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  1. The OPI site has been designated as a public health hazard because exposure to contaminants in the groundwater and surface soil has occurred in the past. Exposure to contaminants in the air occurred in the past, but that exposure has been eliminated.

  2. Exposure to contaminants in the off-site groundwater has been addressed with individual groundwater treatment systems. The extent of the plume of contamination is currently being characterized to determine whether other residential wells are at risk of contamination.

  3. Elevated levels of organic compounds have been detected in the on-site supply well (not currently used as a drinking water source). A water treatment system was installed, but the system was reported vandalized in the past. The supply well was functioning and appeared maintained during the last site visit (March 1994). However, the lock to the shed which houses the system had been broken. This supply well is the only source of water on the site; however, on-site employees report drinking only bottled water.

  4. Access to the site is not fully restricted. People can come into contact with contaminants in the on-site soil and surface water. The results of sampling off-site soil in the residential yards between the site and Little Northeast Creek indicated that no off-site contamination has occurred.

  5. Physical hazards on site, such as buried ordnance and above-ground rusting refuse, pose a public health hazard to employees and clients of on-site businesses and to trespassers who may gain access to the site.

  6. The average annual birth defects rate in Cecil County was nearly 50% higher than the overall Maryland State rate in 1984-1988, the most recent years for which the data have been analyzed. Data are not available for geographic areas smaller than the county, thus it is not known if the birth defects rate is elevated in the areas near the site.

  7. Most community health concerns expressed in the past have been addressed. MDE solicited remaining community health concerns during two public availability sessions held during the public comment period for this PHA (see Public Comments section).


  1. Continue to monitor all off-site residential wells located between the site and Little Northeast Creek. Assure that the water treatment systems that were installed by KDI and MVTC on the off-site residential wells are functioning properly.

  2. Restrict access to on-site areas where ordnance is thought to be buried (e.g. erect fences, post warning signs).

  3. Restrict access to surface water impoundment areas, including ponded water in Area D, (e.g. encircle them with fences and post warning signs). Although the site boundaries are partially fenced, the fence does not adequately restrict access to the site and the surface water impoundments.

  4. Establish security measures to prevent future unauthorized habitation of the site, because of potential exposure to contaminants through groundwater and soil pathways.

  5. Assure that the water treatment system for the on-site supply well is functioning properly. Although this supply well is not currently used as a drinking water source, it is used for other purposes which could result in human contact.

Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) Recommendations

The data and information developed in the Ordnance Products, Inc., Public Health Assessment have been evaluated for appropriate follow-up health actions. The ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) determined that site-specific health education is indicated for the community and health care professionals with special attention to known chemical and physical hazards. HARP agrees and endorses the concern expressed in the PHA for the potential presence of buried ordnance and incompletely characterized physical and chemical hazards. HARP strongly endorses the recommendation to restrict access and provide warnings to protect the public. ATSDR will reevaluate this site for additional follow-up public health actions if new data become available.

Public Health Actions

The public health action plan (PHAP) for the Ordnance Products, Inc., site contains a description of actions to be taken by ATSDR and/or other governmental agencies at and in the vicinity of the site subsequent to the completion of this PHA. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that this PHA not only identifies public health hazards, but provides a plan of action designed to mitigate and prevent adverse human health effects resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. Included is a commitment on the part of MDE and ATSDR to follow up on this plan to ensure that it is implemented.

Actions Taken

MDE conducted two public availability sessions with local residents to provide them with information on potential hazards at the site. At the sessions, MDE also solicited community health and other concerns related to the site.

In the Public Comment draft of this PHA, a recommendation was made to conduct limited sampling of the soil in selected yards of off-site residences situated between the OPI and Little Northeast Creek to determine if runoff from the site has occurred, potentially contaminating soil. This sampling was subsequently carried out by MDE. Based on previous results from on-site surface soil sampling, significant off-site soil contamination was neither expected nor found.

Actions Planned

The Environmental Risk Assessment Program (ERAP) at MDE will urge EPA Region III and Waste Management Administration at MDE to implement the site access restrictions listed in this PHA.

