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Atlantic Wood Industries, Inc. (AWI), an active wood processing facility prior to August 6, 1991, islocated on the industrialized waterfront of Portsmouth, Virginia. Currently, only the storage anddistribution of wood products treated at other AWI locations occur at this site. Arsenic, benzene,pentachlorophenol (PCP), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been detected insurface and subsurface soils on the site, in groundwater, surface water, and sediments on the site,and in biota in the adjacent Elizabeth River. Approximately 13 people now work at the AWI site,and 77,000 persons live within a 4-mile radius of the site. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which islocated within 1/2 mile of the site, employs 14,000 persons. Residents of the area have notdemonstrated concern over the site per se; however, there is community concern over the possibilityof incineration as a cleanup option. The general water quality of the Elizabeth River and theChesapeake Bay has been a concern, also. Potential exposure pathways include ingestion andinhalation of contaminated soils through fugitive dusts, dermal contact with contaminated soils, andingestion of contaminated biota.

The Virginia Department of Health concludes the AWI site to be an indeterminate public healthhazard. Existing data do not indicate human exposures have occurred at levels that would beexpected to cause adverse health effects; however, data are not available for all media to whichhumans may be exposed. Site-specific health outcome data are not available. No adverse healtheffects have been reported by people in the area. Additional air sampling (on-site and off-site),surface water sampling (on-site and off-site), and biota sampling are recommended.

To determine if public health actions are needed at the site, the Agency for Toxic Substances andDisease Registry's (ATSDR) Health Activities Recommendations Panel (HARP) evaluated the dataand information developed in the Atlantic Wood Industries Public Health Assessment. No follow-up health actions are indicated at this time because there is no evidence that people have beenexposed to contaminants associated with the site at levels that may cause adverse health effects. Ifinformation becomes available indicating exposure has occurred at levels of concern, ATSDR willevaluate that information to determine what actions, if any, are necessary.

ATSDR will coordinate with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state agencies todiscuss the feasibility of implementing recommendations made in this public health assessment.


Atlantic Wood Industries, Inc. (AWI) is an active wood storage and distribution facility that hasbeen in operation since 1926. AWI was initially proposed for listing on the National PrioritiesList (NPL)(1) in 1986, and was included on the list in February 1990. The AWI facility is located onthe industrialized waterfront of Portsmouth, Virginia, and currently occupies 47.5 acres. The sitehas been used for various purposes during its history, including a possible coal tar refinery, acreosote treating plant, a PCP treating plant, and a treated lumber storage facility. The nearestresidential area is approximately 1/2 mile southwest of the site. Commercial crabbing operationsare active in the area as well. The Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation,prohibited collecting bivalve mollusks from the Elizabeth River in April 1982. Site specific healthoutcome data for this site have not been collected because no adverse health outcomes have beenidentified.


Atlantic Wood Industries, Inc. is an active wood storage and distribution facility that has been in operation since 1926. Past on-site operations included wood treatment, which ceased in 1991. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted preliminary assessments on the site in 1982 and 1983. In addition, EPA performed site investigations with limited sampling in 1984 and 1985. ATSDR conducted a Preliminary Health Assessment in December 1988. AWI was initially proposed for listing on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1986, and was finalized in February 1990. In July 1987, AWI entered into a Consent Agreement with EPA to develop a removal action workplan and to perform a removal action (Phase I). AWI conducted the Phase I Removal Sampling Investigation during July and August 1988, and the results of that investigation were submitted to EPA on August 11, 1989.

AWI also performed soils analyses to determine the level of contamination present and the extent of excavation required to achieve satisfactory remediation of the areas addressed by Phase I activities. Clean "fill" replaced excavated soils, and temporary drainage was provided while the sewer replacement was in progress. AWI also agreed to conduct a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS), and results of that study were submitted to EPA in May 1992. The RI/FS (Phase II) was initiated in January 1990. The Record of Decision (ROD), which will describe the selected remedies for cleanup, has not been signed.

The AWI facility is located on the industrialized waterfront of Portsmouth, Virginia, and currently occupies 47.5 acres. It lies on the west bank of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, approximately 7 miles upstream from the Chesapeake Bay. The eastern half of the site contains active wood processing facilities and wood storage areas, and the western half is used to store treated and untreated wood (Figure 1).

The site is bounded on the north by Elm Avenue and the United States Norfolk Naval Shipyard facilities and on the west by Virginia Power, Inc., right-of-way. To the south of the site is the south annex of the U.S. Naval Reserve Station and a maintenance building occupied by the Portsmouth City School Board. AWI is bounded on the east by the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. The site is split into eastern and western portions by the Norfolk and Portsmouth Beltline Railroad and Burtons Point Road. West of the site, just beyond the 60-foot power line right-of-way, are several closed landfills and chemical waste pits, including an underground waste oil tank. This property is owned and operated by the U.S. Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The Navy also operates a disposal landfill area south of the property owned by the Portsmouth City School Board. The Norfolk Veneer Mill (formerly the Wycoff Company) is located immediately north, across Elm Avenue from the eastern portion of the AWI facility.

The site has been used for various purposes during its history, including a possible coal tar refinery, a creosote treating plant, a PCP treating plant, and a treated lumber storage facility. Over the years, the company changed corporate names several times. Site ownership changed in 1986 when the employees of AWI purchased the operating assets of the corporation.

Creosote and PCP, both wood preservatives used by the facility, are the major raw materials from which on-site contaminants originated. PCP was used at the site from 1972-1985 and for five months during 1991. A special formulation of PCP and creosote (creo-penta) was used from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. Timber treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) was stored on-site, though this compound was not used at AWI.

