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The South Macomb Disposal Authority (SMDA) NationalPriorities List site is located inMacomb County, Michigan. It consists of two non-operating adjacent landfills. From the late1960's until the mid 1970's the landfills were operated as a municipal waste center for severaltowns in southern Macomb County. During site operation, the Michigan Department of NaturalResources (MDNR) alleged that leachate created from waste deposited in portions of two of thethree aquifers beneath the site had entered McBride Drain (a surface water body adjacent to thelandfill) and overflowed onto adjoining residential property. The leachate also migrated furtherinto groundwater aquifers. Recurring leachate seepage and complaints about fish kills inMcBride Drain prompted an investigation in 1976 by the MDNR. It is unclear whether the fishkills were ever verified.

In 1982, residents near the landfill complained that leachate had begun to seep into areabasements. In 1983 and 1984, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) were detected inseveralresidential wells. The residents were advised not to drink the water from these wells. Since thattime, low levels of VOCs have been detected in additional residential wells on several occasions.

Interim remediationactivities at and around the site have included the installation of a leachatecollection system, a slurry wall, and the connection of most area residences to a municipal watersupply.

The primary human exposure pathway ofconcern for this site is past and potential current andfuture exposure to contaminated groundwater via ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact. Asmall risk for future exposureto contaminated surface water via the dermal and inhalation routesexists. Physical hazards,such as old, rusty, appliances are located on the unrestricted site. Inaddition, investigators suggest that the analysis of soil gas samples from on and off the siteindicate the potential presence of methane gas.

Based on available information, ATSDR has concluded that the South Macomb DisposalAuthority Site is a public health hazard because evidence exists that exposures have occurred,may potentially be occurring, and may occur in the future. However, this site is not beingconsidered for follow-up health activities at this time because: 1) proposed remedial activitieswill address the issues of potential current and future exposures, 2) a previously recommendedhealth survey was declined, and 3) community health educationhas occurred.



The South Macomb Disposal Authority (SMDA) site is located in Macomb Township,MacombCounty approximately 17 miles north-northeast of Detroit, Michigan (Figure 1). The site isapproximately 159 acres and consists of two adjacent former municipal landfills (Sites 9 and9A). Site 9 is a 75-acre rectangular tract on the eastern side of the site. Site 9A is an 84-acrerectangular tract west of Site 9. The entire site surface rises approximately six to eight feetabove the original land surface and is relatively flat with shallow depressions and short ridges. The SMDA site is bordered on the north by 24 Mile Road, on the east by Card Road, and on thesouth and west by McBride Drain. McBride Drain, an open channel, receives site runoff andflows south-southeast where it joins the north branch of the Clinton River about one andone-half miles away. The site is minimally restricted. There is no fence except for the mainentrance, allowing easy access for vehicles.

The SMDA acquired land for waste disposal activities from local citizens in the late 1960's. Thesites received municipal wastes from the cities located in southern Macomb County (includingEast Detroit, Roseville, St. Clair Shores, Warren, and Centerline) and other sources includingeducational facilities. Prior to landfilling activities, sand and gravel mining took place from thelate 1940s through the 1950s primarily in the northern and central portion of Site 9.

Approximately 680,000 cubic yards of municipal wastes were disposed of in approximately 65of the 75 acres of Site 9 between the years 1968 and 1971 (1). The remaining 10 acreswereused as perimeter buffer zones around the site. Wastes included general refuse, garbage, andrubbish and were placed either directly into the former mining pits or into trenches excavated bythe SMDA.

