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The Japanese Auto Wrecking (JAW) site in Kent, Washington is a facility at which usedautomobiles were crushed. Workers at the site reportedly allowed gasoline, radiator fluids, andoils from crushed cars to contaminate the ground at the site [1]. JAW has operated at the 1.7-acresite since 1998 [1]. The site was originally used as a junk yard in 1967 [1]. The surrounding areais industrial and commercial and is bounded to the north and east by properties that are affiliatedwith the automotive industry (e.g., auto parts and wrecking facilities) [2]. A railroad line abutsthe western portion of the site, and South 262nd Street bounds the site to the south. Commercial/industrial properties lie beyond the railroad and South 262nd Street [2]. The GreenRiver lies approximately 50 yards north of the JAW site [2]. The EPA on Scene Coordinatorobserved visual evidence of contamination on the ground from radiator fluid and engine oils(Mike Sibley, U.S. EPA, personal communication, 2003). Trespassers, reportedly children, haveentered the site in the past and vandalized areas of the site or stolen property because the fencesurrounding the site is not completely secure (Mike Sibley, EPA, personal communication,2003). EPA has no estimate of the volume of fluids that have been disposed of at the site, but anaerial photograph reportedly showed at least 450 automobiles on site [1]. A 1990 USGS aerialphotograph appears to show rows of cars on site, with no surrounding residences (Figures 1, 2and 3 Appendix A). EPA asked ATSDR to review the data submitted by EPA for healthimpacts.


Environmental Data Submitted

EPA submitted to ATSDR a draft technical memorandum outlining the contamination found onsite. Appendix A, Tables 1 and 2 show the groundwater and soil data submitted by EPA toATSDR. Soil samples were collected with a Geoprobe, although an analytic method was notreported (Mike Sibley, EPA, personal communication, 2003). EPA did not report the collectionmethod and the analytic method for the groundwater samples to ATSDR.

A Foxboro Toxic Vapor Analyzer (TVA 1000) was used to screen the geoprobe sampler prior tosample collection for organic vapors. Both the Flame Ionization Detector (FID) and thePhotoionization Detector (PID) on the TVA 1000 detected vapors coming from site soil borings.In some cases, the direct reading instrumentation measured high levels (10,000 ppm+) ofcontaminants. However, because these instruments are not chemical specific and have differingresponses to different air contaminants, the chemical identity and exact level of contaminationare unknown.

Data Quality Assessment

Soil data submitted were reportedly from soil borings taken in areas not visibly contaminatedwith a product but reported by workers as areas where dumping of gasoline occurred (MikeSibley, EPA, personal communication, 2003). Soil samples are also limited because they do notrepresent levels of contamination at the point of exposure (i.e. surface soils).


An exposure pathway is the process by which an individual is exposed to contaminants originatingfrom a contamination source. An exposure pathway consists of the following five elements: 1) asource of contamination; 2) a media such as air or soil through which the contaminant is transported;3) a point of exposure where people can contact the contaminant; 4) a route of exposure by whichthe contaminant enters or contacts the body; and 5) a receptor population. A pathway is complete if all five elements are present and connected. If one of theseelements is missing, the pathway is incomplete and human exposure is not possible. Table 3 and 4 describes the completed and in completed pathways for this site.

Sources of Contamination

Potential sources of contamination for environmental contamination include used car batteriesand automotive fluids such as anti-freeze, gasoline, transmission fluids, brake fluids, and motoroils. Media statements and reported data concerning the site indicate that these contaminantshave been released into the environment [1,2]. Although the actual brands and grades ofautomobile fluids are unknown, ATSDR referred to selected Material Safety Data Sheets(MSDS's), provided in Appendix B, to determine what chemicals could be present in thesefluids. Potential contaminants include:

  • Gasoline (containing chemicals such as benzene, naphthalene, ethyl benzene, methyl-tert-butyl-ether),

  • Anti-Freeze (contains ethylene glycol),

  • Engine and transmission oils (contains paraffin-like hydrocarbons).

