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Oak Ridge Reservation

Oak Ridge Reservation: Public Health Assessment Work Group

Historical Document

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Public Health Assessment Work Group

December 2, 2002 - Meeting Minutes


ORRHES Members attending:
Don Box, Bob Craig, George Gartseff, James Lewis, Tony Malinauskas, Pete Malmquist, LC Manley, Charles Washington

Public Members attending:
Gordon Blaylock, Timothy Joseph

ATSDR staff attending:
Paul Charp, Burt Cooper, Jack Hanley, Sandy Isaacs, Bill Murray, Jerry Pereira, Loraine Spencer

Contractor attending:
Michelle Arbogast, ERG; Gayla Cutler (NAHE)


  1. Minutes from November 18, 2002, PHAWG meeting – Bob Craig
  2. ATSDR presentation of the preliminary results of the
    PHA on uranium releases from Y-12 – Jack Hanley and Paul Charp
  3. Develop recommendation for ORRHES regarding request for
    cancer data from the TN cancer registry to Dr. Toni Bounds – Bob Craig
  4. New business – Bob Craig

Bob Craig called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. Everyone introduced themselves.

Minutes from November 18, 2002 Meeting

Bill Murray commented that the comments and slides regarding Dr. Hershman’s talk make up Addendum “A” in the last two pages of the meeting minutes. There being no further comments, Pete Malmquist moved to approve the minutes of the November 18, 2002 meeting. Don Box seconded the motion. The minutes were unanimously approved.

Bob Craig reported that Toni Malinauskas has offered to track this particular public health assessment (releases of uranium from Y-12) as the PHAWG representative and that the ATSDR staff will “keep him up to speed.”

Preliminary Results of the PHA on Releases of Uranium from Y-12

Presenters: Jack Hanley and Paul Charp


Jack began with the Public Health Assessment that evaluated uranium releases from the Y-12 plant. He said that last year we went through a screening analysis and the State (Tennessee Department of Health (TDH)) identified a list of priority contaminants and then we added fluorine, the TSCA incinerator, and groundwater to this list.

He reviewed the history of uranium operations at the Y-12 plant, beginning with electromagnetic enrichment from 1943-1947, through the uranium forming and machining for weapons components operations of 1949 until 1995. The public health assessment is structured to look at past as well as current exposures. In the past exposure, he reviewed radiation exposure from the air, surface water, and soil pathways. For chemicals, the inhalation pathway (air) and ingestion pathway (surface water and soil) were looked at. For current exposure, we used primarily the screening dose reconstruction on uranium done by the state of Tennessee. For the past, they focused on 1995 all the way back to the original days of the Y-12. For current exposures, we again looked at ‘radiation’ and ‘chemical’ and used sampling data from 1998, EPA’s 2001 sampling, and the Oak Ridge Environmental Information Systems (OREIS) database that has all the DOE electronic data in the recent years, from the nineties to the current time period. Bob Craig asked if there was State data on uranium. Jack replied he wasn’t sure if the OREIS and the State data were combined, he would need to ask the person who put it together.

Charles Washington asked if Jack was able to get any ecological data from X-10 and other places regarding animal and vegetable consumption by Scarboro residents. Jack replied that vegetables grown in Scarboro were evaluated, and they were the main pathway looked at. Charles asked about squirrels, deer, and fish. Paul Charp responded that we asked EPA for exposure specific to the south. Charles Washington commented to take into consideration that, in this part of Tennessee, our surface water becomes our ground water and our ground water becomes our surface water, so wells are not deep. Bob Craig agreed with this assessment and added that if you’re measuring surface water, it’s (uranium) going to show up.

Jack Hanley continued with the list of 37 Community Health Concerns that were captured from Subcommittee and Work Group meetings, as well as from surveys conducted in Scarboro, i.e., a CDC survey, a Florida A & M Survey, and the Joint Centers Survey, plus other concerns that arose at community meetings. Some are directly related to Y-12 and others are not.