While Site 9 was operating, regulatory agencies raised concerns about inadequate sitedrainage. The agencies contended that wastes were being placed into pits where groundwater hadaccumulated. This practice violated the landfill requirement that at least two feet of soil bemaintained between the water table and buried wastes. The SMDA contended that the collectedwater was rainwater and not groundwater seepage; and reportedly constructed drainage ditchesalong the south, east, and west sides of the landfill to direct surface runoff away from the site. The design called for the ditches to discharge into McBride Drain. The drainage system was notcompleted until much of Site 9 was filled. When filling activity was completed in 1971, the areawas capped with soil. Reviews by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR)indicate that the cover was not two feet of clay as required by the Michigan Solid WasteManagement Act, Public Act 641 of 1978 (MSWA 641) (2).

Filling in Site 9A commenced upon closure of Site 9. Approximately 1,200,000 cubic yardsofwastes were placed there before it was closed in 1975. About 80 of the 84 acres were used fordisposal purposes with the remaining four acres used as buffers along the northern and westernsides of the site. Original designs for Site 9A planned for the installation of an underdrain and asubsurface clay "dike" along the northern boundary to minimize the inflow of groundwater intoSite 9A. According to MDNR officials, the local waste water treatment facilities have not issuedpermits because SMDA has failed to pretreat the groundwater (2). Surface water runoff was tobe inhibited by drainage ditches along the north and south sides of the landfill and by the use ofthe old western drainage ditch for Site 9. All runoff presumably flowed south towards McBrideDrain. In 1975, at completion of the filling operations, Site 9A was reportedly covered with twofeet of mixed soils.

During site operation, the MDNR alleged that leachate from the landfills, both Site 9 and Site9A, had seeped into McBride Drain, overflowed onto adjoining property, and had possiblyresulted in area groundwater contamination. Several leachate outbreaks were verified by MDNRofficials. Leachate was reportedly first observed in McBride Drain in 1971 and then later notedby MDNR inspectors in 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, and 1983 (1,3). Recurring leachate seepageand fish kill complaints prompted an investigation in 1976 by the MDNR. An MDNR officialstated that one of the fish kill complaints was made by a resident who lived a half a miledownstream of the SMDA Site. It is unclear whether the fish kills were ever verified (4). MDNR increased the pressure on SMDA to improve site leachate management systems.

From 1977 through 1981, the SMDA implemented erosion control measures, tilled, regraded,and covered the landfill surface. In 1980, a leachate collection system was installed along thesouth-central portion of Site 9A. Another collection system was installed along the northernportion of Site 9A. The leachate is removed from the collection systems and reportedlytransported off-site three times a week to a wastewater treatment plant. MDNR, however, hashad reports that the leachate collected from the site is disposed into sewage manholes (3).

In 1982, a resident discovered a reddish orange sludge-like material on the floor of a handdugcellar which was subject to groundwater infiltration on a regular basis. Concerns were raisedabout the possibility that the source of the "ooze" was toxic landfill leachate. Low level organiccontaminants weredetected in water samples from the sump area. In addition, a scientist fromWayne State University tested the "ooze" and concluded that its presence was attributed to thehigh iron content of the shallow groundwater and iron-loving bacterial growths (e.g. Gallionellaferrugina). The same kind of reddish growths were found in McBride Drain upstream from thelandfill (3).

In October 1982, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in an area crock well. Acrock well is a large diameter hand dug well usually between 10-15 feet deep which obtainswater from shallow groundwater seepage. However, this well was not used for drinking water. In December 1983 and August 1984, VOCs were detected by the Michigan Department ofPublic Health (MDPH) in several residential wells. The residents with impacted wells wereadvised not to drink their water. Bottled water was provided to these residences shortly after thedetermination of contamination.

In 1983, a resident near the landfill died. A review of the autopsy by a consultant for thefamilypartially related the cause of death to contaminants from the site. This opinion was notsupported by numerous other reviewers, including the Michigan Toxic Substance ControlCommission (MTSCC).

In 1985, residents near the landfill obtained a court order requiring the construction of agravitydriven leachate collection system on Site 9 similar to the existing Site 9A systems. By late 1988,a third leachate collection system along with a slurry wall was built along the northern edge ofSite 9. This wall is approximately 40 feet deep and is keyed into a clay hardpan to preventoff-site migration of leachate to the north. Leachate is removed from the southeast end of theleachate collection system at regular intervals. Two collection points are located along theeastern side of Site 9a. An additional point which reportedly does not function properly islocated on the northern end of the Site 9.

