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The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has concluded theBurlington Northern Rail Yard (BNRY) site constitutes no apparent public healthhazard. There is evidence that residents and workers have been exposed tohazardous substances on- and off-site. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs),metals, and total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs) were detected in various media.However, the available data do not indicate that persons are being exposed tolevels of contamination that would be expected to cause adverse health effects. Inaddition, the Montana Department of Health and Environmental Sciences (DHES),now renamed the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), has implemented aninterim remediation plan which minimizes and/or eliminates past exposurepathways. These actions are described further in the Public Health Action Plan section of this document.

The BNRY site, also known as the Livingston Rail Yard, is in Livingston, ParkCounty, Montana. BNRY has operated in the area since 1883 under various namesand through various mergers with other railroad systems. Rail traffic and enginemaintenance are part of the current BNRY operations. Diesel locomotion was firstintroduced to BNRY in 1947. Increasing numbers of fuel storage facilities andpumping stations have been constructed at the site area through the years as therail yard business has grown. In 1989 and 1990, all underground storage tankswere removed from the site. Current practices consist of occasional refueling bymeans of a contracted pumper truck. Storage and operational processes havecontributed hydrocarbon, chlorinated solvent, and metal contamination togroundwater, soil, and air on- and off-site. BNRY's current cleanup efforts includeremoval of contaminated sludge and treatment of soil using soil vapor extractionand other interim removal and remedial measures.

Livingston residents near the site area expressed a variety of concerns about theBNRY facility including concerns about groundwater contamination from diesel fueland solvents. There have also been concerns that exposure to contaminants at thesite may have resulted in unusual occurrences of cancer, and high rates of lupusand multiple sclerosis. In 1992, ATSDR and the State of Montana completed astudy of cancer incidence in the Livingston area and found an increase in thenumber of pancreatic cancers. A follow-up cancer study was performed in 1995by the State of Montana with technical assistance from ATSDR. No statisticalrelationship between the residential proximity to refueling facilities and cancermortality could be identified. The contaminants observed most often in on- and off-site media do not represent a likely cause for increased pancreatic cancers. Theincidence of other forms of cancer appear to be normal.

Contaminants consisting mostly of but not limited to, tetrachloroethene (PCE),trichloroethylene (TCE), arsenic, and cadmium have been identified in on- and off-site groundwater, on- and off-site soil and soil gas, on- and off-site ambient air, andin the Yellowstone River. Residents and workers may have been exposed tocontaminants in off-site groundwater, on- and off-site air, and indoor residential air. However, evaluation of available data indicates that these exposures would nothave been sufficient to cause adverse health effects.

Workers and residents of Livingston may also be potentially exposed to on- and off-site soil gas, fish from the Yellowstone River, and off-site groundwater throughinhalation and ingestion. Although exposures to on- and off-site soil gases arepossible, such exposures are expected to be minimized or eliminated by remediationactivities. Sampling data from fish tissue revealed that VOCs were below thedetection limits of the assay methods used. Potential exposures for individualsperiodically consuming such fish are not expected to be of health concern. Basedon currently available data, potential exposures to contaminants in off-sitegroundwater from private wells are not expected to be of public health concern. However, ATSDR has recommended that additional sampling be performed in theseareas to provide ATSDR with the data required for a more complete assessment ofany public health implications of this exposure pathway. Groundwater monitoringcontinues off-site where the VOC plume occurs. The VOCs detected so far are not present at levels that may cause adverse health effects.

Finally, although contaminants were detected in on-site groundwater and soil, thereis no likely pathway for exposure. Further, the final cleanup remedy will insure nofuture completed exposure pathways by implementing institutional controls and other cleanup actions.


In response to a petition received in 1991 from Livingston's Informed Friends of theEnvironment (LIFE), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR) has evaluated the public health significance of the Burlington Northern RailYard (BNRY), in Livingston, Montana. BNRY was proposed for listing on theEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Priorities List (NPL) in August1994 as a priority site for clean-up. As authorized by the ComprehensiveEnvironmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA),ATSDR conducts health assessments of NPL sites within 1 year of the site's beinglisted. Specifically, ATSDR evaluates whether adverse health effects are plausibleand recommends actions to reduce or prevent possible adverse health effects.

A. Site Description and History

The Northern Pacific Railroad (NPR) developed Burlington Northern Rail Yard (BNRY)in Livingston, Montana in 1883. NPR operated the site until its March 2, 1970merger with the Great Northern Railroad; the Chicago, Burlington and QuincyRailroad; and the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railroad to form the BNRY system. Burlington Northern (BN) subsequently operated the yard until the facility's closurein February 1986 (1).

