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The Nease Chemical Superfund site lies along State Route 14 just northwest of the city of Salem, Ohio. Salem is in Columbiana County near the border with Mahoning County. The former manufacturing property is fenced, restricting site access. The Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek (MFLBC) is northeast of the site, and flows north into Mahoning County and then turns south, through Columbiana County. The MFLBC has been extensively contaminated from past manufacturing and disposal at the former Nease Chemical Plant. This Public Health Assessment will focus on the off-site contamination, primarily the environmental monitoring data for MFLBC. In addition, information from the pilot exposure investigation will also be presented because of the connection to exposure pathways.

The contamination of MFLBC represents a public health hazard, because of past exposure and the possibility of future exposures to mirex. Fish, wildlife, sediment, and MFLBC flood plain soils are contaminated with site-related chemicals, primarily mirex and photomirex. Samples of milk from cows from three farms, fat and blood from raccoons and opossums from property bordering the creek, also contained mirex. The cattle on the three farms were restricted from contact with the creek and flood plain soils in 1989.

We have no information to determine what the level of exposures has been in the past. The facility closed in 1973 and creek contamination was discovered in 1985-1986. In addition, fourteen of 42 people sampled in an Ohio Department of Health Exposure Assessment had detectable levels of mirex in their blood. Typical body burdens of a chemical in adipose tissue are normally higher than what is found in blood. Therefore, body burdens of mirex could be higher than the blood analysis indicates. Exposure investigations are not good indicators of the amount of chemical to which a person has been exposed. They cannot be used to predict whether a person will experience any potential health effects (ATSDR 1995). Therefore we are unable to say whether the residents with documented mirex exposure will have any adverse health effects. In addition, the toxicological data for mirex in humans are extremely limited, with most data for mirex obtained from laboratory animal studies.

Community health concerns focused on cancer rates, and increased rates of other diseases such as Parkinsons and Crohne's Disease. There were many other concerns that dealt with the need for additional testing of people, private wells, and the floodplain of the creek. A number of individuals expressed concerns about health problems incurred from working at the former Nease Chemical Plant. In order to provide health statistics information to area residents ODH also reviewed cancer mortality statistics for the city of Salem. This health statistics review indicated that deaths for certain types of cancer are elevated when compared to Columbiana and Mahoning Counties. These rates are a review of the number of people who died of cancer and do not represent an epidemiologic study of cancer incidence in the community. Increases in cancer rates for the city of Salem cannot be attributed to the contamination of MFLBC

The Public Health Action Plan for the Nease Chemical site contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR and ODH. As part of this plan, ODH will perform a health consultation(s) to evaluate the environmental monitoring data collected after completion of this portion of the public health assessment, because on-site data were not available when this portion of the site assessment was completed. In order to fully determine the magnitude of community exposure an expanded exposure investigation is needed. This exposure investigation was completed, and the results made available to the public in early December, 1996. Because the community has expressed concerns about this site, the Ohio Department of Health and ATSDR developed a Community Assistance Panel (CAP) for the community in the vicinity of the Nease Chemical Superfund site and the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek. The CAP will also ensure community involvement in any follow-up actions performed. ODH will provide environmental health education for local health care providers about the possible health outcomes resulting from exposure to mirex and any other known site-related chemicals. ODH in conjunction with the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA to educate local school children about the contamination of the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek and to place additional signs along the creek.

Other recommendations include a need for additional sampling, maintaining the fence around the site, completing a toxicological review of mirex and photomirex, and placing additional warning signs along MFLBC. The on-site data and additional data collected after this Public Health Assessment is completed, will be addressed in a health consultation.


Site Description and History

The Nease Chemical Superfund site is 44 acres in size and lies along State Route 14 just northwest of the City of Salem, Ohio. Salem is in Columbiana County near the border with Mahoning County (Figure 1, Appendix A). State Route 14 is along the south-southwest border of the site, west of Allen Road. The former manufacturing facility property is fenced, restricting site access. At one time, there were two ponds in the now fenced area of the site. Railroad tracks intersect the northern portion of the site along the outside edge of the fence (Figure 2, Appendix A). Most of the site is heavily vegetative, including the former settling ponds. Trees border the eastern and western sides of the fenced area. The land just north of the fenced area is swampy with a small stream, Feeder Creek, running through the area. Feeder Creek empties into the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek. Formally, there were five ponds on site (Figure 2, Appendix A). The ponds were used for treatment and storage of wastes. Most of the ponds have been decommissioned and stabilized with vegetation. After settling in the ponds, liquids were discharged to the Salem Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

The Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek (MFLBC) is to the northeast of the site, flowing to the north (Figure 1, Appendix A). The MFLBC has been extensively contaminated from past manufacturing and disposal at the former Nease Chemical Plant. This Public Health Assessment will focus on the off-site contamination, primarily the data for MFLBC.