Evaluation activities have been conducted by several different parties since landfill closure. These investigations have included collection of air, soil and water samples for both physical andchemical parameter analysis.

The June 1986 placement of the SMDA site on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA)National Priorities List (NPL) commenced Federal regulatory and public health involvement atthis site. SMDA's inclusion on the NPL was partially due to the proximity of the site todomestic water supplies and historic information on domestic well water quality. The CircuitCourt of Macomb County ordered the SMDA to conduct a preliminary hydro-geological studyof the soil, surface water, and groundwater surrounding the landfill in August 1986. The study,completed in 1987 Neyer, Tiseo, and Hindo, Ltd., was found incomplete by the MTSCC. Shortly afterwards the EPA requested that a Remedial Investigation/ Feasibility Study (RI/FS)be conducted. The RI/FS was finalized by EPA on August 23, 1990.

In May 1991, the citizens won a suit against the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs). Thejudgement stated that the PRPs were to be responsible for remediating the site (5). Theremediation is to include:

  1. Capping and grading of Sites 9 and 9a with a cap and a liner in design compliance with MSWA 641.
  2. Installation of slurry walls along the western, northern, and southern side of Site 9a.
  3. Installation of a leachate collection system throughout the site.
  4. Examination of already existing leachate collection systems to determine if they are working properly.
  5. Installation of a slurry wall along the eastern, western, and southern sides of Site 9.
  6. Performance of ground water purging in order to clean up the contaminated aquifers (on- and off-site).
  7. Construction of a treatment facility and appropriate disposal facilities.

The PRPs have since appealed the original court order and have refused to proceed with thescheduled remediation.

The EPA released a revised proposed plan of remediation focusing on the groundwateroperableunit. This Proposed Remediation Plan was presented to the community at a public meeting heldon May 6, 1991. ATSDR Headquarters and Regional staff and a MDPH representative werepresent at this meeting.

The Record of Decision for the remediation of the groundwater operable unit (OU) wassignedon August 13, 1991. Negotiations on management of clean up for this OU were suspended dueto failure of the PRPs to respond to an EPA proposal. EPA transferred the enforcement lead forthe remediation of the OU to MDNR.

In the late 1980's under the authority of the Michigan Environmental Response Act, PublicAct307 of 1982 as amended, MDPH entered into a contractual agreement with Macomb Townshipto provide municipal water connections to all homes for a distance of 1/2 mile east and west ofthe site on 24 Mile Road and all of Card Road between 23 and 24 Mile Roads.


In August 1987, ATSDR Regional Representative, Denise Jordan-Izaguirre conducted a sitevisitand attended a meeting with the community. On Wednesday, August 1, 1990, an additional sitevisit was conducted by ATSDR Headquarters Representative, Victoria Carter and RegionalRepresentative Denise Jordan-Izaguirre. Representatives of the EPA, the MDPH, the MDNR,the SMDA, and the Macomb County Health Department were also in attendance.

During the site visit, work crews were observed along Card Road installing municipal watersupply lines. Numerous residences are located adjacent to the site. These privately ownedproperties, including several farms, border all sides of the site except a portion of the south sidewhere a golf course is located. The majority of the homes are located directly north and east ofthe site along 24 Mile and Card Roads. A small cemetery is located in the northeast corner ofSite 9 in an area of higher elevation. The entrance off of 24 Mile Road is partially restricted bya gate with a lock. The remainder of the site is not restricted.

