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The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) developed this health consultation to determine whether exposures are occurring to potential groundwater contamination at the Hinton Landfill in Summers County, West Virginia. As part of our response to concerns from residents regarding suspected contamination from the site and the incidence of adverse health outcomes in this community, WVDHHR evaluated sampling results for nearby public water systems and an un-named tributary to the Greenbrier River to determine if current site conditions pose a public health hazard.


Site Description

The Hinton Landfill (a/k/a Elk Knob Landfill) is a former municipal solid waste, land disposal area located approximately 3.5 miles east of the City of Hinton on Elk Knob Mountain and to the right of the intersection of West Virginia County Routes 9 and 9/3 (Tug Creek Connection) (Figures 1 & 2). The site is geographically situated in the Greenbrier District of Summers County at latitude 37º40'22" North and longitude -80º51'06" West. The site encompasses approximately 14 acres [1] of hilly, steeply-sloped land [2] near the top of a valley which is drained by an intermittent stream to the Greenbrier River (Figure 3). Approximately 2 acres of this land was permitted in 1977 for use strictly as a municipal landfill, comprising a disposal area 300 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 30 feet deep [2].

The site is bound on the north-to-northwest by a cluster of residential trailers, a fire station, and a cemetery. From the west-to-southwest are a few single-family residences, a dirt road, and woodlands. At its south corner, the lower elevation of the site slopes toward a small valley which comprises a field, heavily forested areas, dense brush and grasses, and an un-named tributary to the Greenbrier River (residents call it Irvings Branch). Areas east-to-northeast of the site include a sparse assortment of single-family houses, trailers, a small farm, and dense woodlands. County Route 9 runs west to east across the entrance of the landfill. All residences are up-gradient of the landfill except for two that are southwest of the site at approximately 2440 feet.

Water bodies in the vicinity of the Hinton Landfill include the New River (approx. 2 miles west of site), Greenbrier River (1.2-1.4 miles south of site), an unnamed tributary (0.22-0.25 mile east of site), and an unnamed lake (0.5-mile north of site). The site elevation is 2513 - 2572 feet above sea level, compared to an elevation of 2162 - 2231 feet for the unnamed tributary and 1489 feet for the Greenbrier River.

Ground water in Summers County is derived from precipitation and occurs mainly in fractures in the sedimentary rocks and in alluvium along rivers and creeks. The storage capacity of sedimentary rocks is low and therefore, wells and springs which have developed in these rocks tend to yield low but usable amounts of water. Several mineral springs exist in the county (e.g., Sulphur, Greenbrier/Barger, and Pence) [3].

Site Visit

WVDHHR staff visited this site on April 24, 2003. A community meeting was conducted with city and county health officials, as well as concerned citizens. A site visit was conducted with local officials and residents immediately after the meeting.

Access to the site is currently not restricted due to the lack of a gate and fencing that does not fully encompass the perimeter. Physical conditions observed during the site visit included: weathering (i.e., very thin soil cover across the fill area with some areas almost bare; eroded ground surfaces along unpaved roads and top of the landfill; minimal ponding of brick-red water near the leachate pond at the center of the fill area); vegetation overgrowth in the uppermost leachate pond on the surface of the landfill; a small swamp area within the boundaries of the uppermost leachate pond; plastic, paper, and some household debris protruding through the remaining soil cover on the upper portion of the landfill. A mound of fill cover material was still visible along the eastern face of the landfill. Peripheral areas below the landfill and along visible property lines were covered with grass and dense brush.

No unusual odors or significant surface soil discolorations were observed across the vast majority of the site during the site visit. While isolated ponding and reddish-brown stains (beneath the ponded water) were observed near the uppermost collection pond, the presence of surface water was associated with rainfall events that preceded the visit, and was considered to be intermittent in nature. No uncontrolled leachate was observed on the surface of the landfill, and it was not feasible to inspect the toe of the landfill due to the dense overgrowth of vegetation and steep, rugged terrain.

Topographical data and information collected during the site visit indicate that the nearest residence and highway were respectively less than 0.25 mile and approximately 0.5 mile from the entrance of the landfill. The area is characteristically rural-residential, with very limited agricultural use of the land, in the form of small-scale cattle farming just east of the landfill.

