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




On October 15, 2003 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requested assistance from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in determining whether radioactive fly ash at the Crown Vantage Landfill site, Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County, poses a threat to human health. In response to this request and through a cooperative agreement with the ATSDR, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) prepared the following Health Consultation for the Crown Vantage Landfill Site. As requested by the USEPA, exposure scenarios evaluated were for full-time site remediation workers, intermittent workers (occasional site visits), and trespassers based on the results of two surface soil samples with the highest measured radioactivity levels.


The Crown Vantage Landfill site is an inactive landfill located near the banks of the Delaware River in Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey. It is adjacent to the terminus of a popular hiking trail. The site, which is approximately 10 acres in size and located at Block 17.01, lot 1.01, lies entirely within the 100-year flood plain. Wastes accepted at the site, which operated from the late 1930s and for approximately 40 years thereafter, included coal ash (a.k.a. fly ash), household trash, appliances, construction debris, drummed wastes, chemical solvents and dyes, metal foil, and plastics. The maximum thickness of the waste material is about 20 feet. Some of the wastes deposited (e.g., paper fiber sludge , waste paper) came from the operation of one or more paper mills. Coal was used at the paper mill(s) to fire boilers used in plant operations.

In 1991, the Responsible Party for the landfill conducted a preliminary investigation of the site in response to two Notices of Violations from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Approximately 800 drums were found on the surface of the landfill and volatile organic vapors were detected in the soil. Subsequently, about 69 drums containing wastes and 475 empty drums were removed by the Responsible Party.

In 2001, the Crown Vantage Paper Company's bankruptcy estate provided the NJDEP with $1,000,000 to conduct remedial activities at the landfill and other sites (NJDEP 2001). These remedial activities have included the installation of perimeter fencing and additional drum removal; only drums and waste materials visible at the landfill surface were removed as of October 2002 (NJDEP 2003). Currently, waste drums are present both at the surface and in the subsurface of the landfill in varying conditions, from intact to completely corroded. Chemical contaminants such as metals, semivolatile organic compounds, volatile organic compounds, pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls have been detected in the landfill (NJDEP 2003).

Recent soil sampling was conducted at the site in April 2003; samples were also collected for radiological characterization on July 25, 2003. Active erosion of the landfill by the Delaware River (e.g., drums of chemical waste being washed into the river) was noted by the NJDEP in 2003. Reportedly, the USEPA is preparing plans for a removal action and is gathering data to rank the site for National Priorities List (NPL) consideration.


Surface soil radiological activity data provided to the NJDHSS were collected by NJDEP in July 2003 during a radiation survey of the site. The samples were collected and submitted to the NJDHSS Environmental and Chemical Laboratory Services and analyzed by gamma spectroscopy for radioactivity due to potassium-40, cesium-137 and decay products of radium-226, radium-228, uranium, and thorium. The radioactivity levels of the two highest samples were as follows:

Sample No. S-23


Concentration (pCi/g) MDC (pCi/g)
Potassium-40 14 + 1 0.20
Cesium-137 0.04 + 0.03 0.02
Radium-226 Bismuth 2.4 + 0.2 0.04
Radium-226 Lead 2.6 + 0.2 0.04
Radium-228 Actinium 2.4 + 0.2 0.07
Thorium-228 Lead 2.7 + 0.2 0.03
Thorium-228 Thallium 2.8 + 0.3 0.07
Uranium-238 Thorium 3.3 + 0.4 0.27

Sample No. S-24


Concentration (pCi/g) MDC (pCi/g)
Potassium-40 12 + 1 0.22
Cesium-137 0.06 + 0.03 0.02
Radium-226 Bismuth 2.4 + 0.2 0.04
Radium-226 Lead 2.7 + 0.2 0.04
Radium-228 Actinium 2.5 + 0.2 0.07
Thorium-228 Lead 2.7 + 0.2 0.03
Thorium-228 Thallium 2.7 + 0.3 0.07
Uranium-238 Thorium 3.2 + 0.3 0.17

MDC = minimum detection concentration
pCi/g = picocuries per gram


Assessment Methodology

The NJDHSS contacted the NJDEP Site Remediation Program and reviewed relevant site information provided by the USEPA, ATSDR, and NJDEP. The NJDHSS then contacted the NJDEP Bureau of Environmental Radiation, Radiological Assessment Section. For each of the above radioisotopes, the Radiological Assessment Section calculated exposure doses using the following assumptions:

  • occupational exposures for site remediation;
  • thickness of the fly ash was 20 feet; and
  • the routes of exposure were ingestion, inhalation, and external (whole body).

The exposure doses were then compared to background levels and allowable limits for pertinent exposures.

Public Health Implications

The estimated dose to a full-time site remediation worker would be 12 millirems (mrem) for a full year. Clearly, estimated doses for intermittent workers and trespassers would be lower than 12 mrems per year. These dose levels are below the NJDEP Soil Remediation Standards for Radioactive Materials (N.J.A.C. 7:28-12) adopted on June 21, 2000 of 15 mrems per year. Fifteen mrem per year is associated with a lifetime cancer risk of 3 x 10-4. These exposure doses do not take into account the possible diminution of exposure due to the removal of radioactive material from the site during the course of remediation. NJDEP prohibits radiation levels outside of controlled areas that would result in a dose in excess of 500 mrems in any one year (N.J.A.C. 7:28-6.2). Typical non-radiation occupations (including site remediation workers) are exposed to 100 mrem per year from all sources. The average annual effective dose equivalent of ionizing radiation for the United States general public (excluding radon) is also 100 mrems per year (NRC 1990).


In conclusion, there is No Apparent Public Health Hazard to either full-time site remediation workers, intermittent workers, or trespassers from the radioactive fly ash at the Crown Vantage Landfill. This determination was based upon data provided by the USEPA.

Although this evaluation does not pertain to any chemical exposures that may exist at the site, any level of precaution taken to protect workers from chemical hazards would provide additional safety against radiation exposures.


As previously offered, NJDHSS and ATSDR are available to review the Health and Safety Plan prepared for the Crown Vantage Landfill site.


This Health Consultation was prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It has been produced in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the Health Consultation was begun.

Gregory V. Ulirsch
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch (SSAB)
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC), ATSDR, has reviewed this Health Consultation and concurs with its findings.

Sven E. Rodenbeck
for Roberta Erlwein
Team Leader, SSAB, DHAC


New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 2001, Publicly Funded Cleanup Site Status Report 2001.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Remediation Management and Response, Office of Well Field Remediation, Memorandum: "Case Summary: Crown-Vantage Landfill, Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County", 2003.

NRC 1990. National Research Council, Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiations. Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR V) Washington, D.C.


Steven M. Miller, Ph.D.
Environmental Scientist II

ATSDR Regional Representatives:

Arthur Block
Senior Regional Representative

Leah T. Escobar, R.S.
Associate Regional Representative

ATSDR Technical Project Officer:

Gregory V. Ulirsch, M.S.
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Any questions concerning this document should be directed to:

Julie R. Petix, M.P.H., C.P.M., H.O.
Health Assessment Project Manager
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
Division of Epidemiology, Environmental and Occupational Health
Consumer and Environmental Health Services
3635 Quakerbridge Road
P.O. Box 369
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0369

Table of Contents 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. #