The original plant was constructed in 1926 by the Savannah Creosoting Company and consisted of two of the existing four wood treatment retorts (closed cylinders), the existing office building, several existing maintenance and storage buildings, and the recently-removed, above-ground tank farm that was located adjacent to Elm Avenue. Originally, creosote was stored in four above-ground storage tanks constructed in about 1940. Tank 1 held 3.3 million liters and the remaining three each held 1.7 million liters. Prior to removal in 1985-1986, these tanks contained approximately 1.3 million liters of creosote and creosote-contaminated water, which was leaking into the storm sewer system. Since 1975, actively used creosote has been stored in smaller tanks located in the central part of the site.

From approximately 1966 until 1982, the waste from the wood treatment process was stored at the southwest corner of the property in an unlined waste lagoon . The lagoon was 17 meters wide, 45 meters long, 1.5 meters deep and held approximately 1,200 cubic meters of waste material. From 1972 to 1983, the lagoon was used to hold cuttings from the processed wood. A total of 560 cubic meters of contaminated wood chips were disposed in the waste pit. This area, termed the historical disposal area, may contain up to 20,000 cubic feet of general debris, steel bands, untreated and treated wood waste, and cylinder and tank clean-out material. The tank clean-out material may contain creosote and PCP. The lagoon was backfilled in 1983. In addition to the known on-site disposal areas and storage tanks, there is an undetermined quantity of contaminated soils in the treated-wood storage and processing areas. Other contaminated media include sediments in the storm sewer, the intertidal drainage ditch, and the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River (Figure 2).

The four tanks west of the retorts were previously associated with a tar distillation unit located east of the office building. A shallow concrete basin also was associated with the tar distillation unit. The tar distillation unit was disassembled in the 1940s, the basin was filled in, and the 4 tanks were moved to their present location.

From 1940 until about August 1985, the plant used a concrete, closed-loop recovery system located north of the retort building to recover preservative and to recycle process water. This oil/water separator was used to recover creosote preservative and process conditioning water for reuse. Until 1972, some excess process water was discharged to an area immediately south of the railroad spur that juts out into the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. When the Clean Water Act was implemented in the early 1970s, the plant was required to stop discharging effluent from the oil/water separator. At that time, a liquid incineration unit known as a "Liquidator" was constructed, and excess process water that was previously discharged through the oil/water separator into the river was incinerated. AWI stopped using the Liquidator unit in 1984.

In 1974, a closed-loop recovery system was installed to recover PCP and process conditioning water for reuse. This operation ceased in 1985 when the use of PCP was discontinued. Until the early 1970s, operations included an open steaming process (the induction of steam into the retort to heat and condition the wood). This process generated excess amounts of process water. Closed steaming (generating steam in the retort by means of steam heating coils covered with water) was instituted in the early 1970s to reduce the amount of process water generated.

Over the years, several site investigations have been conducted by AWI, the Virginia State Water Control Board, and EPA. The plant was granted an interim status permit by EPA to operate as a small quantity generator or storer of hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in November 1980. Subsequently, the permit was withdrawn at AWI's request in January 1985. Although the facility now removes its process waste to off-site, permitted waste-handling facilities, AWI has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge storm water runoff to the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River.

Although all of the contaminants detected can be associated with wood treatment processes, AWI is not the only wood treatment facility in the Portsmouth area. Other wood-treating facilities located near AWI, which handled many of the same chemicals, include Wyckoff Company, Republic Creosoting Company, Eppinger and Russel Company, and Bernuth Lembcke Company. Between 1960-1963, a fire at Eppinger and Russel caused a release of creosote into the Elizabeth River. Eppinger and Russell stopped treating wood in 1980, and Republic Creosoting stopped in 1971. Bernuth Lembcke is still handling and storing creosote. The Norfolk Veneer Mill (formerly Wyckoff Company) is located north of the AWI site across Elm Avenue. Although no wood treatment is currently performed at the mill, Wyckoff, a past owner, performed pressure treating of wood with creosote.


A site visit was conducted on September 26, 1990, by staff from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which included Dr. Peter Sherertz, Ms. Connie Webb, Mr. Stan Orchel, Jr. In addition, people from the Virginia Department of Waste Management, EPA, AWI, and Keystone Environmental Resources, Inc., consultants to AWI, toured the site. The following observations were noted:

  • A strong creosote odor was apparent on-site.

  • The site was not completely restricted; however, a guard is on duty after hours and on weekends.

  • Three storm water runoff ditches discharge to the Elizabeth River or Paradise Creek. All have oil screens. An oil sheen was observed on the water draining from the northern ditch.

  • The nearest residential area is approximately 1/2 mile southwest of the site.


According to the 1980 census, approximately 77,000 persons lived within a 4-mile radius of the AWI site. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which is located within 1/2 mile of the site, employs approximately 14,000 persons. Approximately 13 people work on the AWI site. The nearest residential area is 1/2 mile from the site.

The site is located on the waterfront in a highly industrialized area with the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Elm Avenue on the north and the U.S. Naval Reserve Station on the south. Also to the south is a parcel of land owned by the Portsmouth City School Board. West of the site, on land owned and operated by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and just beyond a 60-foot power line right-of-way, are several closed landfills and chemical waste pits, including an underground waste oil tank. The Navy also operates a disposal landfill area south of the property owned by the Portsmouth City School Board. The Norfolk Veneer Mill is located immediately north, across Elm Avenue from the eastern portion of the AWI facility.

Two separate, water-bearing zones underlie the AWI site but are not used for drinking water (salinity of the water in the area of AWI ranges from 10-22 parts per thousand). The public water supply is provided by the Portsmouth Water Company from four lakes and three deep groundwater wells located about 17 miles southwest of the site. The water company services Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk, Virginia. Chesapeake maintains an emergency water supply 7 miles from the site. The City of Norfolk uses a combination of surface water and groundwater from areas in Suffolk County located more than 3 miles from the site. A few deep (600 feet) industrial wells used for process water supplies are located within a 3-mile radius of the site.

Commercial crabbing operations are active in the area. The Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation, prohibited collecting bivalve mollusks from the Elizabeth River in April 1982. That action was based on contamination by heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and zinc. The ban covers the river and its tributaries from Craney Island at the river mouth, and includes all areas upstream.

