Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content




A summary of the environmental contamination data collected for the Sinclair Refinery site ispresented in Appendix B, Tables 1-9. The listing of a contaminant does not necessarily mean thatits presence is a public health concern. Contaminants selected for further evaluation are identifiedand evaluated in subsequent sections of the public health assessment to determine whether exposureto them has public health significance. When selected as a contaminant of concern in one medium,that contaminant will be reported in all media (except air) where it is detected. The contaminantslisted for air differ from the other media since so little air data was available. Contaminants areselected and discussed based upon the following factors:

  1. Concentrations of contaminants on and off the site.
  2. Field data quality, laboratory data quality, and sample design.
  3. Comparison of on-site and off-site concentrations with background concentrations.
  4. Comparison of on-site and off-site concentrations with public health assessment comparison values for (1) noncarcinogenic endpoints and (2) carcinogenic endpoints. These values include Environmental Media Evaluation Guides (EMEGs), Cancer Risk Evaluation Guides (CREGs), drinking water standards and other relevant guidelines.
  5. Community health concerns.

Environmental data contained in this section have been collected principally as part of the 1990Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS).

A. On-Site Contamination

A large number of samples of subsurface soils, surface soils, sediments, groundwater and surfacewater were collected for the Phase I RI between 1975-1989 at the refinery site. The May 1990 FinalRI report prepared by Ebasco Services summarizes the data from these investigations. All of thePhase I and some of the Phase II sampling were done by SMC Martin. The Phase II samplingconducted by SMC Martin is referred to as Phase IIa. The rest of the Phase II RI is known as PhaseIIb sampling and was performed by Ebasco Services.

Over 150 compounds were detected at this site. For soil and water, twenty-nine of thesecontaminants were selected for inclusion in the data tables presented in this public healthassessment. Most of these chemicals are listed in the tables because they were either found in soilson-site at concentrations exceeding ATSDR comparison values, or in surface or groundwater atconcentrations exceeding relevant regulatory standards. However, to ensure that this public healthassessment addresses concerns with the water supply and the sources of contamination, othercompounds have also been listed. Specifically, 1,2-dichloroethene is listed since it was found at aconcentration below drinking water standards in the local water supply. There are no standards orATSDR comparison values for the group of alkanes included in these tables. These alkanes werelisted in this report since they reflect the sources of contamination on-site.

Additionally, the list of contaminants examined for each of the three areas of the site (the Landfill,Refinery and Off-site tank farm) have been kept the same to allow for comparison of thecontamination between each of these areas. This was done since the source of the contaminationin each of these areas is reportedly the same, that is, crude petroleum oils and associated refineryproducts and wastes. The contaminants included in the tables are given below.

Volatile Organic
ethyl benzene
methylene chloride
2-methyl naphthalene


The air data for this site is very limited and therefore, a list of contaminants separate from that forsoil and water is presented. This was done to eliminate generating tables which contain very littleactual sampling data.

Refinery Area - Northern Oil Separator

Two samples of the aqueous phase liquid in the vats of the Northern Oil Separator containednumerous volatile organic compounds including benzene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane,trans-1,2-dichloroethene and xylenes. The source of the 1,1,1-trichloroethane and other chlorinatedcompounds are probably from activities currently conducted on-site and not from the refineryoperations. Elevated levels of arsenic, lead, nickel and zinc were also found in these two samples(Table 1).

Refinery Area - Storm Water Sewers

Only five of the 18 organic contaminants listed in Table 1 were found in the sediments and watercollected from on-site sewers. Benzene, toluene and xylene were found most frequently. Thesesamples also contained elevated levels of metals such as lead, nickel and zinc, and several volatileand semi-volatile organic contaminants. The source of these contaminants has not been determined.

Refinery Area - Abandoned Powerhouse

Two soil samples were collected from the abandoned refinery power plant and analyzed forasbestos. No asbestos was found in the one sample while the other contained 30 percent chrysotile.

Refinery Area - Surface Soils

The results of surface soil (0 to 6 inches) sampling indicate minimal contamination of the RefineryArea with volatile organic compounds. In samples collected during the Phase I RI, several alkanesand low levels of semi-volatile organic compounds were found. A sample collected from thesouthwest corner of the site contained a total of 339 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of total"priority and non-priority" base neutral extractables. The areal distribution and concentration ofbenzo(a)pyrene is given in Figure 8.

Surface soils from discrete sections within the refinery area contained elevated levels of lead. Thehighest level of lead (1190 mg/kg) was detected in a small area in the northeastern corner of the siteby the former tetraethyl lead pits. Elevated levels of lead and arsenic were also detected in theformer railroad bed which runs behind the main refinery power plant and the building currently usedby Butler Larkin. Possible sources of the lead in this area are fill materials to form the rail bed,exhaust and spilled fuels from the train, or lead pot fumes from Butler Larkin, Inc.. The source ofthe arsenic in this area is believed to be wood preservatives. Figure 9 shows the areas of elevatedlead levels.

Mercury was present in surface soil collected primarily from the area of the former South oil/waterseparator. The highest concentration of mercury detected, 9.4 mg/kg, is below ATSDR comparisonvalues for soils. This includes both organic and inorganic mercury. Uses of mercury at this site areunknown. All other metal concentrations are similar to those found in background samples.

