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Water Quality Assessment



The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources accepted a petition from theHardy County Commission to review water quality at the East Hardy School complex. Thishealth consultation was performed under terms of the West Virginia Cooperative AgreementGrant with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The petitioner was concerned because many current and former students and employees at theEast Hardy School complex in Baker, WV, have been diagnosed with cancers of various types.The petitioner asked that we review water quality at the complex to determine whetherchemicals in the water could be causing these illnesses. One stated concern of the communitywas that the water could be affected by manure or chemicals from the poultry industry in thearea.

The East Hardy School complex is located off West Virginia Route 55 near Baker, HardyCounty, West Virginia. Route 55 was rerouted to the south side of the school campus in 1992(Figure 1). Route 55 has now been rerouted to a four-lane road that is north of the campus. Theschool campus is located along a stream called Baker Run, a tributary of Lost River. The area isrural and mountainous. No past or present industrial influences on the groundwater are known inthis area. Local residents state that the school site was previously used for farming or waswoodland.

East Hardy High School was built as a vocational-technical school in 1973. The building wasexpanded in 1979 when it became the only high school in the eastern part of Hardy County.Since 1992, the average annual attendance at the high school has been 235. The other school inthe complex, East Hardy Early/Middle School, was built in 1992. This is the only grade andmiddle school for the eastern part of the county. The average annual attendance at theEarly/Middle School has been 530 [1].

The schools are served by two wells at the southern edge of the school property. These wells arepermitted by the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (WVBPH) as Baker Vo-Tech,#WV9916002. The original wells were drilled on school property in 1973. Well #1 was drilled atlatitude 39.0463 and longitude -78.7606. Well #2 was drilled at latitude 39.0467 and longitude -78.7612. Water from both wells is mixed and chlorinated in a pump house near the wells. Newpumps were installed in 1999. The water line to the Early/Middle School had to be replaced in2000 (Representative Hardy County Schools, personal communication, 2002). Well #1 wasfound to be influenced by surface water in 2000 and was not producing enough water to supplythe schools. A new well was drilled in the fall of 2001 to replace the original well #1. The newWell #1 was drilled at latitude 39.0464 and longitude -78.7609. The original Well #1 was capped[2].

The high school uses a hot-water heating system served by a boiler. This system is supplied bythe water system at the school. In 2000, the school upgraded the double-check valve system witha reduced-pressure zone device. These valves are designed to prevent boiler water that may becontaminated with chemicals or bacteria from entering the potable water supply at the highschool (Representative Hardy County Schools, personal communication, 2002)[3].

The West Virginia Source Water Assessment and Protection Program has evaluated potentialsources of contamination for the water supplied to the schools as part of the their state-wideprogram. Some potential sources of chemical contamination are: two sewage-treatment plantsfor the schools, above-ground diesel storage tanks for the school generator, an undergrounddiesel storage tank for the high school boiler, the school wood shop and greenhouses, the highschool welding and automotive shops, and above-ground diesel storage tanks located at theschool bus facility just east of the school campus [4].

Baker, WV, had 1262 residents and Hardy county had residents 12,669 in 2000 [5]. More than70% of the population have high school educations or higher. Of the Hardy County population,26% are 19 years or younger and 20% are 60 years or older. Although this is a rural agriculturalarea, only 2% of residents list farming, fishing, or forestry as their occupations. Most persons(32.9%) in Hardy County are employed in production, transportation, and material moving [5].Agricultural activities in the eastern part of Hardy county are corn, hay, beef cattle, chicken, andturkey production.

Soils in the Baker area have low-to-very low water capacity and are termed "droughty"[6]. Theunderlying rock strata are fractured limestone. Groundwater in the area would be expected toflow from the Big Ridge anticline, located about 1 mile west of the school site (between Bakerand Needmore), toward the Sidling Hill syncline, which is just east of the school complex andparallel to Lost River [7].

Site visit
School management and maintenance personnel accompanied personnel from West Virginia's ATSDR Cooperative Partnership Program during the site visit on November 7, 2002. The high school and the early/middle schools were visited. The well field and the well house for the school's wells were inspected.

The only area that was observed as a potential source of groundwater contamination was behindthe high school. The ground outside the overhead doors of the high school shop was black. Theappearance of the area around and under a drum used to collect used oil, greases, and solventsindicated that spills had occurred in the past and that this area was a potential source ofcontamination to the groundwater.

Scope of data evaluation
WVBPH water-quality reports for the East Hardy School complex from August 1993 through October 2002 were reviewed. February 2002 data from the methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) survey by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) was obtained for this site (Representative of the MTBE program, WVDEP, personal communication, 2002). Sample results on file with the WVBPH from other wells in the vicinity of the school were reviewed to determine whether groundwater in the area was contaminated with hazardous chemicals.


