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The Region II U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) review sampling results from the Federal Creosote site in Manville, New Jersey, to determine if the levels of contamination pose a threat to public health [1].

The Federal Creosote site is a 35-acre site that once housed a wood treating plant that operated until 1957. Railroad ties were treated with creosote at the site, and the waste was disposed of in two lagoons on site. A residential community consisting of 137 homes was constructed over the former wood treating facility beginning in the mid-1960s [2].

In April 1996, creosote contamination was discovered seeping into the sump in a basement of a home on site. In January 1997, creosote contamination was also discovered six feet below the surface where a sink hole had developed around a sewer pipe [2].

In May 1997, EPA conducted indoor air sampling to determine if volatile compounds were migrating into the homes on site. The EPA conducted sampling in 126 homes. Analytical results were evaluated using health based air action levels developed by ATSDR. According to EPA, the target compounds related to creosote were not detected at appreciable concentrations in the air inside the homes [3].

In May 1997, ATSDR provided a health consultation to the EPA on soil sampling results collected by a consultant for the Borough of Manville [4]. The sampling identified polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a constituent of creosote, at concentrations in the low percent range. ATSDR concluded that the PAHs detected in the subsurface soils posed a potential contact threat to area residents if the material were to be unearthed [4]. ATSDR recommended additional characterization of the contamination to include the collection of surface soil samples [4]. The resultant sampling is the subject of this health consultation.

In October 1997, EPA/ERT collected surface soil sample (0-3 inches) from over two dozen properties on site for PAH analysis [5]. Subsurface soil samples were also collected and analyzed for PAHs [4]. Sampling locations were selected based on historical information and input provided by residents on areas of suspected contamination.

Creosote material was identified at approximately 3 to 10 feet below the ground surface. There was no visual evidence of creosote material at the surface during sampling activities [6]. The state of the creosote waste in the subsurface ranged from a hardened material to a material with a liquid-like consistency [6]. Total PAH concentrations in the subsurface soils ranged from non-detect to 74,243 parts per million (ppm). The highest concentrations of PAHs were detected at depth in the areas around the two former lagoons, or along the canals that transported the creosote waste from the former wood treating area.

Although there was no visual evidence of creosote contamination at the surface, soil at some properties had elevated levels of PAHs. The properties with the highest concentrations of PAHs in the surface soil are listed below:

Sample Location Total PAHs (ppm)
Residential, Camplain Road-
Residential, Valerie Drive-
Commercial, "Summit Bank"-
Residential, Camplain Road-
Residential, Valerie Drive-
Residential, Valerie Drive-
758 ppm total PAHs
504 ppm total PAHs
120 ppm total PAHs
79 ppm
78 ppm
65 ppm

The remainder of the residential properties had total PAH levels in the surface soil ranging from non-detect to 33 ppm. The surface soil sample from the residential property on Camplain Road (see above, 758 ppm) was collected at a swing set in the back yard.

The EPA has been concerned about the potential for contaminants at the site to impact two municipal wells located within 1/4-mile of the site. These wells serve as a potable water source for both the immediate community and the surrounding area. The EPA is planning to install monitoring wells at the site as an initial step to assess the groundwater exposure pathway [6]. In addition, the NJDEP recently collected samples from the Manville municipal wellfield (sampling results not available).

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