Based on the 2000 Census Data, there are 12,999 residents in Summers County: 79.5% of the population is 18 years and over; 20% - 65 years and over; and 4.6% under 5 years old. The City of Hinton had a total population of 2,880, comprising approximately 1,595 residential housing units and a progressively aging populace [4]. As evidenced during the site visit, residential areas in the immediate vicinity of the landfill were sparsely populated. Less than 50 single-family dwellings (~100 residents) are within a 0.5-mile radius and about 14 of those homes are within 0.25 mile of the Hinton Landfill. A nearby mobile home park was recently constructed but is only intermittently inhabited.

Site/Operational History

A combination of illegal dumping, managed dumping, and permitted landfill operations occurred at the Hinton Landfill site over a period of approximately 22 years (1962-1984). Residents have historically expressed concerns over unsanitary conditions at the Hinton Landfill. Despite public outcry, issues surrounding sanitary conditions at the landfill persisted for years. Complaints included reports of: uncontrolled dust, surface water drainage, and leachate flow; inadequate soil cover; odors; insect, rodent and avian pests; uncovered or protruding debris; inoperable or unavailable equipment to manage landfill wastes; leachate ponds completely filled with solids; and fires set to reduce the quantity of waste at the site [references 5 through 21]. Local efforts resulted in the closure of the site around 1984. A detailed narrative of the site history is included as Appendix A.

Water Supply

Two public water supply systems are located within a 2-mile radius of the Hinton Landfill. There is no municipal water source in the vicinity of the site. Private wells serve as a potable source of drinking water and fulfill recreational and other household needs for some residents. Residents nearest to the landfill reported using bottled water as their source of potable water. No historic records of private well surveys or sampling activities were located for the study area. A review of existing Department of Health private well construction reports dating from 1988 to 2002 indicated that there are at least 13 private residential wells with depths ranging from 115-400 feet within a 0.5-mile radius of the site.

Site Geology

Soils near the site were characterized as having a combined consistency of silt and clay loams. The predominant soil type at the site is 100% Calvin-Berfs [22]. A limited volume of soil existed above the landfill (30-50 inches deep) and the erosion hazard was deemed high. However, the underlying shale bedrock was considered relatively impermeable, thereby reducing the chance of ground water pollution [23].

Physical Hazards

The soil cover formerly spread across the site at closure had visibly eroded, leaving some surface layers of debris partially uncovered. All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) access to the site was evident. Walking and ATV paths were eroded.



The only available environmental sampling data related to the Hinton Landfill was a West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stream survey conducted in March of 1984.

DNR surveyed an unnamed tributary to the Greenbrier River that originates on or near the site. The survey was designed to quantify the effects of the landfill on the stream and its aquatic life. Chemicals that were tested to determine water quality were ammonia, total nitrogen, lead, zinc, iron, and manganese. One water quality sample was collected from site leachate running off just below the landfill, and three from the unnamed tributary to the Greenbrier. Stream sampling points were: '70 yards upstream of the confluence with the leachate', '10 yards upstream of leachate', and '75 yards upstream of the mouth of the tributary'. The report concluded that water quality in the unnamed tributary was relatively unaffected by the landfill leachate, and that no negative impacts would be expected to the benthic macroinvertebrate and fish communities and water quality of the Greenbrier River [10].

Monitoring data for the two public water supply systems located within a 2-mile radius of the site were reviewed for the period dating July 1993 through December 2002. These data did not suggest that the public drinking water supply was impacted by leachate from the landfill.

Exposure Analysis

To determine whether residents of the Elk Knob Community living near the site have been exposed in the past or present to contaminants located in the vicinity of the Hinton Landfill, the WVDHHR evaluated the environmental and human components that may lead to human exposure. This pathways analysis consists of the following five elements: (1) a source of contamination; (2) transport through an environmental medium; (3) a point of human exposure; (4) a route of human exposure, and (5) an exposed population. Exposure pathways are complete when all five of these elements existed at some point in the past, exist in the present or are likely to occur in the future. Exposure pathways are potential when one or more of the elements are missing or uncertain but could have existed in the past, could be occurring now, or could exist in the future. Pathways are eliminated when one or more of these five items do not exist or where conditions make exposures highly unlikely.