Refinery Area - Subsurface Soils

Subsurface soils (i.e., soils from 6 inches and below ground surface) were analyzed for VOCs inPhase I and IIa samples. In Phase I, only 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane was detected in a singlesubsurface sample. However, in the Phase IIa sampling, thirteen priority pollutant volatiles weredetected. The most commonly detected volatiles were carbon disulfide, benzene, and total xylenes(see Table 1). The levels of benzene detected in subsurface soils are shown in Figure 10. Ingeneral, the distribution of benzene at this site reflects the distribution of the other VOCs. Contaminants were found in the highest concentrations and frequency in the sub-surface soils fromthe Butler-Larkin storage area. The source of these compounds could be from current activities oractivities associated with the refinery such as landfilling or the large storage tank shown in Figure4. 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane was also found in this area and probably came from a non-refinerysource. Subsurface soils from the area around the Northern Oil/Water Separator also frequentlycontained volatile organic compounds. During remediation of the Northern Oil/Water Separator,it was determined that the subsurface soils surrounding the separator bypass were contaminated withhigh concentrations of hydrocarbons. The highest concentration found for each VOC detected inthese soils is below the ATSDR comparison value.

As with the VOCs, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were found in the highest concentrations andmost frequently in the Refinery Area of the Northern Oil/Water Separator and the Butler-Larkinproperty.

As with surface soil samples, elevated levels of lead were found in subsurface soil samples collectedfrom the northeast corner of the site. Subsurface soils from the railroad bed did not have elevatedlevels of arsenic. This finding supports the suggestion that the elevated levels of arsenic in thesurface soils from this area are from wood preservatives associated with the railroad ties.

Refinery Area - Groundwater

Most of the groundwater monitoring wells are screened in the shallow aquifer, 0-30 feet belowsurface. The other wells are screened in the deep aquifer which is 75 to 100 feet below surface. One of the reasons most of the monitoring wells are finished in the overburden (shallow) aquiferis that the deep aquifer is characterized as having a strong upward hydraulic gradient which wouldminimize downward migration of contaminants. Organic contaminants commonly found in groundwater samples collected from the upper aquifer throughout the site include benzene, toluene,ethylbenzene and xylene. These four VOCs were found in at least one sample in concentrationsabove NYS DOH drinking water standards. In general, these compounds were found throughoutthe site in low concentrations and in greater concentrations in those wells just near the NorthernOil/Water Separator, Southern Oil Water Separator, and the former Post Refinery Tank Farm.

Several chlorinated organic compounds, including 1,2-dichloroethane, 1,1,1-trichloroethane and1,1-dichloroethane were detected in groundwater near the industrial facilities at the northern end ofthe site. Ebasco Services suggest that current activities at these facilities are the source of thesecontaminants since chlorinated solvents were not in use when the Sinclair Refinery operated.

The findings for PAHs is similar to those for total xylene. The findings for total xylenes is givenin Figure 11. Methylnaphthalene, naphthalene and phenanthrene are the semi-volatile compoundsthat were found most often.

Arsenic and zinc were detected in almost every unfiltered groundwater sample from in the RefineryArea. Lead, nickel, mercury, and barium were found in about 50% of the samples. The distributionof arsenic in unfiltered samples only is given in Figure 12 and findings for background samples inTable 2. The highest concentrations of arsenic, lead, nickel and zinc are above NYS DOH drinkingwater standards (Table 3). Filtering groundwater samples before chemical analysis gavesignificantly lower results, indicating that metals in the groundwater are bound to particulates.

Landfill Area - Surface Soils

High levels (>100 mg/kg) of ethylbenzene, xylene, toluene and methylene chloride were found ina sample of surface soil from a seep in the Landfill Area. Other than this sample, VOCs weredetected infrequently and in low concentrations in samples from the Landfill Area (Table 4). Thelong chain alkanes which include docosane, eicosane, etc., were found in a pattern similar to thevolatile organics. Long chain alkanes are hydrocarbons, which are major constituents of crude oil. Phenanthrene was the only semi-volatile compound found and it was found in just one sample.

Metals in concentrations higher than those found in background samples were detected in surfacesoils collected from the Landfill Area and no contaminant pattern was identified.

Landfill Area - Subsurface Soils

Less than 50% of the samples of subsurface soils from this area contained volatile organics. However, very high concentrations were found in a few of these samples. Benzo(a)pyrene,naphthalene and phenanthrene and long chain alkanes were also found in these soils. Compared tobackground, elevated levels of arsenic, lead and zinc were found. The findings from subsurface soilsampling in this area are consistent with the constituents of the landfilled materials.

Landfill Area - Drummed Wastes

Few volatile organics were found in wastes from drums landfilled at the Landfill Area. Many ofthe drums in the landfill are corroded and not air tight, so that volatile compounds can evaporate. The long chain alkanes were found in 2 of the 10 samples taken. Metals were found in elevatedconcentrations and in all of the samples analyzed. Zinc was found at a very high level in one sample(35,900 mg/kg).

Landfill Area - Groundwater

Of the ten groundwater samples collected on-site, only one contained volatile organic chemicals. Similarly, long chain alkanes were found infrequently and no semi-volatiles were detected. Inorganic metals were found in groundwater samples from throughout the area. Most of the samplescontained metals in concentrations similar to those in background samples (Tables 2 and 4).

Off-Site Tank Farm (OSTF) - Soil

Arsenic, lead, nickel and zinc were found frequently in samples of surface and subsurface soils(Table 5). No other metals were found frequently or in elevated concentrations. The maximumconcentration for the listed metals are similar to those found for the background sample.

