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Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana
Spencer, Owen County, Indiana


This Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites (PHA) is the Agency for toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) evaluation of the public health impact of six sites in and around Bloomington, Indiana, and the public health considerations for technologies that could be used to remediate the sites. The PHA is a cooperative effort of ATSDR and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). Four of the Bloomington polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) sites--Bennett Stone Quarry, Lemon Lane Landfill, Neal's Dump, and Neal's Landfill--are on the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Priorities List (NPL); Anderson Road Landfill and Winston-Thomas Sewage Treatment Plant are not on the NPL but were included in the PHA as part of ATSDR's Bloomington PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) Project. The project was begun in November 1992 in response to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Rep. Frank McCloskey's (D-IN) request for a study of the potential health implications associated with a planned incinerator. A 1985 consent decree signed by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, EPA, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the City of Bloomington, and Monroe County identified incineration as the remedial option for the Bloomington sites. See the Introduction in Volume I for additional information about the consent decree. In spring 1994, parties to the consent decree began discussions about other remedial options that might be considered for these six sites.

This PHA represents one of the major components of the project; the other was an expert panel workshop held in Bloomington, Indiana, in September 1993. Proceedings and findings from the workshop are available in the draft report Proceedings of the Expert Panel Workshop To Evaluate the Public Health Implications of the Treatment and Disposal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls-Contaminated Waste. The panel workshop provided a considerable amount of background information for the discussions in Volume II of this PHA.

The fact that there are three volumes of the PHA is unique in ATSDR's experience. However, because of the nature of the Congressional request to ATSDR, several other unique aspects of this effort dictated the need for three volumes.

Typical of most PHAs, Volume I contains an evaluation of past, present, and future health implications based on available environmental and health outcome data and pathways of potential human exposure. The pathways analysis and toxicologic implications for contaminants found in Volume I are for six sites rather than the one or two sites that are more typically the subject of PHAs. The ISDH prepared Volume I, Final Report:

Preliminary Data Evaluation and Pathway Analyses Report for Consent Decree PCB Sites, under a cooperative agreement with ATSDR and in accordance with ATSDR procedures and guidelines for developing PHAs (ATSDR - Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual [PHAGM], 1992). Volume I represents a major data gathering and analysis activity that was the first comprehensive review of the six Bloomington PCB sites. The ISDH report was released for public comment in January 1994 and, after public comments were addressed, as a final document in April 1994. ATSDR used the ISDH report to focus its attention on specific exposure pathways that ISDH identified as "potential" or "completed" and as background for reaching its own conclusions and recommendations.

Volume II represents a departure from the standard PHA process, primarily in terms of its focus and format. This departure allows ATSDR to address Congressional concerns more effectively. Thus, Volume II, Public Health Considerations of Remedial Technologies for the Bloomington PCB Sites, summarizes a number of public health considerations that those selecting remedial options for both incineration and non-incineration remedial technologies for PCB wastes must evaluate. ATSDR staff members wrote Volume II and in September 1994 released it for public comment. The findings of the expert panels that met in Bloomington, Indiana, in September 1993 had significant influence on the development of Volume II. Volume II examines public health issues regarding waste characterization, excavation, and transportation and reports community concerns related to site remediation.

The public comment version of Volume II was released in September 1994. In November 1994, ATSDR representatives met with citizens in Bloomington to discuss issues related to Volume II and any other comments that they had about the overall project. Several groups asked that ATSDR also consider and respond to comments that were relevant to Volume I, even though Volume I was considered final. Because of the community interest, ATSDR agreed to review all comments presented. The scope and number of comments dictated that ATSDR develop a separate volume to address all comments.

ATSDR also prepared Volume III of the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites, which is a concluding summary of critical issues and questions raised following the public release of volumes I and II. It provides the bases for the overall conclusions and recommendations the agency reached regarding public health hazards associated with the Bloomington PCB sites under past, present, and future conditions.

Volume III of the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites specifically addresses public comments on the PHA in the following sections:

  • III.A. -- A summary of Themes That Run Through the Questions and Comments on the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites, Volume I and Summary Responses That Respond Generally to Those Themes
  • III.B. -- Responses to General Public Comments on the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites, Volume I;
  • III.C. -- Responses to Specific Public Comments on the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites, Volume I;
  • IV.A. -- Responses to Public Comments on the NIRT Sections of the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites, Volume II; and
  • IV.B. -- Public Comments on Incineration Sections of the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites, Volume II.