Exposure to chemicals from drinking private well water

Chemicals from the landfill could have leached into groundwater near the site. If movement of chemicals occurred from the landfill into nearby groundwater aquifers used for drinking water, people could have ingested chemicals when they drank water from their wells. Wells in the area could be drilled to a level that is below the surface of the sites. Although there have been no hydrogeologic studies of this site, groundwater generally flows in the same direction as surface water. Therefore, groundwater from this site would be expected to flow to the southeast. This is away from all the residents in the area. All residences within a 0.5 mile radius of this site are at a higher elevation than the landfill, except for two homes to the southwest which are about 70 to 130 feet below the landfill elevation. No one in these two residences use any private wells, ponds or springs for potable water. Well water testing has not occurred in this area. Although it is unlikely that nearby wells were ever affected by the landfill because of these topogographical considerations, no data was available to determine potential impacts via this potential pathway.

Exposure to chemicals from contact with leachate or surface water draining from the site

As water percolates through a landfill, contaminants are leached from the solid waste. This water is called leachate. Leachate from this site was tested for a few chemicals in 1984. Chemicals of potential concern identified in leachate were ammonia, manganese, and zinc (Table 1).

Levels of chemicals tested by the DNR were so low, that even if a person were to drink small amounts of the leachate every day, no adverse health effects would be expected (Table 2). The ingestion of leachate is unlikely due to its appearance and the remote nature of the site. This pathway was eliminated for the past, present and future.

Due to the rough and steep nature of the land at the base of the landfill, few, if any people would come in contact with the surface water draining from this site. Calculations using the 1984 data for surface water show that no adverse health effects would result even if large amounts of surface water from this site were ingested (Table 2). Because this is unlikely, this exposure pathway was eliminated.

While occasional visitors or trespassers to the site could potentially be exposed to contaminants in leachate splashed onto their skin while traversing the site, it is unlikely that the leachate would be present in sufficient quantities or that chemicals would be present at high enough concentrations to have a negative health effect via this exposure route. Therefore, WVDHHR found that occasional dermal exposure to leachate from this site would not pose a health threat to children or adults.


A resident expressed concern over Hodgkin's disease and other types of cancer found in some individuals who live or lived in close proximity to the Hinton Landfill. Within the past 5 to 10 years, about 16 persons living within 0.5 mile of the landfill have been diagnosed with cancer and several have died. The resident suggested that potential contamination from the Hinton Landfill may have impacted the private wells in the community.

Because of the community concerns expressed relative to this site, WVDHHR reviewed information available from the West Virginia Cancer Registry regarding the types and numbers of cancers diagnosed in this community. The Cancer Registry reported that the types and numbers of cancers observed were what would be expected when comparing these numbers to existing cancer trends in West Virginia.

Hodgkin's disease is a rare but curable lymphoma, or cancer of the lymphatic system. It is characterized by the slow and abnormal growth of antibody-producing cells of the lymphatic system. The cause of Hodgkin's disease, also called Hodgkin's lymphoma, is unknown. None of the chemicals found at the site is known to be associated with Hodgkin's disease.


The unique susceptibility of children to chemicals in the environment was considered in this health consultation. Because of their physical vulnerability and small body size, infants and children are often more susceptible to potentially toxic effects of chemicals in the environment. Their developing body systems can sustain permanent damage if toxic exposures occur during critical stages of growth and development. Children who live near hazardous waste sites often have greater exposures, greater potential for health problems, and less ability to avoid hazards. Environmental exposure to hazardous substances can increase a child's physical vulnerability to environmental toxicants that can cause learning disabilities or trigger growth and developmental problems. It must be understood, however, that the extent to which health effects are manifested depends on the nature of the chemical(s), the amount of the substance(s) to which the individual is exposed, the duration of exposure, as well as exposure conditions. This health consultation calculated the potential exposures to children in the area (Table 2.) and reviewed these results when reaching the conclusions in the report.


The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources concludes that the site poses no apparent public health hazard because the limited information about the composition of leachate and surface water and the expected flow of groundwater away from all the private wells near this site make the exposure to chemicals from this site unlikely to cause any adverse health effects. The pathways that were considered were: drinking water, incidental ingestion of leachate or surface water from the site and dermal exposure to leachate from this site. The number of cancer cases in this area is not statistically greater than what is seen in similar communities in West Virginia.