Jones Creek is 2,500 feet from the site and Paradise Creek is approximately 3,000 feet from the site. Paradise Creek is a small tributary that flows into the Elizabeth River approximately 2,656 feet south of the treatment building.


Following consultations with state and local health officials, VDH determined that site-specific health outcome data were unavailable for AWI.


Although there has been no significant community involvement with the AWI site to date, there has been some concern voiced by an area environmental group over the possibility of using incineration as a cleanup option at the site. The St. Julians Citizens Committee has been very active, and somewhat successful, in opposition of local incineration projects. In addition, the general water quality of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay has been a concern. Many environmental groups are active in the area; however, these groups focus on larger, more regional issues such as the Chesapeake Bay quality and the Back Bay Restoration Project.

The initial draft of this document was released for public comment from October 15, 1992, through November 16, 1992. Copies of the initial draft were available to the public at the Portsmouth Public Library, 601 Court Street; the Portsmouth Health Department, 800 Crawford Parkway; and at the Portsmouth City Hall, 801 Crawford Street. Comments from Atlantic Wood Industries and the Virginia Department of Waste Management were the only ones received. Those comments and a response to the comments are in Appendix C.


The tables in this section list the contaminants of concern. VDH and ATSDR evaluate the contaminants of concern in subsequent sections of the public health assessment and determine whether exposure to them has public health significance. VDH and ATSDR select and discuss the contaminants based upon several factors, including (a) concentration of chemicals on site and off site, (b) comparison of on-site and off-site concentrations with comparison values for carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic endpoints, and (c) community health concerns.

In the data tables under On-Site Contamination and Off-Site Contamination, the fact that a contaminant is listed does not mean that it will cause adverse health effects from exposure. Instead, the list indicates which contaminants will be evaluated further in the public health assessment. When selected as a contaminant of concern in one medium, the contaminant will be reported in all media sampled.

Comparison values for public health assessments are contaminant concentrations in specific media that are used to select contaminants for further evaluation. These values include Environmental Media Evaluation Guides (EMEGs), Cancer Risk Evaluation Guides (CREGs), and other relevant guidelines. CREGs are estimated contaminant concentrations based on a one excess cancer in a million persons exposed over a lifetime (70 years). Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) represent contaminant concentrations that EPA deems protective of public health over a lifetime at an exposure rate of 2 liters of water per day. Proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels (PMCLs) are MCLs that are being proposed by EPA. MCLs and PMCLs consider factors such as the technology available to achieve that concentration as well as health issues.


The activities at AWI have resulted in on-site contamination of air, the surface and subsurface soils, groundwater, and surface (storm) water. Elevated concentrations of pentachlorophenol (PCP) and creosote constituents (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs) have been detected in surface and subsurface soils at the site. Arsenic was also detected above background levels in soils in the area. PCP, creosote constituents, benzene, and arsenic were detected in concentrations above comparison values in groundwater. According to the September 1991 RI report, primary sources of the on-site contamination are the filled waste lagoon areas, the treated wood storage area, and the wood treatment and processing area (Figure 2). The RI indicated that contamination of soil, groundwater, and sediment has been observed in all areas of the site. Each table (1 - 4) presents a list of the contaminants of concern detected in a different medium: surface and subsurface soil, groundwater, sediments, and surface water.


EPA conducted air sampling investigations on the AWI site on July 18 and 19, 1985. Fifty-eight air samples from 11 stations were collected during that period. The data showed naphthalene levels at 6 parts per billion (ppb) along the northern property boundary and at 62 ppb along the southern property boundary. (Those concentrations are below 800 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), Virginia's criteria for acceptable ambient air concentration.) According to EPA, off-site migration of naphthalene occurred on July 19, 1985. The northeast storm water discharge trench, storage pit, working pressure tanks, and wood storage pile located on site were considered sources for on-site air pollution. Only one sample set was taken; no confirmation samples were collected to determine if the higher naphthalene level at the southern boundary was accurate. No recent air monitoring data are available. No data are available on other contaminants in air.

Air was not investigated as a part of the 1991 RI. The Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (TRI) for 1987, 1988, and 1989 lists total air releases by AWI for three chemicals: anthracene 62 lbs/year (1987), 71 lbs/year (1988), and 3 lbs/year (1989); dibenzofuran 165 lbs/year (1987), 143 lbs/year (1988), and 66 lbs/year (1989); and naphthalene 1,385 lbs/year (1987), 438 lbs/year (1988), and 558 lbs/year (1989).


The site was divided into nine sections in the RI work plan for the purpose of collecting surface and subsurface soil samples during the RI. The samples were not randomly distributed, but were focused on areas where constituent concentrations were suspected to be elevated. Surface and subsurface soil samples taken on-site in 1989 contained arsenic, benzene, PCP, and PAHs, such as benz(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, chrysene, dibenz(a,h)anthracene, and indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene. Results are presented in Table 1.

PAHs and PCP were detected in surface and subsurface soils in all nine areas of the site. High concentrations of PAHs were reported in subsurface soil in the wood-treatment area [2,400 mg/kg benzo(a)anthracene] and Area 9. The maximum concentration of total PAHs (range of 7,253 micrograms per kilograms [µg/kg] to 13,254,000 µg/kg) was observed in the wood-treatment area subsurface soil. The maximum concentrations of PAHs in surface soil were 1,600 mg/kg for both benzo(b)fluoranthene and benzo(k)fluoranthene. The highest levels of PCP were detected in Area 9. The concentrations of PCP were higher in surface soil than in the subsurface soil on-site. The maximum soil concentration for PCP (970 mg/kg) is much higher than the comparison value. Benzene levels were higher in the subsurface soil than in the surface soil.

