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The Sinclair Refinery Site is about 100 acres in size and is adjacent to the Genesee River in the Town of Wellsville, Allegany County, New York. From the early 1900's to 1958, crude oil collected from Pennsylvania and southwestern New York oil fields was refined on-site. Since 1958, the property has been redeveloped into an industrial park and the campus of the vocational school for the State University of New York at Alfred College.

In the early 1980's, landfilled materials from the site were being eroded and migrating into the Genesee River. The water intake for the Village of Wellsville water supply was downstream of the site. In 1988, the surface water intakes for the Village were relocated to a point upstream of the site to eliminate the potential for contamination of the Village of Wellsville water supply.

Other remedial measures for this site include rechannelization of the Genesee River and construction of a dike between the site and the Genesee River. These measures prevent further erosion and seepage of contaminants from the site into the River.

In 1985 and 1986, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) studied the cancer incidence between 1973 and 1983 among the residents of the Village of Wellsville. The overall cancer rate was not elevated compared to the entire New York State population. This study was done because of community concerns that the Refinery Site may have contaminated the Village of Wellsville water supply.

A preliminary health assessment was completed for the site in June 1989, and included recommendations for further characterization of on- and off-site contaminant conditions. The current exposures of concern at this site include the potential inhalation of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and metal-contaminated dust and direct contact with surface soils contaminated with metals. Additionally, the abandoned refinery buildings present a potential physical hazard due to their poor condition.

Based on the information reviewed, the Sinclair Refinery site posed a public health hazard in the past. Prior to 1984, exposure to benzene in the Village of Wellsville public water supply occurred for an undetermined period of time at levels above the drinking water standard. Past exposures to air contaminants originating from the Northern Oil/Water Separator are known to have occurred; however, there is insufficient data to characterize these exposures. Currently, the site poses a no apparent public health hazard. The only people who might be exposed to air contaminants originating from the landfill are those who fish in the river. These exposures are likely to be infrequent and of short duration and not likely to result in adverse health effects. At the present time, exposure to site contaminants in the public water supply is not occurring. There are four private wells near the site and past sampling of these wells did not detect any organic contaminants. However, if remedial measures are not taken to address groundwater contamination at and near the site, contaminants from the site could migrate towards existing private wells near the site or towards any wells that might be installed near the site in the future. These future exposures to contaminants in groundwater could occur at levels that are of public health concern.

The proposed remedial measures for this site will eliminate all potential exposures to the community associated with this site. Actions undertaken or planned include limiting access to chemical wastes by fencing, cleaning of the Northern Oil/Water Separator, proper closure of the landfill area, groundwater treatment, limiting access to physical hazards associated with the former Refinery Power Plant, securing the landfill from erosion from the Genesee River by construction of a dike, surface soil removal, and movement of the Village of Wellsville water supply intake to a location upstream of the Refinery site. Additionally, a soil gas survey and air sampling is to be conducted to determine if any actions are needed to prevent human exposures to contaminants in these media. Institutional controls are also being recommended so that the area remains an industrial park.

This public health assessment has been reviewed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP). Because of past exposures to contaminated drinking water and community health concerns, the panel determined that follow-up health actions are needed. The HARP determined that those persons exposed in the past should be considered for inclusion to the NYS DOH registry being developed for volatile organic compound exposures from drinking water and that community health education is needed. The NYS DOH has developed a community outreach program to provide health education and other information to citizens of New York State that have questions and other concerns about exposures to hazardous substances in the environment. Through this program and as part of the Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for the Sinclair Refinery site, the NYS DOH has and will continue to communicate with the community regarding their health concerns.


A. Site Description and History

The Sinclair Refinery Site is in the Town of Wellsville in Allegany County, New York, one-half mile south of the downtown area of the Village of Wellsville. The Village of Wellsville has about 10,000 residents and is seven miles north of the State of New York and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania border (Figure 1, Appendix A). The majority of the site, about 100 acres, is adjacent to the west bank of the Genesee River. This 100 acres consists of a 90-acre, former petroleum refinery and an associated 10-15 acre landfill. Respectively, these two areas are known as the Refinery Area and the Landfill Area. The third area of the site, which is also shown in Figure 1, is the Off-Site Tank Farm (OSTF).