One soil sample was collected from the off-site tank farm during the Phase I study; six subsurfaceand six surface soil samples were collected from this site during Phase IIa (Table 5). Benzene wasdetected in every surface soil sample. The Phase I surface soil sample had the highest concentration,of benzene, and was the only surface sample which contained xylene. Toluene was the only volatileorganic compound found in a subsurface soil sample and it was found in just one sample. Thesedata are presented in Table 5. No long-chain alkanes were found in soils from the OSTF.

Off-Site Tank Farm (OSTF) - Groundwater

A sample from each of three groundwater monitoring wells installed at the OSTF was collectedduring the Phase II investigation. None of the organic analytes listed in Table 5 were found in thesesamples.

Sinclair Site - On-Site - Air Sampling

The data from on-site air sampling programs are summarized in Table 6. In 1985, seven air sampleswere collected at locations throughout the site. Methylene chloride, which is believed to be alaboratory contaminant, was the only organic chemical detected in these samples. The second airsampling program was done in the Fall of 1990 as part of the Health and Safety Program for theremedial work being performed at the Landfill Area. During the excavation of the south landfillarea in the fall of 1990, the consultant was tasked with collecting air samples for analysis duringconstruction. Unfortunately, they failed to document both the flow rate in the sampler and the timethe pump was operating. Because of this, the concentrations cannot be positively verified. In oneof the five samples collected during 1990, 2-hexanone, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane and xylene weredetected.

Table 6b contains the results of gas monitoring from monitoring wells located in the Central Landfillarea. These samples were collected from both groundwater and fluid detection wells. Severalcontaminants were found in these samples. Benzene was found in concentrations as high as 286.1micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3). Toluene, chlorobenzene, methane and ethylbenzene werefound in low mcg/m3 concentrations; all other contaminants listed were found in concentrations lessthan 1.0 mcg/m3.

Biological Sampling

The results from chemical analysis of crayfish, frogs, and various species of fish are summarizedin Table 7. No organic contaminants were found in these samples. Arsenic, lead and nickel weredetected in all four bullfrog tadpole samples. Lead was also found in a sample of minnows. Nickelwas the most commonly found metal in the aquatic biologic samples.

No organic contaminants were found in any of the terrestrial organisms. Of the inorganicparameters tested, lead and nickel were detected in every sample. Meadow voles collected fromon-site and off-site contained similar levels of nickel. Lead was not detected in the meadow volescollected off-site, but was detected in the voles and shrews collected from on-site.

B. Off-Site Contamination

Surface Water and Sediments

Low levels of organic chemicals were found in both surface water and sediments collected from theMain Drainage Swale behind the refinery plant. As indicated in Table 8, benzene was the mostfrequently found organic contaminant. About one-half of the surface water samples containedmetals, and the highest concentration of any metal was for nickel. The metals, as expected, werefound more frequently and in greater concentrations in sediments than in the surface water. Thehighest concentration of all the metals found in sediment samples was 802 mg/kg of lead.

The results for the Genesee River sediments and Genesee River water samples are similar to thosefor the Main Drainage swale. However, in general, lower concentrations and fewer organicchemicals were detected in the river than in the swale. The background data (Table 2) and the datain Table 8 indicate that the concentration and frequency of metals in samples taken downstream ofthe site is similar to those in samples taken upstream.

Potable Water Supplies

The potential for contamination of the Village of Wellsville water supply by the Refinery site is thereason this site is listed on the National Priorities List (NPL). Nitrobenzene was detected in threewater samples collected in 1984, at concentrations of 4.0, 4.7 and 5.1 micrograms per liter (mcg/L). All of these reported concentrations are below the NYS DOH maximum contaminant level (MCL)of 50.0 mcg/L. One sample of finished water collected in December 1984 contained 6.4 mcg/L ofbenzene (Table 9). This particular sample was also determined to contain methylene chloride at12.0 mcg/L and tetrachloroethene at 4.8 mcg/L. The methylene chloride in this sample was thoughtto be from laboratory contamination. Additionally, a sample of raw water collected in October 1981contained 13.0 mcg/L of naphthalene. Chloroform and chlorinated/brominated methanes, whichare commonly found in water supplies with chlorination systems, were also found in low levels. No lead was detected in any of the Wellsville water samples analyzed prior to relocation of thesupply intake in 1988. The only metals detected during this time period were nickel and zinc, andthe concentrations of the metals were within background ranges.

No organic contaminants associated with the site have been found in the public water supply sincethe water intake was moved upstream of the site in March 1988. Of the four private wells sampled,three are in the deep aquifer and one is in the shallow aquifer. No organic contaminants associatedwith the Sinclair Refinery were found in any of these wells. The private well samples were notanalyzed for metals.


Table 2 presents data for background samples. These samples were collected to assist indetermining the chemical contamination from activities at the Refinery Site. Very few of thebackground samples contained any of the organic chemicals listed in Table 2. Only lowconcentrations of these contaminants were found.

The metal concentrations in soil samples are within the ranges reported in the literature. This is alsotrue for Genesee River sediment, and surface waters tested. Seven groundwater samples werecollected for the purpose of establishing background levels of inorganic constituents. Thesegroundwater samples contained metals in concentrations similar to the findings reported in theliterature except for one sample which contained lead at 0.69 mg/kg. The reason for the elevatedlevel of lead in this sample has not been determined.

C. Quality Assurance/Quality Control

The level of data validation is not consistent between the three phases of the RI. In Phase I,apparently no data validation was performed. In Phase IIa, packages for data validation wereprepared for about 15 percent of the samples. Personal communication with the NYS DEC indicatesthe NYS DEC considered the quality control/quality assurance (QA/QC) for Phase I and Phase IIainvestigations to be satisfactory. The Phase I and IIa investigations were performed using protocolsfor the Priority Pollutant List.

