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The Health Assessment Section (HAS) of the Ohio Department of Health was requested by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to review the available environmental data to determine if contamination exists at the Armco Inc., Hamilton Plant (Armco) that may pose an adverse health threat to residents and visitors in the area of the site. Specifically, HAS was asked to evaluate the available environmental data and determine if there are any completed or potentially completed exposure pathways to chemicals that may be present at levels high enough to pose an adverse health threat. This health consultation documents the review of the available sampling data and provides conclusions and recommendations for future activities at the site.


Site Description

The Armco site consists of two parcels north and south of Augspurger Road in the village of New Miami, about 1.5 miles northeast of downtown Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio (Figure 1). The site is an inactive, 125-acre facility that produced molten iron for steel making. The site is bordered to the south and east by the Great Miami River, and to the north and west by the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad tracks. The former manufacturing portion of the site consists of a fenced 92-acre parcel located south of Augspurger Road. The northern portion of the site includes an unfenced, 27-acre railyard where piles of air pollution scrubber sludge were stored. This area is now partially covered with piles of slag. A 4.5-acre, closed, grass-covered, fenced landfill is located north of the railyard. A small unnamed tributary borders the landfill to the east and flows east to the river. As the site borders the Great Miami River along its entire length, surface water drainage from the site would be to the east and south to the river. When the facility was in operation, process water and waste water were discharged to the river through four outfalls distributed along the length of the south parcel (Figure 2).

The area surrounding the site is mixed industrial and residential. The village of New Miami (population 3,045) occurs 500 feet to the west and northwest of the site, across the railroad tracks from the former facility (Figure 2). The residential community of Williamsdale is located 1,000 feet north of the former coke production area and 1,500 feet west of the on-site landfill. The nearest school is 0.5 miles northwest of the Armco site and the closest residences are roughly 500 feet to the west along Riverside Drive and 500 feet to the east of the site on Augspurger Road. The operating sand and gravel pit is to the west across Augspurger Road and the railroad tracks from the former coke production area. A light commercial area abuts the site, west of the railroad, along Riverside Drive. Areas south and east of the site, east of the Great Miami River, are largely agricultural.

Site Hydrogeology

The Armco site sits atop one of the more prolific sand and gravel aquifers in the central United States (Speiker, 1968). The water-bearing Great Miami River aquifer system consists of roughly 200+ feet of interbedded sand and gravel outwash and clay till backfilling a deep, pre-glacial bedrock valley. Armco had four production wells at the south end of the site. These wells are an average of 200 feet in depth and produce up to 2,000 gallons per minute from the deeper sand and gravel beds (ODNR, well log records). The city of Hamilton and the village of New Miami have well fields located within a ½ mile of the site (Figure 2). The New Miami water system gets its water from three wells 86, 120, and 136 feet deep, each of which is producing 240 gallons per minute from the water-bearing sand and gravel. The city of Hamilton North Well field is located on the south side of the Greater Miami River from the former Armco site, 1,700 feet south and downgradient of the site. The five wells in the well field, 150-200 feet in depth, can produce as much as 6,930 gallons per minute, but are operated intermittently. In the summer months, these wells are used to provide water to approximately 30,000 residents in adjacent portions of Liberty and Union townships, outside of the Hamilton city limits. A third public water supply identified in the area is the Linda MPH, ½ mile north of the New Miami's water plant on State Rt. 127. This system supplies water to 337 customers in the nearby community (Ohio EPA, pers. comm. 2002).

Residential wells and small community wells are also present in the nearby community of Williamsdale, and in several nearby mobile home parks. Individual wells average 50 to 70 feet in depth and typically yield 10 to 30 gallons per minute from shallow sand and gravel beds (Ohio Dept. Natural Resources, well log records). Depth to the water table on-site is between 30 and 50 feet below the ground surface (ODNR Well logs). The closest residential wells appear to be roughly 1,000 feet north of the former coke production area in Williamsdale and 800 feet east of the unlined landfill along Augsburger Road (Figure 2).

Prior Site Operations

The Armco facility began operations as a steel mill around the turn of the century and has changed ownership several times. Armco (American Rolling Mills Company) purchased the site from the Hamilton Coke and Iron Company in 1937 (PRC, 1994). The following sections will outline the activities that took place at the site that may have contributed to contamination at the site.