Concentrations of arsenic were higher in the surface soil compared to the subsurface soil. Arsenic concentrations were highest in the wood-storage area. The maximum concentration of arsenic (495 mg/kg) exceeded comparison values and background arsenic concentrations for soils (< 73 mg/kg) in the eastern portion of the U.S. (9).


On-site groundwater was sampled from April 1989 through February 1990. There are 42 monitoring wells on-site. Thirty-nine shallow wells were installed to monitor the uppermost aquifer (Columbia), and three wells were installed to monitor the underlying, deeper Yorktown-Eastover Aquifer. Some of these wells were installed and sampled prior to conducting the RI. The 1991 RI indicated the absence of an upgradient well for the site. This was because groundwater flow direction varies in different areas of the site. The most recent RI data indicate that groundwater contamination occurs at the site. Results are presented in Table 2.

Data show that PCP and PAH contamination is confined to the Columbia Aquifer. None of those contaminants were detected in any of the wells monitoring the Yorktown-Eastover Aquifer. Elevated levels of PCP and PAHs were found in monitoring wells around the wood treatment area. Benzene was detected in both the Columbia Aquifer (maximum 58 micrograms per liter [µg/L]) and the Yorktown-Eastover Aquifer (maximum 5 µg/L). Arsenic contamination was detected in both the Columbia Aquifer (876 µg/L) and Yorktown-Eastover Aquifer (12.8 µg/L). One of the four wells (107 µg/L) is adjacent to Navy property; the others are all located in the western portion of the site. In general, arsenic concentrations were found to be more elevated in those wells within the western portion of the site and may reflect the presence of CCA-treated wood storage within this area of the property. Arsenic concentrations in the three wells in the western portion of the site were 84.8 µg/L, 119 µg/L, and 876 µg/L.

Surface Water and Sediment

The AWI site lies on the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. The Elizabeth River system has three main branches which empty into the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay. This river is known to be a very polluted waterway. Numerous studies have been conducted during the last decade that have shown significant water and sediment pollution, including PAH contamination associated with wood treatment, increasing abnormalities in fish, and bioaccumulation in some shellfish. According to a 1983 report, the river receives permitted discharges from at least 48 industrial outfalls and 15 domestic outfalls, in addition to significant uncontrolled runoff from the heavily urbanized and industrialized drainage basin.

The primary surface water bodies on-site are three storm water collection ditches, an inlet receiving storm water discharge from NPDES Outfall-002, and storm water runoff from Outfalls 001 and 003 (Figure 2).


Table 1 (11).

Contaminants of Concern Detected in Soil at the Atlantic Wood Industries Site1
  Maximum Concentrations (ppm)2 Comparison Values (ppm)

Chemical Surface Subsurface Comparison Value Source3

Benzene 0.03 0.14 20 CREG
Benz(a)anthracene5 890.0 2,400.0 NA  
Benzo(a)pyrene5 840.0 5,200.0 0.1 CREG
Benzo(b)fluoranthene5 1,600.0 3,600.0  
Benzo(k)fluoranthene5 1,600.0 3,600.0 NA  
Chrysene5 1,100.0 5,800.0 NA  
Dibenz(a,h)anthracene5 130.0 800.0 NA  
Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene5 380.0 2,600.0 NA  
Pentachlorophenol 970.0 290.0 6 CREG
Arsenic 495.0 445.0 0.4 CREG

1 Data obtained from 1991 RI report
2 ppm = parts per million
3 Source = Source of Comparison Values; See Glossary
4 NA = not available
5 Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); probable human carcinogens

Table 2 (11.

Contaminants of Concern Detected in Groundwater at the Atlantic Wood Industries Site1
  Maximum Concentrations (ppb)2 Comparison Values (ppb)

Chemical Concentration Comparison Value Source3

Benzene 58.0 1.0 CREG
Benz(a)anthracene4 260.0 0.1 MCL
Benzo(a)pyrene4 130.0 >0.005 CREG
Benzo(b)fluoranthene4 200.0 0.2 PMCL
Benzo(k)fluoranthene4 95.0 0.2 PMCL
Chrysene4 220.0 0.2 PMCL
Dibenz(a,h)anthracene4 ND5 0.3 PMCL
Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene4 40.0 0.4 PMCL
Pentachlorophenol 1,300.0 0.3 CREG
Arsenic 876.0 0.02 CREG

1 Data obtained from 1991 RI report
2 ppb = parts per billion
3 Source = Source of Comparison Values; See Glossary
4 Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); probable human carcinogens
5 ND = not detected

Table 3 (11) Contaminants of Concern Detected in Sediments at the Atlantic Wood Industries Site1

  Maximum Concentrations (ppm)2 Comparison Values (ppm)

Chemical On-site Off-site Comparison Value Source3

Benzene ND4 ND 20 CREG
Benz(a)anthracene6 290 1,500 NA  
Benzo(a)pyrene6 210 630 0.1 CREG
Benzo(b)fluoranthene6 220 1,600 NA  
Benzo(k)fluoranthene6 310 1,600 NA  
Chrysene6 320 2,000 NA  
Dibenz(a,h)anthracene6 35 110 NA  
Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene6 84 210 NA  
Pentachlorophenol 12 ND 6 CREG
Arsenic 364 ND 0.4 CREG

1 Data obtained from the 1991 RI report
2 ppm = parts per million
3 Source = Source of Comparison Value; See Glossary
4 ND = not detected
5 NA = not available
6 Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); probable human carcinogens

Table 4 (11).