The Phase IIb work performed by Ebasco Services, Inc., was validated in accordance with currentUS EPA protocols for the Target Compound List (TCL) of parameters. In preparing the final RIreport, Ebasco reviewed QA/QC parameters for the Phase I and Phase II studies. Based on thisreview, Ebasco concluded that the Phase IIa data for metals are flawed. For example, Ebasco'sreview showed that instrument calibration was too high for surface soil sample SS-28. This was truefor other metal analyses performed. Ebasco's review of the Phase IIa data for organic parametersdid not indicate a QA/QC problem. However, most organics were generally not found in Phase IIasamples. Low levels of organic contaminants were found in blanks, field blanks, and trip blanksanalyzed during each of the three phases of the RI. This is particularly true for compounds that arecommon laboratory contaminants such as acetone, methylene chloride, and 2-butanone.

D. Physical and Other Hazards

Several physical hazards have been identified at this site. The abandoned Refinery Power Plant isin poor condition, with a partially collapsed roof and broken windows. The entire building will bedemolished as part of site remediation. In addition, several piles of scrap metal materials andwooden pallets exist throughout the Butler-Larkin property. Prior to site remediation activities, theNorthern Oil/Water Separator consisted of open vats which contained petroleum product. This areawas surrounded by a 5 foot high chain link fence that was easy to scale. The separator was in poorcondition, and physical hazards, as well as a fire hazard, existed. Similar physical and other hazardsmay exist at the Mapes oil separator. However, during site remediation, the vats were drained andremoved from the site. Also, a nearly collapsed hopper on the side of the building currentlyoccupied by Mapes Industries, was torn down in the Summer of 1991, but not removed. It isuncertain if the dismantled hopper and scrap piles are associated with the refinery site or subsequentoperations.

E. Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (TRI)

To identify facilities that could contribute to the air, surface water and groundwater contaminationnear the Sinclair Refinery site and/or create health threats unrelated to the site, the NYS DOHsearched the 1987, 1988, and 1989 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) database. TRI is developed bythe US EPA from chemical release (air, water, and soil) information provided by certain industries.

ABB/Air Preheater, located at the corner of Andover and Truax Roads is the only facility, within2.5 miles of the Refinery Site, which is listed in the TRI database. During 1989, manganese (200pounds), chromium (16 pounds) and aluminum oxide (up to 500 pounds) were reported to bedischarged into the air. No discharges to surface water or groundwater were reported. None ofthese metals was identified as a contaminant of concern at the Sinclair Refinery Site. Based on theTRI data and air modeling, emissions of aluminum oxide, manganese and chromium from theAAB/Air Preheater facility would be expected to result in a negligible increase in exposure topersons near the Sinclair Refinery Site.


To determine whether nearby residents and persons on-site are exposed to contaminants migratingfrom the site, an evaluation was made of the environmental and human components that lead tohuman exposure. This pathway analysis consists of five elements: a source of contamination,transport through an environmental medium, a point of exposure, a route of human exposure, andan exposed population.

An exposure pathway is categorized as a completed or potential exposure pathway if the exposurepathway cannot be eliminated. A completed exposure pathway occurs when the five elements ofan exposure pathway link the contaminant source to a receptor population. Should a completedexposure pathway exist in the past, present, or future, the population is considered exposed. Apotential exposure pathway exists when one or more of the five elements is missing, or if modelingis performed to replace real sampling data. Potential pathways exist when at least one of the fiveelements is missing, but could exist. Potential pathways indicate that exposure to a contaminantcould have occurred in the past, could be occurring now, or could occur in the future. An exposurepathway can be eliminated if at least one of the five elements is missing and will never be present. The discussion that follows incorporates only those pathways that are important and relevant to thesite.

A. Environmental Pathways

The contamination of soils, surface water, and groundwater at the Sinclair Refinery Site has beenadequately defined. The major sources of contaminants have been evaluated. The one source whichmay never be fully defined is spillage since small, localized areas, of contamination may have beenmissed at this 100 acre plus site. However, because of the current manufacturing facilities andstorage of heavy machinery, spills are likely to continue. Air quality at this site has not beenadequately characterized.


Surface and subsurface soils from the Off-Site Tank Farm (OSTF), Refinery Area and Landfill Areahave been shown to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic andinorganic compounds. The contaminants in the soils at the refinery area could be moving off-siteby percolating into groundwater. Formation of dust from vehicular use of gravel and dirt roadscurrently on-site is another pathway for contaminated soils to move off-site. Sediments in sewerson-site are known to contain contaminants, especially elevated levels of metals, and during runoff,these soils/sediments will be washed into the Genesee River.

The waste materials at the Landfill Area have been consolidated. Closure and final inspection ofthe landfill occurred on July 8, 1993 and the potential for off-site transport of contaminated soilshas been reduced.

Although some contaminants were found at the OSTF, overall, their low frequency of occurrenceindicates this area is not highly contaminated and the potential for off-site migration is minimal. Most of the OSTF is covered with vegetation minimizing the potential for soil erosion and dustgeneration.