Currently, the six residential wells in which VOC contamination has been identified and which have been equipped with filtration systems are sampled for VOC analyses by the PRP's contractor each six weeks. This monitoring is scheduled to continue indefinitely. These data are received by MDE's Waste Management Administration and reviewed by MDE's Environmental Risk Assessment Program as appropriate.

As part of the site-specific health education determination, MDE will discuss appropriate actions for community health education with ATSDR and determine if resources are available within the State to conduct those activities.

MDE will identify health professionals in the community surrounding the site for ATSDR, and ATSDR will provide the health professionals with information.


The public comment period for the Ordnance Products, Inc. Public Health Assessment (PHA) ran for 30 days, from March 1 to March 30, 1995. During this time, the PHA was available for public review and comment. The PHA was placed, for public scrutiny, in the North East and Elkton Branches of the Cecil County Public Library as well as in the offices of MDE and Region III USEPA. MDE received written comments from four parties during the comment period. A summary of these comments as well as MDE's response to them is provided below.

To supplement written comments, MDE also held afternoon and evening public availability sessions on March 21, 1995. In these sessions, citizens met with MDE staff to ask questions about the PHA and to relay their concerns about the site. A summary of the issues raised and MDE's response is also provided below.

Written Comments Received During the Public Comment Period

Party 1: Contractor for the Potentially Responsible Party (PRP)

    The contractor prepared several documents which were used, in part, to write the PHA. The contractor offered a number of general and specific comments on the PHA. Most of the specific comments were expansions on or corrections to technical points (e.g., on sampling results or protocols) in the PHA; these points were incorporated into the final version of the PHA. The other comments and MDE's response to them are summarized below .

    Comment: The PRP no longer owns the site and, therefore, is not responsible for current site conditions. These include the lack of site security, the vandalization of an on-site hazardous waste storage building, the recent dumping of refuse, and the presence of oil on the surface of two lagoons. The current owner is responsible for site security and daily operations.

    MDE Response: MDE recognizes that the current owner is responsible for current site security and maintenance. However, one purpose of the PHA is to document current conditions at the site.

    Comment: MDE is incorrect in stating that "the sampling and analytical data submitted by O'Brien and Gere were of questionable reliability and limited use because of high detection limits due to sample dilution. The result is that the presence of some contaminants may have missed entirely." MDE is incorrect because O'Brien and Gere used analytical methods approved and reviewed by USEPA and MDE. In some instances, the detection limits were lower than those required by USEPA. Because a large number of samples were taken from various media, and similar contaminants were identified in them, it is extremely unlikely that some contaminants may have been missed entirely.

    MDE Response: In response to this comment (i.e., O'Brien and Gere certify that they properly implemented USEPA- and MDE-approved sampling methods), the references to "questionable reliability" have been removed from the final version of the PHA. However, even though proper analytical procedures have been followed, it is a fact that when dilution of samples is required, the detection limits are higher than those which would have been obtained had no dilution been necessary. Higher detection levels result in raising the minimum level of a substance detectable in that sampling round. Dilution also sometimes makes it impossible to determine an exact value for a chemical's concentration (e.g., 5 ppb); a range of values (e.g., <20 ppb) is estimated instead.

    Thus, dilution does limit the usefulness of the sampling data for the purpose of calculating human health risks for the PHA. The PHA uses ATSDR health-based screening levels rather than the U.S. EPA Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), most often relied upon by the contractor. Health-based screening levels are based on health risks only, including cancer risks. In contrast, MCLs are not based solely on health effects, such as cancer; furthermore, they reflect the economic and technical feasibility of attaining the MCLs as well as non-cancer health risks. As a consequence, the health-based screening levels are often significantly lower than MCLs, especially for carcinogens. When a chemical's detection limit exceeds its health-based screening level, it may be impossible to evaluate the chemical's potential impact on human health. The chemical may be truly present at levels in the range between the detection limit and the screening level but escape detection; or it may be measured but considered unreliable because it falls below the detection limit. Furthermore, it is not possible to screen compounds whose estimated concentration ranges include the health-based screening level. Thus, MDE feels it is appropriate to state that the diluted samples limit the usefulness of results for the purposes of the PHA.

    Comment: The PHA incorrectly assumes the more toxic hexavalent chromium was found on-site, whereas in actuality, total chromium was measured.