  1. No further action by WVDHHR is recommended for this site.

  2. The city of Hinton should install a secure gate and lock at the entrance of the landfill to discourage access to the site and minimize contact with the site because of the physical hazards at this site.

  3. Citizens concerned about the quality of water from their wells should test their wells for chemical content.


  1. The WVDHHR is assessing the need for additional outreach to the community regarding the Hinton Landfill site. A public availability session will be conducted to document and address community concerns regarding our findings.

  2. The WVDHHR will review any additional environmental sampling data and health outcome data for the Hinton Landfill site, as it becomes available. Such review may result in a re-evaluation and expansion of the current public health action plan for this site.


  1. Summers County (SC), 1971. Land Deed Record #8215 Between Bill Pack and the City of Hinton, entered into on March 22, 1971. Deed Index for 1971-1972: Deed Book 107 page 647.

  2. NUS Corporation Superfund Division(NUS), 1986. Preliminary Assessment of Hinton Landfill (R-585-8-5-12). Prepared for the Hazardous Site Control Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, February 6.

  3. Summers County Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA), 1992a. Excerpt from the Summers County Commercial Solid Waste Facility Siting Plan, Chapter One, Geological and Hydrological Conditions. Hinton, West Virginia.

  4. United States Department of Commerce Census Bureau (CB), 2000. State and County Quick Facts:

  5. West Virginia Air Pollution Control Commission (APC), 1968. Letter from J. C. Duff to C. G. Beard II, Director, regarding the operation of the Hinton Landfill.

  6. E.C. Gill, 1968. Letter from residents to Carl G. Beard complaining about the Hinton Sanitary Landfill, December 31.

  7. E.C. Gill, 1973. Letter from residents to Dale Parsons complaining about the Hinton Sanitary Landfill, December 3.

  8. Mann, Perry E., 1974. Letter to Lance Tabor of the Southern West Virginia Regional Health Council as council for E.C. Gill in suit against the City of Hinton relative to Hinton Dump., March 7.

  9. Robert P. Wheeler, 1981. Letter to Hn. W. J. Humphreys of City Hall citing the Hinton Landfill on a state inventory for operational deficiencies and ordering compliance, August 3.

  10. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1984a. Biological Monitoring Section Stream Survey Report: Unnamed Tributary of the Greenbrier River. March 22.

  11. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1984b. Inter-Office Memorandum from Richard Hensley to Summers County Landfill File. Division of Water Resources, August 16.

  12. Hinton News, 1984a. Article: Back at Elk Knob, July 10.

  13. Hinton News, 1984b. Article: Close Landfill, July 10.

  14. Hinton News, 1985a. Article: Judge Orders Landfill Closed, November 26.

  15. Hinton News, 1985b. Article: Cleanup and Closure of County Landfill, November 26.

  16. Hinton News, 1986a. Article: Closure Plan of Landfill, June 17.

  17. Hinton News, 1986b. Article: Closure of Landfill Approved, June 17.

  18. Summers County Health Department (SCHD), 1985. Letter from Stephen D. Trail, Summers County Sanitarian, to William Pinnell of the State Department of Health regarding unsanitary conditions at the Elk Knob Landfill, June 4.

  19. Summers County Chapter of Save Our Mountains (SOM), 1985. Letter from Robin Evanosky to Jay Rockefeller regarding interim waste disposal permit in Greenbrier County, May 27.

  20. Circuit Court of Summers County (Circuit Court), 1985. Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Civil Action #6: Filed on behalf of Andrew Maier of the Summers County Chapter of Save Our Mountains against the WV Dept. of Natural Resources.

  21. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1985c. Letter from Ronald R. Potesta to Hn. John D. Rockefeller IV regarding the Hinton Landfill, July 19.

  22. City of Hinton, (no date). Application for Stormwater Concept Plan Approval: City of Hinton Landfill Closing. Prepared by Dean Osgood.

  23. United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service (USDA), 1975. Soil Information for Existing Landfill, Hinton, Summers County: Inventory and Evaluation Unit, February 14.