The terrain of most of Site 9 and parts of Site 9A was sparsely vegetated and several ponds ofstanding water from rain on the previous day were present. The west side of Site 9A wascovered in wetland vegetation such as cattails, willows, and tall, thick weeds. A steep, narrowtrench divides Sites 9 and 9A and provides runoff control for the central section of the landfillarea. A portion of the golf course is separated from the southern end of the landfill by McBrideDrain, grass, weeds, and trees.

The EPA gave an overview of site activities to date and reviewed options for futureremediation. During the site visit a 6,000 gallon tank truck which collects leachate from the systems threetimes a week was observed hooking up to one of the leachate collection systems. Surfaceerosion was evident along the perimeter of the landfill, but there were no signs of leachate. Adry, well formed drainage bed extended from the landfill to McBride Drain. A perimeterdrainage ditch surrounded the site and erosion channels ran along the southern side of Site 9Aand discharged into McBride Drain. [Officials from MDNR report the perimeter drainage ditchis no longer continuous. (3)] A child was observed playing around and jumping over an off-sitesection of the drain. On the southern side of the site were many deer tracks indicating thatwildlife had been in the area. Numerous clay cappings were present in this area. Thesecappings are part of the effort by the SMDA to control leachate breakouts. Site visit participantsalso observed the grassy ridge which covered the top of the slurry wall along the north side of Site 9.

The participants also met with a resident living and farming adjacent to the north side of Site9Aand the west side of Site 9. The resident showed pictures of previous leachate breakout areasand orange colored soil on his property and talked about the history of his problems with thelandfill. These problems include vehicular traffic, hunting, and illegal dumping at night due tothe site not being properly secured.

On May 6, 1991, Victoria Carter, Rosalyn Lee, and Region V Representative, DeniseJordan-Izaguirre travelled to Michigan to attend a public meeting organized by Region V EPA. AMDPH representative also attended this meeting and addressed many of the citizen's questionsand concerns. ATSDR's presence at this meeting served a dual purpose: 1) to answer anyquestions the public had on the public health assessment process and 2) to gather information oncommunity health concerns associated with the site. These concerns are incorporated into theCommunity Health Concerns Section of this public health assessment.


Demographic information on race, gender, age, household, and income is included in AppendixA. This 1990 data was obtained from the Bureau of the Census.

Macomb Township is a 36 square mile rural area approximately 17 miles north-northeast ofDetroit, Michigan. Macomb Township has experienced an annual population growth ofapproximately four to five percent in the past decade. The township is currently undergoing anannual population growth of approximately two percent. This growth may be attributed toincreases in urbanization that have occurred in the southwest area of Macomb County and to theeast in Chesterfield County. Since landfill closure, physical growth in the vicinity of the site hasbeen limited to development of a golf course in the early to mid 1980s along the southernborder of the site; and construction of several new homes since 1986. Prior to July 1986 therewere an estimated 73 residences (including several farms) within a one mile radius of the site. This estimation was based on a windshield survey by MDPH and cross referencing with listingsfrom "Bressers Cross Index Directory 1985-86." These privately owned properties border allsides of the site.

There are two elementary schools located within a two mile radius of the site. There are notanyfacilities within two miles of the site that would be occupied by persons with compromisedhealth, such as hospitals or nursing homes. The nearest hospitals are located approximately fiveor six miles southwest and south of the site in Clinton Township and Mount Clemens.

Past and present land use in the area of the site can be classified as farming, rural residential,andrecreational. Macomb County is located in a region of Michigan that was once covered byglacial lakes. The glacial history of the site area created its suitability for agricultural uses. Theprimary agricultural products in the area are vegetables, grains, and landscaping sod. One farmadjacent to the landfill produces corn, broccoli, soybeans, turnip greens, and eggplants.

The glacial lake conditions of the past created the large amounts of sand that were mined inthesite. The resulting sand pits were often filled with refuse and used as landfills, as was Site 9. There is only one landfill within two miles of SMDA Sites 9 and 9A. Macomb Countyhas 67 contaminated waste sites listed on the Michigan Environmental Response Act Inventoryof 1991. There are also two NPL sites located in Shelby Township which is located in westcentral Macomb County.