The Washington Corporations (WC) of Missoula, Montana purchased a portion ofthe BNRY operating in south central and southwest Montana after the closing in1986. Two businesses operate at the Burlington Northern Livingston site: theLivingston Rebuild Center (which was sold by Washington Corporations to a privateowner in 1993) and Montana Rail Link, which is owned by WashingtonCorporations.

The Burlington Northern Rail Yard (BNRY) is in the City of Livingston in ParkCounty, Montana, approximately 25 miles east of Bozeman and 100 miles west ofBillings (Figure 1, Appendix A). The site encompasses about 90 acres in whichvarious railroad operations take place. The BNRY facility extends northeast througha large portion of the City of Livingston, parallel to Park Street. The facility is 1.5miles long and is a quarter mile wide at its maximum (1). Two railroad mainlinesextend through the site. There are 10 active rail sidings with additional spurs toadjacent facilities, such as the turntable and maintenance shops. Facilities withinthe original rail yard include a machine shop, engine house, roundhouse, and the boiler house with the attached 115-foot chimney.

The various railroads associated with BNRY used steam locomotives initially in1883 until the introduction of the diesel locomotive. The first diesel locomotives,used exclusively for passenger service, were introduced to the area's operations inFebruary 1947. Fuel storage facilities were constructed to provide fuel for thetrains which passed through Livingston on a regular basis. The success of thediesel engine resulted in the eventual replacement of the steam locomotives forfreight train applications beginning in October 1954. By February 1957, all trainsthat passed through Livingston had been converted to diesel power and the BNRYbecame a major refueling point. A tank truck equipped with electric fuel pumpsoriginally fueled the passenger trains. Later, fuel was delivered from fueling rackssupplied by two 20,000 gallon underground fuel tanks located behind the scalehouse and across the tracks from the passenger depot. Those facilities were inactive use from the beginning of the full use of diesel locomotives in 1947 until thesite's closing in 1986 (1). Conversions of freight trains from steam to diesel powerrequired installation of a fueling rack west of the yard office between Second andThird streets. These fueling racks were supplied with diesel fuel from thepassenger train fueling tanks. Fuel occasionally spilled at both the freight andpassenger train fueling racks. Diesel fuel that leaked during the refueling processcollected periodically on the road surface beneath the B Street underpass adjacentto the site.

Consumption of large amounts of fuel required the addition of a second fueling areasouth of the maintenance shops in 1957. This area accommodated up to fourlocomotives and also had capabilities for loading the track-sanding ballast tanks. A100,000 gallon above-ground storage tank initially provided storage for fuel in thisarea. Four 20,000 gallon above-ground tanks added in 1962 provided addedcapacity. Diesel fuel from the five tanks was piped to a track side nozzle. Additional underground tanks stored cleaning materials (soap) and antifreeze(methanol). Track pans installed on the first track in the early 1970's and the second in 1975 collected spilled fuel.

During the period of its operation, approximately 30,000 to 45,000 gallons of fuelwere pumped daily through various fueling sites within the rail yard. Leakage fromabove-ground and underground fuel tanks and piping and surface spills from thosefacilities contributed to petroleum hydrocarbon contamination.

Petroleum hydrocarbons have migrated through subsurface soils to groundwater. The volume of diesel floating on the groundwater table at the site was estimated tobe 300,000 gallons in 1989 (1). Currently, the volume of diesel floating on thewater table is estimated to be 150,000 gallons. In addition to petroleumhydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents and their break-down products have beenidentified at the rail yard. Long-term locomotive maintenance operations and wastewater handling and treatment at the BNRY have resulted in the release of VolatileOrganic Compounds (VOCs) to the underlying Livingston aquifer. Most of theseVOCs are products of cleaning and degreasing agents that were used in the shops. In some instances, cleansers were spilled and leaked onto the soil while in othercases, VOCs leaked from industrial waste water lines (1).

Chlorinated solvents present in groundwater at BNRY have come from areas withinthe facility, including the wastewater treatment plant sump, oil water separatorpond, and overflow pond. Leakage from within drainage pipelines and surface spillsmay also have contributed additional amounts. BNRY and it's environmentalconsulting company, Envirocon, Inc., (Envirocon) are involved in clean-up efforts atBNRY. Currently, the sludge removal process has been completed. A DraftFeasibility Study (FS) presents the options being considered beyond the interimmeasures for site clean-up. The FS describes a range of possible options, includingmethods to effectively treat site soils and area groundwater to reach overall siteclean-up goals.