The first step in assessing potential health risks associated with water at the East Hardy Schoolcomplex was to compare sample analysis results with comparison values (CVs) (Table 1). CVsare media-specific concentrations used to determine what contaminants require furtherevaluation. Sample results that exceed CVs do not necessarily represent health threats but dorequire further evaluation based on site-specific exposure scenarios. Any result below a CV isconsidered to be at a level unlikely to pose a health threat. Samples were analyzed for 84contaminants (Table 1) of which 76 were at or below the detection level for that contaminant andwere not considered to be health risks. Of the 84 contaminants, 7 were over the detection levelbut did not exceed any environmental guideline CVs. These seven chemicals were, therefore, notconsidered to be potential health risks. Only one chemical, arsenic, was detected at a level overthe environmental guideline CVs, indicating that the level of arsenic in the water needs furtherreview. Because of community concerns, nitrate was also selected for further review.

Arsenic was selected for further analysis because results of one water sample exceeded two CVs, one for non-carcinogenic effects and the other for carcinogenic effects.

Non-carcinogenic effects of arsenic
EMEGs (Environmental Media Evaluation Guides) for children are estimated concentrations that would not cause adverse non-carcinogenic health effects for a child exposed to a substance at or below the EMEG level for a period longer than a year. The arsenic chronic EMEG for children is 0.003 parts per million (ppm) (mg/L.) This health based standard for a child is more protective than the current state regulatory limit (maximum contaminant level) of 0.05 mg/L or the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance standard of 0.01 mg/L [8].

The exposure assessment assumed that a child weighing 10 kilograms (kg) (about 22 pounds)would drink 0.5 liter of water during the 7-hour school day. Using these assumptions, the intakeof arsenic from water containing 0.008 mg/L of arsenic would be 0.0004 mg/kg/day. Of course,a heavier child would have an exposure lower than this because the average intake per kilogramof body weight goes down as the weight increases. The potential exposure is further reduced bythe fact that a child is at school only 180 days per year for a total of 13 years.

The adult employees' exposure is about 7 hours per day for 187 days per year. A 70 kg (about154 lb.) adult would be at the school for about half the waking hours and would be assumed todrink 1 liter of water each day at school. Using these assumptions, the adult intake of arsenicfrom water containing 0.008 mg/L of arsenic would be 0.0001 mg/kg/day.

ATSDR Health Guidelines (9/30/2002) for chronic oral minimal risk level for arsenic is 0.0003mg/kg/day. Exposures of children and adults at the level of arsenic found in water at the EastHardy Consolidated School do not exceed this health-based comparison value. Based on thisanalysis no adverse health effects are expected from this exposure.

Carcinogenic Effects of Arsenic
Cancer risk evaluation guides (CREG's) are levels of chemicals that would be expected to cause no more than one excess cancer in a million persons exposed during their lifetime (70 years). The CREG for arsenic is 0.00002 mg/L. However, children at this school would not be exposed to arsenic over a lifetime from this source. The exposure dose of 0.0001 mg/kg/day is 10 times less than the lowest observable level of adverse effects level (LOAEL) for arsenic in water [9]. Based on this analysis no adverse health effects are expected from this exposure.

Nitrates were selected for further review because of community concern about water contamination by the local poultry industry. Nitrates are a component of manure generated by agricultural operations. The highest level of nitrates found in East Hardy Consolidated School complex water was 0.28 mg/L. This is 36 times less than the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for nitrate in water (10 ppm) set by EPA under authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act. MCLs are protective of public health during a lifetime (70 years) exposure of consuming 2 liters of water a day. Nitrates have not been found in East Hardy Consolidated School complex water at levels exceeding any environmental guideline CV and are, therefore, considered to be at levels below those causing any adverse health effects.

Other water sources
Three other firms using groundwater in the area near the school have reported chemical test results to WVBPH. The data reviewed indicated that groundwater in this area is not contaminated and should not adversely affect the health of children or adults who drink it.

Potential for water contamination from the boiler in the high school
Boiler water did not likely enter the drinking water system of the high school before the check-valve system was upgraded. For boiler water to enter the school water system, check valves would have to malfunction at a time when water pressure in the school (normally 60-84 pounds per square inch) was less than water pressure in the boiler system (normally 20 pounds per square inch)(Representative of Hardy County Schools, personal communication, 2002)[3].