Coke Plant and Landfill Operations

The coke plant covered about 50 acres in the north-central portion of the south parcel. Coal arrived by rail and was sent via conveyers to a battery of 120 coke ovens where it was heated in the absence of oxygen to produce coke (PRC, 1994). About 1,730 tons of coke were produced per day (Ohio EPA, 1988a). Byproducts of the operation included ammonium sulfate, coal tar, and various light hydrocarbon compounds that were passed through an exhauster and flushed into a large decanting tank. The byproducts then were pumped or flushed into large (400,000 to 600,000-gallon) aboveground storage tanks and eventually sold as product. Tar decanter sludge (K087) was periodically drained from the bottom of the decanting tank and disposed of in the on-site landfill (E&E, 1989). Data detailing the constituents of the tar decanter sludge were not available; however, it was thought to contain PAHs and heavy metals.

The landfill was operational from the early 1960s to 1980 (PRC, 1993h). Although used primarily for the disposal of tar decanter sludge, the landfill also received an unknown amount of rubble, trash, and miscellaneous industrial waste (Armco, 1981). The depth of waste in the landfill and information about waste disposal practices for the landfill are unknown. However, the landfill is unlined and does not have a leachate control system (E&E, 1989). At closure the landfill was stabilized with slag and covered with 2 feet of compacted, low permeability clay (PRC, 1994). The clay cap was then seeded. Closing of the landfill was completed in 1980 (Armco, 1981).

Operations in the coke production area ceased in 1982 (PRC, 1994). Most of the buildings, aboveground tanks, and other structures in the coke production area were demolished in early 1989 (PRC, 1994). Demolished buildings were buried on-site and covered with local fill dirt (pers. comm., Armco, 2001).

Blast Furnace Operations

The blast furnace operation consisted of two furnaces, each producing about 1,000 tons of iron per day. The operation occupied about ten acres at the south end of the south parcel. By-products of the blast furnace operation included slag and large volumes of dust. The dust was collected by wet scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators. Contact wastewater from the blast furnace off gas and wet scrubbers contained pollutants such as, ammonia, cyanide, and phenol, as well as lead and zinc-bearing dust (Armco, 1987). The wastewater entered one of two unlined settling ponds where the particulate matter settled. Most of the water then flowed over a weir and was re-circulated into the system (Armco, 1987).

Beginning in the early 1980s, sludge was periodically dredged from the two settling ponds and stored in unlined piles in the railyard area (PRC 1993h). Because this "scrubber" sludge had a high iron content, it was eventually reused in iron production. Armco also sold some of the excess scrubber sludge to other steel companies (E&E, 1989). The maximum amount of sludge stored in this area is not known precisely. Size of the piles varied depending on the number of furnaces operating at the plant and the demand for the sludge as recycled material. Between 1989 and 1990, about 18,000 cubic yards of the dried sludge were transported to the main Armco facility in Middletown, Ohio, where it was reused to make steel. Taking this amount as a yearly average over a 10-year period, Armco estimated that as much as 180,000 cubic yards of scrubber sludge may have been stored at the railyard (PRC, 1993h). An aerial photograph from 1990 shows the piles covering an area of approximately 100,000 square feet (PRC, 1994).


Before September 1987, an unknown volume of blast furnace wastewater was regularly released from the settling ponds and discharged to the Great Miami River under a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit (E&E, 1989). In 1987, Armco began recirculating all blast furnace wastewater rather than build a wastewater treatment plant to remove lead and zinc as required for an NPDES permit renewal (Armco, 1991b, Ohio EPA 1987).

In total, Armco operated four outfalls that discharged to the Great Miami River. Outfall 001 consisted of effluent from the blast furnace operation, as well as, noncontact cooling water and storm water runoff (PRC, 1994). More than 85 percent of the noncontact cooling water came from condensers used to quench the exhaust steam from turbines (PRC, 1994). Outfall 002 discharged condenser cooling water and sanitary effluent from the wastewater treatment plant; the discharge rate was about 2.88 million gallons per day (Ohio EPA, 1988a). Outfalls 003 and 004 were for storm water runoff only (Armco, 1991a).


Previous Site Investigations

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency conducted a Preliminary Assessment of the Armco site in June 1983. The report focused primarily on the on-site landfill. The report did not include a detailed investigation of the entire site, and therefore, was insufficient to determine the full extent of the contamination at the site (Ohio EPA, 1984).

In 1988, Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E&E) conducted a screening site inspection (SSI) of the Armco-Hamilton Plant. Ten soil/sediment samples were collected along with seven groundwater samples from drinking water wells in the area. Samples were collected from two nearby municipal supply wells, several on-site production wells, and one nearby residential well. Elevated levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were detected in on-site sediments. Samples from the scrubber sludge piles and settling ponds contained several metals whose concentrations were above natural background levels. No contaminants were detected at levels of health concern in any of the drinking water wells sampled in 1988 (E&E, 1989). The on-site production wells were last sampled in 1988 and have since been abandoned.