Mission Wye

In addition to the fueling activities, BNRY also functioned as a major repair and maintenance shop and included an oil reclamation plant to refine used oil from locomotive engines. Two components resulted from the refining process: a light oil called "skunk oil" and a heavier waste residue referred to as acid clay sludge. The oil was sold for reuse and the acid sludge was disposed of at BNRY from 1955 until 1970. Acidic sludge was later transported to the Mission Wye area, 5.5 miles northeast of Livingston, near Interstate 90 and Montana Highway 89. See Figure 3, Appendix A, for the location. Following an investigation of the disposal area at Mission Wye, BNRY has taken measures to begin soil clean-up.

Table 1.

Site history time line.
Year Event Period events
1882 • The town of Livingston was settled.  
1883 • Northern Pacific Railroad (NPR) established operations in Livingston, MT.
• Service by steam locomotives.
1947 • Diesel locomotive introduced to area.
• Two 20,000 gallon fuel storage facilities built and operated until closure in 1986.
Approximately 30,000 to 45,000 gallons of diesel fuel pumped daily at the facility during this 39 year period.
1954 • Replacement of steam locomotive with diesel locomotives for freight train applications.
1957 • All trains traversing Livingston were diesel fueled. Much refueling in Livingston.
• Second refueling facility was built: 100,000 gallon above-ground tank.
1962 • Four 20,000 gallon above-ground tanks installed at site.
• Additional underground tanks installed for soap and methanol.
1970 • NPR merges with Great Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern Rail Yard (BNRY) system.
• To collect spilled fuel from the refueling of locomotives, track pans were installed on the first track in the early 1970's.
1975 • Spill pan installed at second track.
1986 • Closure of the BNRY facility.
1991 • ATSDR petitioned by Livingston's Informed Friends of the Environment (LIFE) to conduct a health assessment of the BN Livingston Rail Yard facility.  
1993 • Burlington Northern submits Draft Primary Hydrocarbon Feasibility Study Report.  
1994 • Envirocon, Inc. finalizes remedial investigation report.
• BNRY is proposed for listing on EPA's National Priorities List (NPL).
• Burlington Northern submits Draft Feasibility Study Report.

B. Site Visit

Les Hutchinson, ATSDR Division of Health Studies; Tim Hampton, ATSDR Divisionof Health Assessment and Consultation; Glenn Tucker, ATSDR Region VIII, and JoeMichaletz, Montana Department of Health and Environmental Sciences in Livingstonconducted a site visit May 27-30, 1991. Danielle Langmann, ATSDR Division ofHealth Assessment and Consultation, Frank Schnell, ATSDR Division of HealthAssessment and Consultation; Naomi Penney, ATSDR Division of Health Educationand Promotion; Glenn Tucker, ATSDR Region VIII; and John Wadham, MontanaDepartment of Environmental Quality conducted a site visit February 25-27, 1997. Burlington Northern was represented on both occasions by John Mills, Envirocon, Inc.

ATSDR representatives inspected the area undergoing remediation and sludgeremoval during the first visit. The on-site sludge remediation area was properlyidentified and isolated from possible human exposure. All sludge has been removedfrom the site at the present time. Except for daily worker operations around theyard, ATSDR did not see any other human activities in the area of the BNRY. Thesite is bare over most of its area but has sparse patches of native vegetation. During the site visit, ATSDR representatives noted an old train refueling rack area,degreasing pits, a sludge pit, a cinder pile, a round table, an idling area, an oldwaste treatment area, and a rebuild center. The site is unfenced.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use


Approximately 14,500 persons live in Park County, Montana. According to the1990 Census of Population and Housing (2), the demographic statistics for withinone mile of the site indicate 7,459 persons reside in 3,478 households. Of the7,459 persons, 97.8% are white; 0.3% are black; 0.9% are American Indian,Eskimo, Aleut; 0.3% are Asian or Pacific Islander; and 0.7% are members of otherethnic groups. There are 728 children aged six or younger and 1,556 adults aged65 and older. See Figure 6, Appendix A, for additional demographic statistics.

Land Use

Livingston is zoned for residential, commercial, and industrial use and has two mainstreets lined with retail outlets. Livingston has relied on the railroad industry and itssupport services since the town was settled in 1882. Several sets of railroadtracks separate the town and surrounding residential areas from the BurlingtonNorthern facility. Current operations are conducted just across the street or trackfrom occupied residential blocks. There are several light industries on the outskirtsof town.

The Yellowstone River flows on Livingston's eastern and southern boundaries. Livingston lies in Paradise Valley, surrounded by the Gallatin and Bridger Mountains. In addition to the railroad industry, farming and ranching are main sources of income and land use.