Contaminants of Concern Detected in Surface Water at the Atlantic Wood Industries Site1
  Maximum Concentrations (ppb)2 Comparison Values (ppb)

Chemical Concentration Comparison Value Source3

Benzene NT4 1.0 CREG
Benz(a)anthracene5 30 0.1 MCL
Benzo(a)pyrene5 NT 0.005 CREG
Benzo(b)fluoranthene5 NT 0.2 PMCL
Benzo(k)fluoranthene5 NT 0.2 PMCL
Chrysene5 100 0.2 PMCL
Dibenz(a,h)anthracene5 NT 0.3 PMCL
Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene5 NT 0.4 PMCL
Pentachlorophenol 410 0.3 CREG
Arsenic 90 0.02 CREG

1 Data obtained from 1991 RI report; samples taken from outfalls between March 1986 and October 1989
2 ppb = parts per billion
3 Source = Source of Comparison Value; See Glossary
4 NT = samples not tested for the chemical
5 Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); probable human carcinogens

As a part of the NPDES permit, surface water samples from outfalls were collected between March1986 and October 1989. Results are presented in Table 4. No on-site surface water samples werecollected as a part of the RI. The on-site, NPDES surface water sampling data indicated thepresence of benz(a)anthracene, chrysene, PCP, and arsenic.

As a part of the RI, on-site and off-site sediment sampling was conducted in August and September1989. Sediment samples taken at on-site locations showed higher levels of PCP and arseniccontamination than off-site locations. Benzene was not detected in any of the sediment samples. Allother contaminants of concern (Table 3) were detected in sediment samples taken at on-site or off-site locations.

Non-Soil Materials

As stated in the RI, the non-soil materials present on the site were dense non-aqueous phase liquid(DNAPL) present in groundwater monitoring wells, acetylene sludge (predominantly calciumhydroxide), Black Beauty sand blasting grit, and red ballast stone. Except for the DNAPL, all othernon-soil materials present on the site have been considered unrelated to site activities.

Acetylene sludge and Black Beauty sand blasting grit have been reported to be associated withactivities at the adjacent Norfolk Naval Shipyard (8). The DNAPL was composed of woodpreserving constituents. A sample taken from groundwater monitoring well-117 in July 1989contained indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene at 3,600 mg/L. All other contaminants of concern, exceptbenzene and PCP, were present in the DNAPL, but their concentrations were estimated.


Surface Water and Sediment

The off-site sediment sampling, as a part of the RI, included the collection of sediment samples inthe Elizabeth River. Sediment samples were taken in 1989 from locations upriver, adjacent to, anddownriver from the AWI site (Table 3). The concentrations of all PAHs reported at upriversampling locations were found to be higher than those at the downriver sampling locations. Thismay be influenced by the tidal action of the river. Also, four additional wood treatment facilities arelocated upstream of the AWI site: Eppinger and Russel Company (1905 - 1980), RepublicCreosoting Company (1933 - 1972), Wyckoff Company (closed, no dates available), and BernuthLembcke Company (active). During the above sampling episode, sediment samples were not testedfor benzene or arsenic.


In 1984, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science sampled oysters from the Elizabeth River. Themajor contaminants detected were PAHs. Oysters sampled close to the AWI site showed highconcentrations of total PAHs (60.2 mg/kg dry weight maximum). The harvesting of bivalvemollusks for human consumption has been banned in the Elizabeth River by the VDH Division ofShellfish Sanitation since 1982.

To measure bioavailability of PAHs in the Elizabeth River, bioaccumulation of total PAH wasmeasured in oysters transplanted to five stations along the Elizabeth River, including one stationnear AWI (station 17), one station 2 km upstream (station 19), and one station 5 km downstream(station 12) (6). The highest concentrations of total PAH were found in oysters near AWI (Table 5). Huggett and coworkers found that the highest levels of PAH in sediments were located 2 kmupstream from AWI suggesting that current releases may be the source of the highest residue levelsin oysters. In the same study, fish collected from the Elizabeth River show reduced abundance(reduced total biomass, total number of individuals, and abundance of selected species) andincreased prevalence of several gross abnormalities that correlate with both PAH contamination inthe sediments and proximity to the wood treatment facilities. Abnormalities observed include fin erosion in hogchoker and toadfish, and cataracts in spot, gray trout and croakers (6).

Table 5 (6).

Total PAH Concentrations (mg/kg dry weight)1
Measured in Oysters Transplanted to the South Branch of the Elizabeth River
(Huggett et al., 1987)
Station Exposure in Weeks
  1 2 4 6 9

7 1.9 6.1 - 6.8 13.9
12 5.5 7.4 16.2 8.8 20.5
17 27.0 31.0 57.3 31.8 60.2
19 19.3 25.7 25.8 22.5 36.3
24 3.2 7.8 11.7 7.0 16.5

1 mg/kg dry weight = milligrams per kilogram in dry weight
samples = parts per million (ppm) in dry weight samples


Contaminant concentrations considered for this public health assessment were derived frominformation supplied by EPA. A majority of the samples were analyzed as per the EPA contractlaboratory program, which uses mandated Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC)programs for review and reporting of data prior to publication. The quality of the data available foron-site contamination of soil and groundwater media is considered adequate for this public healthassessment. VDH and ATSDR further assume QA/QC measures were taken with regard tocollection of samples, chain-of-custody, and laboratory procedures. The selection of analyticalprocedures required for the analyses of the wide range of contaminants present at the AWI site is apractical problem. Since the conclusions made in this assessment are based on the informationprovided, their accuracy is directly related to the reliability of the referenced information.


Because AWI is an active wood storage and distribution facility, there are a number of associatedphysical hazards. These include large piles of wood products in various stages of treatment, openditches and open pipes, and several sheds on the back of the site that are in disrepair. There aresmall piles of building debris near the ditches. The site is not fenced, although a guard is on duty after working hours and on weekends.


This section addresses the pathways by which human populations in the area surrounding the sitecould be exposed to contaminants at, or migrating from, the site. If it is determined that exposure tochemicals not related to the site is also a concern, these pathways will be evaluated as well. When achemical is released into the environment, the release does not always lead to an exposure. Exposure only occurs when a chemical comes into contact with and enters the body. In order for achemical to pose a health risk, a complete exposure pathway must exist. A complete exposurepathway consists of five elements: 1) a source and a mechanism of chemical release to theenvironment; 2) transport through an environmental medium (e.g., air, soil, water); 3) a point ofhuman contact with the contaminated medium (known as the exposure point); 4) an exposure route(e.g., inhalation, dermal absorption, ingestion) at the exposure point; and 5) a human population atthe exposure point.

