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The South 8th Street Landfill site is located along South 8th Street on the west bank of the Mississippi River in West Memphis, Crittenden County, Arkansas. The site covers approximately 30 - 50 acres and consists of an open dump, one large oily waste/sludge pit, and several smaller waste pits. In addition, a fishing pond is located on the northern end of the site next an RV park. The site property was utilized as an uncontrolled dump for municipal and industrial wastes from the mid- to late-1950s until it closed in 1979. However, illegal dumping continued until the area was totally fenced in July 1992.

Previous studies and environmental sampling indicate that various wastes disposed of at the South 8th Street Landfill have contaminated the site with a number of contaminants including VOCs, PAHs, phenols, PCBs, pesticides, and heavy metals.

Persons who accessed the site in the past, such as persons attending the annual city festival next to the site, guests of the adjacent RV park, and trespassers, were likely exposed to contaminants in site surface soil. exposure to surface soil contaminants would have occurred through skin contact and incidental ingestion. In addition, persons who used the on-site pond for recreational activities (such as wading and swimming) were likely exposed to contaminants in the surface water and sediments through skin contact and incidental ingestion; and persons who consumed fish caught in the pond were likely exposed to contaminants (primarily mercury) in the fish.

Other persons potentially exposed to site contaminants include 1) site visitors/trespassers, site investigative personnel, and other persons who accessed the site in the past through incidental ingestion of and skin contact with contaminants in on-site waste sludges; 2) personnel present during past site investigations who may have inhaled contaminants in ambient air and air-borne dusts; and 3) persons who may consumed crops grown on-site or eaten wild game from the site area. In addition, persons who may work or participate in recreational activities at the site in the future could potentially ingest groundwater contaminants if on-site wells are used to supply drinking water.

Health related community concerns were not expressed for the South 8th Street Landfill site.

The South 8th Street Landfill site currently poses no apparent public health hazard because 1) current exposure to site-related contaminants is not expected to result in adverse health effects, and 2) access to physical hazards, such as the large oily sludge pit and the on-site pond, is restricted. However, due to the presence of these physical hazards, the site may have represented a public health hazard in the past when site access was unrestricted and may pose a public health hazard in the future if restrictions to site access are removed.

ATSDR has made recommendations in this public health assessment to 1) reduce and prevent exposure to site-related contaminants, and 2) better characterize the site-related contamination and potential exposure points.


The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has evaluated the public health significance of the South 8th Street Landfill site to determine whether health effects are possible and has recommended actions to reduce or prevent possible health effects. ATSDR, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), as amended, to conduct public health assessments at hazardous waste sites. The CERCLA legislation is commonly called "Superfund".

A. Site Description and History

The South 8th Street Landfill (also known as the West Memphis Landfill) is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in West Memphis, Crittenden County, Arkansas (Figure 1, Appendix A.) (1). As shown in Figure 2, the site is bordered on the north by a forested area, to the south by the Mississippi River, to the east by an RV Park, and to the west by an industrial processing and forested area. South 8th Street runs through the property and allows access to the Mississippi River (1,2).

The site covers approximately 30 - 50 acres and consists of an open dump, one large oily waste/sludge pit, and several smaller waste pits. In addition, a fishing pond, which was also reported to be used for wading/swimming, is located on the northeastern end of the site next to the RV park (Figures 2 and 3) (3).

The site lies in the 100-year floodplain of the Mississippi River between the river and the St. Francis Levee. Seasonal flooding and soil saturation occurs on an average of about once every two years, generally between January and June (1,2).

The site property, which is privately owned, was utilized as an uncontrolled dump for municipal and industrial wastes from the mid- to late-1950s until it closed in 1979. However, illegal dumping continued until the area was totally fenced in July 1992. The site reportedly received wastes such as oil and grease sludge, sewage sludge, construction debris, chemical paint waste, and general household wastes. In all, approximately 36 tons of amines, amides, resins, ketones, and aldehydes, in addition to other hazardous substances, were disposed of on the site. For example, 89 drums containing methyl ethyl ketone and toluene were found at the site on the banks of the Mississippi River and removed in 1981 (1).

The landfill area has been divided by EPA into three distinct areas based on geographic features and historical waste deposition. Area 1, about 15 acres, was generally thought to have been used as a municipal waste dump; Area 2 (11 acres) contains industrial wastes and oil sludge pits (including the large sludge pit); and Area 3, about 12.5 acres, contains primarily municipal wastes (2). Figure 3 shows the location of these areas and other features of the site.

