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A. Was runoff from Site 40 (Landfill #8) a public health hazard?

On January 14, 1992, storm water rushing off a newly built subdivision off base and just north of Landfill #8 eroded soil in Landfill #8, exposing rusted, 5-gallon cans, 30-gallon drums, concrete, tires, and construction debris. State health officials investigating the incident did not detect any organic vapors. The March AFB Bioenvironmental Engineer also investigated the incident and reported chemical burning of his hands while collecting samples during his investigation of the landfill (the severity of the burning was not reported, ATSDR 1992a, DeVenoge 2000). The location of this incidence was not reported. The runoff reportedly flowed into base housing and a schoolyard (ATSDR 1992a). This incident was of public concern and reported in The Press-Enterprise (1992, Riverside, California) and press releases produced by March Air Force Base (Sprester 1992).

As part of the IRP program, March AFB investigated Landfill #8 in late 1992 and early 1993. Later in 1994, March AFB completed a removal action followed by confirmatory sampling. The removal action included the removal of soil, drums, battery casings, construction rubble and other debris and stabilization of a stream channel to inhibit further erosion. Some drums contained petroleum-based roofing products, grease, and sodium hydroxide solids (Tetra Tech 1997a).

March AFB collected confirmation samples from the creek bed that runs through the landfill and exploratory trenches. Some samples contained metals and pesticides but they were all below ATSDR's soil comparison values (Tetra Tech 1997a).

In conclusion, ATSDR reviewed the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) and found that contaminants were not present away from the landfill. The removal actions have reduced the on-site contamination to levels below public health concerns. Also, the landfill is fenced thus limiting any contact. The chemical burns the bioenvironmental engineer experienced were probably from the drums of sodium hydroxides or leaking batteries found in the landfill.

B. Is mercury in hospital plumbing a public health hazard?

In 1991, March AFB identified the presence of mercury in the plumbing at the base hospital. ATSDR identified this as a community health concern based on a report by The Press-Enterprise in Riverside California (February 21, 1992). There is no current public health concern because the hospital has been closed by the base realignment. However, a potential future health concern exists if the building is re-occupied or razed.

The mercury was found sometime before August 1991 by a plumber repairing sanitary sewage lines in the hospital. The Press-Enterprise reported that the source of mercury was from the rinsing of mercury into the sinks from the breakage of thermometers and manometers. The hospital was built in the 1960s and it was not known how long the practice of rinsing mercury into the sinks occurred. Wastewater from the hospital is piped to the base wastewater treatment plant. The treated water was used to irrigate the Riverside National Cemetery and the March AFB golf course. Sludge from the treatment plant was disposed of in a municipal waste landfill. Although we don't have chemical data on the wastewater, ATSDR expects that the mercury would have settled out in the wastewater treatment clarifiers and have been disposed of with the sludge in the landfill.

In May 1992, March AFB completed a sampling program to characterize the level and extent of mercury contamination at the hospital. Of the 59 samples taken from the building interior piping, 54 samples contained detectable amounts of mercury. They also found approximately 500 linear feet of mercury contaminated piping not including piping elbows, flanges, joints and drains. March AFB recovered approximately 20 pounds of mercury from various pipes throughout the 5-story building (March AFB 1996, DeVenoge 2000). The recovered mercury was recycled by the U.S. DOD's Defense, Reutilization, and Marketing Organization. Two samples from the external sewer lines were found to contain mercury (1.68 and 231 mg/kg, Tetra Tech 1999).

In 1997, AFBCA investigated the mercury further by taking mercury vapor samples from the sanitary vents on the roof and sludge samples from various internal sanitary lines. AFBCA found mercury in both places (Tetra Tech 1999).

Based on the location and inaccessibility of the mercury in the pipes, ATSDR concludes that past exposure is not a public health concern. Potential future exposure to plumbers, maintenance or demolition staff is possible. ATSDR recommends that workers and plumbers take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure.

C. Is there radioactive contamination and is it a public health hazard?

A citizen expressed concern about potential radioactive contamination at the base because of the former handling of nuclear weapons. At March AFB, conventional and alleged nuclear weapons were stored at the Weapons Storage Area (WSA). The WSA was constructed in 1953 to 1956 and ceased being used in 1980. March AFB completed a radiological survey of the Weapons Storage Area (WSA) in 1998. The survey results were below levels of concern (Earth Tech 1999). Currently, the WSA is fenced and off limits to the public. Reuse plans of the WSA specify a business park and open space (March AFB Joint Powers Authority 1996). ATSDR assumes that the survey of the WSA is representative of other places at March AFB which may have handled nuclear weapons such as any area used to load and unload them from the airplanes.

D. Public Discussions

ATSDR briefed the March AFB Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) on April 23, 1997 of its intent to complete a public health assessment and solicited comments and concerns from those attending. No concerns besides the ones identified above were expressed by the people present. ATSDR also met with the RAB Community Co-Chair privately and no additional concerns were presented.

E. ATSDR Children Health Initiative

ATSDR recognizes that infants and children may be more sensitive than adults to environmental exposure in communities faced with contamination of their water, soil, air, or food. This sensitivity is a result of many factors, including the following: (1) due to their play activities, children are more likely to be exposed to certain media like soil when they play outdoors; (2) children are shorter than adults, and therefore may be more likely to breathe dust, soil, and vapors close to the ground; and (3) children are smaller than adults and therefore may receive a higher level of chemical exposure relative to their size and body weight.

Children also can experience permanent damage if exposed to toxic substances during critical growth and development periods. As part of the Child Health Initiative, ATSDR is committed to evaluating children's unique vulnerabilities to environmental contaminants.

In the very young, the biological systems responsible for metabolism operate less efficiently than those in adults (Calabrese 1978). Because of this, the very young may experience increased toxicity due to the decreased rates of elimination of chemicals from the body. Similarly, persons with impaired liver function may also experience increased toxicity.

Persons suffering from compromised immune function may demonstrate an increased susceptibility to infections because these substances may impair the immune system. Young children may also be susceptible because the human immune system does not reach maturity until 10 to 12 years of age (Calabrese 1978).

As part of this PHA, ATSDR evaluated the health risks to children and adults from nine potential exposure pathways identified in Section II. ATSDR determined that these pathways pose no (apparent) public health hazard to children and adults in each pathway. Although we have made this conclusion, ATSDR recommends exposure prevention when possible. Therefore, the placement of barriers in the crawl spaces at Green Acres to prevent or lower pesticide migration into the houses is prudent. Also, ATSDR recommends the maintenance (establishing where necessary) of shrubs or ground cover around the foundations of the Green Acres houses to prevent exposure to soil contaminated with lead. These situations are discussed in the respective sections of this report.

If anyone has concerns they would like to relay to ATSDR, they should direct them to:

Program Evaluation, Records, and Information Services Branch
Re: March Air Force Base
ATSDR, Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Mail Stop E-56
1600 Clifton Road,
Atlanta, GA 30333

Questions may also be directed to William Nelson, ATSDR Regional Representative, Region 9, San Francisco, California, at (415) 744-2194 or to the ATSDR information line at 1-888-42-ATSDR (1-888-422-8737). Please specify the March AFB public health assessment when calling for information.


ATSDR conducts a review of existing health outcome data (e.g., birth and death certificates, birth defects registries, cancer registries, etc.), when available, if people have been exposed to site contaminants in concentrations possibly posing a public health hazard or if the community has concerns related to specific health outcomes. The evaluation of health outcome data may give a general picture of the health of a community, or it may confirm the presence of excess disease or illness in a community. However, elevated rates of a particular disease may not necessarily be caused by hazardous substances in the environment. Other factors such as personal habits, socioeconomic status, and occupation, also may influence the development of disease. In contrast, even if elevated rates of disease are not found, a contaminant may still have caused illness or disease.

At March AFB, ATSDR did not review health outcome data because records were not available or the exposed population was too small. For on-base exposure to pesticides and lead at Green Acres, records were not available since the base hospital was closed. In addition, ATSDR did not pursue the records since a statistical increase in disease would be very difficult to identify since the Green Acres indoor air pesticide concentrations were in the range found at other houses studied around the country and the former residents are widely dispersed throughout the country.

Without blood level data at the time of exposure, ATSDR cannot verify exposure to the lead in the soils and paint. Furthermore, examining current blood samples for lead will not identify past exposure because the half-life of lead in blood is approximately 32 days, in soft tissue 40 days, and in bone approximately 27 years. Blood and soft tissue lead levels will likely fall after exposure ceases with slow replenishment from the bone. However, the much higher half-life in blood, would keep blood lead levels low. Therefore, examining current blood levels will not provide information about past exposure to lead. Furthermore, examining current lead levels in bone would not provide exposure information about a single source, such as lead in soils, since bone lead levels represent a lifetime of exposure from many sources. Lead is prevalent in the environment. Since troop rotations were five to nine years and the houses have been vacant for two years, people in the houses could have been exposed before they moved to March AFB or after. Therefore, current blood lead data would provide information about lead exposure from all sources and not just Green Acres.

We did not review health outcome data for the on- and off-base ground water contamination since we determined the levels of exposure pose no (apparent) public health hazard.


ATSDR has identified nine exposure pathways as discussed in Section II and summarized below. Overall we conclude that there are no apparent public health hazards at March AFB in the past, currently, or in the future.

ATSDR recommends exposure prevention when possible. From our evaluation, we have presented eight recommendations to present exposure as summarized below by exposure situation.

Green Acres Military Family Housing
  1. Past, current, and future exposure to pesticides in indoor air and crawl spaces.

  2. Past, current, and future exposure to lead in paint and soils.
  3. Past, current, and future exposure to asbestos in building materials.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard (1) The Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) or March Joint Powers Authority (MJPA) should place barriers in the crawl space to prevent or lower pesticide vapor migration into the houses to prevent and lower exposure and to keep the crawl spaces doors locked to prevent access.

(2) The AFBCA or MJPA should not allow children to play next to the homes because of lead contaminated soils identified in the roof driplines. Playground equipment or fenced areas for children should not be located next to the homes. The AFBCA or MJPA should maintain lawns and shrubs adjacent to the houses including the roof driplines to prevent access to the lead in the soils by children. Gardens adjacent to the houses should be prohibited to limit contact with the lead in the soil or potential lead uptake in fruits or vegetables.

ATSDR also recommends that MJPA and AFBCA follow the protective public health measures identified in 66 Federal Register 1206 for lead in residential soils.

(3) The AFBCA or MJPA should maintain and routinely inspect the asbestos in the houses.

On- and Off-site Ground Water Used for Drinking Water, Irrigation, or Other Uses
  1. Past exposure to volatile organic compounds and boron on-base.

  2. Past and potential current and future exposure to volatile organic compounds off-base.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard (4) To confirm the presence or absence of used private wells in the OU1 area, ATSDR recommends that AFBCA or AFRC send all parcel owners in the OU1 area letters asking about the presence of wells and their use. ATSDR recommends that AFBCA or AFRC sample previously unknown private wells if they are still in use. These wells should be sampled quarterly for one year. With the results of the first sample and each subsequent sample, AFBCA or AFRC should evaluate whether the sampled wells should be closed because of public health. AFBCA or AFRC should also provide information on the status of the investigated wells to State Department of Water Resources, Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Department of Health Services (Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management), and the Riverside County Health Department.

(5) The AFBCA, AFRC, State, County, or private owners should close those wells that are no longer used or inadequately constructed within the plume or adjacent to the downgradient edge of the plume to prevent exposure and the spreading of contamination.

(6) The AFBCA or AFRC should confirm with the County of Riverside that well permits should not be issued in the OU1 area.

Arnold Heights Military Family Housing
  1. Past and potential future exposure to lead and oils.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard (7) If the land is to be reused for outdoor activities such as playgrounds or parks, we recommend that AFBCA, MJPA, or future owners sample the soils for lead and PCBs after demolition and site preparation to evaluate these potential soil contaminants and potential health risks, if any.
Past Runoff from Site 40 (Landfill #8) near Arnold Heights
  1. Past exposure to runoff.
No Apparent Public Health Hazard No recommendations.
Mercury in Hospital Plumbing
  1. Past and future exposures
No Apparent Public Health Hazard (8) People working on the plumbing and sewers should be informed of the hazard and they should take appropriate safety measures to prevent exposure.
Sampling for Potential Radioactive Contamination at the Weapons Storage Area or Other Basewide Areas.
  1. Potential building contamination
No Public Health Hazard No recommendations
* Conclusion Categories are explained in Appendix C.


66 Federal Register 1206. Lead; Identification of Dangerous Levels of Lead. Federal Register 2001, January 5; 66:1206-1240. 40 CFR Part 745.

AFBCA (Air Force Base Conversion Agency). no date. Finding of Suitability to Lease (FOSL), Interim Lease to March Joint Powers Authority, Green Acres Housing, March Air Force Base, California.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1988. The nature and extent of lead poisoning in children in the United States: A report to Congress, July 1988.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1992a. ATSDR Record of Activity for telephone call regarding landfill runoff. February 4, 1992.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1992b. Impact of Lead-Contaminated Soil on Public Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Atlanta, GA. May 1992.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1993. Toxicological Profile for Aldrin and Dieldrin. U.S. Public Health Service. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1994a. Toxicological Profile for Chlordane. U.S. Public Health Service. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. May 1994.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1994b. Toxicological Profile for 4,4'-DDT, 4,4' DDE, 4,4'-DDD (update). U.S. Public Health Service. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1997a. Toxicological Profile for Lead, Draft for Public Comment (Update). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, ATSDR, Atlanta, GA. August 1997.

ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1997b. Substance Comparison Value System, October 23, 1997.

Albers JC., Kreis IA, Liem AD, van Zoonen P. 1996. Factors that influence the level of contamination of human milk with polychlorinated organic compounds. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 30:285-291.

Armstrong Labs, July 1992. Boron Investigation Survey, March Air Force Base, California, Armstrong Labs, Brooks Air Force Base.

Armstrong Labs, 1997. Results of Pesticide Sampling at Green Acres Military Family Housing, March AFB CA. April 14, 1997.