The site is on a topographic high, sloping to the northeast toward MFLBC. The Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek flows northward from the site into Mahoning County, then flows south into Columbiana County finally joining the Ohio River at East Liverpool, Ohio. The creek flows through or near several towns including New Albany and Millville in Mahoning County, and Leetonia, Franklin Square, Lisbon, and Elkton in Columbiana County (Figure 1, Appendix A). South of Elkton, the creek flows through Beaver Creek State Park.

The Nease Chemical site was a former manufacturing facility which operated from 1961-1973. Products included pesticides, household cleaning products, fire retardants, and chemical intermediates used in chemical, agricultural, and pharmaceutical products. Prior to 1968, some drummed wastes were buried on site. The on-site ponds were decommissioned by Nease Chemical in 1975. Nease Chemical was acquired by the Ruetgers Chemical, Inc. in 1977. The Nease Chemical site in Salem was included in the merger.

A brief synopsis of site history is given in the following list.

May 1962. An accident at the plant caused an emission of nuisance odors, resulting in an inspection by a city of Salem Engineer.

October 1962. Nease Chemical was notified by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to apply for discharge permit.

November 1962. A fish kill in MFLBC, linked to Nease Chemical waste discharge, was reported to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

January 1963. A second fish kill in MFLBC was caused by waste from a failed lagoon at the plant. ODH ordered the plant to cease operations until a waste treatment permit was issued.

April 1963. A four month permit was issued by ODH.

May 1963. Columbiana County Health Department received complaints about air pollution at the plant. More complaints were received in 1965 and 1968, including concerns about the contamination of MFLBC.

1964-1969. Permits for continued waste discharges were periodically approved by ODH.

1971. There was an accidental discharge of benzene sulfonyl chloride to MFLBC. No fish kill was reported.

1973. An investigation of dermatitis or chloracne in workers at the Nease plant. Employees at the plant including office workers, had evidence of chloracne. "It is apparent that many of the operators are exposed to the air contamination." The report from the Ohio Division of Occupational Health stated that all the workers were affected with the chloracne. Some workers reported that spouses and children also had chloracne type lesions.

1973-1975. The site was decommissioned. Ponds 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 were drained, treated, and filled. All buildings but a warehouse and two small block buildings were removed.

1982-1986. Sampling plans and sample results for groundwater, surface water, and soil were submitted by Ruetgers-Nease to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA).

1982. SMC-Martin completed an environmental assessment of the site.

1983. The site was placed on the National Priority List for hazardous waste sites.

1983. One-hundred and fifteen 55-gallon drums and 9,500 cubic yards of soil were removed from the site.

1984. The Superfund Implementation Group of the Centers For Disease Control performed a Health Assessment for the site (Appendix B). There were very little environmental data available at the time of the health assessment.

1985. Ruetgers-Nease and the Ohio EPA collected fish, sediment, surface water, and benthic organisms from MFLBC. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA) and the Ohio EPA collected additional samples from the creek.

1987. ODH issued the fish consumption advisory for MFLBC from Salem to State Route 11. A contact advisory was issued in 1988.

1989. The Ohio Department of Health sampled 42 individuals, both potentially exposed and not exposed, from the Salem area, (Appendix C). In this same year, ODH sampled raccoons and opossums along MFLBC from near the site to Beaver Creek State Park.

1990-to the present. The Remedial Investigation (RI) and the public health assessment have been completed. ODH started the expanded exposure assessment. Prior to the RI, two shallow leachate collection systems were installed on the property. Ruetgers-Nease has also constructed berms to create sediment control and storage at several areas to limit transportation of contaminated materials to MFLBC. They have also installed run-off diversions to divert surface water runoff around the site. More detailed information about remediation activities to date is included in the 1994 Remedial Investigation.

Site Visit

The Ohio Department of Health, Bureau of Environmental Health and Toxicology staff have visited the site including MFLBC (from the site to Beaver Creek State Park) approximately ten times since becoming involved with the site in 1987. The most recent visit was in December 1995. In a 1991 visit, it was noted that the fence was in somewhat poor repair enabling trespassers to enter the site. The Ohio EPA site coordinator was notified by phone, upon our return to Columbus. Repairs were made by Ruetgers-Nease in the summer of 1994. The status of the site has not changed significantly in the last few years. The only noted change around MFLBC is that access to creek and floodplain at the three commercial dairy farms has been restricted with fencing.

Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

There are approximately 14,105 people living in the area surrounding the Reutgers-Nease Chemical site. The Nease Chemical site is one mile northwest of the City of Salem, population 12,233. The area of concern is defined as approximately 1 mile on either side of the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek as it runs out of Salem into Mahoning County and down to Lisbon in Columbiana County. The area is considered largely rural (78%) and the people comprise 5,140 households, and occupy 5,068 housing units. The population is predominantly white (99.3%). Overall, the demographic profile for the area surrounding the Reutgers Nease Chemical Site indicates a community that is slightly better off compared to Columbiana County as a whole and slightly worse off compared to the State of Ohio as a whole. The percentage of families below poverty is also lower for the area of concern than either Columbiana County or Ohio (Table 1).