Pete Malmquist asked if ATSDR would answer these concerns. Jack responded that we would try to answer the ones that are within our areas and, if they’re not, we will refer people.

James Lewis commented that a lot of activists from surrounding areas attended Scarboro meetings. Jack replied that these are not just Scarboro issues; some of these have been answered by other agencies that had some responsibility. If we can we will work with them to try and see if we can address them.

James Lewis asked if those agencies had written responses to the issues. Jack responded that he doesn’t know and that he will need to talk to them.

Pete Malmquist asked if you respond to some of these, could the subcommittee get a copy of your response? Jack said that we anticipate having a written draft of this sometime in January and we would come back and present in more detail. This is a preliminary working draft.

Charles Washington commented that the report should note the K-25 plant ceased operations in 1986, and Y-12 ceased 100% operating capacity in 1990 or 1991. Bob Craig agreed. Charles Washington said that cessation of these plants operating at full capacity certainly affected airborne and water contamination.

Paul Charp explained the “Estimates of Annual Airborne Uranium Releases” (Y-12 facility) graph provided by ChemRisk. Task 6 estimated releases from a high of just over 6000 kg in 1959, down to zero in 1995, while DOE estimates of the same period calculate barely perceptible releases, i.e., a high of approximately 100 in 1971-1974, down to zero in 1995. Differences could have been that uranium may have faded out onto pipes. He stated that he has contacted ChemRisk to break down the combined U-234/U-235.

Next Paul reviewed the Y-12, U-234/U-235 Release Estimates Vs. Measured Scarboro Air Concentrations graph, for station 46 in Scarboro. He stated U-234/U-235 has 97% correlation of estimates to measured concentrations from 1986 to 1995. Charles Washington commented that it was a manufacturing plant; they manufactured weapons components containing U-235 and U-238 - that “the footprint” was left. Paul continued with the same analysis for U-238 and commented that this correlation is only 64% estimated to measured concentrations. It is questionable whether the U-238 monitoring was as good as that for U-234 and U-235. However, he said, using these regression analyses, we think that Task 6 overestimated the U-234/U-235 that could be deposited in Scarboro in 1997 by a factor of 5 ½ to 6 times. (Task 6 was the Oak Ridge Dose Reconstruction of uranium releases). Paul also defined regression analysis as a method to compare a group of numbers to see how straight the line is. He stated the correlation coefficient for U-238 overestimated a dose that could have been received by a Scarboro resident in 1987 by about 2 ½ times.

Charles Washington suggested it would be helpful to tell people what U-234, U-235, and U-238 are. Paul Charp agreed that they should be defined in the front of the document. He continued that, when you sum up all the information in the Task 6 over the years, you look at the total air concentration of uranium. You want to compare that to a screening value for inhalation and determine a minimum risk level (MRL). The MRL is a level below which exposures will not result in an adverse health effect. The MRL for total insoluble uranium (most uranium from Y-12 was insoluble) is a concentration of 0.008 micrograms of uranium per cubic meter of air ( g/m3). The releases from Y-12 are significantly below our MRL. Jack Hanley added that this includes exposures from immersion, direct inhalation, eating livestock that inhaled uranium, drinking milk from dairy cattle that inhaled it - a variety of exposures. The largest dose is from inhalation.

Bob Craig commented that his concern is these are annual averages, whereas it peaks during the year. It was determined there is no MRL for acute exposure to uranium, only for radiation. The MRL for uranium is for intermediate exposure - a one-year exposure. For radiation, however, there is an MRL only for acute and chronic exposure, not for an intermediate stage.

Paul Charp continued with another concern - how does Scarboro compare to Oak Ridge and other surrounding areas? He explained that using the OREIS, some representative sampling locations for air monitoring were downloaded, using Station #52 at Fort Loudon Dam and Station #51 at Norris Dam. These are what DOE considers background locations compared to other areas of Oak Ridge. Station #1 is on the river, south of the carbide park, slightly north of the reactor. Station #46 is located in the Scarboro community, #37 and #38 are along Pine Ridge, and #40 is near Bear Creek and Scarboro Road. Station #41 is at the Turnpike and Illinois Ave. So we need to add that to the PHA for comparison with Scarboro.