Natural Resource Use


The residents of Livingston use groundwater for drinking and other domesticpurposes. Water is supplied by a municipal system and supplemented in somecases by private wells. There are six municipal water supply wells. The names anddepths of the wells are Billman Well (76 feet), Warner Well (63 feet), Clinic Well(74 feet), Clarence Well (52 feet), 13th Street Well (78 feet), and D Street Well (50feet). The City of Livingston supplied information about the wells.

The City of Livingston and the BNRY overlie an unconfined alluvial aquifercomposed of permeable, coarse, sandy gravel deposited by the Yellowstone River. This alluvial aquifer is hereafter referred to as the Livingston aquifer. The aquifer iselongated parallel to the Yellowstone River. Bedrock forms its southeastern andnorthwestern boundaries. The aquifer's average width is approximately 1 mile. Beneath most of the BNRY, the saturated thickness of the Livingston aquifer is 10to 25 feet. Saturated thickness can be as much as 60 feet beneath portions of theCity. Depth to the water table varies from approximately 25 feet on the southwestend of BNRY to 2 to 3 feet on the northeast near the Yellowstone River. Groundwater flows east-northeast beneath the western two-thirds of BNRY. Underneath the remaining eastern third of BNRY, groundwater flow can vary almost90 degrees seasonally, due to interaction between the Livingston aquifer and theYellowstone River. During late summer and early fall, when the water table is highand the river is low, groundwater flows east toward the river; however, as thewater table drops through the winter and early spring, flow moves morenortheasterly, parallel to the river.

Private Wells

A private well survey identified 63 private wells from 18 to 90 feet in depth in thevicinity of BNRY (1). (See Figure 2 in Appendix A for well locations). Some of thewells north of the site are still used for drinking water. Owners of private wellslocated south and east of BNRY were notified by DEQ of potential VOCcontamination. Well owners who received such notification now use the wells forirrigation and other domestic purposes but not for drinking water.

As part of this survey, 14 of these private wells were randomly sampled duringJuly and August 1989. VOC contamination was identified in six of the wells. None of the wells where VOC contamination was identified currently providedrinking water. Prior to the 1989 sampling, owners of four of the six wells hadused the water for either drinking or domestic use. The other two wells were usedfor irrigation. After the 1989 sampling, well owners that were notified of possiblecontamination began using municipal water. Results from this survey, and otherstudies, are presented and discussed in the Off-Site Contamination section of thispublic health assessment.

Municipal Wells

Before 1988, the City of Livingston operated six municipal water wells installed during the 1960's and 1970's for residential water use, including the B Street, D Street, L Street, Q Street, Clarence, and Werner wells. In April 1988, DHES sampling revealed the presence of PCE in the L Street, Q Street, and Werner wells below drinking water standards. As a precaution, the City of Livingston took the L and Q street wells out of service. These wells were replaced with two new wells (Clinic and Billman Creek), located more than 3,000 feet south of BNRY and upgradient of the plume (i.e., in the opposite direction from which the contamination is moving). Monthly sampling of the municipal wells started in May 1989, followed later by quarterly monitoring. Five of the six wells are now sampled every three years while one well (Well B) is monitored semi-annually. The Off-Site Contamination section contains a discussion of sampling results.

Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River is a valuable natural resource for the public. The river flowsnorth from Paradise Valley through the city of Livingston before turning eastward tothe Crazy Mountain Basin. People fish, swim, and raft in the river extensively. Hikers and mountain bikers also use trails that run alongside the Yellowstone River.

D. Health Outcome Data

The State of Montana Department of Health and Environmental Sciences and theATSDR Division of Health Studies, completed a cancer cluster study of Livingstonand Park County, Montana, in 1992 and a follow-up investigation in 1995. Montana maintains a tumor registry and contributes to national databases onmedical surveillance. These were utilized during the cancer cluster investigation. The Public Health Implications section of this public health assessment contains a discussion of these study results.


ATSDR met with citizens from the Livingston's Informed Friends of theEnvironment (LIFE). LIFE representatives began monitoring the ongoinginvestigations and clean-up efforts at the BNRY. Currently, the LIFE committee hasbeen replaced by the Park County Environmental Council (PCEC). ATSDR hasgathered the following health concerns:

  • groundwater contamination with diesel fuel and solvents;
  • unusual cancers, such as brain and pancreas and childhood cancers;
  • miscarriages and gallstones;
  • unusually high incidence of lupus and multiple sclerosis (MS) in theLivingston community; and
  • high morbidity in the Livingston area.

These issues are addressed in the Community Health Concerns Evaluation section of this public health assessment.

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