The conclusions and recommendations in Volume III supersede those in previous releases of Volume I and provide a summary of the overall conclusions and recommendations in previous releases of Volume II. If previous editions of volumes I and II contain specific conclusions or recommendations that are no longer valid, we have noted that in Volume III.

I. Introduction

Bloomington was the location during the years 1958 through 1977 of a large manufacturer of electrical capacitors containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs entered the environment when capacitors not meeting manufacturer's specifications and containing PCB fluids were hauled to and discarded in local landfills, limestone quarries, and dumps. PCBs also entered the environment at elevated levels via the discharge of contaminated fluids into the city sewer system, which resulted in the contamination of the Winston-Thomas Sewage Treatment Plant and the creek adjacent to it.

The consent decree for these sites requires that the approximately 650,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated soil and material from 6 sites be remediated. See the introduction in Volume I for additional information about the consent decree. The first phase of the consent decree required removal and remedial measures to contain the six sites until the extensive excavation of PCB-contaminated materials begins. The second phase of the consent decree involves the permitting, construction, and operation of a municipal solid waste-fueled, high temperature incinerator that will incinerate the PCB-contaminated materials from all six consent decree sites. In the spring of 1994, all parties to the consent decree agreed to reevaluate the Bloomington sites to identify site-specific data gaps, remediation needs, and alternatives to using incineration as the method of remediation.

This volume categorizes and responds to critical issues and to comments submitted by individuals and agencies following releases of volumes I and II of the public health assessment.

II. Summary Conclusions and Recommendations for the Bloomington Consent Decree PCB Sites

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reaches conclusions about the public health impact of sites based on analyses of the following information and data:

  • the nature and extent of contamination at the areas of concern;
  • site-specific health outcome data for the potentially impacted community;
  • health concerns expressed by community members;
  • published results of environmental, toxicologic, and epidemiologic investigations; and
  • direct observations by health assessors of site features that provide insight into the nature and patterns of human activities leading to exposure, i.e., feasible human exposure pathways. Completed exposure pathways consist of five elements, all of which must be present or likely to be present: a source of contamination, an environmental medium and transport mechanism, a point of exposure, a route of exposure, and a receptor population.

ATSDR considers the evaluation and analyses of feasible human exposure pathways as the most critical factor in the overall evaluation of public health impact. If significant human contact with or human exposure to site-related contaminants does not occur, then adverse health effects due to site-related contaminants will not occur in spite of elevated environmental contaminant levels. A pathways analysis includes evaluation of the kinds and frequencies of behavior that bring humans into contact with contaminants and, if contact is considered feasible, an estimate of the extent of exposure. ATSDR performs both a screening level estimate based on a worst-case, maximum exposure scenario and a more detailed analysis based on more site-specific data and information, particularly information related to human activity patterns that could feasibly lead to exposure.

ATSDR and Indiana State Department of health (ISDH) staff members have made a number of visits, during which they have looked at the potential for human exposures to site-related contaminants at the Bloomington sites. Based largely on the initially conservative exposure scenarios and pathways identified in Volume I, information related to the following topics was of particular interest:

  • the ease and likely frequency of children gaining access to streams and springs associated with Bennett's Stone Quarry, Lemon Lane, Neal's Landfill, and the Winston-Thomas Facility and a subjective assessment of feasible behavior patterns that might lead to exposure (e.g., frequently ingesting contaminated sediments in the springs);
  • the ingestion of contaminated groundwater by those, if any, on private wells near Bennett's Stone Quarry, Lemon Lane, Neal's Landfill, and, particularly, Neal's Dump; and
  • the frequent ingestion of contaminated fish and game potentially affected by contamination at Bennett's Stone Quarry, Lemon Lane, Neal's Landfill, and the Winston-Thomas facility.

A brief discussion of each appears below.

Streams and Springs -- Volume I identified the streams and springs mentioned above as the primary source or locations of exposure and designated them as completed exposure pathways in accordance with the ATSDR Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual, 1992. Based on ATSDR screening criteria or comparison values, the assessors designated a number of these pathways as public health hazards (see Volume I, pages 164-168).

ATSDR, on the basis of its site visits, is of the opinion that neither children nor adults are likely to engage in activities in the mentioned springs and streams that would lead to significant exposures to site-related contaminants and therefore to increased body burdens. The springs and streams are not easily accessible to very young children (i.e., children ages 1 to 2 years old), who would be most likely to ingest sediments and surface water. Older children and adults may have greater access but are not likely to ingest significant quantities of sediments and surface water. Furthermore, given the levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and other contaminants detected (or likely to be present) in those streams and sediments, the available toxicologic and epidemiologic data strongly suggest that even occasional ingestion of and dermal contact with these sediments and surface water are not likely to pose a health hazard.

Groundwater -- While complete well surveys have not been conducted, most residents except those near Neal's Dump appear to have access to public water supplies and are therefore not likely to be drinking or using contaminated groundwater. Where private wells have been sampled, the levels of PCBs, if detected, have been below levels of health concern. On the other hand, residents adjacent to Neal's Dump do depend on deep well groundwater for potable water. As of January 1, 1996, PCBs have not been detected in their wells. However, PCBs have been detected at low levels in the monitoring wells that draw water from the area's shallow aquifers. Existing data are insufficient to determine whether the deep and shallow aquifers are hydrogeologically connected or whether other site-related contaminants are present in the potable wells. Monitoring of the wells used for potable water is ongoing.

Fish and Game -- ATSDR does not believe that fishers and hunters use fish in the streams and game close to the sites as frequent or substantial sources of food. The springs and streams around Lemon Lane are not likely to support game fish and hunting. Any hunting or fishing for food that does occur is likely to be infrequent. Fish in the streams associated with Bennett Stone Quarry, Neal's Landfill, and the Winston-Thomas Facility are showing signs of recontamination but do not appear to be the species or size that would be considered a human food source even infrequently. If fish further downstream of these locations are contaminated and of the size that would serve as a food source, then some restrictions on eating fish may be advisable. The ISDH has issued advisories in the past and may issue more in the future if conditions warrant.

ATSDR also considered exposures through contaminated air and dermal exposures to contaminated soils, sediments, and water for the locations identified in Volume I. Again, based on review of the locations, the feasible frequency of contact, and the levels of contamination, ATSDR considers the exposure potential via these pathways either unlikely or insignificant in terms of public health consequence.

II. A. Conclusions

The following conclusions and recommendations, based on the available information for the six Bloomington Consent Decree PCB Sites, supersede those in previous releases of Volume I and provide a summary of the overall conclusions and recommendations in previous releases of Volume II. They represent ATSDR's most recent analyses of available data:

  • Current conditions present no apparent public health hazard to the general population. The general populations of Bloomington and surrounding areas either are not currently being exposed to PCBs and other site-related contaminants or are not being exposed at levels that would be expected to produce human body burdens sufficient to cause adverse health effects. Some questions remain regarding the consumption of fish from impacted streams.
  • Private wells supplying potable water near Neal's Dump may be affected in the future. Currently data show no contamination in the deep aquifers. Hydrogeologic data are not sufficient to discount connections between the contaminated shallow aquifer and the deep aquifer that serves as a source of potable water for the residents living adjacent to Neal's Dump.
  • Data are insufficient to determine whether members of the general population exposed to site-related PCBs in the past have been adversely affected. Those individuals that showed elevated body burdens of PCBs were most likely those who came in direct contact with industrial grade PCBs and heavily contaminated soils (thousands of parts per million) as a result of occupational activities or metals-scavenging activities. County level health outcome data are not sufficient to determine whether effects have occurred in the exposed subgroups. Other sources of health outcome data do not appear to be available.
  • Despite interim remedial actions at the sites, PCB recontamination is appearing in off-site springs and streams associated with Bennett Stone Quarry, Lemon Lane, Neal's Landfill, and the Winston-Thomas facility. The PCB contamination appears to be entering these off-site areas as a result of the movement of contaminated groundwater and seeps; no air or surface water transport mechanisms were identified. The off-site levels would not be expected to pose a health hazard to humans.
  • Information that would make possible a comprehensive evaluation of the public health implications of a remedial technology is not available. If either incineration or any of the non-incineration technologies are selected for implementation, there would need to be evaluation of design and operating plans, monitoring and control systems, and site-specific treatability testing. In addition, there would need to be evaluation of fugitive emissions associated with the excavation, handling, and transportation of contaminated materials.

II.B. Recommendations

  • Continue monitoring any active private wells potentially affected by Neal's Dump and Lemon Lane Landfill.
  • Continue monitoring for site-related contaminants in springs and streams associated with Bennett Stone Quarry, Lemon Lane, Neal's Landfill, and Winston-Thomas Facility. Continue monitoring human consumption of game and fish associated with the streams.
  • Identify populations, if any, that use the affected streams and surface waters for fishing and hunting. Determine their extent of contact with contaminated water and sediments and take appropriate measures to eliminate ingestion of contaminated fish and game.
  • Determine the potential public health implications of the technology(ies) selected for use at any of the Bloomington PCB sites. ATSDR is available to conduct a comprehensive review of the remediation design and operating plans and specifications of any clean-up alternative proposed for implementation at the Bloomington sites. The agency will work with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Indiana, the city of Bloomington, and the public to evaluate public health issues that might be associated with specific remedial options.

II.C. Public Health Action Plan

The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for the Bloomington polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) consent decree sites describes actions undertaken and planned by local, state, and federal health agencies to ensure that appropriate public health actions are directed toward the mitigation and prevention of adverse human health effects identified in this public health assessment. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended, requires the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to perform public health actions needed at hazardous waste sites. To determine whether public health actions are needed, ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) has evaluated the data and information developed in volumes I and II of the Public Health Assessment for Bloomington PCB Sites. One HARP-recommended action is included in this section, identified with the designation (HARP) after the statement.

Actions Taken

  1. Community health education was provided through public availability sessions and public meetings offered by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and ATSDR.
  2. In March 1993, the ATSDR's Division of Health Education provided a series of environmental health education seminars to local health-care providers in response to concerns of local citizens, physicians, and other health professionals. The seminars were given at the Bloomington Hospital as part of the Grand Rounds program; the seminars focused on health effects associated with exposures to PCBs (HARP).
  3. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a health hazard evaluation to determine whether current workers in the former Westinghouse facility were being exposed to PCBs during the dismantling of old capacitor production lines. NIOSH staff found that some surfaces still contained levels of PCBs above NIOSH guidelines and that dismantling operations, involving the use of acetylene torches, could expose individuals to elevated levels of PCBs, their pyrolysis products, and other noxious materials. Recommendations were provided that, if followed, would prevent or reduce exposures during such operations.
  4. In September 1993, ATSDR convened an expert panel workshop in Bloomington, Indiana, to address concerns about the public health implications of remediation technologies that might be used for the consent decree sites. Panelists discussed both incineration and non-incineration technologies. Results of the expert panel workshop have been published, and videotapes of all panel sessions are available to the public in local repositories in and around Bloomington. The videotapes and the final versions of the panel report and this public health assessment are also available through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS).
  5. ATSDR has conducted health consultations for the Fell Iron site and the ABB site. Neither site was covered by the consent decree. As data become available, other areas potentially contaminated with PCBs might also become subjects of health consultations.

Actions Planned or Ongoing

  1. NIOSH is updating its previous occupational mortality study of workers employed at the former Westinghouse facility and plans to release the update in December 1996.
  2. EPA and the other consent decree parties are continuing their administrative deliberations, which might result in additional site characterizations and proposed remedies. ATSDR will participate, as requested by the consent decree parties, in the evaluation of the public health implications for proposed remedies.
  3. ATSDR, in cooperation with other federal, state, and local environmental and health agencies, will evaluate any relevant new environmental, toxicologic, or health outcome data for the consent decree sites to determine the need for additional public health actions.
  4. ATSDR will work with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Indiana, the city of Bloomington, and the public to evaluate public health issues that might be associated with specific remedial options.
  5. Previous recommendations resulting from earlier public health assessment activities called for ATSDR to evaluate the feasibility of a congener-specific serum PCB study on stored blood samples collected from Bloomington residents during the 1980s. If funds become available ATSDR will further consider this type of study in terms of its scientific validity and public health merit.

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