Sampling was also conducted at the site in 1993. PRC, Inc. collected four soil samples, five waste samples, and nine sediment samples from the Armco site (Figure 3). All samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOC), semivolatile organic compounds (SVOC), pesticides, PCBs, metals, and cyanide.

All soil samples collected from the railyard contained elevated levels of PAHs. PAH concentrations ranged from 390 to 1,900 micrograms per kilogram (ug/kg). The PCB compound Aroclor-1254 was also significantly elevated in every soil sample with the highest concentration being 7,600 ug/kg in SS-03. Soil samples from the railyard also contained elevated levels of several metals including arsenic (80.5 milligrams/kilogram) and lead (514 mg/kg)(PRC, 1994).

Waste samples collected in 1993 contained PCBs and elevated levels of metals and cyanide. However, all waste piles were removed from the site during the late 1980s and early 1990s (PRC, 1994).

Sediment samples contained detected levels of PAHs. Compounds detected included phenanthrene (2,000 and 1,500 ug/kg); flouranthene (2,800 and 3,200 ug/kg); pyrene (2,000 and 2,500 ug/kg); benzo(a)anthracene (710 and 1,900 ug/kg); and, chrysene (920 and 1,800 ug/kg). No pesticides or PCBs were significantly elevated above background in any of the sediment samples (PRC, 1994).

Three monitoring wells were installed in the southern portion of the site in 1999. The wells were sampled three times between January 2000 and March 2001. No site-related contaminants were detected at levels of health concern. However, the wells, all clustered at the south end of the site, were drilled to a depth of approximately 100 feet below ground surface and may not capture contaminants located at shallower depths, especially those in the more northerly portions of the site.

Site Visit

HAS staff, accompanied by representatives of Ohio EPA and AK Steel (current owners of the Armco property) visited the Armco-Hamilton on December 14, 2001. All above ground structures have been removed from the site. The southern portion of the facility that previously housed the coke plant and blast furnaces is completely fenced. According to representatives of AK Steel, the former on-site buildings were demolished and buried on-site. Pieces of slag were present across the entire southern portion of the site. Standing water partially filled a broad, deep swale at the west edge of the property adjacent to the railroad tracks. What appeared to be all- terrain vehicle tracks were also observed in this part of the property. All former production and monitoring wells that were located on-site prior to the installation of three monitoring wells in 1999 have been removed. Well logs show that the production wells were eighteen inches in diameter and extended down to depths in excess of 200 feet. The three new monitoring wells are all located at the southern part of the property in the general vicinity of the former blast furnace area. These wells are set at a depth of approximately 100 feet.

The northern portion has a fenced gate, but pedestrian traffic is not restricted from any area with the exception of the landfill. The landfill area is currently fenced with a locking gate, is graded, and grass-covered. Large piles of slag remain on the site in the former railyard area. A small unnamed stream is present within fifteen feet of the eastern edge of the landfill. Prior sampling events have shown PCB and PAH contamination in the sediments of the stream. Several residences are located along the stream, and access is not restricted.

Pathways of Concern

Currently the site is being considered for inclusion on the National Priorities List based on the possibility of the site contaminating the drinking water supply used by area residents. Both municipal and private drinking water wells are located in close proximity to the site and obtain their water from the same sand and gravel aquifer that underlies the entire site, including the unlined landfill as well as former coke and blast furnace production areas. The most recent on-site groundwater samples were taken from the three deep monitoring wells located at the southern end of the site that were installed in 1993. It is necessary to better characterize and more fully sample groundwater at the site in order to determine whether the site poses a realistic threat to area municipal water supplies and to area residents using private wells for their drinking water supply.

Another pathway of concern is the potential, both past and present, for contaminated leachate and surface water runoff to enter the unnamed tributary at the east edge of the landfill or to flow directly into the Great Miami River which borders the entire length of the site to the east. This runoff or leachate could potentially contaminate surface water or sediment in the river and pose a possible health threat to people who come into physical contact with the river via wading, swimming, or boating. Environmentally persistent contaminants (PCBs, PAHs) emanating from the site could also be taken up by aquatic life in the river and pose a threat to anglers who consume fish caught in the Great Miami River. It is necessary to better characterize the extent and nature of the on-site contamination and to determine whether or not this contamination has or is impacting the river and the unnamed tributary in order to assess the potential for the river surface water, sediment, and fish to pose a health threat to recreational users. It may also be necessary to collect fish tissue samples from fish in the area to determine if the fish in the area are carrying a body burden of site-related contaminants.

