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The ICG Iselin Railroad Yard site is in Jackson, Madison County, in western Tennessee. Activities at the site involved railroad degreasing, fueling, and maintenance activities which led to the contamination of several environmental media with volatile organic, semi-volatile organic, and inorganic compounds.

Staff from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have reviewed the available environmental data on the site, and found that people were possibly exposed to contaminants (carbazole, dibenzofurans, dieldrin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals, naphthalene, 2-hexanone, 4-methyl-2-pentanone, and 2-methylnaphthalene) in the on-site and off-site soils; on-site and off-site surface water; and on-site and off-site sediments. They were likely exposed by incidental ingestion of, dermal contact with, and possibly inhalation of contaminants in these media while engaging in work-related or recreational activities. For those contaminants which an adequate amount of toxicological and epidemiological information exists, ATSDR believes that very minimal, if any, adverse non-carcinogenic health effects would have occurred due to past exposures. For those contaminants with known carcinogenic endpoints, ATSDR believes that there is no apparent increased risk of developing cancer due to past exposures.

People who live near the site and former site workers expressed concerns about cancerous and non-cancerous health effects resulting from past exposure to contaminants found on the site. Some also wanted to know if ATSDR could provide or recommend medical services to diagnose and treat area residents (including former site workers) for ailments which may result from or have resulted from exposures to site contaminants.

Adverse non-carcinogenic health effects from exposure to copper at the ICG Iselin Railroad Yard National Priorities List site would have been minimal, if any. Due to lack of human biological data, ATSDR could not determine if adverse health effects were likely to have occurred due to exposure to lead at the site. Adverse non-carcinogenic health effects are not expected from exposure to the other contaminants via incidental ingestion. Because historical air data are not available, past exposure to air contaminants (if any), could not be quantified or qualified. It cannot be determined if any of the contaminants of concern in the contaminated soil, surface water, and sediments pose a threat via inhalation exposure because recent air sampling data is limited.

Carcinogenic health effects are not expected to occur due to exposure to tetrachloroethene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dieldrin, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and nickel. It is not known if exposure to 2-hexanone, 2-methylnaphthalene, 4-methyl-2-pentanone, carbazole, dibenzofuran, aluminum, phosphorous, and lead causes cancer in humans. Naphthalene is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity in humans.

Based upon the data reviewed, exposure to the contaminated on-site surface soil would cause minimal adverse health effects if any. However, direct contact should be avoided (especially in the area of the rail tie pile dump).

The site is categorized as a no apparent public health hazard based on data currently reviewed by ATSDR. However, although the site is bordered by a residential area and the Washington-Douglas Elementary School, no surface soil samples (samples taken at a depth of 0"-3") were collected from the residential yards or the school property.

ATSDR has made recommendations to (1) reduce and prevent exposure to contaminants, (2) conduct a review of health statistics for the community living near the site, and (3) address or fill certain toxicological and environmental data gaps.


The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ATSDR, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) conducts public health assessments for sites the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes for its National Priorities List (NPL). EPA announced its proposal to list the ICG Iselin Railroad Yard site in May 1993. The site was added to the NPL in December 1994. Therefore, ATSDR has, under its mandate, evaluated the public health significance of this site by considering whether adverse health effects are possible and has recommended actions to mitigate possible future exposure.

A. Site Description and History

The ICG Iselin Railroad Yard is an 80-acre site in Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee (1). The site is situated at the intersection of Eastern and Magnolia Streets in a predominately suburban area. The approximate site boundaries and the location of area residences and businesses are shown in Figures 1 and 2 (Appendix A).

The Mobile and Ohio Railroad Company (M&O) acquired the land for the site in 1906 and began developing the site in the early 1900's. A locomotive maintenance facility structure was constructed on the site in 1925. By 1926 several buildings including a roundhouse, a steam locomotive refueling station, and a coal-fired power plant had been constructed on the site. The Illinois Central Railroad Company took over the site in 1940 through receivership, merger, and re-organization. In 1986, Illinois Central sold 16 acres of the site which included the maintenance building, wheel house, and power plant, to Williams Steel, a Tennessee corporation involved in the fabrication of large steel structures used in the construction industry (Appendix A, Figure 2).

In 1988, Illinois Central sold the remainder of the site which included the railyard and a tract located east and adjacent to the railyard to the Southern Railway Company. The Southern Railway Company later re-organized to form the Norfolk-Southern Railway Company.

In 1989, the portion of the site which was owned by Williams Steel was transferred to its present owner, Iselin Properties, Inc.