Refinery Area

During the early 1900's the Wellsville Refinery Company developed the Refinery Area for the processing of crude oil pumped from oil fields in Pennsylvania and southwestern New York. The Sinclair Refinery Company purchased the facility in the early 1920's and operated it until 1958. The facility was used to produce heavy oils and grease for lubrication, light oils for fuels, gasoline, lighter fluid, naphtha and paraffin. In 1958, Sinclair transferred ownership of the property to the Village of Wellsville and the New York Refinery Project. No oil refining has been done on-site since 1958.

Since 1958, the Refinery Company has been redeveloped into an industrial park and the campus for the vocational school of the State University of New York (SUNY) Technical and Agricultural College at Alfred. The Refinery Area subdivisions and the current owner of each subdivision are defined in Figure 2 (Appendix A). Several of these owners or leasees operate industrial facilities on-site. The businesses currently operating at the site are shown in Figure 3 (Appendix A).

Butler-Larkin, Inc., manufactures drilling and construction equipment for installation of oil, gas and water wells. Mapes Industries, Inc., operates a wood shop to produce toy chests, cribs and other finished wood products. Both Butler-Larkin and Mapes Industries have now gone out of business. Otis-Eastern Services stores construction equipment and maintains an office on-site. Current Controls, Inc., manufactures electronic equipment and small electric transformers. Release Coatings produces a material used to facilitate extraction of molded products from molds. National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., which is a natural gas supplier, operates a customer service and vehicular maintenance facility on-site. The SUNY at Alfred Campus has shops for instruction of automobile repair, carpentry, metal working and masonry on-site. Many of the original buildings of the Sinclair Refinery have been renovated and are being used by the businesses on-site. However, some of the original refinery buildings, including the main power plant, have been abandoned and remain on-site in a deteriorated condition.

The potential sources of contaminants in the Refinery Area from operation of the refinery are shown in Figure 4 (Appendix A). The potential sources include areas used to stage drummed materials, four oil/water separators, a storage tank farm, an underground storage tank, a former railroad track, an area in which coal was stockpiled, and an area described as tetraethyl lead sludge pits. The tetraethyl lead sludge pits were partially remediated in 1961.

Figure 4 also shows the fencing at this site. In general, fencing restricts access to the southern areas of the Refinery Area and the Landfill Area. The Refinery Area is easily accessed at SUNY Alfred and from the north by a foot path which exists in the bed of former railroad tracks. The landfill area is completely enclosed by a fence.

The March 1991 Remedial Investigation (RI) report indicates the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) found evidence that the Butler-Larkin Company and the Mapes Company illegally disposed hazardous materials in the Refinery Area between 1983 and 1986. Exhaust fumes from lead melting pots at Butler-Larkin were also found to be discharging to the atmosphere. In 1989, Butler-Larkin personnel had pipe coating operations in this area. Butler-Larkin and Mapes Industries have been implicated and SUNY Alfred's automotive engine repair training classes has been suspected of discharging contaminants to on-site soils and storm sewers. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has issued notice to ARCO, Butler-Larkin, and Mapes Industries only; none of the other site occupants, including SUNY Alfred, have been noticed at this time.

Landfill Area

Wastes such as tank sludges, oil-soaked cloth filters, and solvents including both drummed and undrummed materials, were deposited at the landfill. Landfilling in this area occurred throughout the operation of the refinery and based on aerial photographs, was still occurring as late as 1982. The Landfill Area consists of two distinct areas known as the South Landfill Area (SLA) and the Central Elevated Landfill Area (CELA) (Figure 5, Appendix A). Numerous rusted 55 gallon drums are on the surface or partially buried in areas that are now wooded. The volume of waste in each of these areas is estimated to be 22,500 and 206,500 cubic yards, respectively. The SLA has been excavated and placed on top of the CELA. Consolidation of the two landfills was completed during 1990. Construction of the entire landfill area was completed and a final inspection occurred on July 8, 1993.

Off-Site Tank Farm (OSTF)

The location of each of the six large oil storage tanks staged at the Off-Site Tank Farm (OSTF) is shown in Figure 6 (Appendix A). Crude oil was stored in these tanks and was gravity fed through six inch piping to the refinery for processing. All storage tanks were removed from this area by 1964, although the berms used in conjunction with the tanks are still recognizable. Surface waters have collected in these berms and small marshes have evolved.

