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The Fibers Public Supply Wells Site (FPS) is listed by the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency on the National Priorities List. The 540-acre site is a former synthetic fiber manufacturing plantlocated in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Currently, a pharmaceuticalmanufacturing facility operates on-site. In addition, 5 publicsupply wells owned and operated by the Puerto Rico Aqueducts andSewer Authority (PRASA) exist on-site. Wastewater from processoperations was emptied into 2 lined lagoons near the southwesterncorner of the site. Approximately 2,000 cubic yards of soil wereremoved from the lagoons and were spread over the northwestcorner of the project site. The wastewater was subsequentlypiped to an off-site biological treatment system. Access to thesite is restricted to the general public. Removal operationshave not occurred.

The following document was reviewed by ATSDR: Draft RemedialInvestigation Report. This document forms the basis of thisPreliminary Health Assessment.

Environmental Contamination and Physical Hazards

Preliminary on-site sampling results have identified acetone (7to 2,260 ppb in soil), methyl ethyl ketone (ND to 7 ppb in soil),methylene chloride (ND to 55 ppb in soil), bis(2-ethyl hexyl)phthalate (ND to 1,060 ppb in soil). On-site monitoring wellsampling results identified perchloroethylene (ND to 198 ppb),trichloroethylene (ND to 18 ppb), vinyl chloride (ND to 28 ppb),and trichlorofluoromethane (ND to 10 ppb). No further samplingresults were reported. Physical hazards were not reported.

Potential Environmental and Human Exposure Pathways

Potential environmental pathways include those related tocontaminated groundwater, surface water, soil and sediment, andvolatilization of contaminants in ambient air. In addition,bioaccumulation of contaminants in fish, water fowl, livestock,and commercial agricultural products may be another environmentalpathway.

Potential human exposures to contaminants include ingestion anddirect contact with groundwater, surface water, soil andsediment, and possible ingestion of bioaccumulated contaminantsin the food chain. In addition, inhalation of volatilizedcontaminants or contaminants entrained in air is anotherpotential source for human exposure.


FPS is located in an agricultural area. Land use within thevicinity of the site is used for growing sugar cane. The nearestpopulation center is Guayama (pop. 41,000). There are about 45residents living adjacent to the site.

Evaluation and Discussion

Municipal wells within the vicinity of the site are used forpotable purposes. Monitoring wells have detected contaminants atlevels of health concern. Public system wells data have alsoconfirmed the presence of site-related contaminants. However, ithas been reported that the contaminanted wells in question arepresently closed. Only PRASA Well #1 provides potable watertoarea residents. Sampling results of PRASA Well #1 have not beenreported. Private wells within the vicinity of the site are usedfor potable purposes. Information regarding possiblecontamination of these nearby wells has not been provided.

It has been reported that groundwater, within the aquifer ofconcern, flows south/southeast at a rate of 3 feet per day. However more definitive hydrogeologic information is necessary. It has been recommended that monitoring wells need to becompleted so that sampling can be conducted at deeper depths(e.g. 80 to 90 feet) than presently available. Future samplingshould also consider degradation products of site=relatedcontaminants previously not considered.

An investigation for possible contamination of area surface waterhas not been performed. It has been reported that drainage on-site is controlled by a storm water management system thatdirects the surface flows to the west, away from the river.

On-site soil contamination has been confirmed by sampling. Off-site soil contamination has not been confirmed. Air samplingmeasurements were taken on-site. It was reported that no releaseof volatiles or gases occurred. Moreover, a history of odorcomplaints has not been reported.

Commercial crops are grown in the vicinity of the site. It hasbeen reported that crops are not likely to be contaminatedbecause irrigation of crops uses an off-site water source. ATSDRhas prepared, or will prepare, Toxicological Profile on the sitecontaminant noted above.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on available information, this site is considered to bepotential public health concern because of the risk to humanhealth caused by the possibility of human exposure to hazardoussubstances. Direct contact with and ingestion of contaminatedsoil by pharmaceutical employees and possibly area residents whoaccess the site are the most likely exposure pathways. Inaddition, ingestion and direct contact with groundwater maypossibly be another exposure route.

Additional information is necessary to include populationspotentially exposed and environmental pathways through whichcontaminants can reach these populations. At a minimum, futureinvestigations of this site should include a characterization ofthe site and site contaminants to include degradation products ofsite-related contaminants, sampling results from area potablewells (municipal and private), and a characterization of thehydrogeology of the area.