Exposure pathways are classified as either completed, potential, or eliminated. Completed exposurepathways exist when all five elements are present. Potential exposure pathways are either: 1) notcurrently complete, but could become complete in the future, or 2) are possible, but informationneeded to confirm the pathway is missing. Pathways are eliminated from further assessment if theyare determined to be unlikely to occur because a pathway element is missing and will never bepresent.

A time frame given for each pathway indicates whether the exposure occurred in the past, isoccurring, or will occur in the future. For example, a completed pathway with only a past timeframe indicates that exposure did occur in the past, but does not currently exist and will not exist inthe future. Human exposure pathways are evaluated for each environmental medium possiblyimpacted by site-related chemicals. The toxicological implications of the various exposurepathways identified as being of concern will be evaluated in the Public Health Implications section.

Completed Pathways


Past processes and waste handling practices at the site resulted in surface soil contamination withbenzene, PAHs, PCP, and arsenic. On-site workers, visitors, and trespassers are exposed tocontaminants in surface soils through dermal contact, incidental ingestion of particulates, andinhalation of airborne particulates and volatile compounds. Surface contaminants can betransported off the site to nearby areas where workers at facilities close to the site can be exposed,primarily, through inhalation of airborne particulates and volatiles and through incidental ingestionof particulates in the air or that are deposited on the ground. The levels of contaminants in soilsavailable to people off site are much less than those on site because of dispersion by the wind andvegetation that captures the soil particles.

Currently, the facility employs 13 people, four of whom are truck drivers that go on and off the site. The area around the site is highly industrialized with no private residences closer than 1/2 mile. Noinformation was gathered on the number of nearby workers who are outside most of the work dayand would more likely be exposed to migrating contaminants than residents who live 1/2 mile ormore from the site.

Potential Exposure Pathways


Past processes and waste disposal practices at the site have resulted in contamination of subsurfacesoils. Remedial workers or workers who dig through the surface soil to subsurface soils may comeinto contact with contaminants if they are not adequately protected during those types of operations. Any remediation plans require descriptions of measures to be taken to protect workers; therefore,contact with subsurface soil contaminants is not likely to result in a completed exposure pathway. However, workers who have worked at the site in the past may have been exposed to subsurface soilcontaminants through dermal contact, incidental ingestion, and inhalation of airborne particulatesand volatile compounds.


Past processes and waste disposal practices at the site have resulted in contamination of groundwateron the site and migration of contaminants in groundwater off the site. On-site and downgradientgroundwater is not used for drinking water in the vicinity of the site. However, some deep,industrial wells are used for processing water within 3 miles of the site. No water samples fromthose wells have been analyzed for possible site-related contaminants, and no information isavailable on whether the water is used only for non-contact processes or if workers actually comeinto contact with the water. Monitoring wells in the deep aquifer, which is tapped for those wells,have been tested and found to contain up to 5 µg/L benzene and up to 12.8 µg/L arsenic. Bothvalues are above comparison values for drinking water. Workers who use the industrial well watermay come into contact with contaminants through dermal contact, ingestion (if the well water isused for drinking water), and inhalation of volatile compounds. The total number of people whocome into contact with industrial well water is not known.

The availability of public water supplies in the area makes it unlikely that residential wells may bedrilled for future use in the area. Industrial wells are more likely to be drilled for future use asprocess water supplies. If wells are drilled into contaminated groundwater, workers could beexposed to contaminants as previously described.

Surface Water and Sediment

The Elizabeth River, and its tributaries in the areas at and near the site, have become contaminatedby the site as a result of surface runoff and groundwater discharge. Contaminants either settle in thesediment or remain suspended in the water column. The site is only one contributor to thecontamination that is in the river. The area is highly industrialized, and most of those industrieshave contributed to the contamination, either now or in the past. The surface waters at and near thesite are not used recreationally. However, some occasional use of the water by fishermen mayoccur. Although contact with the water and sediments is likely to be minimal, people who areunaware of the shellfish collection ban or who do fish in contaminated areas may contactcontaminated water and sediments. Exposures would primarily occur through dermal contact withsome inhalation of volatile compounds. Incidental ingestion of contaminants in the surface waterand sediments would be unlikely or very minimal.


Shellfish and fin fish in the industrialized area of the Elizabeth River contain contaminantsassociated with wood treating processes such as those that once were conducted at the site and othernearby facilities. Shellfish have been collected and analyzed for PAHs. Some types of fin fishcollected in the industrialized area of the river where PAHs were high in sediments had physicalabnormalities that indicate the fish are affected by the pollution. If people consume contaminatedshellfish and fin fish, those people may also consume the contaminants in the animals. The ban onshellfish collection in the area should reduce the number of people who may be exposed tocontaminants through consumption of shellfish. However, some people may be unaware of the banor may collect and consume fin fish. No estimate can be made of people who may fish the area.


Airborne particulates and volatile compounds in soils and volatile compounds in groundwater thatmay result in exposures were discussed in previous subsections of the Pathways Analysis section. Sources of potential contaminant release to the air at the site have been identified, but limitedsampling has not identified any contaminants present at levels of concern. The limited sampling did not test for all contaminants released as reported in TRI data.



In this section, VDH and ATSDR discuss health effects that could result from exposures to sitecontaminants. People can only be exposed to a site contaminant if they come in contact with it. People can be exposed by breathing the contaminants, eating or drinking the contaminants, or bycontacting (skin) contaminants present in air, water, soil, or biota (fish and shellfish, in thisinstance).