  24. Summers County Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA), 1992b. Summers County Litter Control and Solid Waste Management Plan. Hinton, West Virginia.

  25. West Virginia State Department of Health (SDOH), 1973a. Memorandum from Dale Parsons to R. G. McCall regarding E.C. Gill's 3 Dec 1973 Complaint and the 27 July 1972 Court Order for Hinton Dump., December 21.

  26. West Virginia State Department of Health, Solid Waste Disposal Planning (SDOH), 1978b. Disposal Site Inspection Form: Summers County Disposal Site, February 27.

  27. Southern West Virginia Regional Health Council, Inc. (SWVRHC), 1974. Proposal for Summers County Sanitary Landfill, May 13.

  28. Southern West Virginia Regional Health Council, Inc. (SWVRHC), 1975. Engineering Report: Proposed Summers County Sanitary Landfill to be Located Approximately Three Miles East of the City of Hinton, West Virginia. April.

  29. West Virginia State Department of Health (SDOH), 1981. A Report on Solid Waste Disposal in West Virginia, prepared by the Solid Waste Division, Office of Environmental Health Services (OEHS), November.

  30. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1981. Open Dump Inventory Report: Hinton Landfill. July 30.

  31. West Virginia State Department of Health, Division of Sanitary Engineering (DSE), 1977. Sanitary Landfill Application: City of Hinton, October 2.

  32. West Virginia State Department of Health, Division of Sanitary Engineering (DSE), 1978a. Permit Record: Permit No. 7036 issued to the City of Hinton, March 15.

  33. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1984c. Memorandum from T. Laraway of the Division of Natural Resources to the City of Hinton regarding Permit No. 7036 and residential complaints, July 11.

  34. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1984d. Inter-Office Memorandum from T. Laraway of the Division of Natural Resources to Joe Laughery regarding the Hinton Landfill (Permit No. 7036), July 13.

  35. West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board (SWMB), 1991a. Grant application seeking funding to assist in the closure and abandonment of the Elk Knob Landfill near Hinton, May 23.

  36. Summers County Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA), 1991. Letter and Application of Solid Waste Authority Grant seeking funding to assist in the closure and abandonment of the Elk Knob Landfill, June 6.

  37. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1985a. Letter from D.W. Robinson of the Division of Natural Resources to John McFerrin, Esq., of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, Inc. regarding the Hinton Landfill, September 25.

  38. State of West Virginia Office of the Attorney General (OAG), 1985. Letter from Jennifer J. Costello to Hn. James A. Leslie, Jr. of the City of Hinton regarding Order No. 2051, October 28.

  39. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1985b. Letter from D.W. Robinson of the Division of Natural Resources to the City of Hinton regarding Order No. 2051 for the Hinton Landfill, October 24.

  40. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1985d. Order No. 2051 from D. W. Robinson to Hn. James A. Leslie, Jr. , Mayor of the City of Hinton, regarding Hinton's solid waste disposal. Issued October 28.

  41. Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, Inc. (ARDF), 1985. Letter from John McFerrin to Steven Knopp, Assistant Attorney General, State of West Virginia, November 18.

  42. Southern Soil Conservation District (SSCD), 1986. Letter from Gary Boschain of SSCD to Ralph Trout of the City of Hinton regarding the Hinton Landfill, May 22.

  43. City of Hinton (Hinton), 1986. Application for Landfill Closure: Permit #7036-5076 submitted to the Division of Water Resources, WV Department of Natural Resources, July.

  44. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Division of Waste Management (DNR), 1990. Notice of Violation issued to the Summers County Sanitary Landfill. July 13.


Alrena V. Lightbourn, REM, MS
Environmental Toxicologist
Office of Environmental Health Services
West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources

Reviewers of Report

Barbara J. Smith, MS
Office of Environmental Health Services
West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources

Joseph A. Wyatt, RS
Acting Director, Public Health Sanitation Division
Office of Environmental Health Services
West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources

Fred R. Barley, RS
Sanitarian Chief/Health Educator
Office of Environmental Health Services
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

ATSDR Regional Representative

Lora Werner
c/o US EPA Region III
1650 Arch Street (3HS00)
Philadelphia, PA 19103

ATSDR Technical Project Officer

LCDR Alan G. Parham, REHS, MPH
ATSDR Headquarters
Superfund Site Assessment Branch
1600 Clifton Rd. N.E. MS-E32
Atlanta, GA 30333


The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) prepared this Hinton Landfill Health Consultation under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures in existence at the time the health consultation was initiated.