Further environmental characterization and sampling of the siteand impacted off-site areas during the Remedial Investigation andFeasibility Study (RI/FS) should be designed to address theenvironmental and human exposure pathways discussed above. Whenadditional information and data, such as the completed RI/FS, areavailable, such material will form the basis for furtherassessment by ATSDR, as warranted by site-specific public healthissues.


Personnel from the Agency for Toxic Substances and DiseaseRegistry (ATSDR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Caribbean Field Office condcuted a Site Visit at the FibersPublic Supply Wells site on July 19, 1989. The purpose of thisvisit was to assess the potential risks to human health inrelation to the current status of the site. Information gatheredduring the Site Visit forms the basis for this Addendum to thePreliminary Health Assessment for the site.


The presnet occupant of the site is Ayers-Wyeth Pharmaceuticals,Inc. In 1985, Ayerst converted the former wastewater settlinglagoons into a stormwater retention basin. This involved theexcavation of contaminated sludges, liners, and soils from thelagoon. Approximately 2,000 cubic yards of soil from the lagoonarea were transported to the northwest corner of the Ayerstfacility and were spread over the land to an average depth of 1foot.

In 1987, soil samples were collected from the land-spread areaand analyzed for contamination. Because of qualityassurance/quality control problem, these samples were notanalyzed for volatiles, semi-volatiles, or pesticides. However,it was reported that some of the soil samples contained elevatedconcentrations of chromium and polychlorinated biphenyls. Thepotential health impact of worker contact with this area can notbe determined because of the lack of complete chemicalcharacterization of soil in the are and the absence ofinformation on the extent of employee contact with this area.

At the time of the ATSDR Site Visit, there was no water in theformer lagoon area. The bottom of the basin was several feetbelow ground surface level and was covered with vegetation. Public access to the basin was prevented by a chain-link fencealong Highway 3. There waws no fence to prevent worker access tothe basin area from within the facility. However, no workactivities were being conducted in the vicinity of the basinarea.

Five former Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA)public water supply wells were located along the southern edge ofHighway 3. Four of these wells have been abandoned. One well(PRASA No. 1) is still being used as a water source for theirrigation of sugar cane fields located south of Highway 3. Water pumped from this well is conveyed to the sugar cane fieldvia open concrete channels. The highest level of contamination was detected in water from well No. 3, whichcontained tetrachloroethylene at 109 ppb, trichloroethylene at 18ppb, and vinyl chloride at 28 ppb. No contamination has beenreported for well No. 1.

These PRASA wells are no longer being used as public water supplywells, and on ingestion of water from these wells is currentlyoccurring. The public water supplied to the area by PRASA isderived from other, non-contaminated sources.

No volatile organic chemical (VOC) contamination was detected inwater from well No. 1, and the use of water from this well toirrigate the sugar cane fields does not currently pose any knownhealth concerns. However, continued pumping of well No. 1 maydivert contaminated groundwater from its southeastern flowdirection and lead to possible contamination of the well. Thiscould result in releases of VOCs to ambient air in the irrigatedfields, as well as possible contaminant uptake by plants.


Based on the available information, this site is considered to beof potential health concern because of the risk to human healthresulting from possible exposure to hazardous substances atconcentrations that may result in adverse health effects. Asnoted above, there is currently no known exposure to contaminatedgroundwater from the site. However, further studies are neededto confirm the absence of possible downgradient groundwaterusers. The use of PRASA well No. 1 for irrigation water does notcurrently pose a health concern. However, continued pumping ofthe well may lead to its eventual contamination. Potentialhealth concerns resulting from contact with the former lagoonarea and the land-spread area cannot be assessed because of theabsence of adequate data.


In order to protect the public health, ATSDR recommends thefollowing:

  1. Conduct an inventory of wells downgradient of the formerlagoon area to determine if there are any potable ornonpotable wells currently in use.
  2. If there are any downgradient wells that are currently inuse, they should be regularly monitored for contamination. PRASA well No. 1 should also be monitored in order to detectcontamination if it occurs.
  3. Surface soils in the former lagoon area and the northwestcorner of the Ayerst-Wyeth facility should be analyzed forchemical contamination so that it can be determined ifcontact with these areas poses any potential healthconcerns.


Environmental and Health Effects Reviewers: Marilyn Saulsbury
ATSDR Intern


Kenneth G. Orloff, Ph.D.
Senior Toxicologist

Regional Repreentative: William Q. Nelson
Public Health Advisor
Field Operations Branch
Region II

Table of Contents The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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