A temporary discharge permit into Jones Creek, 0.5 mile north of the South Fork of the Forked Deer River, was issued by the Tennessee Department of Public Health, Division of Water Quality Management (TDPH-DWQM) on December 17, 1973, prior to the installation of a pollution abatement facility. Prior to 1972 liquid waste was disposed of via the drainage ditch on the east side of the locomotive maintenance building. Disposal also entered the drainage ditch from a lye vat and neutralization tank located on the northeast side of the locomotive maintenance building. The pollution abatement (wastewater treatment) facility was constructed in the 1970's (2). In 1975 and in 1980 the facility reported that it exceeded its permit parameters for the discharge of chromium due to problems with the engine radiator water recycling system. Sodium hypochlorite (bleach) was added to the holding cell (No. 2) in 1980 to reduce the chromium levels (3). However, while the addition of bleach to the holding cell may precipitate the chromium out of solution, it will not reduce it to chromium compounds. Railroad activities ceased producing wastewater in 1986.

In 1986 the Jackson Utility District (JUD) discovered contamination of several of its wells in the south well field with tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). The distribution of PCE and TCE concentrations in the south well field along with groundwater migration data from the US Geological Survey (4) indicated that sources other than the railyard may have been responsible for the contamination of the wells. In 1987, in response to a newspaper article, a former railroad employee told JUD that solvents and degreasers had been used at the site.

A preliminary assessment of the site was conducted in the Spring of 1990 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The Executive Summary of the report for this assessment included the conclusion that the site "could constitute a significant hazard through the groundwater pathway," as a result of the materials used and the proximity of the JUD well field. However, this conclusion was not substantiated by the collection of samples. The assessment was based on a review of records associated with past practices at the facility, tours of the site, and interviews with persons allegedly familiar with past operations at the facility.

TDEC performed a follow-up investigation in May 1991 to review existing information and to characterize the site. Chemicals of potential concern were found in soil, sediment, and surface water at the site. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were discovered in the off-site groundwater samples taken from active and inactive wells in the JUD well field. It should be noted that the concentration of the contaminants, in the off-site groundwater from the JUD well field were below the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - the maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water delivered to any user of a public water system. On-site groundwater samples were not collected.

Field work for the Remedial Investigation was performed by RMT, Inc. from May through December of 1992. Several "potential source" locations were examined throughout the site. According to the Remedial Investigation Report (2) which was generated from the data gathered during the field work; surface soil, subsurface soil, groundwater, surface water, and sediments appeared to have been affected by site activity. Volatile organic, semi-volatile organic, and inorganic compounds were detected throughout the site. In the document it was concluded that a resident who ingests the groundwater (hypothetical) would be at an increased risk of developing cancer. However, it should be noted that there are no drinking water wells located at the site. It was also concluded that there was no indication that the site was responsible for the contamination of the JUD south well field. Due to lack of information and data regarding the impact of the JUD south well field wells during operation on the direction of groundwater flow in the area ATSDR is unable at this time to determine whether or not the contaminants in the JUD wells are site related.

During August 1992 the EPA - Region IV prepared a Hazardous Ranking System document for the site. The document was signed in December 1992. This document identified the groundwater pathway to be of concern due to releases of contaminants from uncontained sources into the groundwater (1).

During the review of the data collected during the remedial investigation, it was noted that additional sampling was required in order to further characterize the extent of contamination at the site. A supplemental remedial investigation (SRI) was conducted by RMT, Inc. during December 1994 and April 1995. Field work performed by RMT, Inc., for the SRI continued through December 1995 (5).

B. Site Visit

ATSDR headquarters staff, Ms. Déborah Boling and Ms. Rosalyn Lee and ATSDR Region IV representative Mr. Robert Safay visited the site area on January 19, 1994. State health and environmental officials provided an overview of the site. ATSDR staff were informed that the community surrounding the site is on municipal water provided by the JUD. Staff were also told that the on-site lagoon area is fenced. Security is present on the site, at times, to prevent unauthorized site access. However, ATSDR staff did not observe any site security during the site visit. Public availability sessions were also held on January 19, 1994. Pertinent information regarding community health-related concerns expressed during these ATSDR sessions will be discussed in the appropriate sections of this document.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

Demographics (2, 6-8)

The city of Jackson, which is the county seat for Madison County, has a metropolitan population of approximately 79,000 with a median household effective buying income of $23,816. The population of Jackson, based on 1990 Census data, is 48,949 persons or 1,211.6 persons per square mile.