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

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

Roberta Erlwein
Section Chief, SPS, SSAB
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC), ATSDR


Site Vicinity Map
Figure 1. Site Vicinity Map

Topographic Map of Area
Figure 2. Topographic Map of Area

Topographic Map of Hinton Landfill
Figure 3. Topographic Map of Hinton Landfill


Table 1.

Chemicals of Potential Concern Hinton Landfill Site Data from 1984 DNR Stream Survey of Unnamed Tributary located at the toe of the Hinton Landfill
Chemical Number Detections over CV Range of Concentrations measured over CV
mg/liter (ppm)
Environmental Guideline Comparison Values (CV)
ppm (mg/liter) Type of CV
Sample Point No 1: Leachate
Ammonia 1 28 3 ATSDR Intermediate EMEG - child
Lead 1 30 0.015 EPA Action Level
Manganese 1 4 0.5 ATSDR RMEG - child
Zinc 1 380 3 ATSDR Chronic EMEG - child
Sample Point No 2: in unnamed tributary 70 yards downstream of leachate
Zinc 1 4 3 ATSDR Chronic EMEG - child
Sample Point No 3: in unnamed tributary 10 yards upstream of leachate
Zinc 1 4 3 ATSDR Chronic EMEG - child
Sample Point No 4: in unnamed tributary 75 yards above the mouth with the Greenbrier River
Zinc 1 6 3 ATSDR Chronic EMEG - child
mg/liter = milligrams per liter (equivalent to parts per million or ppm)
ATSDR Intermediate EMEG child=Environmental Media Evaluation Guide for a child exposed for 15-365 days
EPA Action Level=the level where public water systems must take remedial action
ATSDR RMEG - Child=Reference Media Evaluation Guide for a child
ATSDR Chronie EMEG - child=Environmental Media Evaluation Guide for a child exposed for more than 365 days

Table 2.

Estimated Exposure Doses for Incidental Ingestion of Chemicals in Leachate and Surface Water - data from 1984 Hinton Landfill Site
Chemical Max level
Estimated Exposure Doses
Incidental Ingestion
Health based Guidelines
Adolescent Adult mg/kg/day Source
Sample Point No 1: Leachate
Ammonia 28 0.0062 0.0038 0.3 ATSDR Intermediate Oral MRL
Lead 30 0.0067 0.0041   none
Manganese 4 0.0009 0.0005 0.02 EPA Chronic Oral RfD
Zinc 380 0.0847 0.0521 0.3 ATSDR Chronic Oral MRL
Sample Point No 2: in unnamed tributary 70 yards downstream of leachate
Zinc 4 0.0009 0.0005 0.3 ATSDR Chronic Oral MRL
Sample Point No 3: in unnamed tributary 10 yards upstream of leachate
Zinc 4 0.0009 0.0005 0.3 ATSDR Chronic Oral MRL
Sample Point No 4: in unnamed tributary 75 yards above the mouth with the Greenbrier River
Zinc 6 0.0013 0.0008 0.3 ATSDR Chronic Oral MRL
mg/L=milligram per liter
mg/kg/day=milligram per kilogram per day
ATSDR Chronic Oral MRL=ATSDR Chronic Oral Minimal Risk Level for exposures over 365 days
ATSDR Intermediate Oral MRL=ATSDR Intermediate Oral Minimal Risk Level for exposures between 15 and 365 days
EPA Chron Oral RfD=EPA Chronic Oral Reference Dose for exposures over 365 days
    Adolescent Adult    
Ingestion Rate Liter/day 0.01 0.01    
Exposure frequency days/year 350 350    
  years 12 30    
Body Weight kg 43 70    


The Hinton Landfill has been variably referred to as the Hinton Dump, Hinton Sanitary Landfill [24], Hinton Disposal Site [25], Summers County Disposal Site [26], Summers County Sanitary Landfill [27,28], Hinton Landfill [29], or the Elk Knob Landfill [10,24]. A combination of illegal dumping, managed dumping, and permitted landfill operations occurred at the site over a period of approximately 22 years (1962-1984). Although no official record of waste receipts was located, the site reportedly only received municipal wastes. There was no evidence available to suggest that illegal hazardous waste materials were ever disposed in the landfill over its period of operation.

