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In 1996, community members petitioned the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR) expressing concern about the incidence of cancer, lupus, and respiratory illness in theircommunity and the fact that hazardous waste is stored and burned as fuel in an energy recoveryprocess at the Virginia Solite facility in Cascade, Virginia [1]. To assess whether operations atVirginia Solite release chemical pollutants into the ambient air that might be related to adversehealth effects in the surrounding communities, ATSDR consulted with local, state, and federalagencies to identify relevant environmental and health data.

Virginia Solite is located in Cascade, Virginia, but straddles the border of North Carolina. Since1973, Virginia Solite has used industrial waste as fuel to fire kilns in the production of lightweightaggregate. The kilns use flammable liquid wastes, including paints, thinners, waste petroleumproducts, and waste solvents. Emission byproducts of this process include organic compounds,metals, particulates, and dioxins/furans.

Virginia Solite has been regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)Boilers and Industrial Furnaces (BIF) rule since the regulation for burning hazardous waste becameeffective in 1991. Since 1991, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ)performs facility inspections to assess facility operations. In addition, the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA) has conducted several inspections that included sampling of waste feeds. No known spills or uncontrolled releases are reported to have occurred from the facility since 1991.Airborne emissions levels from the plant prior to 1991 are not known or documented.

ATSDR identified very little environmental sampling data. No ambient air quality data are availablein the vicinity of the facility. A Virginia Solite independent contractor performed a stack emissioncompliance test in June 1992 that detected metal emissions below interim status limits. Kilns 1,2and 4 were retested in 1995, and kiln 3, originally tested in 1993, was retested in 1996. VirginiaSolite performed a voluntary dioxins and furans emissions test in 1993. The most potent form ofdioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), was not detected.

In response to community concerns, cancer incidence and cancer mortality studies were performed inCascade, Virginia and Ruffin, Pelham, and Eden, North Carolina. No increased incidence of canceror cancer mortality was indicated in any of these studies.

Due to the lack of environmental data from the first two decades of plant operations, ATSDR couldnot determine the public health hazard associated with air emissions from Virginia Solite in the past. ATSDR could not determine the public health hazard associated with air emissions from VirginiaSolite because ATSDR does not have all of the appropriate emission data for the facility. Inaddition, no ambient air quality data are available to estimate exposure levels for nearbycommunities. However, the facility has maintained compliance with state and federal airregulations. ATSDR classifies the Virginia Solite facility as an indeterminate public health hazard.

ATSDR released this document for public review and comment from September 30, 1998 throughNovember 15, 1998. ATSDR did not receive comments from the public during this time. ATSDRdid receive comments from Oldover Corporation related to the facility processes. ATSDR updated the text of this document as appropriate.


The purpose of this public health assessment is to serve as the Agency for Toxic Substances andDisease Registry's (ATSDR) initial evaluation of public health issues associated with the VirginiaSolite facility in Cascade, Virginia. In 1996, four community members petitioned ATSDR for apublic health assessment of the Virginia Solite facility and expressed their concerns about theincidence of cancer, lupus, and respiratory illness, including asthma and emphysema, in theircommunity and the fact that hazardous waste is stored and burned as fuel at the facility [1]. Community members living near the Virginia Solite facility expressed the following healthconcerns:

  • In February 1996, a community member provided ATSDR with a list of more than 100cancer and lupus cases in Cascade, Virginia, and nearby Eden, North Carolina. The list was developed from information gathered from two church groups.
  • The incidence of disease reported by the petitioners occurs in greater concentration to thenorth-northeast of the facility.
  • A petitioner reported seeing a bluish-gray emission coming from Virginia Solite stacks onFebruary 21, 1996. The petitioner indicated that the plumes were also visible on March 2,1996, and March 4, 1996.
  • A petitioner stated that a substance resembling black ash covered his/her deck and yard (datenot specified by the petitioner).

The ATSDR site team assigned to the Virginia Solite facility prepared this public health assessment to communicate its initial evaluation of public health issues of the facility to community members, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ), and the Virginia Department of Health.