Groundwater in the refinery area contains low levels of VOCs, semivolatiles, alkanes, and elevatedlevels of metals. Benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene were each found in about one-half ofthe 56 samples collected from the refinery area. VOC's were not found in significant quantities atthe Landfill Area. Migration of contaminants from the upper aquifer to the lower aquifer is believedto be minimal due to an upward gradient created by upward hydraulic pressure. Additionally,migration of contaminants to the deep aquifer is minimized by a clay aquitard. The upper aquiferis 10-20 feet below surface and the deep aquifer is about 80 feet below grade. The upper aquiferis thought to recharge the Genesee River. Because of dilution, this is not resulting in significantcontamination of the river.

The Main Drainage Swale behind the former Refinery Power Plant contains low levels of volatileand semi-volatile contaminants, and elevated levels of metals. This swale is receiving groundwatercontaminated with low levels of organics originating from the Refinery Area.

Groundwater at the OSTF has not been extensively studied but the results from three monitoringwells indicate little contamination. It is not a significant environmental pathway for contaminant migration.

Surface Water and Sediment

The results of the RI investigation demonstrate that the Sinclair Refinery site, including the LandfillArea, is having little affect on the quality of the Genesee River because the amount of soil and watermoving from the site into the river is small compared to the volume of the Genesee River. Additionally, the concentration of the contaminants in the soil and water moving off-site is low.

Outfalls from the Refinery Site discharge into the Genesee River and are a potential route of off-sitemigration. Analytes from each of the chemical classes have been detected in samples of outfallsediments and water. Several of the outfalls are dry most of the year. The outfall at the northernend of the site contains water year round and is the discharge point for the stream that bisects theOSTF. The Northern oil/water separator was connected to the surface drainage system.

The Landfill Area was eroding into the Genesee River. This has been reduced by an interimremedial measure (IRM) conducted in 1984, to rechannel river flow and to stabilize the shorelinewith a dike. Landfill erosion has since been completely eliminated by the partial rechannelizationand a dike construction which was completed in 1991.


Ambient air data exist for the site, although mostly for the Landfill Area. Odors originating fromthe Landfill Area and the Northern Oil/Water Separator are a concern. Limited air samplingconducted in the Fall of 1990 detected 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, 2-hexanone and xylene in one offive air samples. Gases from monitoring wells in the Central Landfill contain benzene,ethylbenzene, toluene, chlorobenzene and methane in concentrations greater than 1 part per billion. Additional sampling is needed to assess contaminant emissions from the gas vents protruding fromthe capped landfill.

B. Human Exposure Pathways

Ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact exposure to contaminants in potable water were completedpathways in the past. They are no longer a concern since they were eliminated in March 1988 whenthe Village of Wellsville Water Supply intake was moved to a point upstream of the site. Othercompleted human exposure routes for contaminants from the Sinclair Refinery Site include both (1)inhalation of contaminated air and dust and (2) direct contact with contaminated surface soils. Potential human exposure routes include 1) direct contact with contaminated surface soils andsediment; 2) inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact exposure to contaminants in groundwater andsurface water; and 3) inhalation of contaminated air and dust.


Surface soils in the northeast corner of the site, in the area of the SUNY at Alfred Campus, theNorthern Oil/Water Separator, and Current Control, Inc., contain elevated levels of lead and zinc. Additionally, surface soils in the area of Northern Oil/Water Separator and from the former railroadtrack beds contain elevated levels of arsenic. Vehicular traffic in the area of the Northern Oil/WaterSeparator is reported to generate dust. However, the areas identified as containing the highest levelsof arsenic, lead and zinc are not in roads and are mostly vegetated. Furthermore, ARCO, has agreedto remediate the surface soils containing the highest levels of lead and arsenic.

Under existing conditions, exposure to contaminated subsurface soil is not anticipated. Children arenot likely to be exposed to on-site surface soil contaminants because the landfill has been fenced aswell as other areas of the site where high levels of contamination exist. Furthermore, the landfillwas capped as part of ongoing remedial measures and has been covered with top soil and vegetated. However, if subsurface soils are disturbed, direct contact and inhalation of contaminated dust byon-site workers or nearby residents may occur. Two areas where this is a concern include the areaof the former storage tank in the current Butler Larkin property and near the Northern Oil/WaterSeparator. Contaminants from the subsurface soils may be affecting groundwater quality and,therefore, potential exposure pathways associated with groundwater are included as a concern.

The only known past and present completed pathway of human exposure to contaminated soils on-site is through direct contact to surface soils containing elevated levels of lead and arsenic in theareas of the Northern Oil/Water Separator and along the bed of the former railroad tracks. All otherexposure pathways associated with the contaminated soils on-site are incomplete or future potential. Future potential exposures would occur to workers on-site involved in construction activities on-sitethat disturb contaminated sub-surface soils.


Groundwater throughout the site is contaminated. The immediate area of the site is served by publicwater. Prior to relocation of the Village's of Wellsville water intake to a position in the GeneseeRiver upstream of the site, exposure to contaminants in potable water was the major concern of thissite. Four private wells near the site were sampled and were not contaminated. The well samplesinclude locations believed to be hydrogeologically upgradient and downgradient of the site. Groundwater from the site recharges the Genesee River, but the effect of contaminated groundwaterdischarge on river water quality is minimal due to dilution.

All human exposure pathways associated with the contaminated groundwater on-site are incomplete. No known exposures to this contaminated media are occurring. Future potential exposures couldoccur if groundwater from the upper aquifer on-site was developed as a potable water supply. Thisis considered unlikely since the site is served by a public water supply and the volume ofgroundwater in the upper aquifer is not considered sufficient for development as a supply. Contamination of downgradient private wells could occur if groundwater at the site is notremediated, although this is unlikely to occur as these wells have not historically showncontamination in the past.