Within a one-mile area around the approximate site boundary (Appendix A, Figure 3), approximately 1250 persons (16% of the population) are caucasian and approximately 6500 persons (83.7%) are black. Children five years of age or younger comprise 11.6% of this population (902 people) and persons 65 years of age or older comprise 15.8% of the population (approximately 1225 persons).

Land Use

Land use to the north and northwest of the site is primarily residential with some small businesses. The Washington-Douglas Elementary School which now houses a headstart program is located approximately 400 feet north of the site. Residences are located along the north site boundary (Figures 1, 3). Land located immediately east of the site is unpopulated. Portions of the land east of the site have been used as a municipal landfill. Land located south, southeast, and southwest of the site is sparsely populated. Some of the land to the south and southwest of the site is being used primarily for agriculture. Land to the southeast of the site is undeveloped.

The eastern end of the JUD south well field is located 1750 feet west of the site. The South Well Field consists of 13 wells. The wells in the south field produce between 0.5 and 4.5 million gallons of water per day dependent upon the time of year and water usage. The wells are operated intermittently to blend VOC contaminated water with uncontaminated water so that the VOC concentrations in the water will not overpower the treatment plant (9). The JUD north well field is the main source of the municipal water (2). The JUD North Well Field is located approximately 4 miles to the north of the South Well Field near Interstate 40.

Natural Resource Use


State officials report that the community surrounding the site is provided municipal water from the JUD. The JUD supplies drinking water to approximately 60,000 persons from 10 of its wells which are located within four miles of the railyard (1). JUD projects that with current trends in water usage, the north well field will be at maximum capacity by the year 2000. The south well field may be producing up to 10 million gallons of water per day by the year 2005. JUD is currently bidding to have 2 - 5 million gallon per day air strippers added to the aerators of the south well field water plant (9). No users of groundwater from private wells for potable purposes were identified in the immediate vicinity of the site.

The wells of the JUD south well field are screened in the combined Claiborne and Wilcox sandy aquifer formations (the major aquifer in the area). The well depths range between 100 and 150 feet, and the static water level is 45-50 feet. The regional flow is to the west and southwest. The general direction of groundwater flow throughout most of the site is to the southwest, however at the eastern boundary of the site groundwater flow is to the south (2).

Surface Water

Surface water runoff throughout most of the site drains towards an intermittent stream located along the east side of the site. The stream drains southward until it reaches Jones Creek where it discharges. Jones Creek in turn discharges further south into the South Fork of the Forked Deer River. Surface runoff in the western portion of the rail yard also drains southward towards the South Fork of the Forked Deer River.

There is insufficient water in the intermittent stream for swimming purposes. However, wading activities may occur. If any unauthorized persons are caught on site property they are asked to leave. According to local residents Jones Creek and the Forked Deer River are sometimes used for recreational purposes.

D. Health Outcome Data

Health outcome data may help determine whether the incidence rates of certain adverse health effects are higher than expected in the area of the Iselin Railroad Yard site. This section identifies available, relevant databases and information sources. The databases and sources will be evaluated in section B of the Public Health Implications section of this document.

During June 1994, the Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Tennessee Department of Health reviewed cancer incidence data for the years 1988-1991. Cases reported to the Tennessee Cancer Reporting System for zip code 38301 (the zip code surrounding the site) were compared to cases reported for other Jackson zip codes.


As part of the development of this public health assessment, ATSDR staff held informal, one-on-one public availability sessions to learn about the community's site-related concerns. The availability sessions were held on January 19, 1994 at the Washington-Douglas Elementary School in Jackson. About 22 persons attended the sessions. In addition, one citizen contacted ATSDR via telephone.

When asked by what means they would have come in contact with site contaminants some residents reported that they or their children used the site as a playground and a short-cut to nearby agricultural land during their childhood years.

Several former site workers reported that they were exposed to acids, organic compounds (constituents of diesel products) and many unknown chemicals while carrying out their job functions in the past. They believe that these exposures are the cause of skin rashes and stomach ailments they developed later in life. Many of the former workers complained of rashes and other forms of dermatitis.

Residents and local community officials raised the following health-related concerns:

  • Can contaminants found at the site cause rashes, cancer, and stomach ailments?

  • My children played on the site when they were younger. What possible health effects can occur in my children in the future?

  • Will ATSDR provide or recommend medical services to myself and the community?

These concerns are discussed in the Community Health Concerns Evaluation section of this document.

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