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Currently, soil and air at the Chem-Dyne site pose a no apparent public health risk to area residents, workers, or trespassers on the site. These media are not likely to pose a risk in the future. The site is in the Long Term Remedial Action stage of site clean-up. Structures were demolished in 1985, contaminated soil removed, and the site caped in 1987.

Off-site groundwater, however, is still contaminated with several chemicals which could pose a risk to human health if exposure occurs. Off-site groundwater poses an indeterminate public health hazard as it is not known if nearby plants utilize the water for plant processes. It is not known if these facilities monitor the water once it enters the plant. Using contaminated water in heating, air conditioning, or as cooling water does not pose a significant risk to workers in these plants. Only in the plants where the water is not used in a closed systems such as for heating and cooling are workers at risk. In order to determine whether or not area workers may be exposed to contaminated groundwater used in plant processing, ODH will contact each potentially impacted business to survey how the groundwater water is used and whether or not it is sampled on a regular basis.

In the past, when the site was in operation, Chem-Dyne site likely posed a public health hazard. This means that people, primarily on-site workers, were likely exposed to chemicals in the air and the soil. While exposure to contaminated soil and air were a concern in the past, exposure has been eliminated through the clean-up of surface contamination.

Off-site workers and people living near the site may have been exposed via inhalation, although air levels on site in 1983 were below levels at which health effects have been reported, and should not have resulted in long term health effects. However, it is likely that when Chem-dyne was in operation the number and concentrations of chemicals in the air would have been higher. There is no data availbe to determine what chemicals or concentrations were in the air prior to 1983. There were at least two fires at the site in the 1970's which could have caused the release of very high levels of site-related chemicals. Area residents and workers may have experienced respiratory problems during these fires, however, the symptoms would have been episodic and not likely to continue after the fires were extinguished.

As early as 1980, people living and working near the Chem-Dyne site reported an increased incidence of headaches, dizziness, eye irritations, and nausea resulting from exposure to fumes generated by site operations. Other health-related concerns voiced by the community have included reports of high cancer rates and an epidemic of childhood leukemia in the surrounding neighborhoods. An Ohio Department of Health (ODH) survey revealed a high rate of self-reported respiratory disease in residents living within 0.5 mile of the Chem-Dyne site. The study also concluded that increased incidence of cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes were not associated with living close to the site. However, this evaluation of cancer incidence may have been impacted by a short latency period resulting from the plant being closed for a few years when the study was initiated. Most cancers require a period of 10-30 years after exposure before they appear in the exposed population.


A. Site Description and History

Chem-Dyne is within the city limits of Hamilton, Ohio, and covers approximately 10 acres on the northern edge of the city (Figure 1 Appendix A). The site is bounded on the east by a municipal park, on the north by the Ford Hydraulic Canal and on the west by a railroad right-of-way. West of the railroad right-of-way, within 500 feet of the site, are Champion Paper Company, the Ransohoff Company, the Vaughn Building Company, and the Hamilton Electric Power Company (CH2M Hill, 1984). A small residential community also borders the east bank of the Great Miami River, 1,000 feet west of the site. There are also residential areas to the east of the municipal park. Wells which supply drinking water to the portions of Butler County during the summer are 5,000 feet northeast of the site.

The Chem-Dyne property has been the location of a number of businesses since 1928, the latest of which was the Chem-Dyne Corporation. Chem-Dyne was formed in 1976 to collect and dispose of hazardous waste. At one time there were a number of different buildings on site including the Chem-Dyne building, the boiler building, the Ward Manufacturing building, the Ford building, and the blue warehouse (Figure 2, Appendix A). Wastes that were not suitable for recycling or off-site disposal, were stored on-site in drums and tanks. Wastes handled at the site included pesticides, pesticide residues, chlorinated hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), plastics, solvents, caustics, waste oil, heavy metals, cyanide sludge, and laboratory waste. Approximately 30,000 drums and 300,000 gallons of tanked wastes were at the site when Chem-Dyne ceased operations in 1980. Reportedly, the drums were in poor condition, either open or leaking.

