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The Region I U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provide health consultations assessing properties associated with the General Electric (G.E.) site in Pittsfield, Massachusetts [1]. ATSDR personnel, accompanied by a representative from EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), conducted a site visit on March 13, 1998. The evaluation of sites will include information contained in the data packages along with the information acquired during the site visit. This health consultation will address only polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination at the Benedict Road Sites (J12-11-22, J12-11-24, and J12-11-25)in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The Benedict road site consists of three residential properties that may have either received PCB contaminated fill material from the G.E. facility, or may have become contaminated through migration by one of several possible transport mechanisms. Lots J12-11-24 and J12-11-25 have private homes on the property. Lot J12-11-22 is a grass covered property with no home.

Surface soil(0-to-6-inches) and subsurface soil samples were collected from the properties and analyzed for PCBs. Samples collected from J12-11-22 and J12-11-24 were limited to the northern end along a swale that serves as a drainage point for J12-11-25 (see attached map).

Lot J12-11-25

Surface soil PCB concentrations on Lot J12-11-25 were less than 2 parts per million (ppm) for all but two of the samples. Sample locations SS-26 and SS-38 had PCB levels of 8.2 ppm and 4.1 ppm, respectively. PCB levels in subsurface soils ranged from non-detect up to 20,000 ppm. Several samples exceeded 100 ppm in the 1 to 2 foot interval. PCBs levels increased to >1,000 ppm in the 2 to 10 foot interval.

Lot J12-11-24

Two surface soil samples showed elevated PCB concentrations (3.4 and 67 ppm) in the same area of the backyard. The contamination appeared to be confined to the backyard near the swale. Subsurface sampling did not identify significant PCB levels at depth.


Surface soil and sediment samples collected along the border of the property ranged from <1 ppm to 5.41 ppm.


PCBs are a group of 209 synthetic organic chemicals that have varying levels of toxicity. In humans, long-term exposure to PCBs can effect the skin, liver, reproductive and endocrine systems [2]. While human evidence of PCB carcinogenicity is limited, animal studies provide sufficient evidence. EPA has characterized PCBs as "probable human carcinogens" [2].

Humans are exposed to PCBs through multiple pathways. In addition to the ingestion of soil, water, and inhalation of contaminated air, food serves as a major source of PCB exposure. The potential health threat from environmental PCBs is dependent on factors such as concentration in the media, completed exposure pathways, and frequency of exposure.

Lot J12-11-25

On lot J12-11-25, concentrations of PCBs on the surface are low. Since exposure is typically limited to the top few inches of soil, there is not a current public health hazard for people residing on the property. However, very high levels of PCBs (>1,000 ppm) are present in the subsurface starting at approximately 2 to 4 feet. PCBs at this concentration can pose a public health hazard to humans for short-term exposures (e.g. several weeks of daily exposure). If excavations or other activities occur on site that bring the contamination to the surface, exposure to these concentrations could occur.


Although contamination is not widespread on lot J12-11-24, an area of moderately high contamination (67 ppm) is located in the backyard where exposure to the surface soil is likely. On the basis of the potential for long-term exposure to this area of contamination, the property poses a public health hazard.


Slightly elevated levels of PCBs (up to 5.4 ppm) are located along the bank of the swale. Exposure to soil at this location would not pose a public health hazard to residents in the area given the location, size, and concentration of the contamination.

CONCLUSION Lot J12 - 11- 25

      Lot J12 - 11- 25
  1. Public health hazard to humans for short-term exposures (e.g. several weeks of daily exposure) if excavations or other activities occur on site that bring PCBs to the surface.
      Lot J12 - 11- 24

  1. The PCBs on the property pose a public health hazard on the basis of the potential for long term exposure to contamination.
      Lot J12 - 11- 22
  1. Exposure to soil at this location would not pose a public health hazard.



Based on the information provided, ATSDR concludes the following:

  1. Remediate isolated area of surface soil contamination in the backyard of lot J12-11-24.

  2. Remediate subsurface contamination on lot J12-11-25 or provide warning/notification or control measures to ensure that waste is not brought to the surface.


Timothy Walker, MS
Environmental Health Specialist
Concurred: Richard Canady, Ph.D., DABT
Senior Toxicologist


  1. E-Mail request for consultation from Don Berger (EPA Region I) to Suzanne Simon, ATSDR. March 2, 1998.

  2. ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Polychlorinated biphenyls.

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