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Health Implications of Site Exposure

  1. The Waste Inc. Landfill site in Michigan City, Indiana poses a public health hazard due to the bioaccumulation of site related chemicals in certain fish species found in Trail Creek. Although fish are contaminated, the Waste Inc. site is not the only potential source of contamination. The site, therefore, cannot be blamed for all the contamination, but it does definitely contribute.
  2. Residents, particularly children under 6 years of age, who live adjacent to Waste Inc. and Trail Creek, may have ingested lead contaminated sediments and soil. For adults and children who occasionally work and play in these contaminated areas, health effects are unlikely to occur. For children under 6 years of age, however, who play every day along Trail Creek and who could potentially ingest 200 mg of sediment and soil each day, exposure to lead could result in decreased IQ scores, growth retardation, and hearing problems. Because they ingest smaller amounts of soil, older children and especially adults are at less risk of developing adverse health effects.
  3. Vegetation on-site reduces the risk of windblown dust contaminating the soil at residences along Trail Creek; thus, the amount of incidental ingestion of contaminated soil particles would be minimal. Contamination may increase, however, during on-site remediation activities.
  4. There are numerous site-related cancer causing agents. Review of all cancers in Indiana indicates that there has not been a significant increase for environmentally caused cancers.
  5. We have received health questions about this site from residents and officials in Michigan City. We have summarized and addressed these concerns in the PUBLIC HEALTH IMPLICATIONS section.
  6. We have reviewed specific health outcome data for birth defects in LaPorte County. The data is limited, however, the rate of birth defects in LaPorte County is similar to the rate for the State. Since the rates are about the same, no further evaluation of this health outcome data is planned.
  7. Data inadequacies include the following:
    1. Environmental data for on- and off-site surface soil (less than or equal to 3 inches deep)
    2. Characterization of the ambient on- and off-site air for volatilized chemicals.
    3. Michigan City residents blood levels of site related measurable chemicals.
    4. Existing ATSDR Toxicological Profiles for PAHs, lead, and mercury lack information that would allow a better assessment of the site's public health implications. Missing information includes a chronic MRL for ingestion exposure to PAHs, lead, mercury, and specific mixtures of PCBs.
    5. Health-based comparison values are not available for all exposure routes for potentially dangerous chemicals, therefore, limiting our ability to determine adverse health effects.


Cease/Reduce Exposure Recommendations

  1. Encourage current Trail Creek fish eaters to adhere to the current Trail Creek Fish Advisory.
  2. Inform Michigan City residents of the known physical and potential chemical dangers involved with children playing on the site.
  3. Re-inform all residents within a 1-mile radius of the site with access to private wells not to use them for any future purposes.
  4. Implement optimal dust control measures during remediation to protect persons on- and off-site from exposure to dust or vapors that may be released during remediation.
  5. Provide on-site remedial workers with adequate protective equipment and training in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.120, and follow appropriate National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.
  6. Establish the contents and stability of the on-site underground storage tank.
  7. Take necessary actions to prevent local population exposure to site contaminants.

Site Characterization Recommendations

  1. Obtain additional data for surface soil (less than or equal to 3 inches deep) and ambient air to characterize adequately the extent and amount of site contamination that may exist on-site and off-site. In particular, perform the following:
    1. Collect additional samples of surface soil for each residential yard along Trail Creek.
    2. Collect multiple 12-hour, ambient air samples and indoor air samples in each season for at least one year. Analyze for chemicals. Consult with ATSDR and the ISDH to determine the appropriate location of on-site and off-site air stations.
  2. Collect samples of indoor dust from hard surfaces in residences bordering Trail Creek. Collect samples so that results can be quantified to microgram chemical per gram of dust.
  3. Collect water samples from the municipal water supply.
  4. Collect ambient air samples of the residences bordering the site before and after remediation.
  5. Undertake measures to eliminate falling objects and trip and fall physical hazards due to the dilapidated building and metal fence.

Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Statement

ATSDR's HARP and the Indiana State Department of Health have evaluated the data and information on the Waste Inc. site for appropriate health follow-up actions. Because of indications of human exposure to site contaminants and allegations of adverse health outcome, follow-up health actions are recommended. The recommendations include biological indicators of exposure testing for mercury, lead, and PCBs and health education for the community and health professions education in the area. As additional information becomes available, and evaluations are made, additional appropriate actions will be taken.

Pursuant to the HARP review and the Public Health Assessment recommendations, the following public health actions were undertaken or are planned. Based on these actions, the following Public Health Action statement is proposed for inclusion in the health assessment for this site.


Based on the recommendations made in this health assessment, the following public health actions have been or will be undertaken.

Actions Planned

  1. ATSDR, Division of Health Education, will provide health education to health professionals in Michigan City. This will consist of activities to improve the knowledge, skill, and behavior of health professionals in screening, surveillance, diagnosing, treating and preventing injury or disease due to possible exposure to hazardous substances. In addition, the community will be provided information about potential adverse health effects that could occur as a result of eating fish taken from Trail Creek and risks associated with exposure to the site's chemical and physical hazards. This program will be initiated as resources permit.
  2. The ISDH will submit to ATSDR a proposal to perform testing of the potentially impacted members of the community surrounding the site for biological indicators of exposure. Blood samples will be collected and analyzed for mercury, PCBs, and lead to determine whether residents living near the site have been exposed to higher than expected levels of these contaminants. The study will begin as resources permit.
  3. ISDH and ATSDR will cooperate with the appropriate state and federal agencies to pursue the implementation of the recommendations outlined in this public health assessment.


Preparers of Report:

    Ms. Dollis M. Wright
    Indiana State Department of Health

    Mr. Garry L. Mills
    Environmental Manager
    Indiana State Department of Health

ATSDR Regional Representative:

    Ms. Louise Fabinski
    Regional Operations, Region V
    Office of the Assistant Administrator

ATSDR Technical Project Officer:

    Mr. William Greim
    Environmental Health Scientist
    Remedial Programs Branch
    Division of Health Assessment & Consultation


The Waste Inc. Landfill Public Health Assessment was prepared by the Indiana State 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 public health assessment was begun.

William Greim
Technical Project Officer
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC)

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this public health assessment, and concurs with its findings.

Robert C. Williams, P.E., DEE
Director, DHAC, ATSDR


  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hazard Ranking System Document. January 3, 1985.

  2. Waste Inc. Contractor. Remedial Investigation for Waste Inc. Site. May 11, 1987.

  3. Waste Inc. Steering Committee. Work Plan for Waste Inc. Site, November 2, 1987.

  4. Waste Inc. Steering Committee. Work Plan for Waste Inc. Site. March 22, 1988.

  5. Waste Inc. Steering Committee. Remedial Investigation. August 26, 1991.

  6. ATSDR. Preliminary Health Assessment on Waste Inc. Site.

  7. Waste Inc. Draft Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements. September 16, 1991.

  8. Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Internal Memorandum. March 26, 1990.

  9. Indiana State Department of Health. Indiana Birth Problems Registry, 1987-1991.

  10. HSDB. 1992. Hazardous Substance Data Bank. National Library of Medicine, National Toxicology Information Program, Bethesda, MD. April 1992.

  11. ATSDR. February 1992. Draft Toxicological Profile for Lead. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia.

  12. ATSDR. December 1989. Toxicological Profile for Mercury. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia.

  13. ATSDR. December 1990. Toxicological Profile for 2-Methylnaphthalene. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia.

  14. ATSDR. December 1990. Toxicological Profile for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia.

  15. ATSDR. February 1992. Draft Toxicological Profile for Selected PCBs (Aroclor-1260, -1254, -1248, -1242, -1232, -1221, and -1016). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia.

  16. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Cancer Institute. U.S. Cancer Mortality Rates and Trends, 1950-1979.

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