The EPA maintains the Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (TRI), a database of over 320different toxic substances released from facilities into the environment. The TRI was searchedfor additional information on the area surrounding the landfill. The closest facility reportingtoxic releases was located in the neighboring town of Mount Clemens approximately six milessouth of the site.

McBride Drain, an open channel bordering the site on the south and west, receives a portionofSite 9 and 9A runoff. Drainage from the west side of Site 9A flows into a soybean field. However, a ditch on the south side of 9A allows some drainage to McBride Drain. A swampyarea is located between the southern part of Site 9 and McBride Drain. A shallow ditch liesbetween the eastern part of Site 9 and northern part of Site 9A. A berm is located at the northernend of Site 9.

During and after site operations, the MDNR alleged that leachate had seeped into McBrideDrain. Fish kills were reported to the MDNR in 1976. McBride Drain flows south-southeastwhere it joins the northern branch of the Clinton River about one and a half miles from the site. Both McBride Drain and the North Branch of the Clinton River are used for recreational andagricultural purposes. Neither body of water has fishing restrictions imposed upon it due tochemical contamination. A farm approximately one half mile south of the site along 23 MileRoad utilizes water from McBride Drain for crop irrigation. The golf course bordering the sitealso uses water from McBride Drain for irrigation purposes. The area around the site is usedheavily by local deer hunters.

At the present time, the use of contaminated groundwater appears unlikely but cannot beruledout. In December 1991, a survey was conducted in cooperation with the MDPH and theMacomb County Department of Public Health. The survey determined that of the total numberof residences having private wells, 15 were not receiving water bills. The residences notconnected to the municipal water system were located on 23 Mile, 24 Mile, Foss and CardRoads. Sampling of these wells was conducted at frequencies varying between one month to ayear between 1982-91. Four wells on 23 Mile Road showed no detects on all sampling events. These wells are in a geographic area where impact from the site is considered highly unlikely. Ten wells on 24 Mile and Foss Roads also showed no detects on all sampling events. Thesewells are either up gradient from the site or are not expected to be impacted by the site (5a). Theone remaining residence was on 24 Mile Road and had two wells where organics such asmethylene chloride, 1,2-dichloroethane, and freon type compounds were detected. Thisresidence has since been abandoned and razed and the wells are not in use (5a, 6). Allresidences thought to be potentially impacted by the site were provided bottled water untilmunicipal water connections were made available. Those residents who continue to use privatewells are either outside of the expected impact area or do not want a municipal water connectiondue to ongoing litigation or personal reasons (5a).

Contaminants were detected in other residential wells in the vicinity (e.g. Card Road). ATSDR,however, was informed that these wells were not covered by the settlement for municipal waterhookup because it was not likely that the contamination was related to the landfill. Connectionsto municipal water was optional for these residents (4). Information provided by the MacombCounty Health Department (MCHD) indicated that the majority of wells still in use beforeMarch 1990 were crock wells. Crock wells do not meet public health codes and should not beused for drinking water (8).

At the May 1991 public meeting two individuals, living on Card and Foss Roads in residencesnot hooked up to municipal water, indicated they were receiving bottled water for drinking, butwere using well water for domestic purposes such as bathing. The individual living on FossRoad stated that he would discontinue use of bottled water for personal reasons, attach a filterand resume use of his well until he was connected to municipal water.