Prior to the establishment of the Hinton Landfill, Summers County had 100-200 promiscuous open dumps [24,30]. According to a 1967 Survey of Solid Waste (Appendix I of [24]) conducted for all of Summers County, the town of Hinton operated and managed its own household waste disposal system and discarded waste at a site located on Elk Knob Mountain (the Hinton Sanitary Landfill). Wastes generated in the county were less than nation-wide statistics; an estimated 13,507 persons produced about 1,215 cubic yards of garbage per week based on a national average of 4.5 pounds of garbage per day per person. Hinton's population of 5,197 during this time period produced about 274 cubic yards (48 tons) of garbage per week (Appendix I of [24]).

Un-permitted solid waste disposal activities at the facility began in 1962 [2] with service to about 13,213 Summers County residents [28]. This suggests possible historic leasing and usage of the property for dumping activities prior to its acquisition by the city. Little else is known of the previous site land use except that it was part of a 6-tract 40-acre parcel of surface real estate, which the City of Hinton (a municipal corporation) agreed to purchase from a constituent of the Greenbrier District [1]. Although this agreement was signed on May 7, 1963, the deeds for the property housing the Hinton Landfill were not conveyed to the City of Hinton until March 22, 1971. The purchase agreement included a 12-foot right-of-way and a 14-acre tract of land situated on the waters of the Irvings Branch terminus of the Greenbrier River, just right of the county road leading from Hinton to Elk Knob [1].

The operation of the Hinton Dump engendered numerous citizen complaints and notices of violation based on routine inspections. The first residential petition was filed by residents living near the landfill in Spring 1967, who charged that, for the preceding 4 years, operations at the site had been flawed and consisted of dumping and burning of rubbish on grounds within 300 feet of the nearest dwelling [6]. Solid Waste Regulations passed in 1967 initiated the City's compliance, and refuse and garbage were buried rather than burned. However, by early 1968 to about September 1968, the City returned to its practice of burning the refuse, prompting a second petition by area residents who were concerned about air pollution resulting from open burning and open-face disposal of debris on the ground. Although the open-burning ceased immediately after the petition was submitted, violations continued in a manner declared by state health officials to be a nuisance and hazard to human health.

By 1972, the present landfill site was still being operated as an open dump (Appendix I of [24]) and was solely used by the City of Hinton at least until June 14, 1973 [25]. The facility was intended to eliminate approximately twelve major open dumps and numerous roadside dumps located throughout the county (Appendix I of [24]) [28]. The City of Hinton and Summers County jointly subsidized this consolidation, as well as subsequent operational costs for the landfill. Operation of the facility was contracted to the Southern West Virginia Regional Health Council, Inc. (SWVRHC), and the State Health Department participated by supplying additional expertise and regulatory oversight.

On June 13, 1975, the State Health Department Division of Sanitary Engineering (DSE) approved construction plans for the upgrade and conversion of the Hinton dump into a Class II Landfill under permit No. 5076 issued to the City of Hinton. On October 2, 1977, the City submitted a Sanitary Landfill Application to DSE proposing disposal of garbage and refuse for the City of Hinton and Summers County. Approximately 13,000 persons received service, generating an estimated 33 tons of waste per week for a period of 3-5 years [31]. The estimated area fill volume was 164,700 cubic yards. Additional materials proposed for acceptance at the landfill included rubbish, tree and yard refuse, ashes, street and alley cleanings, catch basin, abandoned automobiles, and appliances. Special handling was requested for large dead animals and sewage plant solids. Site operations would continue to be administered by the SWVRHC, with Mountaineer Sanitation Service as private haulers. The site would be equipped with an officer trailer containing employee sanitary facilities. Upon completion of site usage for landfill purposes, the City of Hinton proposed to cover the site with good top soil, seed it, and convert it to grazing land.