    MDE Response: Total chromium is a mixture of chromium in different valence states. Risk-based comparison values exist for trivalent and hexavalent chromium but not for total chromium. Since hexavalent chromium is more toxic than trivalent chromium, the former was used in the PHA to be most protective of human health. MDE recognizes that this conservative approach may result in overstating the true risk associated with on-site chromium.

    Issue: The plume of groundwater contamination has been fully characterized and MDE is incorrect to state otherwise. Concentrations of VOCs in contaminated off-site wells have fluctuated with the seasons but have not significantly increased or decreased with time. Therefore, the plume has not changed over time and no additional residences are being impacted by the site.

    MDE Response: MDE disagrees. Because the water table lies within fractured bedrock, groundwater contaminants may be carried along fractures in unexpected directions, including upgradient. Thus, testing should be carried out periodically to insure that contamination has not been occurring. As noted by the contractor, wide-scale testing of 53 off-site residential wells was conducted in 1988 but has not been repeated since. In fact, recent sampling results indicate that the well of Polo Pallet, located on a parcel that used to be part of the site property, contains site-related contaminants although the well was thought to be upgradient from the contamination zone (see below). At least two previously clean off-site residential wells proximate to the site have also recently tested positive for VOCs (see below). However, it remains to be determined whether the site is the source of this contamination. As a consequence of these findings, additional residential wells are in the process of being tested by the Cecil County Health Department for VOC contamination.

    MDE also disagrees with the conclusion that levels of VOCs found in the previously known contaminated off-site wells have remained approximately constant. Wells at Sites 45, 46, 47 and, possibly, 48, appear to have increased, on average, from the October 1988 sampling to February 1994 sampling.

Party 2: Town Administrator, City of North East

    The Town Administrator raised three questions related to the potential site-related contamination of Little North East Creek, which serves as the source for North East's public water supply. MDE responded in writing. The original letter and MDE's response are summarized below.

    Issue: How often has the Creek been sampled since MDE became involved with the site?

    MDE Response: The Creek was sampled once on February 8, 1983. No contaminants were found in water samples from the Creek or from the junction of the on-site stream and the Creek. Low concentrations of two VOCs were detected in a sediment sample from the Creek near the site but not in a sediment sample further downstream. Thus, although some VOCs may be entering the Creek near the site, they are not detectable in surface water further downstream because of dilution and volatilization.

    Issue: Why wasn't future sampling of the Little North East Creek proposed in the Recommendation Section of the PHA?

    MDE Response: No sampling was proposed because, based on our current knowledge, only low levels of VOCs are entering the Creek near the site. These levels are too low to pose a health risk to anyone making contact with the stream or sediments. Furthermore, because of dilution and volatilization, any VOCs that entered the Creek would have dissipated by the time water reaches one mile downstream, the point at which the water is used for the Town's public water supply.

    Issue: How has the MDE canvassed the area served by the Town's water system?

    MDE Response: In writing the PHA, we determine whether or not a health study should be recommended based on the likelihood, levels and duration of exposure to site-related contaminants that a target population might experience. Based on the available information, we do not believe that any people are being exposed to site-related contaminants through the public drinking water supply. Therefore, we do not think that a health study of the Town's population is warranted.

Party 3: Facility Manager, S T Environmental Services

    Issue: S T Environmental Services oversees the public water system for the Town of North East. The Town has two water treatment plants; the Rolling Mill plant is fed by the Little North East Creek. Concern was expressed that run-off from the site might be contaminating the Creek and, hence, the raw water supply of the Rolling Mill plant. MDE should test the Creek's surface water near the intake of Rolling Hill plant. The testing should be conducted during the spring, the season with the heaviest rains and the greatest potential for contamination from runoff.

    MDE Response: As indicated in the MDE response above to Party 2, MDE does not expect that the low levels of VOCs entering the Creek near the site would be detectable in the Creek at the point of intake, approximately one mile downstream from the site. Thus, the testing of the surface water is not indicated at this time.

Party 4: Local Resident

    Issue: This resident attended the public availability session on Ordnance Products. She wrote to generally commend MDE on its excellent job in presenting information on the site at the session. She indicated she had "misgivings about the seemingly bland treatment ATSDR gives to situations involving communities poisoned to the point of illness, birth defects, and even death." She recommended that MDE continue to inform the public of steps taken to protect human health from the adverse effects of Ordnance Products and Superfund sites in the area. She suggested more local press, and an eye-catching exhibit at the North East and Elkton branches of the Cecil County Public Libraries.