While the Chem-Dyne facility was in operation, tanked and drummed wastes were routinely dumped on the ground, into open pits, trenches, and storm sewers on-site. During operations at Chem-Dyne, at least five major fish kills were reported in the Great Miami River as a result of site operations. One of these fish kills extended 37 miles from the mouth of the Ford Canal to the mouth of the Great Miami River. In 1976, a chemical reaction in a tank car released toxic fumes into the surrounding area over a four-day period. In 1979, 100 barrels of chemical wastes caught fire and exploded, releasing large quantities of toxic fumes with five firefighters overcome by the fumes and hospitalized.

The State of Ohio filed suit against Chem-Dyne in June 1976 because of a fish kill in the Great Miami River and for "emitting offensive odors into the air." In 1979, a company whose building adjoined the Chem-Dyne site on the west filed suit against Chem-Dyne, alleging that as a result of Chem-Dyne operations, their "employees became ill on numerous occasions, experiencing nausea, vomiting, irritations to the eyes and ears, sore throats, and various respiratory difficulties" (CH2M Hill, 1984).

In 1980, Chem-Dyne was ordered to cease acceptance of additional chemical wastes and to remove the hazardous wastes already on-site. Chem-Dyne operations at the site ended in February, 1980. By November of 1981, 20,000 drums had been removed from the site. Chem-Dyne was placed on the National Priorities List of Superfund hazardous waste sites in 1981 with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) declaring Chem-Dyne to be Ohio's number one priority site (CH2M Hill, 1984). Subsequent remedial activities included fence repair, clean-up of the loading dock area, waste removal from one of the tanks, and plugging of some of the on-site storm drains. Removal of on-site wastes continued until 1983.

The Superfund Implementation Group at the Centers For Disease Control evaluated the site in 1983. This evaluation identified the groundwater, air emissions during the five years Chem-Dyne operated, and discharges to surface waters as important environmental pathways. Soil contaminants were at levels that would warrant remediation. Groundwater contamination, however, was the primary focus of this previous investigation. Because groundwater was the only medium critically evaluated during the 1983 assessment, ODH considered the conclusions of the assessment to be incomplete. Surface soil, surface water runoff, and the buildings on site were not adequately evaluated.

The site is currently in the Long Term Remedial Action stage of site clean-up. During late 1985 and 1986, existing structures at the site were demolished and the debris and select "hot spot" soils removed. Soil removal and the placement of the cap over the majority of the site were completed in 1987. The groundwater remediation program at the site became operational in January, 1988. This included 25 extraction wells, a number of wastewater injection wells, and a water treatment plant including an air stripper. Ongoing remedial activities include the groundwater pump and treatment operation. As of 1992, a portion of the treated wastewater is no longer being disposed of by injection with all treated water from the treatment plant now being discharged into the Ford Canal (Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, 1992). Compliance wells ringing the site have shown that the groundwater plume has been contained. The average concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the treatment plant influent has decreased from 2,000 µg/L in 1988 to 410 µg/L in 1992 (Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, 1992), indicating that contaminant levels in on-site groundwater are being reduced.

B. Site Visit

A site visit was made on August 1, 1992 by ODH staff. A six to eight foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire surrounded the site. There are two entrance gates with thick chains and locks securing the site. Immediately to the east of the site are two baseball fields. Along Ford Boulevard, to the south, is a heavily populated residential neighborhood.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resources Use

To obtain a demographic profile of the area, ODH used 1970s census data to describe what the community may have been like while the plant was in operation. Comparisons were then made to the 1980 and 1990 demographic profiles to determine how the area has changed since the facility closed and clean-up activities have taken place. There are two distinct demographic areas that surround this site: one to the south and east of the site (Area A) and one to the south and west of the site (Area B). (Figure 3, Appendix A). Comparisons to the 1980 and 1990 census, revealed little changes in the demographic profile since the 1970's.

Area A is bordered by N. 5th Street, Ford Blvd., Fairgrave Avenue, Dayton Street, and railroad tracks just north of Maple Ave. Area B lies to the west of the site and is bordered by Buckeye St., the Great Miami River, Old River Road, Ford Blvd., and N. 5th St.