In order to understand health effects that may be caused by a specific contaminant, a review offactors related to how the human body processes the chemical after exposure is helpful. Thosefactors include the exposure concentration (level), the duration of exposure (how long), the route ofexposure (breathing, eating, drinking, or skin contact), the chemical availability, and the multiplicityof exposure (combination of contaminants). Once exposure occurs, individual characteristics suchas age, sex, nutritional status, health status, lifestyle, and genetics influence how the chemical isabsorbed, distributed, metabolized (processed), and excreted (eliminated). Together, those factorsdetermine health effects that exposed people may have.

To determine the possible health effects of specific chemicals, VDH and ATSDR search scientificliterature. That information is compiled and published in a series of chemical-specific ATSDRdocuments called Toxicological Profiles. Toxicological Profiles are references that describeadverse health effects that could be associated with exposure to a specific chemical in theenvironment. In addition, they include health guidelines such as ATSDR's minimal risk levels(MRLs) and EPA's reference doses (RfDs), reference concentrations (RfCs), and cancer slopefactors (CSFs). VDH and ATSDR compare contaminant concentrations in different environmentalmedia (soil, air, water, and food) that populations may be exposed to daily to a variety of thosehealth guidelines. That comparison will help assess whether exposure to given levels ofcontaminants is likely to cause an increased risk of developing cancer and/or non-cancerous adversehealth effects.

ATSDR's estimation of human exposure to contaminated media uses media-specific rates for adultsand children. The rates are calculated by multiplying contaminant concentration by the ingestionrate for an adult or a child, then dividing that number by the appropriate standard body weight (70kg for adults, 16 kg for a child). The water ingestion rates used for adults and children are 2.0L/day for adults and 1.0 L/day for children. ATSDR uses an inhalation rate of 23 cubic meters perday (m3/day) for adults and 15 m3/day for children. Some exposures occur on an intermittent orirregular basis; in those cases, an exposure factor (EF) is calculated that averages the dose over theexposure period.

The maximum contaminant concentration detected in a particular medium is used to determineestimated exposure. Using the maximum concentration results in an evaluation that, although maybe an overestimate, is protective of public health under worse-case conditions.

The following toxicological summaries provide a broad, qualitative assessment of public health risksassociated with exposures to the contaminants identified in the one completed exposure pathway,exposures to contaminants in surface soil.

Past and present on-site workers are or have been exposed to contaminants in surface soils. Off-siteworkers may have been exposed to lower levels of the surface soil contaminants as wind has blownparticulates off site. Surface soils contain benzene, PAHs, PCP, and arsenic. Benzene does notexceed the comparison value for soil; exposure to benzene in soil is not expected to result in anycancerous or non-cancerous adverse health effects and will not be discussed further. Shouldexposure to benzene and other contaminants in groundwater be confirmed, ATSDR will reevaluatethose exposures. PAHs, PCP, and arsenic are present in surface soils above comparison values, andexposures to those will be evaluated in the following discussions.


Arsenic is a naturally occurring element and is also used in processes used to treat lumber. Arseniccompounds were not used for treating lumber at the site, but arsenic-compound treated lumber isstored at the site. On-site workers have been and are exposed to arsenic in surface soil throughdermal contact, incidental ingestion, and inhalation of airborne particulates. Arsenic has beendetected in surface soils at a maximum of 495 ppm. In determining whether or not adverse healtheffects may be expected from incidental ingestion of arsenic, VDH and ATSDR assumes thatworkers are exposed 5 days a week, 50 weeks per year, for 30 years.

Arsenic may enter the body by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Most ingested arsenic isquickly absorbed through the stomach and intestine and enters the bloodstream; however, this variessomewhat for different chemical forms of arsenic. The amount of arsenic intake required to causeharmful effects in humans depends on the chemical and physical form of the arsenic. In general,inorganic forms of arsenic are more toxic than organic forms, and forms that dissolve easily in water(soluble forms of arsenic) tend to be more toxic than those that dissolve poorly in water. Also,toxicity depends somewhat on the electric charge (the oxidation state or valence) of the arsenic (1). For this site, the form in which arsenic exists is inorganic (11). Most arsenic that is absorbed intothe body is converted by the liver to a less toxic form that is efficiently excreted in the urine. Consequently, arsenic does not have a strong tendency to accumulate in the body except atcontinued high exposure levels (1).

Studies in humans indicate that there is considerable variation in effects from arsenic amongindividuals, and it is difficult to identify, with certainty, the exposure ranges of concern. Forexample, some humans can ingest over 150 micrograms of arsenic per kilogram body weight perday (g/kg/day) of soluble forms of inorganic arsenic without apparent ill effects. However, moresensitive individuals in exposed populations often begin to display one or more of the characteristicsigns of arsenic toxicity (stomach and digestive irritation, low red blood cell count, disturbances ofthe nervous system, skin lesions, blood vessel lesions, and liver or kidney injury) at oral doses of 20g/kg/day. Effects are usually mild at this exposure level, becoming more severe as doses increase. Doses of 600 to 700 g/kg/day (around 50,000 g/day in an adult) have caused death in some cases(1). When exposure is from ingestion of contaminated water, concentrations of 100 to 200micrograms per liter (g/L) do not seem to produce significant non-cancer health risks, while typicalsigns of arsenic toxicity have been reported in several populations with drinking water containing400 g/L or more of arsenic (1). The levels of arsenic that most people ingest in food or water(around 50 g/day) usually are not considered to be a health concern. Incidental ingestion orinhalation of the maximum amount of arsenic detected on site under the conditions described are notlikely to result in non-cancerous adverse health effects (1).

Small amounts of arsenic may enter the body through the skin. Direct skin contact with arseniccompounds can cause mild-to-severe skin irritation, but no reliable dose estimates are available onthe exposure levels at which these effects appear (1). Because the levels of arsenic that can causeskin irritations are not known, constant contact with the maximum detected level of arsenic at thesite may result in some skin irritation in sensitive individuals. However, workers are not likely to bein constant contact with maximum levels.