Community Concerns
Several children and former students have been diagnosed with leukemia, brain cancer, and various other cancers. Breast cancer has been diagnosed in some adult school employees. The West Virginia Cancer Registry is currently obtaining data on these cancers. No report has been issued. Therefore, this consultation does not address the issue of potential increased cancer rates. However, based on this evaluation of available water sampling data there is no reason to expect any elevation of cancer rates in the students or employees at this school from drinking the water.


Potentially exposed persons at this site are predominantly children. This health consultation usedATSDR health guideline comparison values that are protective of children's (includingadolescent's) health. Children's health guidelines are more protective than are levels set foradults because children are more physically vulnerable to the potential toxic effects of chemicalsin the environment. Children can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occur duringdevelopment. Analysis of the data considered potential exposures to children, as well as to adults, unless otherwise noted.


Available water-sample data indicate that drinking water from the East Hardy School complexdid not contain contaminants at levels of health concern for children or adults. Furthermore, thedata indicate that no contamination from spillage of oil, grease, or solvents has occurred thus far.

Potential contamination of water at the high school from the low-pressure boiler was unlikely inthe past, and improvements to the system make it even less likely in the present and future.

Evaluation of available relevant data indicates that water at the East Hardy School complexposes no public health hazard for the past and present. Data available for this health consultindicate that water is not likely to pose a public health hazard in the future.


  1. No public health actions are recommended at this time.


  1. A follow-up report will be issued to the petitioner, the school superintendent, and other interested parties using data released by the West Virginia Cancer Registry.

  2. Health education will be provided to the community upon request.

  3. Meetings will be held with concerned citizens to explain this report and to discuss their questions and concerns about water quality at the East Hardy School complex.


Barbara J. Smith, MS
Epidemiologist II
Public Health Sanitation Division
Office of Environmental Health Services
Bureau for Public Health, WV DHHR

Alrena V. Lightbourn, REM, MS
Environmental Toxicologist
Public Health Sanitation Division
Office of Environmental Health Services
Bureau for Public Health, WV DHHR

Reviewer of Report:

Joseph A. Wyatt, RS
Acting Director, Public Health Sanitation Division
Office of Environmental Health Services
Bureau for Public Health, WV DHHR

ATSDR Technical Project Officer

Alan G. Parham, REHS, MPH
Technical Project Officer
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
1600 Clifton Road, N.E. MS-E32
Atlanta, GA 30333

ATSDR Regional Representatives

Lora Siegmann-Werner
ATSDR Region III Regional Representative
1650 Arch Street Mail Stop 3HS00
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Tom Stukas
ATSDR Region III Regional Representative
1650 Arch Street Mail Stop 3HS00
Philadelphia, PA 19103


The Health Consultation on the East Hardy Consolidated School Site, a/k/a Baker Vo-Tech, inBaker, Hardy County, West Virginia was prepared by the West Virginia Department of Healthand Human Resources under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances andDisease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and proceduresexisting at the time the Health Consultation was begun.

Alan G. Parham, REHS, MPH
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)

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

Roberta Erlwein
Section Chief, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


[1] Whetzel, Ron, Superintendent. Translating educational needs into facility needs. Report tothe West Virginia School Building Authority, Charleston, WV. Moorefield: Hardy County Boardof Education. 1999.

[2] West Virginia Rural Water Association. Data sheets concerning GPS locations at the BakerVo-Tech/East Hardy High Site. Scott Depot, West Virginia. December 18, 2001.

[3] West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Letter to Ron Whetzel,Superintendent, Hardy County Schools, from Alan F. Marchun, E.I. District Engineer, BPH,OEHS. Charleston, WV. September 14, 2000.

[4] West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Source water assessment report,Baker Vo/Tech/East Hardy High, Hardy County. Office of Environmental Health Services,Source Water Protection Unit. Charleston, WV. 2003.

[5] Bureau of the Census. 2000 Summary File. US Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.,[cited 2003 March 17] Available from URL: .

[6] US Department of Agriculture. Soil survey of Grant and Hardy Counties, West Virginia..Washington, D.C.: Soil Conservation Service, November 1989.

[7] Tilton, John L., Prouty, William F., Tucker, R.C., Price, Paul H., White, I.C. West Virginiageological survey of Hampshire and Hardy Counties. Morgantown: Morgantown Printing &Binding Company,1927.

[8] Environmental Protection Agency. Arsenic in drinking water. Washington, D.C., 2003 Feb[cited 2003 Mar 17]. Available from URL:

[9] Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for arsenic.Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2000 Sept. Contract No. 205-1999-00024.


Site Map
Figure 1. East Hardy Consolidated School site, Water Quality Assessment, Baker, Hardy County, WV, 2002.