Potable Water

The Sinclair Refinery Site contaminated the Genesee River. Until 1988, the Genesee Riverdownstream of the site was the source of potable water for the Village of Wellsville. One sampleof finished water in 1984 indicated that the Village water contained 6.4 mcg/L of benzene and 4.8mcg/L tetrachloroethene. Another sample in 1984 contained 2.8 mcg/L of trans-1,2-dichloroethene. Nitrobenzene was found in three samples collected in 1984 at concentrations of 5.1, 4.0 and 4.7mcg/L. This is a past completed exposure pathway, since the data indicates that the water supplywas contaminated with organic chemicals at low microgram per liter (mcg/L) concentrations. However, no data is available from samples collected at individual homes and, therefore, thecontaminant levels in the water at the point of use are unknown. On March 28, 1988, a new waterintake in the Genesee River was installed upstream of the site.

A survey identified four private wells within a mile radius of the site used for potable water. Testing of these wells did not indicate the presence of site contaminants. The potential forcontaminant migration from the site to these wells is unlikely as they have not shown evidence ofcontamination in the past. However, any new wells that are installed near the site could becomecontaminated if groundwater at the site is left unremediated.

Surface Water and Sediment

Surface water and sediments on-site and off-site in the Genesee River are contaminated with lowlevels of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, and elevated levels of inorganiccontaminants. Dermal exposure to contaminated surface water and sediments on-site is minimalbecause access to the areas of highest contamination are restricted and the contaminantconcentrations are low. Recreational use of the Genesee River downstream of the site could resultin dermal contact to very low levels of contamination. This is a completed exposure pathway, butlevels of exposure to contaminants are below all standards, health based guidance criteria, andability to measure.


Inhalation of volatilized contaminants from this site is an exposure pathway of concern. Limiteddata suggest that contaminant emissions from gas vents on the landfill are affecting air quality. However, the remote location and restricted access to the landfill indicate that few people, if any,will be exposed. People who could be exposed to contaminated air are SUNY students, on-siterefinery workers and those who might fish in the area.

Another source of air contamination that is not fully characterized is the Northern Oil/WaterSeparator which contained petroleum products. The Northern Oil/Water Separator was a source ofpetroleum odors indicating that workers and students at facilities operating on-site were beingexposed to organic contaminants and that this was a completed pathway. However, the data areincomplete to adequately characterize exposures to air contaminants from the Northern Oil/Waterseparator.

Although the northern oil/water separator was taken off-line and completely remediated in 1993,other unlocated and unremediated oil separators are reported to be present at the site. These otheroil/water separators could be a potential source of petroleum odors to on-site workers and nearbystudents.

Vadose Zone/Soil-gas

The vadose zone is that zone between the interface of the earth and ambient air, and groundwaterin the upper aquifer. VOC's in groundwater and subsurface soils can volatilize and contaminate thesoil-gas in the vadose zone. The frequent finding (50 percent of the samples) of benzene, toluene,ethylbenzene, and xylene in groundwater indicate soil-gas could be contaminated at this site. Contaminated soil-gas can migrate into buildings through basements and floor cracks, affectingindoor air quality. Contaminants from soil-gas can also migrate into ambient air. Migration ofVOCs from groundwater and subsurface soil through the vadose zone into indoor or ambient air isan exposure pathway of concern at this site. Currently, there is not enough information toadequately evaluate this human exposure pathway.


Analytical results of aquatic and terrestrial biological samples indicate that contaminants from thesite are not accumulating in biota to significant concentrations. The only biota which would beconsumed regularly is fish. Fish from the Genesee River did not contain detectable levels of organiccontaminants, lead or arsenic (see Table 7). The data show that this potential exposure pathway isnot complete.


A. Toxicological Evaluation

  1. Past ingestion, dermal and inhalation exposure to volatile and semi-volatile organiccontaminants in municipal drinking water.

    For a undetermined period of time, residents in the Village of Wellsville, Allegany County,New York, were exposed to volatile and semi-volatile organic contaminants in drinking water. One sample of finished water in 1984 indicated that the Village water contained 6.4 mcg/Lof benzene and 4.8 mcg/L of tetrachloroethene. Another sample in 1984 contained 2.8 mcg/Lof trans-1,2-dichloroethene. New York State drinking water standards for each of thesechemicals is 5 mcg/L. Nitrobenzene was found in three samples collected in 1984 atconcentrations of 5.1, 4.0 and 4.7 mcg/L. The New York State drinking water standard fornitrobenzene is 50.0 mcg/L. Other contaminants were not detected in all other samples taken. No organic contaminants associated with the Sinclair Refinery Site have been found in thepublic water supply since the water intake was moved upstream of the site in March 1988.

    Chronic exposure to chemicals in drinking water are possible by ingestion, dermal andinhalation exposures from water uses such as showering, bathing and cooking. Althoughexposures vary depending on individual life styles, each of these exposure routes contributesto the overall body burden and, thus, increases the potential for chronic effects.

    Volatile Organic Compound Contaminants

    Benzene is a known human carcinogen (ATSDR, 1989b). Based on the limited sampling ofthe municipal drinking water supply, we estimate that persons exposed to drinking watercontaminated with benzene at a concentration of 6.4 mcg/L for their lifetimes have a lowincreased risk of developing cancer. In addition, benzene produces a variety ofnoncarcinogenic toxicities (primarily damage to blood cell forming tissues and the immuneand nervous systems) at exposures several orders of magnitude greater than exposure fromoff-site groundwater. Chemicals that cause effects in humans and/or animals after high levelsof exposure may also pose a risk to humans who are exposed to lower levels over long periodsof time. Although the risk of noncarcinogenic health effects from past exposure to benzenein drinking water are not completely understood, the existing data suggest that they areminimal.