  • Battery acid and lead (from abandoned car batteries)

Environmental Media

Media available to transport contamination include on site soils, groundwater, surfacewater, and air. The extent of the groundwater and surface water contamination isunknown. Contaminated groundwater may be affecting other adjoining properties or theGreen River, which is 50 yards to the north. Likewise, surface runoff from the site maybe affecting adjoining properties or the Green River, depending on the direction of flow.Vapor intrusion from the gasoline plume into buildings is a possibility but is notcharacterized.

Soil boring and groundwater testing results showed contaminants that would beassociated with automotive fluids (gasoline, anti-freeze, engine and transmission oils.However, no surface soil samples have been reported to ATSDR.

The FID and PID readings (greater than 10,000 ppm PID/FID calibrant equivalents)indicate that the air at the site has the potential to be significantly contaminated. Gasolineis a likely source of this contamination, since its vapor pressure ranges from 38 to 300millimeters of mercury [3]. Other contaminants (engine oils, anti-freeze, and transmissionoil) would not generate measurable air contamination because of their low vapor pressure.Additionally, most of the chemicals that make up these fluids do not usually produce highreadings on the PID. However, the concentration and types of air contamination areunknown because:

  • PIDs and FIDs measure the presence of either flame or photo-ionizable gases relative to aknown calibrant gas. They do not give a measure of a specific gas's concentration in thefield. But the simultaneous high readings are indication of the presence of gasolinevapors.

  • The PIDs are designed to measure low levels of contamination and have a linear range to400 or 500 ppm PID calibrant equivalents [4].

Point and Route of Exposure

There are no points of exposure for contaminated groundwater reported to ATSDR.Drinking water wells are not located at the site, and groundwater is 15 feet below groundsurface [2]. Points of exposure exist to workers and trespassers on the site throughcontaminated air and soils. Since the extent of contamination is unknown, the potentialfor other points of exposure at the adjoining properties or through contact with the GreenRiver is indeterminate because the extent of contamination is unknown.

Routes of exposures to contamination include inhalation, skin, and oral routes, createdby:

  • Workers and trespassers who have contacted these contaminated soils could theninadvertently eat contaminants by touching food, eating utensils, and the face.

  • Children who reportedly trespass on the site may accidentally or deliberately play in oringest automotive fluids left on site.

  • Workers and trespassers may breathe contaminated air. Anecdotally, there are reports ofpersons who have smelled strong gasoline vapors on site (Mike Sibley, EPA, personalcommunication, 2003). Workers, when digging up a dead dog that was buried in 4 feet ofsoil on site, smelled strong gasoline odors [1]. Even when soils are not disturbed, theambient levels on site could be elevated above typical background. Background TVAreadings were up to 10 ppm calibrant equivalents, indicating the presence of high ambientlevels of vapors on site (Mike Sibley, EPA, personal communication, 2003).

Receptor Populations

EPA did not report to ATSDR the number of persons working on site or at adjacentproperties. On-site exposures have occurred in the past and will continue into the futureunless the contamination is removed or access is limited to the site.


Because soil data represent soil borings at depths not normally accessible to people,ATSDR cannot determine the public health implications of the soil contamination.Assuming gasoline vapors produced the FID and PID readings on site, there is apossibility that workers who disturb soils could have exposures to gasoline vaporsexceeding recognized occupational standards. Gasoline has a Threshold Limit Value of200 ppm, 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) and a 500 ppm short term exposure limit(STEL) [5]. Furthermore, exposure to the individual constituents of the gasoline (e.g.benzene, ethyl benzene, methyl-tert-butyl-ether) could exceed their respective ThresholdLimit Values. A flammable atmosphere could be created during any excavations on site,since the lower flammability limit of gasoline is 1.4% [3].