    MDE Response: ATSDR will issue the final PHA for Ordnance Products. MDE will notify the community of steps taken to address public concerns by disseminating the final PHA to the public. The final PHA includes the comments solicited from the public about health and other concerns related to the site. MDE has responded to these concerns as documented in this section of the final PHA. MDE does not have the personnel to mount an exhibit at the local libraries. However, MDE staff would be happy to share information with local citizens who wish to organize such an exhibit.

Party 5: Region III USEPA

    Issue: The current USEPA project manager for Ordnance Products reviewed the recommendations. USEPA will continue to oversee the monitoring of off-site residential wells and insure that the water treatment systems are working properly (Recommendation 2). The project manager agrees that limited off-site residential soil should be conducted (Recommendation 1), but feels that it is not role/function of USEPA Removal Program's to implement this recommendation. He questions whether Recommendations 3-6 are necessary, although he understands why a health agency would suggest them. It is not the role of the USEPA Removal Program to implement Recommendations 3-6. Rather, another entity, either the USEPA Remedial Program or the MDE Waste Management Administration, should implement them.

    MDE Response: MDE feels these recommendation are merited from a public health perspective. MDE ERAP is pursuing discussions with the MDE Waste Management Administration, ATSDR and USEPA on how to best implement these recommendations.

Summary of Concerns Expressed at the Public Availability Sessions

The availability sessions were attended by MDE staff members Peter Ashley, Chad Roy, and Robin Wagner, Environmental Toxicologists from the Environmental Risk Assessment Program (formerly part of the MDE Office of Environmental Health Coordination); and, Rick Grills, Geologist, from the MDE Federal/NPL Superfund Division, Waste Management Administration. Approximately 20 citizens attended the afternoon session and another 15 came to the evening session.

The concerns of citizens and MDE's responses are summarized below.

  1. Issue: Complaints were made that local officials did not respond to citizen's complaints concerning Ordnance Products and other toxic substances hazards. For example, it was alleged that local officials in the past suppressed evidence of contamination of drinking water in public schools.

    MDE Response: MDE indicated it would try its best to respond to the concerns expressed by local residents. The public comment period and public availability sessions are a part of MDE's efforts. MDE distributed copies of the PHA to interested parties at the availability sessions and sent requested additional copies to six local residents, the North East Mayor's Office, and the Cecil Whig, a local newspaper.

  2. Issue: Several questions arose about the specific role of government agencies in the clean-up process. Citizens inquired as to whether the local health department gets involved in the public health assessment process. They also asked who will assume responsibility for the clean-up if the site does not become a Superfund site (i.e., does not get listed on the National Priorities List (NPL) of the worst hazardous waste sites in the U.S.). Citizens also wanted to know if the government today is empowered to stop new or presently operating businesses from contaminating the environment.

    MDE Response: The local health department participates in the PHA process by acting as a source of information for the PHA and reviewing early drafts of the report. Currently, MDE and the USEPA have joint oversight over the site cleanup operations. If the site does not become listed on the NPL, MDE alone will assume this responsibility. It was emphasized that the environmental laws today are much tougher on polluters than they were in the past. Many environmental protections had not yet been legislated at the time Ordnance Products was operating. Thus, government today is in a much better position to prevent and reduce pollution than it was in the past.

  3. Issue: Residents were concerned that several facilities near the site were conducting activities that could potentially lead to the off-site migration of on-site contaminants. Specifically, residents asked if the blasting conducted by Maryland Materials (a rock quarry) would affect the movement of the plume of contaminated groundwater away from the site. Citizens had heard that a conveyer belt running through site may be installed and could result in off-site contamination.

    MDE Response: Geologist Rick Grills indicated that the blasting, which occurs 3/8 mile from the site, is not close enough to affect the groundwater movement. Grills also said that the conveyor belt probably would not result in moving hazardous waste off the property.

  4. Issue: The PHA indicates that Cecil County, in which the site is located, had elevated birth defects rates in 1984 through 1988 compared to Maryland as a whole. A request for more recent birth defects data was made.