Surrounding Area

There is an apartment complex directly across South Brooklyn Avenue from the entrance to SUNY Alfred, which includes a dormitory for SUNY students. The apartment complex is off the Genesee River Flood Plain on a hill overlooking the Refinery Area and Landfill Area. Across South Brooklyn Avenue from the Landfill Area is a school bus service station that has about 20 service bays. Excluding the apartment complex and the school bus service facility, all of the land along South Brooklyn Avenue across from the Refinery Area and Landfill Area is undeveloped woodland.

Across the Genesee River from the Landfill Area is farmland. A private residence is on the other side of a ravine near the southern most part of the Landfill Area. On the other side of the Genesee River, across from the Refinery Area, is a municipal solid waste transfer station, the Woodlawn Cemetery, and a town park. Across from the northern most part of the Refinery Area are residences that are on the perimeter of the Village of Wellsville. The Off-Site Tank Farm is surrounded by woodland.

History of Environmental Investigations

On September 8, 1983, the Sinclair Refinery Site was listed on the National Priorities List (NPL) of Hazardous Waste Sites based on documentation that materials from the landfill site were eroding into the Genesee River. In January 1983, drums and other waste materials were removed from the floodplain downstream of the landfill. In March 1983, a dike was constructed to separate the Genesee River from the eroding face of the landfill. A cooperative agreement signed by the NYS DEC and the US EPA, identified the NYS DEC as the lead agency responsible for overseeing remediation at this site. In 1984, the NYS DEC initiated a remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS). A phased approach was used and Phase I of the RI focused on the Landfill Area. NYS DEC's consultants, SMC Martin, completed the Phase I RI and submitted a report in 1985. A Record of Decision (ROD), specific to the Landfill Area of the Sinclair Refinery site was signed in 1985; additionally, an Initial Remedial Measure (IRM) called for the relocation of the surface water intake for the Village of Wellsville public water supply in the Genesee River from downstream to upstream of the refinery site. Construction of the new intake began in 1987 and was completed in March 1988. Also in 1985, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) evaluated on the overall cancer incidence of the residents of the Village of Wellsville between the years 1972 and 1982.

The Phase II RI primarily investigated the Refinery Area and the Off-Site Tank Farm, although it also included sampling of the groundwater beneath the Landfill Area. The Phase II RI was started by SMC Martin under contract to the NYS DEC. It was completed by Ebasco Services under contract to the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). ARCO and Sinclair Refinery Companies merged in 1969. Sampling for the Phase II RI was completed in August 1988. Ebasco submitted the Phase II RI final report in March 1991. It includes the results of both SMC Martin's (Phase IIa) and Ebasco's (Phase IIb) work.

In June 1989, the NYS DOH completed a preliminary health assessment for the site under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The health assessment included recommendations for further characterization of on- and off-site contaminant conditions in order to be able to fully assess potential health affects and appropriate remedial design activities.

In February 1990, CDM Federal Programs Corporation submitted a report on the risks of the site to human health and the environment. This report is titled "Endangerment Assessment" and is based on the data in the May 1989 draft of Ebasco's Phase II RI report.

B. Actions Implemented During the Public Health Assessment Process

  1. The surface water intake in the Genesee River for the Town of Wellsville was relocated from downstream to upstream of the Sinclair Refinery site. This was completed in 1988.
  2. A dike was constructed between the Landfill Area and the Genesee River to stop the erosion of wastes. Additionally, rechannelization of the river was done to minimize the potential for contamination from the site.
  3. Fences were installed to restrict the public's access to areas of potential chemical exposures. Specifically, a fence surrounds the landfill and a fence extends across the footpath along the banks of the Genesee River.
  4. The Refinery Power Plant was secured to restrict trespass by unauthorized personnel. This included sealing broken windows and doors. This measure was done to prevent exposure to asbestos and physical hazards within the abandoned building.
  5. Private wells near the site were sampled. No contamination was found.
  6. A study on the incidence of cancer in the Town of Wellsville was conducted by NYS DOH in the mid 1980s. The results of this study indicate that the overall cancer rate of the town was not elevated compared to the cancer rate of New York State. The results of this study were presented to local citizens.
  7. Wastes within the landfill area have been consolidated and capped using current technologies. These activities were completed in 1993.
  8. All site related activities are to be conducted under the conditions required by a Health and Safety Plan. These plans contain provisions for air monitoring to assure that concentrations of volatile organic compounds do not exceed action levels at or beyond the perimeter of the site.
  9. The NYS DOH, through it's community outreach program, has conducted health education in the past, to address community health concerns associated with exposure to site contaminants. These community health education activities have included fact sheets and public meetings as well as distribution of sample results to those residents whose water supplies were sampled by NYS DOH.
  10. Physical hazards at the site have been addressed as part of ongoing remediation activities. Specifically, these actions have included dismantling of a nearly collapsed hopper which was attached to the side of a building which is currently occupied by Mapes Industries and installation of a fence around the Northern Oil/Water Separator.

