing exposure to environmental contaminants. Since children are particularly susceptible to the deleterious effects of lead, a major contaminant at this site, recommendations were provided at this site to ensure that children are protected from exposure.


Based on information provided, ATSDR concludes the following:

  1. Lead concentrations have been detected in ash waste at the Forest Street site and surrounding areas at levels that pose a public health hazard if children frequently come in contact with the contaminated soil/ash.

  2. Dioxin levels measure at the site are below levels of health concern.

  3. Interim measures are required prior to future EPA removal actions at the site to protect children from exposure to lead


  1. Continue with plans to remediate lead-contaminated soils and ash at the site and surrounding areas.

  2. Restrict access or place protective barrier (e.g. wood chips) over high lead concentration areas (greater than 1,000 mg/kg) until final remediation is initiated.

  3. Maintain the vegetative cover or place protective barrier in areas (greater than 400 mg/kg) where children may come in frequent contact with the soil. Such areas would include playgrounds and swing sets.

  4. Continue conducting blood lead screening targeting children 12 months to 6 years of age residing in areas of high lead contamination.

  5. Continue with health education activities that focus on personal hygiene and other measures to reduce lead exposure.


Timothy Walker, MS, RS, CIH
Environmental Health Specialist

Reviewers of report:

Susan Moore
Section Chief

John E. Abraham, PhD
Branch Chief


  1. EPA request for health consultation for the Jacksonville Ash Sites, January, 2001

  2. Remedial Investigation Report for the Jacksonville Ash Site, CH2M Hill, Inc., November 2000.

  3. Telephone conversation with Joe Alfano, EPA Region IV OSC, on November 19, 2001.

  4. Telephone conversation with David Jones, Duval County Health Official, on March 15, 2001.

Subsurface Soil Lead Results, 5th and Cleveland Incinerator Site
Figure ES-5. Subsurface Soil Lead Results, 5th and Cleveland Incinerator Site

Surficial Soil Lead Results, Forest Street Incinerator Site
Figure 5-6. Surficial Soil Lead Results, Forest Street Incinerator Site

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