    MDE Response: MDE staff obtained and sent the information to the person who requested it. The Cecil County birth defects rate has remained higher than the Maryland rate through 1991, the most recent year for which the data are available Other counties on the Eastern shore also have significantly higher birth defects rates than Maryland as a whole. The reasons for the higher rates in Cecil and other Eastern shore counties have not been determined. The smallest geographic area for which birth defect rates were available is the County level. Thus, it is not known whether the rates in the immediate vicinity of the site are higher than Maryland as a whole.

  5. Issue: One resident noted that, in the past, Ordnance Products ran a similar operation at another location on Doctor Jack Road. This second site is now apparently occupied by a housing project. The resident wanted to know if MDE was familiar with the site, and what MDE was doing about it.

    MDE Response: MDE staff was not aware of this facility, and could find no records to confirm its existence in the past.

  6. Issue: Residents who had activated charcoal filtration systems placed on their wells because of prior site-related contamination expressed a number of concerns. They felt their filtration systems were not being maintained properly. They were suspicious that O'Brien and Gere, as the contractor of the potentially responsible party (PRP), was collecting and analyzing the water samples. The residents also voiced concern that their water tasted poorly and their fixtures have excessive water stains as a result of high dissolved solids. Most of the wells with charcoal filtration systems also have water softener systems. Some residents stated that their water softener contractors told them that the charcoal filters needed to be changed on a regular basis. According to the residents, most of the charcoal filters had not been changed since they first were installed.

    MDE Response: MDE informed the residents that sampling is typically conducted by the PRP's contractor under Superfund. After reviewing the residents' tap water sampling data, MDE assured the residents that no site-related contaminants were bypassing the charcoal filters. MDE contacted O'Brien and Gere to convey the residents' concerns about the filtration systems. MDE asked O'Brien and Gere to ask the PRPs to change the filters on a regular basis.

  7. Issue: Two of the households whose well water was contaminated by the site reported adverse health effects in their families which they attributed to their drinking water. One family indicated that their daughter had uncontrollable bleeding that disappeared about seven months after she started drinking bottled water rather than unfiltered well water (the activated carbon filter was installed on their home after this health problem resolved itself). Currently, household members get blisters on their hands or skin rashes, which they attribute to chemical exposures from their well as a result of the malfunctioning of their water filtering system. This family also told MDE that the previous residents of their household had a child who developed leukemia and died. The child was exposed to unfiltered well water in utero for at least some portion of the mother's pregnancy; the mother moved to a nearby home sometime during this pregnancy.

    Another family with a contaminated well conceived a child with birth defects while living next to the site. An activated carbon filter was already on their well when they moved into the house. However, the filter was not maintained and was functioning properly only one out of every three days. The residents feared their tap water might contain chemicals as a result. Because they were aware of the well contamination when they bought their house, the parents almost always drank bottled rather than well water. However, the parents feel that they and their child in utero may have been exposed to chemicals in the water through showering and occasional ingestion.

    MDE Response: The filtered tap water of these residents is sampled for VOCs every six weeks by the contractors for the PRPs. MDE reviewed these results and found that although the pre-filtered well water continues to show signs of contamination, the post-filtered tap water does not. Thus, at least currently, the tap water should not be posing an adverse health risk to residents. This information was conveyed to the residents.

    Past exposures may have occurred, however. MDE performed a literature search on the potential teratogenic and mutagenic effects associated with the VOCs detected in the residents' well water in the past. This information was shared with the family that had the child with birth defects.

    MDE also reviewed the literature on VOCs and cancer and found that VOCs have been associated with the development of leukemia and lymphomas, among other cancers. Thus, it is possible that the mother's alleged exposure to well water during pregnancy contributed to development of leukemia in her child. However, more information would be needed to evaluate whether this exposure pathway was completed, and whether other potential risk factors for childhood leukemia existed. The mother moved out of state some years ago, and was thus not available for follow-up.

  8. Issue: The company, Polo Pallet, which occupies part of the original Ordnance property, indicated that it had not been aware that the on-site groundwater was contaminated. The company expressed concern that its on-site well water might be contaminated.

