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In 1987 a local resident of Wayne County, West Virginia petitioned ATSDR regarding the particulate emissions from the Ashland facility. The petitioner was concerned that these particulates were causing skin irritation and respiratory ailments in the nearby residents as well as the illnesses and deaths of pets and livestock. ATSDR accepted the petition on September 15, 1987, stating that a public health assessment would be performed [4].

In 1988 ATSDR representatives visited the site and the petitioner’s family since the petitioner had moved away from the area [5]. In 1993 ATSDR received another letter about Ashland Oil from a resident of Kenova, West Virginia. This resident expressed concerns that emissions had caused or contributed to a wide variety of health problems suffered by herself and her two sons. At that time, ATSDR had insufficient information to fully evaluate the petitioner’s concerns.

ATSDR maintained communication with various EPA and state representatives regarding environmental studies conducted in the Tri-State Area. For example, the November 1990 "Air Pollution Study of Ashland, Kentucky - Ironton, Ohio - Huntington, West Virginia" used the limited, available air data from 1983 to 1987. This study reported that for the Tri-State Area the Ashland facility was:

- the greatest industrial source of carbon monoxide,
- one of two main sources for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and
- the second largest industrial contributor of sulfur dioxide

The major air pollutants identified from Ashland were particulates, carbon monoxide, VOCs (including benzene), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and ammonia. Other pollutants identified were hydrogen sulfide and metals. This study also compared industry upsets with citizen complaints regarding dust, visible emissions, odors, and self-reported symptoms. The study was unable to draw a significant statistical association between citizen complaints and industry upsets for the entire area [2].

In addition, the "Ashland Air Toxics Survey, October 1988 - February 1989" evaluated concentrations of volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, aldehydes, heavy metals, and sulfates at four monitoring stations located near major industrial sources in the Tri-State Area, including Ashland Oil. Only formaldehyde was found at levels considered to be elevated [3]. The 1990 "Source Apportionment Analysis of 16 Environmental Particulate Samples" study attempted to determine sources of airborne particulate matter, but was inconclusive [3]. Also, the 1992 "Epidemiological Study for the Kenova and Ceredo, West Virginia and Catlettsburg, Kentucky Area" attempted to determine whether or not there was an increased frequency of health complaints during air pollution episodes in 1987 and 1988. The study showed that for 1987 a significant increase in the overall number of visits to emergency rooms and physicians offices occurred during periods of air pollution upsets. However, no significant increase was found for 1987 and 1988 combined. The study concluded that "there is sufficient presumptive evidence of significant health effects occurring in the Kenova/Ceredo area to warrant further prospective study. Such a study should include accurate monitoring of ambient air pollutants at the neighborhood or household level together with prospective surveillance of upper respiratory illness and respiratory function among community residents" [6].

Current Conditions

After Ashland Oil shut down a portion of its RCC plant in May 1988, the heavy particulate emissions ceased [7]. In addition, the facility’s air permit compliance improved and no major air releases from the Ashland facility have occurred since 1995 [8]. KYDEP received 47 complaints concerning the Ashland facility in 1996 [9] and only 10 in 1997 [10] compared to an annual average of 160 complaints from 1983 to 1988. However, there continues to be community interest regarding emission levels and air quality in the Tri-State Area, particularly with respect to Ashland Oil.

The TGI developed a series of work plans to study air quality using ambient air sampling, air dispersion modeling, and assessment of the risks associated with any pollutant found during the monitoring and modeling. The TGI plans to conduct air toxics monitoring in several phases based on the identification of six industrial clusters for about one year each. Air dispersion modeling will also be used to estimate the atmospheric dispersion and the ambient air concentrations of specific pollutant emissions associated with industrial sources in the TGI area. The results of the modeling analysis will be used in a risk assessment [2].

The Kenova, WV cluster, in which Ashland Oil is located, was selected as the first area for air toxics monitoring. Monitoring sites were strategically located to collect air samples from areas which may receive maximum impact due to releases from facilities within the study cluster [2]. These air samples have been analyzed for metals, VOCs, semi-volatile organics, and acid/base aerosols. The TGI Air Pathway Risk Assessment for the Kenova, West Virginia cluster is currently in progress.

In addition, the USEPA prepared a report on the Ashland facility based on a multimedia facility inspection that took place over a period of several weeks in 1996. A significant portion of this inspection focused on air issues [11]. ATSDR plans to review this information when it becomes available.

Public Health Concerns

The releases of corrosive dusts in the 1980's caused damage to paint on cars and on the exterior of houses, but there is no indication that these releases continue to occur. However, ongoing emissions from Ashland include hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, VOCs, nitric oxides, and particulates. These air pollutants have been associated with health effects such as asthma and irritation to the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. ATSDR has begun an evaluation of the newly available ambient air monitoring data in order to determine if adverse health effects are possible and will report these findings in a future public health assessment.

In addition, emissions from several different facilities in the area have contributed to overall air quality problems. Aside from Ashland, these facilities include Armco Coke, Armco Steel, Calgon Corporation, Columbia Gas, Kentucky Power Company, Inco Alloys, Aristech Chemical Corporation, Ashland Chemical Company, five coal screening plants, and until 1995, South Point Ethanol. It has also been reported that due to meteorological conditions, the potential for air pollution episodes in the Tri-State Area is greater than that for any other urban area in the eastern United States, regardless of emissions [12].

ATSDR Child Health Initiative

As part of the ATSDR Child Health Initiative, ATSDR health consultations must indicate whether any site-related exposures are of particular concern for children. The upcoming evaluation of available air quality data in a public health assessment will address this question. The latest U.S. Census data show that there are 87 children aged six years or younger within a one mile radius of the site. The counties within the Tri-State Area closest to the site are Boyd County, Kentucky and Wayne County, West Virginia, where the number of such children is 4191 and 3412 respectively [13].

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