Table 1.

Water testing results for water quality assessment of East Hardy School complex, Baker, Hardy County, West Virginia, 2002.
Contaminant # Samples # Detections Range of concentrations measured
milligram/Liter (mg/L)
(ND=not detected)
Environmental Guideline Comparison Values (CV) # detections greater than CV
(mg/L) Type of CV
1,1,1-trichloroethane 2 0 ND      
1,1,2-trichloroethane 2 0 ND      
1,2,4-trichlorobenzene 2 0 ND      
1,1-dichloroethylene 1 0 ND      
1,2-dichlorobenzene 1 0 ND      
1,2-dichloroethane 2 0 ND      
1,2-dichloroethene 1 0 ND      
1,2-dichloropropane 2 0 ND      
1,4-dichlorobenzene 1 0 ND      
2,4-D 1 0 ND      
2,4,5-TP (silvex) 1 0 ND      
alachlor 1 0 ND      
aldicarb 1 0 ND      
aldicarb sulfone 1 0 ND      
aldicarb sulfoxide 1 0 ND      
antimony 3 0 ND      
arsenic 3 1 ND-0.008 0.003 Chronic EMEG-child 1
(arsenic)       0.00002 CREG 1
atrazine 1 0 ND      
barium 3 3 0.24-0.31 0.7 RMEG-child 0
benzene 2 0 ND      
benzo(a)pyrene 1 0 ND      
beryllium 3 0 ND      
cadmium 3 0 ND      
carbofuran 1 0 ND      
carbon tetrachloride 2 0 ND      
chlordane 1 0 ND      
chlorobenzene 1 0 ND      
chromium 3 0 ND      
cis-1,2-dichloroethene 2 0 ND      
copper 77 73 ND-1.07 1.3 MCLG 0
cyanide (total) 3 0 ND      
dalapon 1 0 ND      
di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate 1 0 ND      
di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate 1 0 ND      
dibromochloropropane (DBCP) 1 0 ND      
dichloromethane 1 0 ND      
dinoseb 1 0 ND      
endrin 1 0 ND      
ethylbenzene 2 0 ND      
ethylene dibromide (EDB) 1 0 ND      
fluoride 3 2 ND-0.15 0.6 Chronic EMEG-child 0
heptachlor 1 0 ND      
heptachlor epoxide 1 0 ND      
hexachlorobenzene 1 0 ND      
hexachlorocyclopentadiene 1 0 ND      
lead 79 0 ND      
lindane 1 0 ND      
m,p-xylene 1 0 ND      
mercury 3 0 ND      
methoxychlor 1 0 ND      
methylene chloride 1 0 ND      
methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) 1 0 ND      
monochlorobenzene 1 0 ND      
nickel 3 0 ND      
nitrogen,nitrate 6 1 ND-0.28 20 RMEG-child 0
o-xylene 1 0 ND      
o-dichlorobenzene 1 0 ND      
oxamyl (vydate) 1 0 ND      
p-dichlorobenzene 1 0 ND      
PCB*-1016 (* polychlorinated biphenol) 1 0 ND      
PCB*-1221 1 0 ND      
PCB*-1232 1 0 ND      
PCB*-1242 1 0 ND      
PCB*-1248 1 0 ND      
PCB*-1254 1 0 ND      
PCB*-1260 1 0 ND      
pentachlorophenol 1 0 ND      
picloram 1 0 ND      
selenium 3 0 ND      
simazine 1 0 ND      
sodium 3 3 15.2-21.4 *    
styrene 2 0 ND      
sulfate 3 3 12.1-24.3 **    
tert-butyl alcohol 1 0 ND      
tetrachloroethene 1 0 ND      
tetrachloroethylene 2 0 ND      
thallium 3 0 ND      
toluene 2 0 ND      
toxaphene 1 0 ND      
trans-1,2-dichloroethylene 1 0 ND      
trans-1,2-dichloroethene 1 0 ND      
trichloroethene 1 0 ND      
vinyl chloride 1 0 ND      
xylenes (total) 2 0 ND      
* there is no health-based comparison value for sodium in water
** the National Secondary Drinking Water Standard for sulfate is 250 mg/L. This standard becomes a health-based standard at a level considerably higher than 250 mg/L
CREG: Cancer Risk Evaluation Guide (ATSDR)
RMEG-child: Reference Dose Media Evaluation Guide for children (ATSDR)
MCLG: Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for Drinking Water (EPA)
Chronic EMEG-child: Environmental Media Evaluation Guide for children's chronic exposure (ATSDR)

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