There were 2,487 people living in area A in 1970 and the population was predominantly white (99.8%). In the same time period, area B had fewer residents than Area A and was significantly different in terms of its demographic profile (Table 1). In general the residents in Area B were less educated, had more unemployment, lower incomes, and were less likely to stay in the area when compared to Area A, Butler County, and the State of Ohio (Table 1).

Although the differences between Area A and the county or the state were minimal, they were less educated the Ohio or Butler County as a whole. Residents in the area of Hamilton had a lower median family income and the percentage below poverty level was slightly higher than that of the State or Butler County. The population of this identified area was more transient than the population of Butler County. Finally, median housing value for this area was 71% of median housing value for Butler County.

The residents in Area B had a much different demographic profile than the area east of the site, the county or the State (Table 1). Educational attainment was lower, the number of people in the labor force was less than residents in Area A, and unemployment was twice as high. The median family income of this area was less than half of the median income of the State of Ohio and 31.9% of people fell below the poverty level. This area was also much more transient than Area A, Butler County, or the State of Ohio. Finally, the median housing value was 59% of the median housing value for Butler County and significantly lower than the median housing value of the area in Area A (Table 1).

Land use within a one-mile radius of the Chem-Dyne site is a mixture of industrial, commercial, and residential. The area immediately west of the is mostly industrial, including warehouses belonging to a paper company, a sheet-metal fabricating plant, and the city of Hamilton electric power plant which also includes coal and petroleum storage areas. The land north of the Ford Hydraulic Canal is used for agricultural purposes. There is a public park including baseball diamonds and a community swimming pool, bordering the site to the east. There are commercial retail and office buildings 0.5 miles to the south of the site along E. Main Street and along State Route 4. Mercy Hospital is 3,000 feet southwest of the site. There is an elementary school, a junior-high school, and a high school 2,500 feet south of the site.


State of
Area A Area B
&nbsp &nbsp White
&nbsp &nbsp Black
&nbsp &nbsp Other




&nbsp &nbsp % H.S. Grad
&nbsp &nbsp Median Years




&nbsp &nbsp % in Labor Force
&nbsp &nbsp % Unemployed




&nbsp &nbsp Median Family
&nbsp &nbsp Family Mean




&nbsp &nbsp % Families Below




&nbsp &nbsp since 1965




&nbsp &nbsp Owned
&nbsp &nbsp Rented




Median Housing Value $13,700 $17,000 $12,100 $10,000

The Chem-Dyne site is on the Great Miami River floodplain. Surface water run-off from the Chem-Dyne site enters storm sewers on-site which carry the run-off to the Ford Canal to the north. Ford Canal flows into the Great Miami River 1,000 feet west of the site. The Great Miami River is classified by the Ohio Revised Code 3745-1-13 as a warm-water, agricultural, and industrial stream, suitable for primary contact recreational uses. Warm-water streams support moderately diverse, stable populations of aquatic life, including fish, invertebrates, and aquatic plants. Agricultural waters are suitable for watering livestock and for crop irrigation. Industrial waters can be used with or without treatment for commercial and industrial purposes. The primary contact designation means that these surface waters may be suitable for swimming and boating with minimal risk to public health.

The river supports a variety of fish species including gamefish which are taken by local fishermen (CH2M Hill, 1984). In 1987, the Ohio Department of Health issued a consumption advisory for fish caught in the Great Miami River, from the city of Dayton south to the Ohio River. The advisory recommends that people not eat bottom-feeding fish (catfish, carp, suckers) because of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination.

The Ford Hydraulic Canal is a man-made diversion of the Great Miami River that cuts off about a 3-mile section of the river. It rejoins the river 700-1,000 feet west of the Chem-Dyne site. The Ford Canal is not classified by the Ohio Revised Code. The canal is about 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep. There is a small dam in the canal north of the Ford Building at the Chem-Dyne site. Upstream of the dam, the water in the canal pools to form a small backwater marsh. The canal was described in 1983 as a "popular fishing spot among area residents" (CH2M Hill, 1984). Fish sampling in the Ford Canal indicates that the canal, at least in the section downstream from the dam, supports a diverse fish biota including northern pike, largemouth bass, black and white crappie, white bass, carp, gizzard shad, and bluegill. In 1983, ODH issued a fish advisory against eating all fish taken from the canal due to contamination with PCBs, other organic compounds, and metals in fish sampled from the canal.

The Chem-Dyne site lies above an unconfined sand and gravel aquifer 150 to 200 feet thick that serves as the major source of water for local industries and the city of Hamilton. Wells in this sand and gravel aquifer are capable of producing from 500 to 1,000 gallons of water per minute (Schmidt, 1986). In the vicinity of the site, the water table is 25-40 feet below the surface with groundwater flowing west towards the Great Miami River (CH2M Hill, 1984). The underlying aquifer is recharged through the vertical infiltration of rainwater, infiltration of water from the Ford Canal upstream from the dam, and from upstream portions of the buried valley aquifer northeast of the site. When water levels in the Great Miami River are low, the shallow groundwater may discharge into the river and conversely, when river levels are high, the river may serve as an additional source of recharge for the aquifer.

Groundwater flow will also be affected by the pumping of large quantities of groundwater by the 13 industrial production wells located west of the site and by pumping in the Hamilton North municipal well field. Most of the industrial facilities use water from these production wells in industrial processes or for heating and cooling. Production and municipal wells in the vicinity of the Chem-Dyne site are screened in the deeper portions of the aquifer greater than 100 feet from the surface. The RI report (CH2M Hill, 1984) indicated that none of the production wells in the area had a significant effect on groundwater at the site although the same report also stated that groundwater pumping at the Champion Paper complex just west of the site (pumping 2 million gallons per day in 1983) could be pulling the on-site groundwater westward and under the Great Miami River into the company's production wells.

The Hamilton North wellfield is 5,000 feet northeast and upgradient from the site. Five wells in the wellfield collectively can pump up to 6,930 gallons per minute and are operated intermittently. In the summer months they are used to provide water to approximately 30,000 people in Liberty and Union townships in Butler County. The Hamilton South wellfield is the main source of water for the city of Hamilton, providing drinking water to roughly 80,000 people, and is 4.7 miles south-southwest from the site.

D. Health Outcome Data

ODH completed a health survey of area residents in March, 1989. Health data was gathered for 1,186 people living in two neighborhoods in August, 1986, roughly five years after operations at the Chem-Dyne facility had ceased. The study area for the survey included residential areas immediately west, south, and east of the site, primarily homes between Vine Street and Ford Boulevard. The survey results are discussed in the Public Health Implications section of this document and are included in Appendix B.


ODH has attempted to contact citizens who were active in a local citizens group. This group is no longer in existence. We have not received any responses to our requests for information about current health concerns. In addition, the Hamilton City Health Department indicated that the community was much more involved in the past and have no information about recent community concerns.

As early as 1980, people living and working near the Chem-Dyne site reported an increased incidence of headaches, dizziness, eye irritations, and nausea resulting from exposure to fumes generated by site operations. These problems were worse during the summer. Other health-related concerns voiced by the community have included reportedly high cancer rates and an epidemic of childhood leukemia in the surrounding neighborhoods and adverse health effects in people who used the pool and park east of the site (U.S. EPA, 1986). These concerns led to the community health survey completed by ODH in 1989.

When Chem-Dyne was in operation, visitors to the adjacent municipal park complained of headaches, dizziness, and nausea while attending ball games or swimming in the pool. Area residents were also concerned about the risk of explosion and fire at the site, migration of contaminated groundwater to the community water supply, surface water runoff to Ford Canal, site security, and future use of the site. The city of Hamilton water supply is several miles from the site and would not be impacted by groundwater contamination at the site.

One local employer in 1986 requested a health study of its 80 workers who were exposed to chemical fumes from the Chem-Dyne site while it was in operation. No studies were ever done to determine the impact of site conditions on the health of Chem-Dyne workers or workers in the industries surrounding the Chem-Dyne site.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Community Relations Plan for the Chem-Dyne site indicated that site relate community concerns decreased following the initiation of surface clean-up operations 1983. No concerns pertaining to the site have been reported to ODH since publication of the community health survey in 1989.

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