On March 16, 1978, DSE approved the sanitary landfill application and issued a second permit (No. 7036) for the implementation of approved plans and construction of the landfill for an estimated 3 years [10, 11, 32, 33, 34]. Landfill construction began under WV State Dept. of Health permit No. ST4578866 [35]. It was an unlined facility with no monitoring wells and just 2 small ponds to collect leachate [36] via natural drainage [11]. The site reportedly received municipal refuse at a rate of 6 truckloads per day, 4 from the City of Hinton and 2 from Summers County [2]. Historic records indicate that the site was also used by two local women's prisons, a public hunting and fishing facility, state parks, the county Board of Education, various government agencies, and individuals [32].

In 1981, a compliance inspection revealed non-point source discharge of surface water from the un-permitted landfill facility. Untreated leachate from the site were flowing toward state waters, where no permissions had been obtained to do so, and no functional leachate collection system existed to prevent it.

The City discontinued use of the landfill in March 1983, tentatively using the Mercer County Landfill. However, this arrangement only lasted until June 1983 [12] despite a permit for disposal until at least July 1, 1985 [19]. Operations were again terminated in November of 1984, as it was apparent that the landfill was reaching capacity and it was becoming economically infeasible for the City of Hinton to continue operations. Within months of announcing the closure of the landfill, and amid strong opposition by local residents, the City of Hinton resumed dumping at the facility [36]. This culminated in the closure of the site by court order on January 1, 1985 under the state's first DNR-approved landfill abandonment plan [12]. The City commenced work to close and abandon the site, but progress was impeded by economic difficulties [35].

Over concerns that uncontrolled leachate flowing from the Elk Knob Landfill would discharge into the Greenbrier River at a point upstream from the source of drinking water for the City of Hinton, the Summers County Chapter of Save Our Mountains (SOM) petitioned the Kanawha County Circuit Court for immediate closure of the landfill. SOM further requested that the courts compel DNR toward mandatory regulatory intervention [13, 20]. The court accorded the order, requiring "final and complete closing of the Elk Knob Landfill" and no further dumping [14]. This court decision was driven primarily by the potential pollution of the Greenbrier River and potential harm to Hinton drinking water supplies [14]. Both DNR and the City were required to provide a comprehensive abandonment plan that would bring the site up to legal standards before the facility could be abandoned [15]. DNR continued to monitor conditions at the landfill prior to abandonment via periodic inspections [37] and determined that the problems at the site "pose no imminent or substantial environmental or health threats". DNR postponed action against the site due, in part, to its lower environmental priority [37]. However, on October 24, 1985, DNR issued Administrative Order No. 2051 to the City of Hinton [37,38,39,40]. The order addressed claims of persistent violations at the City's solid waste disposal facility and required the City to apply 6 inches of uniform soil cover at the facility and submit an application for abandonment of the landfill. The permit to abandon the Hinton Landfill would address concerns under both Solid Waste Management Act (1983) and un-permitted leachate discharge in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1948). As of November 5, 1985, 90% of the refuse at the Hinton Landfill remained uncovered, pond and drainage ditches were untouched, and leachate continued to flow unabated [41].

Around June 1986, a plan proposing to cover 8-acres of disturbed land with 697,000 cubic feet of earth, fence and seed the facility, build drainage ponds to control runoff, and protect the Greenbrier River was drafted [16, 17, 42]. According to the application for closure [43]: surface water drainage was not evident above standard concentrations; drainage did not affect developed properties; minimal leachate was present at the uncapped site; and, methane gas control or venting was deemed unnecessary [17, 43]. Future land use proposed for the closed facility included recreational use as a baseball field and firing range [16]. DNR, Division of Water Resources approved the 5-year Solid Waste Facility Closure Permit No. SWC-7036H-87 for the Hinton Landfill on August 31, 1987.

Despite provisions put in place to correct problems at the site, the Summers County Landfill was cited for numerous violations in July 1990, including failure to: meet monitoring requirements; complete final cover and grading requirements; regulate leachate and explosive gas requirements; install surface water diversion ditches; complete requirements for seeding, mulching, and fertilization; and file a deed notation on the County's landfill site [44]. Action was later taken by the Summers County Solid Waste Authority around June 1991 to finalize closure of the landfill in the mid-1990s, with the foremost intention of abating leachate pollution of the Greenbrier River [36].

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