The South 8th Street Landfill site has been investigated by EPA on several separate occasions. These include the initial Field Investigation Team (FIT) investigation; FIT follow-up studies; initial Technical Assistant Team (TAT) investigation; a TAT follow-up study; air, soil, and surface water sampling to finalize the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) score; follow-up monitoring of site conditions; and a Remedial Investigation (3).

The initial FIT investigation was conducted in August 1981. No samples were collected but drums and other surface anomalies were discovered. In March 1982, the FIT conducted a soil boring investigation. Samples from the four borings revealed the presence of ammonia and cyanide. In March 1982, and June 1986, the FIT sampled the on-site waste pits. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) were detected in the pit samples. In November 1986, the TAT conducted ambient air monitoring, and in January 1987, collected waste samples from the pits. These samples, like the previous pit samples, contained PAHs, PCBs, and BTEX (3).

In February 1988, the FIT conducted a sampling inspection of the site. Samples from six of the waste pits contained PAHs, PCBs, BTEX, pesticides [1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene (DDE), 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDD), and dieldrin], and lead. (The large waste pit was reported to be the most contaminated.) Pesticides were also detected in site surface soils. Heavy metals (including lead, copper, and zinc) were found in surface water samples from the on-site ponds. In October 1988, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and PAHs were detected in ambient air on-site (1,3).

In February 1992, the South 8th Street Landfill site was proposed for the EPA National Priorities List (NPL). The site was subsequently listed as final on the NPL in October 1992 (4).

During the second half of 1992, EPA conducted a Remedial Investigation (RI) of the South 8th Street Landfill site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). The primary purpose of the RI was to gather information to 1) define waste characteristics, extent of site contamination, and waste migration pathways; 2) assess the site's risk to public health and impact on the environment; and 3) determine viable remedial alternatives for consideration in developing the Record of Decision (ROD) (3,4).

The RI included the following activities:

  • collecting and evaluating data to determine the types, concentrations, extent, and movement of contaminants present in surface and subsurface soils, surface water, sediment, groundwater and biota at the site, and
  • collecting and evaluating data to characterize the subsurface geology and hydrogeologic conditions.

Sampling results from the RI are discussed and evaluated in the "Environmental Contamination and Other Hazards " section of this document.

In October and November 1992, an EPA contractor constructed an earthen berm (with a maximum height of 8 feet) around the large, oily sludge pit to prevent migration of pit contaminants during precipitation events and site flooding. The berm was intended to be a temporary measure until the sludge pit, along with the rest of the site, could be remediated (4,5).

In April 1993, surface water samples from the Mississippi River and an additional round of groundwater samples were collected at the site to supplement the 1992 RI sampling data (4).

B. Site Visit

Mr. Stephen Richardson and Ms. Déborah Boling of ATSDR, Atlanta, Georgia; and Ms. Jennifer Lyke, ATSDR Regional Representative, Dallas, Texas, visited the South 8th Street Landfill site area on September 22, 1992, with Mr. David Weeks, EPA Regional Project Manager, Dallas Texas; and Mr. Craig Carroll, EPA On-site Coordinator, Dallas, Texas. The following was observed and learned during the site visit:

  • the site areas on each side of South 8th Street are surrounded by an 8-foot chain-link fence;
  • there is a large sludge pit located on-site containing tar-like substances which could present a physical hazard for site trespassers;
  • before the site was fenced, it was used for overflow parking during the city's annual "Livin' on the Levee" festival;
  • there is a RV park with a capacity for about 38 motor-homes located adjacent to the northeast side of the site;
  • there is a City of West Memphis police department firing range located adjacent to the north side of the site;
  • RI/FS field sampling activities were on-going at the site. The large, oily sludge pit was being tested at the time of the visit.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use


According to 1990 census data, approximately 50,000 persons live in Crittenden County, Arkansas. Within Crittenden County, the City of Memphis has a population of about 28,000. The city has 9,880 occupied housing units with an average of 2.83 persons per household.

The racial makeup of West Memphis in 1990 was 56.9 percent white, 42.1 percent black, 0.5 percent Hispanic (of any race), and 0.5 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.