    MDE Response: MDE recommended that Polo Pallet ask the Cecil County Health Department to test its well for contaminants. The testing was conducted by the Health Department on March 24, 1995. Contamination was detected at the following levels: 1,1-dichloroethene at 17 parts per billion (ppb); 1,1,1-trichloroethane at 9 ppb; and 1,1-dichloroethane at 2 ppb.

    These levels can be compared to Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). MCLs are set by USEPA and are the maximum levels permitted in public water supplies. Levels below the MCL are not expected to cause adverse non-cancer health effects. However, MCLs are not based solely upon the cancer causing potential of chemicals.

    The observed level of 1,1-dichloroethene (17 ppb) exceeded its Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 7 ppb, whereas the detected concentration of 1,1,1-trichloroethane (9 ppb) fell below its MCL of 200 ppb. There is no MCL for 1,1-dichloroethane; however, USEPA has developed a risk-based concentration level for non-cancer effects for 1,1-dichloroethane equal to 810 ppb. The detected level of latter chemical (2 ppb) is much lower than its risk-based concentration and so the chemical would not be expected to cause any adverse non-cancer effects.

    CREGs, developed by ATSDR, do consider cancer. CREGs are estimated contaminant concentrations based on one excess cancer in a million persons exposed over a lifetime (considered an insignificant risk). CREGs are calculated from the USEPA's cancer slope factors. Both 1,1-dichloroethene and 1,1-dichloroethane are considered by USEPA to be possible human carcinogens (based on no human but limited animal data), whereas 1,1,1-trichloroethane is not known to cause cancer. The detected levels of 1,1-dichloroethene (7 ppb) exceeds its CREG of 0.06 ppb. ATSDR has not developed a CREG for 1,1-dichloroethane.

    The well was retested for confirmation of contaminants. The results will be analyzed when available. In the meantime, the well should not be used as a source of drinking water. Possible remedies include substituting bottled water or installing a charcoal filter on the well.

  9. Issue: Other residents living near the site expressed concern that their groundwater might be contaminated. They wanted to know how far the contaminant plume would travel.

    MDE Response: The groundwater travels from the site through fractured bedrock. Thus, although the general direction and rate of travel of groundwater is known, it is possible that the fractured bedrock carries some contaminants in unanticipated directions. MDE told residents that they can have their wells tested for contaminants by the Cecil County Health Department.

    Three households, one located on Union Church Road and two on Bouchelle Road, had their water tested. None of these residences are in the pathway of expected groundwater flow. No contaminants were found above the detection limit in the Union Church Road well. The Bouchelle Road wells tested positive for non-carcinogenic compounds associated with gasoline and motor oil products -- toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylenes -- which are probably not site-related contaminants. None of the detected concentrations for toluene, ethyl benzene or xylenes were above their respective MCLs or health risk-based levels developed by ATSDR.

    However, one of the Bouchelle Road residential wells contained 6 ppb tetrachloroethylene (PCE). PCE is considered by USEPA to be a possible human carcinogen based on limited animal and no human data. The detected level of PCE exceeds both its MCL of 5 ppb and its CREG of 2 ppb. The source of PCE is not known.

    The two Bouchelle Road wells will be resampled to confirm the presence of contaminants. The results will be analyzed when available. The Cecil County Health Department will try to determine the source of contamination. Specifically, it will inquire as to whether residents conducted car maintenance activities on their properties which could have led to well water contamination. In the meantime, the household whose well contained PCE should not use its well as a source of drinking water. Possible remedies include substituting bottled water or installing a charcoal filter on the well.

  10. Issue: One family living next to the site was concerned that its surface soil might be contaminated by surface runoff from the site after large precipitation events (the home was in the path of surface runoff). The family had a child with birth defects while living in the house (see item 12 below). This household requested having its yard soil tested for contaminants.

    MDE Response: MDE conducted the requested soil sampling in April 1995. Two samples were taken from the resident's backyard. A third background sample was collected across and down the street from the residence. The samples were tested for inorganic metals, VOCs, and semi-volatile chemicals.