C. Site Visit

The Sinclair Landfill Property has been inspected by local, state and federal government representatives and other parties investigating the site. In November 1981, Mr. Lou Violanti of the NYS DOH Western Regional Office visited the site and the water treatment facility. This visit was at a time of heavy rains and high water in the Genesee River. He reported that there were "oily" odors at the treatment facility and oil wastes were eroding from the Landfill Area into the Genesee River.

Mr. Kim Mann and Mr. Jacob Khaikin of the NYS DOH inspected the Sinclair Refinery Site in August 1985. Data from this inspection were applied to NYS DOH's Human Potential Exposure Ranking Model (HEPRM). The HEPRM model ranked the Sinclair Refinery number one, which indicated that this site had the highest potential to result in human exposure of all the inactive hazardous waste sites ranked in New York State. The number one ranking was driven by the documented release of contaminants from the Landfill Area into the Genesee River and because the potable water source for the Village of Wellsville was downstream of the site. Since the Town of Wellsville's water intake was relocated to a point upstream of the site, the model has not been recalculated, but would probably give a lower ranking.

In March 1991, Gerry Meehan and Lloyd Wilson of the NYS DOH inspected the site. Commercial activity was observed at all industries currently on-site. Access to the site was found to be restricted at the Landfill Area and southern parts of the Refinery Area. Stained soils and petroleum product were observed in the bed of the excavated SLA. Strong odors were present on top of the dike around the southern edges of the Landfill Area. At the time of this inspection, remedial activities at the Landfill Area had been halted for the winter. The CELA has two tiers with excavations from the SLA forming the 2nd tier. The CELA was capped with a black plastic, with numerous vents through the plastic and into the waste materials.

Petroleum odors were also detected at the intersection of the railroad bed and dike at the Main Drainage Swale (Figure 4). The origin of these petroleum odors could not be determined. Surface soils along the former Railroad Bed were stained with what is believed to be petroleum product. Sediments in the cattail and phragmites marsh which exists in the Main Drainage Swale were stained with what looked like iron. Groundwater was seeping from the bank of the former railroad bed into the Main Drainage Swale. The two surface water outfalls from the Refinery Area which empty into the Main Drainage Swale were dry.

The railroad bed merges with the dike although they differ about 10 feet in height. During the March inspection, two local residents were using the railroad bed and dike as a recreational foot path. The river bank, railroad bed and dike form a continuous foot path from the Village of Wellsville to the Landfill Area.

The iron framing of several ground level windows of the abandoned refinery power plant was removed, probably to gain access to the interior of the building. In April 1991, ARCO had these windows sealed.

The Northern oil/water separator between the SUNY at Alfred Campus and Current Control's Facility consists of 24 vats, about ten feet by ten feet, in three rows of eight. During the March 1991 visit, the first three vats of row 1 contained "pure" oil with water/ice in the other vats (Figure 7, Appendix A). Based on the increasing clarity of the water in the vats in each row, the Northern oil/water separator appears to be functioning. The Northern oil/water separator is surrounded by a 5 foot high fence. Strong petroleum odors originated from the separator. Students from SUNY at Alfred park cars within 100 feet of this structure. Numerous students were observed using the SUNY Alfred facilities.

Since this site visit, numerous remedial measures have been taken at the site. The open vats which formed the Northern oil/water separator were drained and removed from the site. In the Summer of 1991, a nearly collapsed hopper on the side of one of the buildings was torn down, but not removed from the site. Ongoing remediation activities at the site will include demolition of the abandoned Refinery Power Plant and removal of piles of scrap metal materials and wooden pallets at the Butler-Larkin property.

D. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

The 1990 United States Bureau of Census indicates that the Town of Wellsville has 8,117 residents and the Village of Wellsville has 5,241 residents. Three public schools and an apartment complex, which includes the SUNY at Alfred dormitory, are within 1 mile of the refinery. The apartment complex is directly across South Brooklyn Road from the entrance to the SUNY Alfred Campus.

The SUNY Alfred Campus on-site has about 650 students and staff. The number of workers employed by the six industries currently on-site is about 250. The majority of the students, Alfred staff and workers on-site are Caucasian males.

The Village's of Wellsville water supply is the Genesee River. In 1985, in response to the documented release of contaminants from the Landfill Area into the Genesee River, the US EPA authorized funds for the relocation of Wellsville's water intake to a point upstream of the Landfill. This work was completed on March 28, 1988.

Groundwater use near the site was surveyed as part of the RI. Three private wells draw water from the deep aquifer; one well, south of the site, is used by four residences on Weidrich Road; the second well is at the Wellsville School Bus Maintenance Center across South Brooklyn Avenue from the Landfill Area, and the third well is at ABB/CE Preheater Industries. ABB/CE Preheater Industries also has the only known private well in the shallow aquifer, near the Refinery Area.

The Genesee River is a major recreational resource, although minimal use occurs in the area of the Refinery Site. About two miles downstream of the site, trout are stocked by the New York State Fish Commission and this area is fished heavily. A NYS DEC Public Fishing Access point is located upstream about 1000 feet south of the Landfill Area. Swimming and rafting are other recreational uses of the Genesee River. However, as with fishing, it is reported that these activities do not frequently occur in the immediate area of the site. The recent river rechannelization and dike construction projects may have reduced river use in this section. Once these remedial activities are completed, this area may be used more frequently.

The west bank of the Genesee River, a former railroad track bed, and the top of the dike around the Sinclair Refinery site form a scenic path which runs from the Village of Wellsville past the Refinery Area to the southern end of the Landfill Area. Across the Genesee River from the Refinery Area is a municipal waste transfer station, a baseball field and the Woodland Cemetery. The west bank of the river on this side also forms a foot path. Across the Genesee River from the Landfill Area is pasture land.

The OSTF is now an open field and undeveloped. It is in a rural area which does not appear to be frequented.

E. Health Outcome Data

The NYS DOH maintains several health outcome data bases which could be used to generate site specific data if warranted. These data bases include a cancer registry, congenital malformations registry, heavy metals registry, occupational, lung disease registry, vital records (birth and death certificates), and hospital discharge information. The cancer incidence in Wellsville for the period 1973-1983 was evaluated in 1985.


During the late 1970's and early 1980, citizens of the Village of Wellsville complained to government officials of intermittent "oily" tastes and odors in their water and that debris from the Landfill Area was eroding into the Genesee River. These conditions occurred during high water in the Genesee River. Government agencies addressed these problems by rechanneling the Genesee River, constructing a dike, and relocating the Village's of Wellsville water supply intake from a point in the Genesee River downstream to upstream of the Landfill Area.

Public meetings have been held by the US EPA, NYS DEC, NYS DOH, Allegany County Department of Health (AC DOH), and local government to discuss the problems and remediation of the Refinery Site. At these meetings, citizens expressed concern that residents of the Village may have an increased cancer incidence because of the possible water supply contamination. Additionally, citizens were concerned about potential health risks from swimming and consuming fish caught from the river downstream of the site. The last meeting was held in August 1991, at which the US EPA reviewed the Phase II RI/FS, presented the Proposed Plan for remediation of the refinery area of the site, and updated the landfill remediation progress. At this meeting citizens expressed concerns about odors originating from the landfill during on-going construction.

During the March 1991 site visit, on-site workers expressed to NYS DOH staff that they would like the Northern Oil Separator remediated.

During the public review period for this public health assessment which ran from July 6, 1993 to August 10, 1993, several written comments were received from citizens who expressed concern about the incidence of cancer among residents who lived or are living near the site. Citizens also inquired if follow-up health studies will be conducted. These concerns have been addressed in the Response to public comments section (Appendix C) of this public health assessment.

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