Land Use

The South 8th Street Landfill is located in a mixed industrial/agricultural/residential area. The site itself is zoned as a general industrial district. However, the site currently has no residential, commercial, or industrial development, with the exception of two barge terminals located on the Mississippi River. The nearest residential area is believed to be located approximately 1/2 mile north of the site (across the levee). The river is used for transportation and commercial fishing.

As previously mentioned, an RV park is located just northeast of the site and is separated from the majority of the site by a fence. The park, which can accommodate about 38 motor homes, is generally occupied from late April or early May to mid-November. The amount of time that visitors may stay is not limited but usually does not exceed one to two weeks. Before the site was fenced in mid-1992, visitors of the RV park used the site area, including the on-site pond, for recreational activities.

Western portions of the site have been used in the past as agricultural land. Land to the west of the site is currently farmed (1,5).

Natural Resource Use

Groundwater is a major source of water for communities in the site region and is contained in several aquifers.

The shallowest aquifer in the site area is the Alluvium, which is approximately 90 to 200 feet thick. The Alluvium consists of an upper sand and clay unit and a lower gravel unit with moderate to very high permeability. The gravel unit is the principal irrigation aquifer in the site area. In the vicinity of the site, the Claiborne Group lies beneath the Alluvium and also consists of two units: the upper group of fine to coarse sand, clay, silt, and lignite; and the lower of fine sand with thin lenses of clay and lignite. The upper unit of the Claiborne Group has historically been used as a source of potable water in the area. Beneath the Claiborne is the Wilcox Sand Strata. The middle unit of the Wilcox is a large sand aquifer which is used to supply drinking water for the City of West Memphis (4). Specifically, the City of West Memphis draws water from five municipal wells at a depth of approximately 1,300 feet below ground surface. These wells are located upgradient and within 4 miles of the site; the nearest (Well #5) is approximately 2 miles from the site (1).

Groundwater generally moves toward the southwest in the site area. In areas immediately adjacent to the Mississippi River, groundwater discharges directly to the river. However, during periods of high river levels, local groundwater may flow in the opposite direction, i.e, directly inland from the river. Nevertheless, the river probably does not contribute significant quantities of water to the aquifer because most of the water is held in bank storage and is released back to the river during lower water stages (4).

The closest private well to the site is located approximately 250 feet east of the adjacent RV camping area. However, this well is not used for drinking water or other domestic purposes. No other private wells in the site area have been reported. Drinking water for the RV park is provided by the City of West Memphis municipal water system. Other persons (i.e., residents) in the general site area also obtain drinking water from the City of West Memphis (4,5).

As discussed above, the Mississippi River borders the site to the southeast and is the dominant surface water in the site area. The river is used for commercial transportation and fishing. The river floods the site property on an average of 30 days per year (based on 1980-1990 flood events) to a maximum depth of 15 feet (5).

A small, man-made fishing pond is located in the northeastern section of the site (near the RV park) and is suspected to be a former borrow pit. Precipitation, surface runoff, periodic flooding, and possibly groundwater discharge influence the water level of the pond. In the past, the pond had been periodically pumped or filled to maintain it for recreational purposes. Fish observed and/or caught in the pond included: bluegill, bass, catfish, shad, mosquito fish, and smallmouth buffalo. It is believed that fish migrate to the pond during flooding episodes. Besides fishing, the on-site pond has also been reported to be used for swimming/wading by visitors of the adjacent RV park (5). Since July 1992, access to the pond has been restricted by a chain-link fence which separates the pond from the RV park area.

Rainwater that falls on the site is reported to remain on-site and infiltrate site soils. In the northeastern section of the site, surface runoff drains toward the on-site pond. During rainfall episodes, water collects in depressions (i.e., along the tree line, in borrow pits) and then infiltrates site soils, evaporates, or drains to the pond. Surface water has not been observed to drain off the site into the Mississippi River (5).

D. Health Outcome Data

Health outcome data were not evaluated for this site because the population of concern is very small (about 5 - 100), mostly transient, and exposures to site contaminants were intermittent. Details of why such data were not analyzed are presented in the Public Health Implications -- Health Outcome Data Evaluation Subsection.


As part of the development of this public health assessment, ATSDR staff held an informal, one-on-one public availability session to learn about the community's site-related concerns. The availability session was held on September 22, 1992, at the Crittenden County Health Department in West Memphis. About four persons, including a local news reporter, attended the session.

No site-related health concerns were expressed by the individuals attending the public availability session.

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