    Semi-Volatile Organic Compound Contaminants

    Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenic potential of nitrobenzene(ATSDR, 1990c). Repeated exposures to nitrobenzene can result in the blood condition,methemoglobinemia (this condition affects the ability of blood to carry oxygen), as well asnervous system and liver damage at exposures several orders of magnitude greater thanexposure from the Village of Wellsville's public drinking water supply. Although the risk ofnon-carcinogenic health effects from these exposures are not completely understood, theexisting data suggest that they are minimal.

  2. Inhalation exposure of individuals engaged in activities at or near the site to volatile organiccontaminants originating from the site.

    During the fall of 1990, limited air sampling was conducted on-site during excavation of aremote area and where access is restricted (i.e., the landfill area). 1,1,2,2-Tetra-chloroethane(6,110 mcg/m3), xylene (3,600 mcg/m3) and 2-hexanone (1,220 mcg/m3) were detected in oneof five air samples. 1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane causes cancer in laboratory animals exposedto high levels over their lifetime (ATSDR, 1989d). Chemicals that cause cancer in laboratoryanimals may also increase the risk of cancer in humans who are exposed to lower levels overlong periods. Lifetime exposure to the level of 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane found in on-siteambient air would pose a very high increased cancer risk, however, acute exposure to thislevel is not likely to cause cancer. In addition, as discussed previously under the PathwaysAnalyses section, exposures to air contaminants originating from this site are expected to beinfrequent and of short duration and not likely to result in adverse health affects. Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenic potential of xylene (ATSDR,1990d) and 2-hexanone (ATSDR, 1990e).

    1,1,2,2,-Tetrachloroethane and xylene produce a variety of noncarcinogenic toxicities(primarily liver, kidney and nervous system effects). 2-Hexanone produces adverseneurological effects and has also been associated with adverse effects on reproduction andfetal development. These three chemicals produce their effects at exposures about one orderof magnitude greater than exposure from on-site air. Chemicals that cause effects in humansand/or animals after high levels of exposure may also pose a risk to humans who are exposedto lower levels over longer periods of time. However, as indicated above, exposures to aircontaminants originating from this site are expected to be infrequent and of short duration andnot likely to result in adverse health effects.

  3. Potential ingestion, dermal and inhalation exposure to contaminants in private wells as a resultof contaminant plume migration.

    As indicated in Tables 1 and 3, on-site groundwater is contaminated with volatile,semi-volatile organic compounds, alkanes and metals at concentrations that exceed New YorkState drinking water and/or groundwater standards or guidelines (Table 3). There is apotential for ingestion, dermal and inhalation exposure to contaminants in municipal orprivate well water from contaminated groundwater.

    Volatile Organic Contaminants

    The health risk of exposure to benzene has already been discussed (see #1 above). Chronicexposure to the level of benzene found in on-site groundwater would pose a high increasedcancer risk over a lifetime of exposure. Toxicological data are inadequate to assess thecarcinogenic potential of ethylbenzene (ATSDR, 1989c), toluene (ATSDR, 1989e) or xylenes(ATSDR, 1990d).

    Ethylbenzene, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, toluene and xylene produce a variety ofnoncarcinogenic toxicities (primarily liver, kidney and nervous system effects) at exposuresgenerally several orders of magnitude greater than potential exposures from on-sitegroundwater. Chemicals that cause effects in humans and/or animals after high levels ofexposure may also pose a risk to humans who are exposed to lower levels over long periodsof time. Although the risk of noncarcinogenic effects are not completely understood, theexisting data suggest that they would be minimal. In contrast, chronic exposure to benzeneat levels found in on-site groundwater would pose a high increased risk of noncarcinogeniceffects associated with this chemical.

    Semi-Volatile Organic Compound Contaminants

    Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenic potential of nitrobenzene(ATSDR, 1990c), 2-methylnapthalene (ATSDR, 1990b) and naphthalene (1990b). Thenoncarcinogenic effects of exposure to nitrobenzene have already been discussed (see #1above). Although the risk of noncarcinogenic health effects from potential exposure to thischemical are not completely understood, the existing data suggest that they would pose a highincreased risk of noncarcinogenic effects. The primary non-carcinogenic toxic effectproduced by exposure to naphthalene is hemolytic anemia (ATSDR, 1990b). Existing datasuggest that the risks of noncarcinogenic health effects from potential exposure to thischemical would be low. Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the potentialnoncarcinogenic health effects of exposure to 2-methylnapthalene.

    Alkane Contaminants

    Toxicological data are inadequate to assess the carcinogenic potential of heptadecane andoctadecane. These two alkanes produce a variety of non-carcinogenic toxicities (primarilyeffects on pulmonary and nervous systems and liver). Although the risk of noncarcinogenichealth effects from potential exposure to these chemicals are not completely understood, theirrelatively high levels in on-site groundwater suggest that these risks could be significant.