Demographic Profile - 1990 Census Data

State of Ohio Columbiana
Area of
% Race



    % H.S. Grad



    % in Labor Force
    % Unemployed



Median Household Income $34,351.00 $23,368.00 $27,174.00
    % People Below



    since 1985






Median Housing Value $62,900.00 $43,300.00 $50,742.00
Median Gross Rent $379.00 $306.00 $397.00
Information taken from Census of Population and Housing STF3A, 1990

The land surrounding the site is lightly developed. Land use includes residential and agricultural. There is a small farm just north of the site. A manufacturing plant is just northeast of the site, along Allen Road. Parts of the area include fields and woods. There is an old landfill east of the site beyond Allen Road (Figure 2, Appendix A). The Salem WWTP is 2,400 feet east of the site.

The Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek is the most prominent natural resource in the area. It flows from Salem to the Penn-Ohio border into the Ohio River (Figure 1, Appendix A). Portions of this creek have different use classifications. According to the Ohio Revised Code 3745-1-15, MFLBC from Salem to the Mahoning-Columbiana County Line is classified as a limited warmwater resource. Agricultural, industrial, and primary contact use designations (swimming and wading) also apply. The creek from the county line to Elkton is classified as warmwater, agricultural, industrial, and primary contact. The segment of MFLBC from Elkton to the Ohio-Pennsylvania line is classified as a state resource water. It can be used for agriculture, industry, swimming, boating, and wading.

State resource waters lie within the State Park system and will not be degraded with substances deemed to be toxic. State resource waters generally have exceptional water quality and may contain endangered or threatened species. Limited warmwater habitats are unable, due to natural or manmade conditions, to fit into the higher quality warmwater habitat. Warmwater habitats are capable of supporting balanced reproducing populations of warmwater fish (bass, crappie, sunfish), invertebrates, and plants. Agricultural use designations can be used for agriculture without treatment. Industrial waters are suitable for commercial use with or without treatment. Primary contact waters are suitable for full body contact during recreation.

The Ohio Department of Health issued a fish consumption advisory and contact advisory from State Route 14 near the site to where State Route 11 crosses the creek because of fish and sediment contamination (Figure 3, Appendix A). The advisory recommends that people not eat any fish or swim or wade in these portions of the creek.

The city of Salem public water supply reservoir is 7 miles south of Salem and serves 18,972 households. The Salem reservoir is not connected to MFLBC. The City of Lisbon obtains water from their well field located north of Lisbon and MFLBC which serves 3,500 households. Residents closest to the site and living near the creek largely depend on private wells for their water supply. Public water is available to homes or businesses along State Route 14 and Allen Road.

Health Outcome Data

The only health outcome data available for review are cancer mortality statistics for the City of Salem, Columbiana, and Mahoning Counties. These data do not represent a comprehensive epidemiological study of cancer, but a review of already existing statistics. Many area citizens have expressed concerns about high rates of cancer. Although MFLBC flows through only a small part of Mahoning County, is not within the city limits of Salem, and flows through a predominantly rural part of Columbiana County, the best data available were reviewed. We recognize the limitations of using mortality data, but believe that some type of health statistics review was necessary to attempt to answer citizen concerns and to assist in determining the need of follow-up health activities.

There are certain limitations associated with using cancer mortality data. Death certificates only contain those who have died, for example, of cancer; this does not necessarily indicate the total number that have been diagnosed with cancer. Early discovery and adequacy of treatment influences whether those, who have cancer, will die of it. Mortality records such as the Ohio Death Certificates are also subject to the decisions made by the recording physician who must differentiate between "immediate" "contributing," and "underlying" causes of death. Since the patient may have a number of health problems, the diagnosis can vary. Thus, mortality records and rates should be interpreted with caution. These are simple mortality rates and can only tell us that a certain number of people in a population died of cancer. One cannot assume that there is a known reason for higher rates of mortality in one area verse another.


Health concerns have been gathered from the community since we first became involved at the site in 1987. Residents have long expressed concerns about the possible adverse health effects associated with the site, MFLBC, and site-related chemicals. ODH has also gathered community concerns from many of the public meetings that have been held either by ODH, U.S.EPA or Ohio EPA.

At one ODH Public Involvement Meeting on December 4, 1991, ODH staff talked with individual community members about their health concerns. A detailed list of concerns and responses are in the Community Health Concern Evaluation Section of this Public Health Assessment. About 45 people attended the meeting. In summary, health concerns focused on cancer rates, and increased rates of other diseases such as Parkinsons and Chrones Disease. There were many other concerns that dealt with the need for additional testing of people, private wells, and the floodplain of the creek. A number of individuals expressed concerns about health problems incurred from working at the former Nease Chemical Plant. These concerns are addressed in this public health assessment, beginning on page 24.

In addition, community health concerns were gathered from a U.S.EPA Public Information Meeting in July of 1989. We received responses to our request for information from twenty-two individuals. This information is presented in Appendix D.

This public health assessment was released for public comment October, 1992. No comments were received from the general public. Numerous comments were received from Ruetgers-Nease. Those comments considered appropriate, were incorporated into the document.

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