Health data for the vicinity of the SMDA site and for Macomb County is available from avariety of sources. The sources reviewed are:

  1. Vital Statistics Reports: These documents report the underlying cause of death by age. The National Center for Health Statistics publishes a Summary Report every year for 82 causes of death in the United States. These were available for the years 1970, 1975, 1980, and 1985. The Office of Vital and Health Statistics of the Michigan Department of Public Health provides the same information for Macomb County for 42 major causes of death.
  2. Cancer Incidence and Mortality: The Office of the State Registrar and Center for Health Statistics of the Michigan Department of Public Health provides a summary review of the information collected on cancers diagnosed among Michigan residents during 1985 through 1988 and reported by the end of 1989. This cancer registry reports cancer types for age, race, and sex.
  3. Riggins Tape: A Centers for Disease Control & Prevention database which provides a comparison of the number of deaths by a specific cancer type in a specified county and state with the number of deaths by the same cancer for the entire U.S. over a period of 30 years in 10 year increments. They are used to try to determine if a population is experiencing disease and death at a rate greater than expected.
  4. Chronic and Sentinel Disease Surveillance Hospital Discharge Data-Michigan, 1983: This study summarizes a preliminary descriptive analysis of the Michigan Inpatient Data Base and McDonnell-Douglas Hospital Information System for the State of Michigan. The analysis focuses on 1983 hospital discharge data from five Michigan counties including Macomb County.
  5. Market Profile-Macomb Township, Macomb County, 1980 Census of Population and Housing, and Population Estimates and Projections-Macomb County: These provide a summary of population characteristics specific for Macomb Township and County.
  6. Physical examination evaluation of an area resident.
  7. "Death Survey" of area residents from the years 1972-1985 conducted by two area citizens.
  8. Community consultant's review of the autopsy of an area resident.


Community health concerns associated with the site include: cases of apparent increased liverenzyme levels; the health of children; cancer deaths; general recurring health problems; loss ofanimals and stunted crops due to contamination; possible endangerment to animals livingadjacent to the site and possible exposure to contaminants during remediation activities. Citizensalso raised concerns about the lack of accurate and available information regarding site-relatedactivities.

Area residents have been concerned about contaminants from the landfill possibly causingelevated liver enzyme levels. Several residents had their liver enzyme levels tested in the early1980s.

Two residents conducted a "Death Survey" in 1986. They listed area residents who had diedbetween the years 1972 and 1985. The cause of death is indicated, including six cancer relateddeaths. Residents are troubled by the belief that contamination from the landfill may havecontributed to these deaths. In addition, the autopsy report of one resident created a controversyover the actual cause of death. Some residents suspect that landfill contamination wasresponsible for the death and sought a consultant's opinion on the pathological findings.

Citizens have documented a variety of health problems they believe may have been caused byexposure to the landfill. These include persistent colds, abnormal and prolonged swelling due toinsect stings, severe rashes with the skin falling off of one individual, ear infections, headaches,eye irritation, stiff joints, and hair loss in six people, including a three year old child. Residentsliving adjacent to the landfill who have children are concerned about their children's healthbecause access to the site is not restricted. One citizen is concerned about the worry and stressof living near the landfill.

Citizens continue to allege that leachate, which has been documented in the past asoccasionallyflowing from the landfill onto residential lawns, crops, and into basements, continues to do so. One resident says the problem is worse in the springtime due to annual flooding and has picturesdocumenting the leachate problem on his cropland from 1976 to the present. Since crops aregrown directly adjacent to the landfill, residents are concerned that contaminants may beintroduced into the food chain by the leachate. In early 1983, a local plant nursery reportedstunting of tomato plants and leaf silvering. Cadmium, thallium, and zinc were reported bycitizens to have been at elevated levels in green peppers and green tomatoes in the early 1980s.

Several calves that reportedly grazed in a leachate contaminated pasture developed abnormalgrowths on their legs which caused them to lose the ability to stand properly. The calves laterdied. Also reported were mortalities of fish and other small animals, such as dogs, cats, andducks in the site vicinity. Area citizens allege that the illnesses and deaths were caused byexposure to contaminants from the landfill.

Concerns expressed by citizens, which cannot be addressed by ATSDR include decliningproperty values, ongoing legal suits, expenses incurred to hook up to municipal water, anddisturbances caused by vehicular traffic on the site at night.

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