Bachand, Don, 1989. 1Lt, CSG, March AFB, Memorandum regarding extension of water main. August 1, 1989.

Brooks AFB, September 14, 1982. Report of volatile halocarbons in wells, water treatment plant, and hospital.

Brooks AFB, January 24, 1984. Laboratory Analysis Report and Record for Well Number 1.

CEDAR 1997. California Economic Diversification and Revitalization, State of California,, accessed October 30, 1997.

CEDAR 1999. California Economic Diversification and Revitalization, State of California,, accessed December 20, 1999.

CA DHS, California Department of Health Services, May 1990. Portion of a report submitted to CA DHS from The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Analysis of the Water District Supplies, received by CA DHS on May 14, 1990.

Calabrese E. 1978. Pollutants and High Risk Groups: The biological basis of increased human susceptibility to environmental and occupational pollutants. New York, NY. Hohn Wiley and Sons.

Chaturvedi AK. 1993. Toxicological evaluation of ten widely used pesticides. J Appl Toxicology 13 (3), 183-188.

DeVenoge 2000. Comments on the March AFB Draft [Data validation draft] Public Health Assessment dated December 1999 from Major Tom DeVenoge, AFMOA/SGOE Bolling AFB, February 3, 2000.

Earth Tech 1999. Draft Multi-Agency Radiation Survey and Site Investigation Manual (MARSSIM) Final Status Survey Report for the Weapons Storage Area, March AFB, California, Earth Tech, Inc., October 1999.

Earth Technology Corporation, January 1989, Draft Work Plan, Installation Restoration Program, Stage 4, Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study

Earth Technology Corporation, July 1991. Installation Restoration Program, Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study, Draft Basewide Work Plan.

Earth Technology Corporation, Installation Restoration Program, Stage 4, Remedial Investigation/Study-Draft Work Plan, March AFB, California, July 1994.

Environment Canada, United States Environmental Protection Agency, and Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy January 31, 1994. Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network, Quality Assurance Program Plan.

Fletcher, Daniel, J. 1986. 2Lt, Chief, Bioenvironmental Engineering, March AFB, Memorandum to 22 CSG/JA regarding procurement of bottled water.

Fukumoto, Col, Malcolm, Base Civil Engineer, March AFB, August 3, 1983. Letter to California Department of Health Services regarding drinking water.

Fukumoto, Col, Malcolm, Base Civil Engineer, March AFB, October 6, 1983. Letter to California Department of Health Services regarding drinking water.

Garten, Robert S., Maj, Chief, Military Public Health, USAF, March AFB, August 17, 1994. Memorandum regarding Indoor Air Quality Survey for Building 468.

Geolytics 1998. Census CD+Maps, Version 2.1 includes 1990 Census Data at the Block Group Level, Summary Tape Level 3.

Gibson, Sidney, Chief Bioenvironmental Engineer, March AFB, December 11, 1978. Letter to Gary Stewart, CA Regional Water Quality Control Board regarding concentrations of TCE in on-base wells.

Gibson, Sidney, Chief Bioenvironmental Engineer, March AFB, April 29, 1980. Letter to Diana Barich, CA Regional Water Quality Control Board regarding concentrations of TCE in on-base wells.

Glancy, Richard, Deputy Base Civil Engineer, March AFB, September 1983. Letter to California Department of Health Services regarding drinking water.

Gray, Ronald, S., Sanitation Superintendent, March AFB, December 15, 1981. Letter to California Department of Health Services regarding drinking water.

Hossain, Mohammad, Chief Bioenvironmental Engineer, March AFB, August 19, 1983. Handwritten note on Laboratory Analysis Report and Record prepared by Brooks AFB, August 12, 1983 for Hospital distribution system.

Hossain, Mohammad, Chief Bioenvironmental Engineer, March AFB, November 9, 1983. Memorandum to 22 CSG/DE re: base water supply.

Hossain, Mohammad A., Chief Bioenvironmental Engineer, March AFB, October, 1984. Letter to Department of Health Services, State of California regarding water analysis plan for March Air Force Base System. October 15, 1984.

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Tetra Tech, Inc., 1995b. Meeting Regarding Required Investigations at RFA and EBS Sites, January 12 1995.

Tetra Tech, Inc., 1996a. Parcel Ownership and Groundwater Production Well Information in the Vicinity of the OU1 Plume, February 1996.

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Wall, 1997. Personal Communication with Archie Wall, former water treatment plant operator, September, 1997.


Brian Kaplan
Environmental Health Scientist
Federal Facilities Assessment Section
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Scott Sudweeks
Federal Facilities Assessment Section
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation


Diane Jackson
Chief, Department of Defense Section A
Federal Facilities Assessment Section
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

Jeffrey Kellam
Environmental Health Scientist
Federal Facilities Assessment Section
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation

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