A. Site Description and History

Virginia Solite (Solite) straddles the North Carolina border and lies in Cascade, Pittsylvania County,Virginia and Rockingham County, North Carolina (Figures 1 and 2, Appendix A). The processoperations and storage facilities are located in Virginia while the plant's quarry operations arelocated in North Carolina. Since 1973, the Solite facility has used industrial waste to fire kilns in theproduction of lightweight aggregate. The raw materials for the aggregate product, including slate,clay, shale, and sand, are heated in rotary kilns to temperatures that cause the raw materials tosoften. The components of the raw material then volatilize, expand, and leave behind tiny airpockets. The resulting cooled stone is a lightweight building material that has been expanded and islighter than the original material [2].

Solite's kilns use flammable liquid wastes generated by the industrial processes of other companies.These wastes, which are hazardous under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)regulations due to their ignitability and/or toxicity, include paints, lacquers, thinners, wastepetroleum products, petroleum byproducts, inks, resins, adhesives, petroleum distillates, wastesolvents, and organic chemicals [3]. Industries that supply the wastes include paint and coatingmanufacturers, autobody shops, chemical manufacturers, manufacturers of printing inks, flavor andfragrance manufacturers, furniture finishers, and others. Until the mid-1980s, Solite also usedbituminous coal as fuel for the kilns.

Oldover Corporation (Oldover), Solite's subsidiary company, collects and stores the fuel wastes onsite. Oldover receives, blends, and stores liquid burnable wastes in above-ground steel tanks.Oldover transports the wastes to the Solite kilns for use as fuel by pipeline 24 hours a day, 7 days aweek.

B. ATSDR Site-Related Activities

ATSDR's involvement with this site was initiated in February 1996 after four community memberspetitioned ATSDR for a public health assessment of the Solite facility [1]. On June 13, 1996,ATSDR Region III staff wrote to the petitioners that they believed the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ), and theVirginia Department of Health (VADOH) were adequately addressing the petitioners' healthconcerns.

Following that correspondence and additional requests from the petitioners, an ATSDR Region IIIrepresentative and an ATSDR epidemiologist performed a scoping visit in the area of the Solitefacility on January 29, 1997. The purpose of the scoping visit was for ATSDR staff to meet withthe petitioners, community members, and the Danville/Pittsylvania Health Department to discusshealth concerns related to the Solite facility. In addition, the ATSDR Region III representativetoured the Solite facility.

ATSDR Region III staff continues to correspond with one of the petitioners by telephone andelectronic mail. ATSDR Region III staff are also in contact with EPA and VADEQ personnelregarding Solite.

C. Environmental Permitting and Inspection Reports

Oldover, Solite's storage facility, is regulated by VADEQ under RCRA for the handling and storageof hazardous waste. Oldover Corporation was issued its first RCRA permit in 1983 and has notoperated under interim status since that time. Oldover currently operates under a final Part B permitissued on December 29, 1995. Virginia Solite began operating under interim status in August 1991. All wastes that can be accepted by the facility are listed in the permit.

Oldover Corporation collects and stores waste fuel that is ultimately transferred via pipeline toVirginia Solite for burning. The waste fuel is regulated for halogen and chloride content, water andash content, specific gravity, British thermal unit (Btu) value, solids, and polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs). Waste fuels exhibiting characteristics of corrosiveness or reactivity, listed dioxin and furanwastes, and PCB wastes are not accepted [4]. Since 1991, VADEQ has inspected Oldover once ayear. VADEQ reports that there have been no known uncontrolled contaminant releases or reportedspills from the facility. Oldover has been in compliance with all permit requirements duringinspections for the last four years, including the most recent inspection in May 1998 [5].

Virginia Solite has been regulated under the RCRA Boilers and Industrial Furnaces (BIF, pleaserefer to Appendix D) rule since the regulation for burning hazardous waste became effective in1991. The facility, however, has had emission controls in place since the 1970s (the facility used drycyclones in 1974 that were upgraded with wet cyclones or wet scrubbers by 1976).

Virginia Solite obtained interim status in 1991 for their kilns, and submitted the Part B applicationfor a final permit in April 1995 [3]. A risk assessment work plan, including a trial burn planprotocol, was submitted in April 1995 [6]. The risk assessment will involve four steps: hazardidentification, a toxicity evaluation, exposure assessment, and risk characterization. The riskassessment will evaluate both direct (e.g., inhalation) and indirect (e.g., food chain) exposures [6].The risk assessment will involve a trial burn and air dispersion modeling in order to estimateairborne concentrations and deposition rates. No ambient air sampling or soil sampling are planned. However, the EPA may require Solite to perform soil sampling in the future as part of the correctiveaction part of the EPA permit.