    The following metals were analyzed: antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium (total), copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium, and zinc. None of the levels detected exceeded the health-based comparison values developed by ATSDR or USEPA except for arsenic, which was found at 19.6, 13.2 and 9.8 mg/kg soil. The cancer comparison value for arsenic is 0.4 mg arsenic/kg soil. The observed residential soil arsenic levels were higher than the estimated geometric mean of arsenic for the Eastern United States, 4.8 mg arsenic/kg soil (21). However, the maximum level of arsenic found in on-site soil was lower at 9.4 mg arsenic/kg soil than that detected in the off-site soil samples. Therefore, the arsenic in the off-site residential soil samples is probably not site-related.

    The samples were analyzed for 63 VOCs. Tetrachloroethylene was detected in both residential soils at levels of 166.0 and 120.8 ppb. It was also found at higher levels, 524.5 ppb, in the background soil samples. These levels were well below the CREG (for cancer) of 10,000 ppb, and thus would not be expected to cause an excess cancer risk to residents. None of the other 62 chemicals were found above the detection limit of the lab. Health-based comparison values were available for 50 of these 62 chemicals. All of comparison values were higher than their respective detection limits. This means that none of the chemicals with comparison values is likely to cause any human health problems.

    The samples were also analyzed for 80 semi-volatile substances. None were identified above the detection limit. Health-based comparison values were available for 61 of these substances; the remaining 19 could not be evaluated. Of the 61 substances with comparison values, 49 had values that were above their respective detection limits. Thus, these 49 chemicals, at the levels present, would be unlikely to cause any adverse human health effects. The remaining twelve substances' comparison values were lower than the detection limits; thus, it was not possible to determine whether or not they were present at levels which could pose a hazard to human health.

    The semi-volatile analyses also tentatively identified naturally occurring acids and common hydrocarbons which would not be expected to cause any health problems.

    In sum, the analyses found that arsenic was detected in the soil at levels above background that are associated with a slightly increased risk of cancer. However, the presence of arsenic was probably not site-related. No volatile or semi-volatile chemicals were found at concentrations which caused adverse health effects.

  11. Issue: A local public school teacher indicated that the proportion of students with reading disabilities -- sixth graders reading at a first or second grade level -- appears to have increased over the years. The teacher did not know to what to attribute the increase; many factors, other than Ordnance Products, could be responsible. However, the teacher felt someone should look into this. The teacher has taught in Cecil County for over 20 years and at the North East Middle School for the last four years.

    MDE Response: MDE agrees that many factors could contribute to the apparent decline in reading abilities. To further evaluate this concern, a study would have to be conducted. The study should first verify scientifically whether or not reading levels have actually declined in Cecil County students. If levels have declined, the risk factors for the decline should be examined. A study of this nature was not considered by MDE because MDE believes that both the number of children potentially exposed to the site, and the potential site-related exposure levels are too low to result in observable effects at a population level.

  12. Issue: Concern was expressed that the site might be contaminating Little North East Creek and, thus, North East's public water supply. As noted above, the Town's public water source is the Creek water about one mile downstream from the site.

    MDE Response: Based on prior sampling results, the water and sediments of the Little North East Creek located downstream from the site do not appear to be contaminated by volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) present on the site. Thus, the public water supply should not be adversely affected by the site.

  13. Issue: Residents living next to the site worried that the contaminated water and sediments of the Little North East Creek might pose a health risk to their children who swim and play in the Creek. Concern was expressed about contaminants mentioned in the PHA (i.e., VOCs), as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which were not discussed in the report. The PCB concern arose from an incident that occurred on November 21, 1992. Approximately 20-25 gallons of transformer oil, which likely contained PCBs, were dumped into the Creek by persons who vandalized transformers found on-site in order to obtain their copper. The U.S. Coast Guard and MDE's Emergency Response section investigated the spill the day after it occurred. The investigators did not detect any visible residual oil. No water, soil or sediment samples were taken during the investigation.

    MDE Response:

    VOCs: No VOCs were detected in water samples taken from the Creek near the site. Only very low levels of VOCs were detected in the Creek sediments next to the site, and these concentrations were well below the levels associated with adverse human health effects. Thus, VOCs should not pose a health risk to children swimming or playing in the stream.

    PCBs: PCBs are considered by the USEPA to be probable human carcinogens based on limited human and sufficient animal test data. Because no samples were taken from the Creek sediments or nearby soil, it was not possible to confirm if, and at what levels, PCBs were present after the spill. Thus, it is not possible to evaluate whether or not the spill resulted in contamination that poses an elevated cancer risk to people playing in the Creek.

