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The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) received a request from a Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia, community member to investigate potential health concerns associated with the Brunswick Wood Preserving (BWP). One of the concerns expressed by the individual was about potential exposure to contaminated groundwater that may be migrating from the site (ATSDR, 1993a). In response to this concern, ATSDR reviewed available environmental site data, including information and analytical data provided by the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA), Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), the Glynn County Health Department, and the Community Based Environmental Project (CBEP). This health consultation includes the review of available environmental data and an evaluation of potential pathways of exposure to contaminate groundwater.


Site Description and History

BWP is a former wood preserving facility located on approximately 84 acres on Perry Lane Road, Brunswick, Georgia (see Figure 1). The site is situated in northwest Brunswick, approximately 5 miles from the downtown area. It is bounded to the south and east by railroad tracks, to the north by Perry Land, and to the west by Burnett Creek (ATSDR, 1992a). The 50-acre production area consisted of two wood treating process areas and a four-acre water-containing surface impoundment (see Figure 2). The site also contains four buried impoundments and a treated pole storage area. Currently, the site is inactive and is completely fenced and posted with a security guard (EPA, 1997a).

The BWP facility was one of four facilities that made up Brunswick Wood Treating Company (EPA, 1991b). BWP treated utility poles and marine piles from 1958 until 1991, when the site was abandoned. The Brunswick facility initially handled only oil-based preservatives (e.g., creosote and pentachlorophenol [PCP]), but by 1970, Brunswick Wood Preserving also had constructed a separate facility for chromated copper arsenate (CCA) wood treatment (EPA, 1991a).

Following treatment by either method, BWP's wood products were dried in drip tracks and stored in treated wood storage areas prior to shipment. The creosote and PCP pressure treatment process generated a large amount of wastewater, which was treated on site prior to its release to surface water bodies, the closest being Burnett Creek. Neither the process areas, the drying tracks, nor the storage areas were underlain with concrete slabs or other material that might prevent wood-preserving compounds from being washed into the surrounding soil (EPA, 1991a). Therefore, as a result of normal operations and storage practices, wood preservatives and spent wastewater were released to surrounding soil.

In early 1991, the BWP declared bankruptcy and completely ceased operations following a fire at the facility. Because of the facility's inability to take corrective actions or continue operating a wastewater treatment system, EPA entered into a Consent Decree with the various owners/operators and initiated a two-phase removal action program. The first phase began on May 29, 1991, and included 1) abating the emergency situation posed by surface water runoff from the site due to the wastewater treatment system, 2) draining several small holding tanks, and 3) disassembling the CCA process area (EPA, 1991a).

During the first phase, EPA also conducted a preliminary assessment of environmental media, determining that elevated levels of wood preserving compounds were present in the process area's soil at depths up to 9 feet below ground surface. Contaminants of concern identified in soils included PCP, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), arsenic, and chromium. EPA also identified dioxin, an impurity of PCP. Appendix A provides a description of these contaminants. In addition, EPA conducted limited on-site groundwater monitoring and found that wood preserving compounds released to the on-site soil had migrated vertically to the underlying surficial aquifer beneath the site (EPA, 1991a). EPA also identified and tested more than 50 private wells in the immediate area of the site.

The second phase of the removal action started in January 1992, and included demolition of the CCA process area, the construction of cells for staging of excavated soil, and the excavation of the soil underlying a creosote/PCP impoundment to the west of the creosote/PCP process area. EPA stored more than 127,000 tons of excavated contaminated soil in four on-site lined and covered cells. Depleted funding resources delayed removal activities and stockpiled contaminated soil remained on site for several years. GADNR secured funding in November 1996 to begin removing the cells containing stockpiled soils (Permar, 1996). Soil removal is expected to be completed by early 1998.

In 1992, ATSDR was requested by EPA to evaluate whether BWP site conditions posed health concerns for nearby residents or to individuals accessing the site (ATSDR, 1992a). ATSDR determined that additional data were needed to evaluate two potential exposure pathways that were identified. Those pathways were: 1) exposure may occur if contaminated groundwater beneath the site migrates to off-site areas where groundwater is the source for drinking water supplies, and 2) exposure may occur if people contact potentially contaminated soil on site.

Since the 1992 Health Consultation, ATSDR received a second petition for this site from a Brunswick community member also concerned about potential off-site contaminant migration (ATSDR, 1993a). As follow up to the ATSDR recommendations in the 1992 Health Consultation and in response to the community member's concern, an evaluation of current data concerning this issue is addressed in this consultation.

In February 1997, EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) and began final cleanup measures at the site (EPA, 1997a). As a result of this action by EPA, the site was referred to the Superfund Site Assessment Branch at ATSDR where a Public Health Assessment (PHA) is in progress. The PHA will address the nature and extent of contamination, pathways of human exposure, demographics, health hazards, and comparison of mortality and morbidity data for the site.

Land and Natural Resources Use

The land in the vicinity of the BWP site is used for a combination of light industrial, commercial, and residential uses. The Brunswick area has been subject to pollution. The EPA is conducting Superfund cleanups at three other sites, and identified 17 other hazardous waste sites.

Much of the area encompasses large tidal marshes. The marshes are a habitat and feeding area for several species of animals and birds, including migratory birds and endangered species (EPA, 1991b). Tidal marshes border Burnett Creek as it extends from the site toward Cowpen Creek and then into Turtle River (EPA, 1991b). Because of its tidal influence, Burnett Creek flows upstream during high tide and downstream during low tide (EPA, 1991a). Another marsh area, Dixon Swamp, lies east of the site and is subject to seasonal flooding. A concrete flume connects Burnett Creek to the site. Because of the poor integrity of the flume, groundwater is probably leaching into the flume and traveling to Burnett Creek. Although the flume was plugged during removal measures, it has not effectively prevented contaminated groundwater from traveling to Burnett Creek (EPA, 1997a).

Commercial harvesting of shrimp and blue crabs occurs below the U.S. 341 bridge, one-half mile south of the site (EPA, 1991a). A strong commercial seafood fishing industry also prospers in Brunswick. In response to contamination detected in the area attributed to a variety of sources, the GADNR issued a fish consumption advisory for the Purvis Creek, Gibson Creek, and parts of the Turtle River, which are located approximately 2 to 3 miles south-southeast of the BWP site (EPA, 1995). Recreational harvesting of finfish and shellfish for local consumption also occurs along all reaches of Burnett Creek, including areas adjacent to the site (EPA, 1991a; EPA, 1997a). GADNR has not issued an advisory for Burnett Creek; fish monitoring has not been conducted along the creek.

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