EPA is the lead regulatory agency for Virginia Solite's permitting process. Through a worksharingagreement, VADEQ has agreed to take the lead on the risk assessment with assistance from EPA. VADEQ is currently reviewing the Part B application and the risk assessment work plan. EPA isproviding technical support.

The permitting process requires the establishment of allowable emission rates for identifiedcontaminants, metals, and particulates. Specifically, maximum feed rates and maximum allowableemission rates have been established for the following: antimony, barium, lead, mercury, silver,thallium, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, and chlorides. The facility is also regulated forcarbon monoxide (CO) emissions, which is an indicator of combustion conditions. This, in turn, isan indicator of organic destruction; a high CO level may indicate poor combustion conditions. Thefacility must achieve a 99.99% destruction and removal efficiency rate for organic materials. Thefacility has computer-driven controls that calculate stack emissions for CO on an hourly rollingaverage and will automatically cut off the feed fuel if emissions reach 90% of allowable rates. Inaddition, metal and chloride feed rates are continuously tracked, as are certain other operatingconditions that affect emission levels.

Virginia Solite is inspected twice a year by VADEQ under the RCRA BIF rule; EPA participates inone of those inspections. No known uncontrolled releases are reported to have occurred from thefacility [5]. The facility has been in compliance with all interim status requirements since 1991[5].VADEQ is still reviewing kiln data supplied during the most recent inspection in May 1998.Airborne emissions from the plant prior to 1991 are not known or documented.

The VADEQ air division regulates Virginia Solite for particulate matter emissions. Virginia Soliteis in compliance with state air regulations and no exceedences of visible emissions for the facility arereported [7]. The facility is generally inspected once a year, unless VADEQ receives a complaint orobserves visible emissions from the facility. The last inspection occurred on June 17, 1998. TheVADEQ Air Program reports that no complaints have been received in the past year [7].

The Virginia Solite facility is subject to the federal air operating permit program regulations underTitle V of the Clean Air Act Amendments. The Title V permit is scheduled to be issued by July1999 [8].

VADEQ performed a National Corrective Action Prioritization System (NCAPS) Site Assessmentof Virginia Solite in 1997 [8]. The EPA developed NCAPS to assess facilities that treat, store, anddispose of hazardous waste as well as to prioritize the facility's need for cleanup or corrective action. During a file search performed for this assessment, a memorandum and newspaper article werefound indicating that Virginia Solite inadvertently received and burned 1,700 gallons and 6,800gallons of waste contaminated with PCBs in 1983. Virginia Solite reported the incident to both EPAand the Virginia Department of Health upon discovery and discontinued business with the supplierof the waste.

The NCAPS report indicates that the original air pollution control equipment (dry cyclones)installed at Virginia Solite in 1974 was insufficient and was upgraded with wet cyclones/scrubbersin 1976. Furthermore, the facility's emissions were reported to have improved immensely whenbaghouses were installed in 1991. The NCAPS report concluded that past emissions from the kilnscould have resulted in the release of hazardous waste pollutants to the air and nearby soil. To furtherevaluate the extent of past releases or potential releases, soil sampling locations defined by airmodeling would be necessary. During the 1997 site assessment, VADEQ did not observe any visualevidence of soil contamination.

D. Demographic and Land Use Information

Both Pittsylvania County, Virginia and Rockingham County, North Carolina are essentially rural innature, with light industrial activity. Much of the land surrounding the site is agricultural and usedfor tobacco production. Some cattle and dairy cows are raised in Pittsylvania County.

According to the U.S. 1990 Census, Pittsylvania County, Virginia has a total population of 55,655 and Rockingham County, North Carolina has a population of 86,000. ATSDR used the Geographic Information System (GIS) to determine the demographic profile of persons living within 1-mile of the site (Table 1, also refer to Figure 3 in Appendix A) [9].

Table 1.

Demographic Statistics [9] Within 1-mile of Virginia Solite/Oldover Corporation
Total Population 327
White 280
Black 41
American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut 1
Asian or Pacific Islander 3
Other Race 0
Hispanic Origin 0
Children Aged 6 and Younger 27
Adults Aged 65 and Older 45
Females Aged 15 - 44 75
Total Housing Units 142

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