ATSDR recognizes that the unique vulnerabilities of infants and children demand specialemphasis in communities concerned about air contamination. Children are at greater riskthan adults from certain kinds of exposures to hazardous substances released into theirenvironment. Children may be more likely to be exposed to outdoor air contaminants whenplaying outdoors. Because children are smaller than adults are, exposure may result in higherdose per body weight. In addition, children's developing body systems can sustain damageif toxic exposures occur during critical growth stages. Consequently, ATSDR evaluated thesampling data to assess the potential health effects on children in the community. Childrenwho reportedly trespass onto the site could expose themselves to higher doses of contaminants through play activities inthe puddles of automotive fluids. Children are exposed to physical hazards if they trespassonto the site. The recommendations provided below for securing the property and delineatingthe extent of contamination would be protective of children.


  • ATSDR classifies this site as a public health hazard because trespassers, reportedlychildren, have access to the site. Dangerous levels of air contamination, created bygasoline vapors, could exist on site.

  • Data indicate that completed exposure pathways exist for the site for workers andtrespassers, but the levels of actual contamination at the points of exposure are unknown.


  • Restrict access to the site or remove contamination.

  • Until the concentrations of specific chemicals are measured, on site workers should beprotected in accordance with ยง29 C.F.R. 1910.120, OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operationsand Emergency Response standard.

  • If workers are exposed to air contamination on site and on adjoining sites, their exposureshould be characterized using applicable NIOSH sampling methodology. Potentialcontaminants include total gasoline (NIOSH 1550), benzene (NIOSH 1500), and methyl-tert-butyl-ether (NIOSH 1615).

  • Sample surface soil (e.g. top 4 inches of soil).

  • Characterize the extent of the groundwater plume and if the groundwater plume isaffecting adjoining properties or the Green River.

  • Identify if surface runoff is affecting adjoining properties (through vapor intrusion) or theGreen River.

  • If the groundwater contamination plume is near buildings, the potential for vaporintrusion should be assessed.



James T. Durant MSPH, C.I.H.
Environmental Health Scientist
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Reviewed by:

Don Joe, P.E.
Section Chief, Petition Response Section
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


  1. McClure, Robert. Wrecking Yard Battles EPA. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. March31,2003.

  2. Ecology & Environment, Inc. Draft Technical Memorandum to Karrie Stewart from AlmaCardenas concerning screening level risk evaluation of former Japanese Auto Wrecking Site,Kent Washington, E &E project number 001281.0267.01RZ. April 14, 2003.

  3. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cincinnati, OH. 1997.

  4. Maslansky C, Maslansky S. Air Monitoring Instrumentation: a manual for emergency,investigatory, and remedial responders. New York:Van Nostrand Reinhold; 1993.

  5. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. 2003 Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents & Biological Exposure Indices. Cinncinnati: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists 2003.


Click here to view Tables 1 and 2 (Soil Data and Groundwater Data respectively) in PDF format [PDF, 279KB]

Table 3.

Completed Exposure Pathways
Pathway Name Source Media Point of Exposure Route of Exposure Exposed Population Time
On site air Automotive Fluids Air On site Inhalation Workers, Trespassers (unknown number) Past, Present, Future
On site soils Automotive fluids Soils On site Ingestion, dermal Workers, Trespassers Past, Present, Future

Table 4.

Incomplete Exposure Pathways
Pathway Name Source Media Point of Exposure Route of Exposure Exposed Population Time
Vapor Intrusion Automotive Fluids Air Indeterminant Inhalation Indeterminant N/A
Off Site Soils Automotive Fluids Soil Indeterminant Dermal, Ingestion Indeterminant N/A
Off site recreational Automotive Fluids Water Indetminant, possibly contact with contaminated surface water at Green River Dermal, Ingestion Indeterminant N/A

USGS 1990 Aerial Photograph of Site
Figure 1. USGS 1990 Aerial Photograph of Site

Photo of Site
Figure 2. Photo of Site

Photo of Site
Figure 3. Photo of Site


Click here to view Appendix B in PDF format [PDF, 247KB]

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