EPA has determined arsenic is a Class A human carcinogen because enough human data areavailable to indicate oral and inhalation exposures do cause cancer (1). Dermal exposure to arsenichas not been shown to cause cancer. Also, the National Toxicology Program has classified arsenicas a known carcinogen through the oral and inhalation routes. Workers exposed to the highestamount of arsenic detected on site through incidental ingestion and inhalation are at a moderateincreased risk of developing cancer under the assumed conditions and if protective equipment is notused. The risk may be somewhat greater for workers who have additional sources of arsenicexposure such as through smoking (1).

Seafood is a natural dietary source of arsenic for people. However, arsenic levels have not beentested in fish and shellfish near the site to determine if levels are higher than normal levels. Peoplewho ignore the shellfish ban and eat fish and shellfish caught in the river near the industrialized areamay be exposed to higher levels of arsenic from the food than under normal conditions. Moreinformation would be needed to adequately assess whether or not those exposures could causeadverse health effects.

Pentachlorophenol (PCP)

Surface soil at the site is contaminated with PCP because of past processes and waste handling at thesite. On-site workers are exposed to PCP in surface soils through dermal contact, incidentalingestion, and inhalation of airborne particles. The maximum amount of PCP detected in surfacesoil on site is 970 ppm (11). Nearby off-site workers may be exposed to much lower amountsbecause of migration of contaminated dusts to nearby areas.

The major target organs for both humans and animals are the liver and the kidney. The centralnervous system (CNS) and the immune system also appear to be affected by PCP exposure. Absorption is predominantly through the skin and/or respiratory system, although ingestion is alsopossible. People are generally exposed to technical grade PCP, which usually contains such toxicimpurities as polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans. Animal studies with bothtechnical and purified PCP have demonstrated that many, but not all, of the toxic effects attributed toPCP are actually due to the impurities (4). Under the assumptions previously made for arsenicexposure and on the assumption that exposure is to PCP and not impurities found in PCP, on-siteworkers are not expected to receive a daily dose of PCP that would likely result in non-cancerousadverse health effects (4).

EPA classifies PCP as a Class B2 (probable) carcinogen (4). An increased incidence of liver andspleen cancer has been shown in laboratory animals exposed to large concentrations of PCP (4). Workers who are exposed daily to PCP at the maximum levels detected on the site may have a slightincreased risk of developing cancer under the assumed conditions and if protective equipment is notused.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Surface soils are contaminated with PAHs at the site because of past processes and past wastedisposal activities. Also, PAHs are a group of chemicals that are formed by the incomplete burningof coal, oil, gas, garbage, tobacco, or almost any other organic substance. Natural sources includeforest fires and volcanoes. Consequently, PAHs occur naturally throughout the environment in thesoil and other environmental media (3). On-site workers are exposed to PAHs in surface soilsthrough dermal contact, incidental ingestion, and inhalation of airborne particles. PAHs found at thesite include benz(a)anthracene (890 mg/kg), benzo(a)pyrene (840 mg/kg), benzo(b)fluoranthene(1,600 mg/kg), benzo(k)fluoranthene (1,600 mg/kg), chrysene (1,100 mg/kg),dibenz(a,h)anthracene (130 mg/kg), and indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene (380 mg/kg). Nearby off-siteworkers may be exposed to much lower site-related amounts because of migration of contaminateddusts to nearby areas.

Reproductive effects have occurred in animals that were fed certain PAHs. Long-term ingestion ofPAHs in food has resulted in adverse effects on the liver and blood in mice. Those effects may alsooccur in humans, but there is no experimental evidence to substantiate that (3). No information isavailable from human studies to determine what non-cancerous adverse health effects, if any, mayresult from exposure to specific levels of the individual PAHs, although inhalation and skinexposures to mixtures containing PAHs have been associated with cancer in humans. The levels andlengths of exposure to the individual PAHs that affect human health cannot be determined from thehuman studies available (3). Therefore, evaluation of non-cancer adverse health effects that mayresult from exposure cannot be done.

EPA classifies a small group of PAHs as B2 (probable) carcinogens (3). Several PAHs, those listedas present in surface soils at the site, have caused cancer in laboratory animals through ingestion,skin contact, and inhalation. Reports from human studies show that individuals exposed to mixturesof other compounds and PAHs by breathing or through skin contact for a long period of time canalso develop cancer (3). Exposure to the PAHs found in surface soils at the site may result in amoderate increased risk of developing cancer under the assumed conditions and if protectiveequipment is not used. People who are exposed to PAHs at the site and are also exposed throughother sources such as smoking may be at higher risk of developing cancer than those who do notsmoke or come into contact with high levels of PAHs through other sources (3).


No adverse health outcomes have been reported as a result of exposure to site contaminants. Therefore, no health outcome databases have been evaluated.

C. Community Concerns Evaluation

Community members are concerned about the possibility of use of incineration as a remedial alternative.

No Record of Decision has been signed; therefore, the remedial alternative(s) have not been selected. If incineration is a selected remedy, the community will have an opportunity to present its concernsto EPA and to ATSDR before the decision becomes final. At that time, ATSDR can review theproposal to determine if the selected remedy, whether it is incineration or another remedy, isprotective of public health. EPA considers community concerns when selecting the final remedy.

Community members are concerned about the water quality of the Southern Branch of theElizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay.

The highly industrialized areas have caused depletion of water quality of the those bodies of waterbecause of discharges of treated and untreated wastes through the years. Today, science andindustry know more about what does impact water quality, and efforts are being made to improvethe water quality in Virginia and all over the country. Cleanup takes a long time, and sometimesprogress is slow. Problems are being identified and solutions are being implemented. In the meantime, people should heed warnings about consuming shellfish and fish as they are issued, peopleshould not use undesignated areas for recreation, and people should report to state authorities orEPA any activities that appear to be contributing to the pollution.

Other comments were received during the public comment period for this public health assessment. Those comments, and a response to those comments, appear in Appendix C.

1. Words appearing in bold are defined in the Glossary of this public health assessment.

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