    MDE has recently notified USEPA of the presence of transformers on the site and has asked the Agency to remove them so as to prevent future opportunities for vandalization and, thus, contamination.


      Shannon Cameron, M.H.S.
      Environmental Toxicologist
      (formerly part of the Office of Environmental Health Coordination)
      Maryland Department of the Environment

      Robin M. Wagner, M.S.
      Environmental Toxicologist
      Environmental Risk Assessment Program
      (formerly part of the Office of Environmental Health Coordination)
      Maryland Department of the Environment


      Shirin de Silva, M.D., M.P.H.
      Public Health Advisor
      Environmental Risk Assessment Program
      (formerly part of the Office of Environmental Health Coordination)
      Maryland Department of the Environment

      Peter J. Ashley, M.P.H.
      Environmental Risk Assessment Program
      (formerly part of the Office of Environmental Health Coordination)
      Maryland Department of the Environment

      Rick Grills
      CERCLA Project Manager
      Federal/NPL Superfund Division
      Waste Management Administration
      Maryland Department of the Environment

      Deirdre Murphy, Ph.D.
      Environmental Risk Assessment Division
      Maryland Department of the Environment

      ATSDR Regional Representative:

      Jack Kelly
      Office of Regional Operations
      Region III

      ATSDR Technical Project Officer:

      Gail Godfrey
      Environmental Health Scientist
      Division of Health Assessment & Consultation


This public health assessment was prepared by the Maryland Department of the Environment under a cooperatiove 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 asessment was begun.

Technical Project Officer, SPS, RPB, DHAC

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

Richard Gillig
for Director, DHAC, ATSDR


  1. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), Hazardous and Solid Waste Administration, "Screening Site Inspection of the Ordnance Products, Inc. Site, Cecil County, Maryland," MD-268, Baltimore, August 1990.

  2. O'Brien and Gere, "Interim Technical Memorandum II, Ordnance Products Inc. Mechanics Valley Trade Center." Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur, Columbus, OH, June 1990.

  3. O'Brien and Gere, "Summary Investigation Report, Ordnance Products Inc. Mechanics Valley Trade Center, Northeast, Maryland," KDI Corporation, Inc., June 1994.

  4. O'Brien and Gere, "Drum and Material Removal Program, Mechanics Valley Trade Center," July 1988.

  5. ATSDR, "Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual," March 1988.

  6. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Antimony," October 1990.

  7. Halburton, NUS, "Final Hazard Ranking System, Ordnance Products, Inc." ARCS III Program Contract Number 68-W8-0037, August 1992.

  8. O'Brien and Gere, "Interim Technical Memorandum,Drum and Material Removal Program at the Former OPI, Inc. Site Mechanics Valley Trade Center Northeast, Maryland." March 1989.

  9. Environmental Protection Agency, "Toxics Release Inventory, Public Data Release," May 1993.

  10. O'Brien and Gere, Memorandum from Susan E. Ferrara, O'brien and Gere to Christopher Thomas, USEPA Region III, "Ordnance Products, Inc., Northeast, Maryland, Administrative Order, Docket No. III-88-34-DC," File: 4392.002 #2, April 21, 1993.

  11. Howard, P.H., ed. 1991. Handbook of Environmental Fate and Exposure Data For Organic Chemicals. Volume II, Solvents. Lewis Publishers, Inc.

  12. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Arsenic," TP-92/02, April 1993.

  13. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Chromium," TP-92/08, April 1993.

  14. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Lead," TP-92/12, April 1993.

  15. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Nickel," TP-92/14, April 1993.

  16. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for 1,1-Dichloroethene," October 1992.

  17. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for 1,2-Dichloroethene," TP-90/13, December 1990.

  18. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Tetrachloroethylene," TP-92/18, April 1993.

  19. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Trichloroethene," TP-92/19, April 1993.

  20. ATSDR, "Toxicological Profile for Vinyl Chloride," TP-92/20, April 1993.

  21. Shacklette, H.T. and Boerngen, J.G., "Element Concentrations in Soils and Other Surficial Materials of the Conterminous United States," U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1270, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1984.

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