ATSDR Children's Health Initiative

Children are at a greater risk that adults from certain kinds of exposure to hazardous substances emitted from waste sites. Children are more likely to be exposed for several reasons (e.g., they play outdoors more often than adults, which increases the likelihood that they will come into contact with chemicals in the environment). More data is needed for HAS to compare sample results against screening values set for exposure to children and investigated any possible exposure pathways.


  1. Previous investigations at the site have revealed that the site has impacted on-site surface soils as well as sediments of the Great Miami River and an unnamed tributary to the Great Miami River. This contamination poses an indeterminate public health hazard to residents and visitors in the area due to the insufficient amount of environmental data collected from the site and the surrounding area and due to the fact that the most recent environmental sampling data from the river was collected in 1993.

  2. The drinking water pathway poses an indeterminate public health hazard to residents in the area using groundwater as a drinking water source. No contamination has been detected in either of the municipal well fields in the area. However, based on activities that have taken place at the Armco site in the past, the contamination found in on-site soils, and the area's hydrogeology, the potential is present for contaminants to migrate into the underlying groundwater aquifer and move off-site and impact community drinking water supplies. The site is being considered for inclusion on the NPL due to the possibility of groundwater contamination at the site along with the proximity of the site to nearby municipal drinking water supply wells.


  1. A thorough environmental investigation of the site, including on-site soils, on-site and off-site groundwater, off-site sediment, and on-site and off-site surface water, should be completed by USEPA or the property owners to better characterize the levels of contaminants in the former production areas and in the landfill and to determine the impact of this contamination (if any) on the surrounding environment.

  2. Since contamination is present in the sediments of the river, it is advisable to sample fish tissue in the Great Miami River to determine if site-related contaminants, especially environmentally-persistent chemicals like PCBs and PAHs, have been taken up by aquatic life in nearby portions of the Great Miami River where they may pose a health threat to residents who regularly consume fish taken from the river.


The Health Assessment Section will review and evaluate any additional environmental sampling data collected at the Armco-Hamilton site as it becomes available to insure that site-related contaminants are not impacting the health of area residents.


Eric Yates - Environmental Specialist
Robert Frey, Ph. D. - Principal Investigator/Geologist


Armco. 1981. Letter regarding CERCLA 103(c) Notification Form. From L.M. McAdams, Civil Engineer. To EPA, Region 5. August 10, 1981.

Armco. 1987. Best Practice Program conducted at Armco's New Miami Plant. August 6, 1987.

Armco. 1991a. National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Application (Form 3510-1). Completed by L.A. Warren, Director of Manufacturing. To EPA Consolidated Permits Program. February 12, 1991.

Armco. 1991b. LetterRegarding Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Inquiry on Whether Sludge Ponds Could Overflow into River. From Patrick A. Gallo, Associate Civil Engineer. To Sandy Raju, Southwest District Office, Ohio EPA. May 29, 1991.

ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT. (E&E). 1989. Screening Site Inspection Report for Armco Inc.-Hamilton Plant, New Miami, Ohio. December 20, 1989.

OHIO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (Ohio EPA). 1984. Preliminary Assessment Narrative: Armco Inc., Hamilton Plant. May 11,1984.

OHIO EPA. 1987. Interoffice Communication Regarding Armco's Elimination of Blast Furnace Blowdown in Outfall 001. From Mike Zimmerman, Southwest District Office. To Bob Phelps and John Kirwin, Industrial Waste Water, Central Office. August 21, 1987.

OHIO EPA. 1988. Letter Containing Information Regarding Armco's NPDES discharges. From Michael W. Zimmerman, Division of Water Pollution Control, SWDO. To Dan Welch, E&E. August 24, 1988.

PRC. 1993. Record of Telephone Conversation Regarding Fish Production in Great Miami River. Between Tom Schaffner, Geologist, and Debra Walters, Fishery Biologist, ODW, District 5. April 29, 1993.

PRC. 1994. Expanded Site Inspection Final Report for Armco Inc. - Hamilton Plant, New Miami, Ohio. April 6, 1994.

UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS). 1965. Topographic Map of Hamilton Quadrangle, Ohio. Photorevised 1988.

SPEIKER, A.M. 1968. Groundwater Hydrology and Geology of the Lower Great Miami River Valley, Ohio. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 605-A. Washington, D.C. Pages A1-A37.


This Armco Inc., Hamilton Plant Health Consultation was prepared by the Ohio Department of Health under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the health consultation was begun.

Alan W. Yarbrough
Technical Project Officer, SPS, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this public health consultation and concurs with the findings.

Richard Gillig
Chief, State Program Section, SSAB, DHAC, ATSDR


Site Location Map
Figure 1. Site Location Map

Site Features Map
Figure 2. Site Features Map

Sampling Location Map
Figure 3. Sampling Location Map

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