    Metal Contaminants

    Chronic exposure to elevated lead levels is predominantly associated with neurological andhematological effects (ATSDR, 1990a). At high exposure levels, lead can cause kidneydamage, gastrointestinal distress and reproductive effects including abortion and damage tothe male reproductive system. The developing fetus and young children are particularlysensitive to lead-induced neurological effects, with symptoms ranging from delayed mentaldevelopment and behavioral effects at low blood lead levels to frank ataxia, stupor, coma andconvulsions at high blood levels. Arsenic can cause nerve, liver, blood vessel damage andbehavioral problems, including learning and hearing deficiencies (ATSDR, 1989a). Chronic(long term) arsenic poisoning is characterized by a distinct pattern of skin abnormalities. Studies with laboratory animals indicate that exposure to elevated levels of arsenic duringpregnancy may increase the risk of adverse developmental and reproductive effects. Ingestionof high concentrations of barium may cause cardiovascular effects, including increased bloodpressure, damage to heart muscle and changes in heart rhythm and also has been associatedwith kidney, neurological and gastrointestinal effects (ATSDR, 1991). Chronic exposure todrinking water contaminated with these metals, in particular arsenic and lead, atconcentrations found in on-site groundwater would pose a high increased risk of adversehealth effects.

  4. Inhalation, dermal and ingestion exposure of persons engaged in on-site clean-up, individualsworking on-site and nearby residents to contaminated soil/sediment.

    Soil and sediments (Tables 1 and 4) on-site are contaminated with organic chemicals andmetals at concentrations which, with the exception of lead, are not an immediate healthconcern for short-term exposure. Persons engaged in clean-up activities (remediationactivities; potential exposure) could be exposed to greater levels of contaminants, but use ofproper procedures and protective gear should minimize the chances of any significant healtheffects. Use of appropriate dust suppression methods during clean-up would minimize anylow level increased risk to other persons on-site and to nearby residents.

  5. Ingestion, dermal and inhalation exposure of persons engaged in recreational activities in theGenesee River downstream of the site.

    As indicated in Table 8, off-site surface water (Genesee River downstream of the site) iscontaminated with volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds and metals, some of whichexceed New York State surface water standards or guidelines. These contaminants do notpose an immediate health concern for short-term exposures to individuals who may come incontact with this water via dermal exposure and who may incidently ingest it.

  6. Potential inhalation exposure to volatile organic compounds in indoor air due to migration ofsoil vapors into nearby structures.

    Adequate data are not available to assess the toxicological implications of this potentialexposure pathway. However, there are some data to suggest that benzene could pose a publichealth threat. This volatile organic compound, which was detected in on-site soil gasmonitoring wells, is a known human carcinogen and is well absorbed by all routes ofexposure.

B. Health Outcome Data Evaluation

In 1984, citizens of Wellsville requested that NYS DOH conduct a cancer incidence study ofWellsville because of concerns about possible contamination of the public water supply. The NYSDOH Bureau of Cancer Epidemiology compared the incidence of cancer in Wellsville during theyears 1973 to 1982, to the incidence of cancer in New York State, exclusive of New York City. Thestudy controlled for age, sex and population density.

The study did not find a statistically significant increase in total cancer in either males or females. However, when specific sites of cancer were examined, a statistically significant excess of leukemiawas found among males. The study did not find an excess of leukemia in females and there wereno reported cases of leukemia in young people under age 21. A previous NYS DOH study has alsoindicated an increase in lymphoma and leukemia during 1974-1977 among residents of the rivervalley towns in the region of Allegany, Steuben, Cattaraugus and Livingston counties. These areashad suffered extensive flooding and disruption of normal activities after tropical storm Agnes in 1972.

Since exposure to benzene has been identified in the scientific literature as a cause of leukemia,NYS DOH conducted a follow-up interview study in 1986 of the Wellsville leukemia patients. Thestudy interviewed 8 of the 10 male leukemia cases or their next of kin; 5 of the cases interviewedhad potential occupational exposure to leukemia-causing agents.

The studies concluded that the lack of excess leukemia in women and the absence of leukemia inchildren make an association with drinking water less likely.

C. Community Health Concerns Evaluation

In the early 1980's, concerns expressed by the community regarding this site focused on thecontamination found in the public water supply. Based on these concerns the NYS DOH conducteda study on the incidence of leukemia in residents of the Town of Wellsville. It was concluded thatthe contamination of the water supply did not result in a significant increase in leukemia in the localpopulation. Additionally, to eliminate further exposures, the US EPA moved the water supplyintake in the Genesee River from a location downgradient of the site to a location upgradient of thesite.

Other concerns expressed by the community regarding exposure to site contaminants includepossible adverse health effects from eating contaminated fish caught from the Genesee River andswimming in the river downstream of the site. A study on the biota of the area indicated that nosignificant exposures are likely to occur through this pathway as a result of contamination at theSinclair Refinery site.

The surface water data (Table 8, Appendix B) show that the concentration of the contaminants foundin the river were very low and, therefore, swimming in the Genesee River downstream of the siteis not likely to result in significant exposures. Additionally, the frequency and duration of exposureassociated with swimming in the river is low which minimizes the potential for exposure tosignificant contaminant levels. Rechannelization and diking of the river next to the Refinery siteshould have reduced the amount of contaminants migrating from the site into the river. Therefore,it is unlikely that swimming in the river at points downstream of the site will result in exposures tosite contaminants that will result in adverse health affects.

In 1991, people expressed concerns about odors originating from the Landfill area of the site. Toaddress their concerns, NYS DOH has requested that air sampling and a data base be developed toevaluate air quality near the landfill. Additionally, NYS DOH has required that constructionactivities at the Landfill Area must follow health and safety monitoring designed to protect thecommunity. Furthermore, NYS DOH has indicated the database on air quality is to be used toevaluate the need for treatment of the gases released from vents placed into the fill at the Landfill Area.

Next Section     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

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #