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(Sampling of New Monitoring Wells and Surface Water)



The Health Assessment Section (HAS) of the Ohio Department of Health reviewed the results of recent groundwater sampling of newly installed groundwater piezometers at the former City of Tiffin Landfill to determine if groundwater conditions exist that could pose a threat to residents who have drinking water wells in the area. HAS also reviewed the results of five surface water samples collected at the site to determine if site related contaminants are leaving the site in surface water at levels of concern. This review took place as a result of recommendations given in four previous health consultations to continue to evaluate additional environmental data generated at the former landfill. HAS reviewed the sampling results to determine if chemicals detected in the waste at the site have impacted groundwater or surface water and to determine if there is a potential pathway of exposure to nearby residents.

Site Location and History

The former Tiffin Landfill is located in a bend in the Sandusky River north of County Road 90 (CR 90) between State Route 53 and County Road 61 and is approximately 4 miles south-southwest of the city of Tiffin (Figure 1). The site is a 40-acre parcel of land of which 20 acres were used for landfill operations.

The city owned and operated the landfill from 1956 through the early 1970s. The site was operated according to a license issued by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) in 1969. Prior to 1969, licenses were not required to operate landfills in Ohio. The landfill accepted waste from residential and industrial sources in the City of Tiffin. In 1969, the city received approval to operate a trench landfill, where trenches were dug to an approximate depth of 20 feet and waste was compacted and covered with fill dirt on a daily basis. Once a trench was full, it was capped with clay and planted with vegetation. The landfill operated under ODH approval until 1972, when it ceased to accept waste.

In 1999, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) inspected the landfill and conducted limited sampling of surface water. As a result of subsequent discussions with City of Tiffin administrators concerning the status of the landfill, the city elected to complete a more extensive environmental evaluation of the site (Hull & Associates, 2000). The leachate piezometer samples evaluated by this health consultation were collected as part of this expanded environmental evaluation.



The population of concern for this health consultation consists of area residents with private wells. There are two houses between the landfill and the Sandusky River, one to the east and one to the south. To the west of the landfill is a strip development with approximately 10 homes. The remainder of the site is surrounded by rural agricultural farmland.

Thirty-five wells identified from well logs were found to occur within a one-mile radius of the former Tiffin Landfill site (Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water). These included: 6 wells along State Route 53, roughly one mile west and up gradient of the site; 17 wells along County Road 90 south, west, and east of the site; and, 12 wells located along County Road 19 east of the site and separated from it by the Sandusky River. Wells along State Route 53 and along County Road 90 typically were between 75 and 150 feet in depth. All of the wells were drilled to the bedrock; therefore, drinking water supplies were obtained from the deep limestone aquifer and not from the perched sand units in the overlying glacial cover.

Based upon 1990 U.S. Census data for the city of Tiffin of 2.7 people per household, approximately 32 people are expected to reside within one mile of the site. The closest population center is the City of Tiffin, which is located 4 miles to the north. The city obtains its water primarily from the Sandusky River and uses a separate well field as a secondary water supply.

Well Installation and Environmental Sampling

Fifteen piezometers were installed in late 2000 and early 2001 in the shallow groundwater aquifer underlying the former Tiffin Landfill (Figure 2). The wells were installed along the site boundary and also off-site to determine the current geochemical groundwater conditions within the aquifer and also to further define the rate of groundwater flow to the north and east of the landfill. In February and March of 2001, four previously installed and 12 newly installed wells (16 total) were sampled and analyzed for metals, general organic compounds, volatile organic compounds, and radiologicals.

Review of the groundwater elevations in the shallow groundwater wells indicated two separate components to the groundwater flow in the shallow zone, one in the southern portion and one in the northern portion (Hull & Associates, June 2001). The groundwater flow in the southern portion of the landfill appears to be to the southeast while the groundwater flow in the northern portion of the landfill is toward the northeast where the water bearing perched sand aquifer outcrops in the northeastern edge of the landfill in a north-south trending drainage ditch that flows northeast into the Sandusky River.

Five surface water samples were collected as part of the site characterization investigation from a small unnamed tributary to the Sandusky River and from the Sandusky River itself. Surface water samples were collected to determine if leachate from the landfill is impacting surface water quality near the site. A map of the sampling location was unavailable.

Evaluation of Sampling Results

Review of groundwater results indicated that low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in shallow monitoring wells along the eastern edge of the former landfill (Figure 2). No VOC's were detected in off-site monitoring wells. Vinyl chloride was detected at or above USEPA Maximum Contaminant Levels in three on-site monitoring wells with a maximum concentration of 17.8 micrograms per liter (µg/l) in monitoring well SP-17 (Figure 2). Maximum contaminant levels are developed to be protective of public drinking water systems. These standards are not enforceable for private wells; however, they are useful for screening purposes. Consultants for the City of Tiffin have theorized that groundwater contamination is the result of groundwater coming into contact with elevated levels of VOCs in the landfill gas. The City of Tiffin is currently looking into options to help control landfill gas issues (pers. comm., Ohio EPA). HAS has doubts as to whether the contaminants in landfill gas have contributed to groundwater contamination at the perimeter of the site. It seems more likely, since groundwater flow in that area of the site is to the east and southeast, that groundwater contamination is being caused by migration of contaminants leaching from the waste to the groundwater and not in landfill gas. Levels of alpha and beta particles were detected in several monitoring wells both on and off-site. The Bureau of Radiation Protection within the Ohio Department of Health reviewed the alpha and beta particle sampling results and determined that the levels were within the expected background range for the area. Tables 1 and 2 show the results of the most recent groundwater sampling of the shallow groundwater aquifer underlying the site.

Review of surface water samples indicated that the VOCs benzene (7.6 µg/l) and 1,4 - dichlorobenzene (5.5 µg/l) were detected in one surface water sample. All other samples did not contain any site-related contaminants at levels of concern. Levels of contaminants in the surface water do not appear to be at levels that would cause adverse health effects due to the fact that this water is not used for consumption and the levels of contaminants are not at levels that would be harmful from incidental dermal contact.

Although there are several chemicals present in groundwater above MCLs, at this time there are no known completed exposure pathways to the contamination present at the site. In order for a completed exposure pathway to exist there must be: 1) a source of contamination; 2) an environmental transport media; 3) a point of exposure; 4) a route of exposure (breathing, eating, touching); and, 5) a receptor population (humans). It does not appear that at this time that any of the residents near the landfill are coming into contact with the contaminated groundwater. However, based on a review of the most recent groundwater samples collected from recently installed monitoring wells, it appears that groundwater contamination may be migrating off-site at the southeast portion of the site. It should be noted that groundwater contamination is present only in the shallow sand and gravel aquifer that underlies the area. A review of groundwater well logs within one mile of the landfill indicated that no residential wells within that radius are using the sand and gravel aquifer as their source of drinking water (ODNR well logs). Residential wells within one mile of the site are situated in the deeper bedrock aquifer that underlies the site. The sand and gravel aquifer is separated from the deep bedrock aquifer by 30-50 feet of impermeable or low permeability clay and clay-rich till that would serve as an effective barrier to contamination that would try to migrate to the deeper aquifer (Hull & Associates, 2000). Previous sampling of area residential wells by Heidelberg College Water Quality Laboratory (2000) did not detect any contamination in residential private wells attributable to the County Road 90 Landfill.

Table 1. Groundwater Sampling Results for the On-site Piezometers at the Former Tiffin Landfill, March 2001

Chemical Range of Detections (ppb)

Number of Detections > MCL
(11 samples total)

Maximum Contaminant Level


14.0 - 294.0




39.1 - 1,570



Beryllium ND - 13.8 1 4
Chromium 2.5 - 354 2 100
Copper 9.1 - 951 0 1300 *
Iron 11,600 - 658,000 NA NA
Lead 8.1 - 895 9 15 *
Magnesium 84,100 - 383,000 NA NA
Nickel 14.5 - 924 6 100**
Potassium 6,000 - 47,700 NA NA
Strontium 310.0 - 1,860 NA NA
Alpha particles(pCi/L) ND - 13.7 0 15 pCi/L
Beta particle (pCi/L) ND - 28.8 NA NA
Benzene ND - 1.9 0 5
Vinyl Chloride ND - 17.8 4 2
Dichlorodiflouromethane ND - 4.1 NA NA
Trichlorofluoromethane ND - 88.8 NA NA

* = Removal Action Level
ppb = parts per billion
pCi/L = picocurries per liter
** MCL as of 1998. Current (Summer 2000) listing does not give an MCL for nickel.
NA = Not applicable

Table 2. Groundwater Sampling Results for the Off-site Piezometers at the Former Tiffin Landfill, March 2001

Chemical Range of Detections (ppb)

Number of Detections > MCL
(5 samples total)

Maximum Contaminant Level

Arsenic 17.0 - 116.0 2 50
Barium 246.0 - 415.0 0 2000
Beryllium ND - 3.8 0 4
Chromium 13.0 - 98.6 0 100
Copper 23.0 - 261 0 1300 *
Iron 29,000 - 236,000 NA NA
Lead 21.6 - 194.0 5 15 *
Magnesium 48,200 - 489,000 NA NA
Nickel 31.4 - 256.0 3 100**
Potassium 5,900 - 15,300 NA NA
Strontium 250.0 - 820.0 NA NA
Alpha particles(pCi/L) ND - 17.9 1 15 pCi/L
Beta particle (pCi/L) ND - 54.6 NA NA

* = Removal Action Level
ppb = parts per billion
pCi/L = picocurries per liter
** MCL as of 1998. Current (Summer 2000) listing does not give an MCL for nickel.
NA = Not applicable


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). As a part of this health consultation, HAS compared all sample results against screening values set for exposure to children and investigated any possible exposure pathways. Although there are chemicals present at concentrations exceeding screening values, there do not appear to be any completed exposure pathways in which children at or near the site would be exposed to chemicals at levels of health concern.


Based on the review of current environmental data, the former City of Tiffin Landfill currently poses "no apparent public health hazard" to residents or visitors to the area due to the lack of a completed exposure pathway to the environmental contaminants at the site.


1) The City of Tiffin should investigate as to whether groundwater contamination is migrating further off site to the east.

2) The City of Tiffin should continue to monitor surface water leaving the site to determine if site related contaminants are reaching the Sandusky River at levels of concern.

3) The City of Tiffin should further investigate the distribution of landfill gas both in the landfill and in off-site locations. They should also determine the constituents in the landfill gas to determine if site related non-methane VOCs are present in the landfill gas.


The purpose of the public health plan is to ensure that this document not only identifies any current or potential exposure pathways or related health hazards, but also provides a plan of action to mitigate and prevent human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

Ohio EPA is currently reviewing a proposed plan of work submitted by the City of Tiffin that would address surface improvements at the landfill and also address the elevated levels of landfill gas detected both at the perimeter of the landfill and in off-site groundwater piezometers. Significant surface improvements have taken place at the landfill in the last year. As a result of surface improvements, it appears that landfill gas has started to migrate horizontally across the site and move off-site. As part of the plan of work, the City of Tiffin will be required to address the landfill gas issue by installing gas vents in the surface of the landfill to keep gas from migrating off-site. Another portion of the plan of work requires additional sampling of monitoring wells to rate the effectiveness of the completed activities.

ODH/HAS will continue to review any new data regarding the landfill site to determine if site conditions are posing a health threat to nearby residents.


Eric R. Yates - Environmental Specialist
Robert C. Frey - Principal Investigator


Hull & Associates. Hydrogeologic Investigation of the Former County Road 90 Landfill. March 2000.

Hull & Associates. Phase II Site Characterization Investigation of the Former County Road 90 Landfill. June 2001.

Hull & Associates. Site Characterization Investigation of the Former County Road 90 Landfill. March 2000.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water. Well Logs for drinking water well in the vicinity of the former County Road 90 Landfill in Tiffin, Ohio.

United States Census Bureau. Internet Search for population data for the area in the vicinity of the former County Road 90 Landfill in Tiffin, Ohio.


This Tiffin Landfill 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


Landfill Location Map
Figure 1. Landfill Location Map

Landfill Layout Map
Figure 2. Landfill Layout Map

Table of Contents The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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