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April 6, 1998

Prepared by:

Alabama Department of Public Health
Under Cooperative Agreement with the
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


A community member requested that the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) review data from an abandoned carbon black storage facility to determine if levels of contamination present a public health threat. Carbon black is defined, in this health consultation, as a trade name for the finely divided carbon produced from incomplete burning of hydrocarbons (such as mineral oils). The carbon black at the site is in a solid form similar in appearance to soot.

The Uniontown Carbon Black Facility is located on Village Avenue in a rural area of Uniontown, Perry County, Alabama. (See map attached). The city of Uniontown currently owns the facility. The site is approximately seven acres and is bordered by residences to the east, west, and northeast and by a railroad to the south [1]. The closest residence is approximately 50 yards east of the site. Located on-site are two large warehouses, (50,000 square feet and 100,000 square feet), and a small office building. The site is secured by a chain-link fence and access is limited to city personnel and staff working in the small office building [1].

In 1992, tenants of the former owners of the site, G & A Enterprises, accepted carbon black for storage at the site. The carbon black was stored in the two warehouses. In 1994, the carbon black caught fire in the larger warehouse leaving a mixture of ash and carbon black in and around the two warehouses [1].

In response to complaints regarding the fire, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) conducted a site inspection on October 7, 1994. Approximately 700 drums of carbon black were located on the north side of the property. The 50,000 square foot building contained large sacks of carbon black which had been punctured, allowing the carbon black to spill on the floor of the warehouse. Located inside the 100,000 square foot building were ash piles where the carbon black had burned [3]. During the site inspection, six samples were collected from the drums, the spilled carbon black product, and the ash piles located on-site. The sampling was conducted to identify the site as a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous or non-hazardous facility. The samples were analyzed for various volatile compounds, herbicides, pesticides, metals, and acid extractable base neutrals using TCLP (Toxicity Characteristic Leachate Procedure) analysis. Sample results detected barium, cadmium, chromium, and lead [2]. Based on the sample results, ADEM determined the material was not a hazardous waste, according to the RCRA definition for hazardous waste [2].

In August 1997, Brian Hughes and Yvonne Barnett of the ADPH and James Mayes, the mayor of Uniontown, conducted a site visit. The small office building and two warehouses were examined. The 700 barrels of carbon black had been removed. The mayor stated that approximately 40 tons of carbon black was removed from the smaller warehouse in November 1996 [1]. Several sacks of carbon black and ash piles were located in the larger warehouse. The smaller warehouse contained several piles of carbon black. One pile of carbon black was also located between the two warehouses. A complaint was received by ADEM in 1994 concerning smoke and dust from the fire; however, the mayor stated that no complaints have been made regarding the site since the fire [1].


A potential exposure to metals may exist for on-site workers through ingestion of or dermal contact with the carbon black or carbon black ash mix. However, the data collected by ADEM was in response to an investigation to determine whether the facility constituted a hazardous waste site. The environmental samples were analyzed according to analytical methodologies currently used to determine if the facility is a hazardous waste site under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) definition. These analytical methodologies identify and determine if a site is a hazardous waste area and do not provide the qualitative analysis necessary to determine the public health significance of the data. However, the data collected at this site may be used to indicate that further public health investigations may be warranted.

Further sampling and analyses methodologies would be needed in order to address public health issues at this site. Such analyses could include a complete metals analyses using detection limits appropriate for determining and addressing the public health issues.


The Alabama Department of Public Health has determined that the site is an indeterminate public health hazard. Based on the information available, the ADPH concludes that the analysis of the sampling data is not sufficient to evaluate the public health threat at this site. The data analysis conducted is used to determine if a facility constitutes a hazardous waste site. Additional data collection, and analytical methodologies utilizing appropriate detection limits, is needed in order to evaluate the public health significance of this site.


Sample remaining carbon black and ash product for metals to characterize the extent of contamination. Analytical methodologies should utilize appropriate detection limits needed to address public health issues.


Yvonne Barnett, MPH
Epidemiologist I


  1. Personal Communication, Mayor J. May, City of Uniontown; August 27, 1997 and September 2, 1997.

  2. Letter, From: Russell Kelly, Chief, Solid Waste Branch, Land Division, Montgomery, Alabama, To: Julian McPhillips, McPhillips, Shinbaum & Gill, Montgomery, Alabama, Subject: G & A Enterprises, Date: December 28, 1994.

  3. Letter, From: Russell Kelly, Chief, Solid Waste Branch, Land Division, Montgomery, Alabama, To: The Honorable Jim Reynolds, Mayor, Uniontown, Alabama, Subject: Spent Carbon Black Disposal, Town of Uniontown, Perry County, Date: February 23, 1995.

  4. Hazardous Substances DataBank, NIOSH OSHA. Occupational Health: Guide to Chemical Hazards (1981), 1997.


This Health Consultation was prepared by the Department of Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the health consultation was begun.

David Hutchins
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch (SSAB)
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this health consultation and concurs with its findings.

Richard Gillig

Figure 1. Uniontown Carbon Black Site 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

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