Bob Craig commented that if you’re concerned about outside populations, that’s the one to look at. Paul said that some of the numbers in the Oak Ridge data only go back to 1995 or so. These are the estimated uranium concentrations in air, about 0.008 g/m3. The background locations: #46 is Scarboro, along the river on the DOE side of Oak Ridge. The numbers are so low they get down into the nanogram and picogram range.” (A nanogram (ng) is one billionth {1/1,000,000,000} and a picogram (pg) is one trillionth {1/1,000,000,000,000}.

Bob Craig commented what you’re saying is that the estimated air concentrations are 100-1000 times below the MRL in Scarboro. Paul replied that even though they are below the MRL, we did some estimated radiological doses also. Charles Washington commented that these would not be applicable after the year 1995, because the plant was not operating after that. Paul Charp commented that he is trying to find monitoring data before 1986 and in the 1950’s also. Jack Hanley said we will keep looking for the data.

Paul Charp next introduced Table 14, “Estimated Radiation Dose from the Inhalation of Uranium in Scarboro. This is total uranium. We estimated the dose from each isotope – U-234, U-235, and U-238.

James Lewis asked what is Mr. Washington’s logic for questioning the data prior to 1995? Charles Washington replied that nobody knows what happened prior to 1995 because nobody has that data. But, if you’re operating at 25% or 100% capacity when there was no environmental equipment in place, then you have the maximum emission out there. Paul Charp expressed confidence in using the ChemRisk figures from 1990 forward, but that, prior to that, they were overestimated by a factor of one to six. Jack Hanley said that all concentrations are below the MRL, even though we think ChemRisk overestimated the concentrations by 3-6 times depending on which years you are talking about.

Paul Charp continued with Figure 10, “Average Soil Uranium Concentrations in Scarboro.” He compared the 1998 Florida A & M University (FAMU) Study with the EPA study and also included the Oak Ridge Soil Characterization for uranium . The bar graph shows, in the case of U-238, no significant difference between Scarboro locations and background locations. In the case of U-234, there also is no significant difference. For U-235, he stated that it is above the natural background for the Oak Ridge Soil Characterization Study for uranium. Scarboro is minimally higher than the average Oak Ridge background . He stressed that when we put the ‘error bars’ in here, there is no significant difference.

James Lewis commented that this reinforces what was said in the paper, that, ”Scarboro is as safe as any other community in the country.” Paul Charp replied that based on this method of analysis, yes. There is no difference in these samples collected by the EPA and FAMU and the Scarboro levels with natural uranium.

Charles Washington commented you had to take into consideration the sampling points, e.g., one might have been 5-6 meters to the fence line.

Paul Charp advised that another thing Task 6 of the ORDR did was to use sediments collected from East Fork Poplar Creek to give their estimated dose assessment. (At the time there was no soil sampling specific to Scarboro) Based on the EPA and FAMU study, which he stated are essentially identical, it turns out that Task 6 overestimated the uranium concentration. Jack Hanley commented that this uranium concentration from East Poplar Creek was the maximum, or was near the upper 95. It was also in the floodplain, which is almost ½ mile from Scarboro itself. We didn’t think it was a true representative sample.

Charles Washington commented that it was a small amount of contamination, but existing for 100 miles. He commented further that U-238 was what you didn’t want, and that since the cost of U-238 was prohibitive, so not much was allowed to escape from Y-12.

Regarding Table 21 “Soil Ingestion of Uranium;” Paul Charp said this EPA data is based on the intake of an African-American who accidentally ingests, in Scarboro, somewhere around 50 milligrams of soil a day (for an adult). This constitutes a heavy metal dose to the kidneys. The doses, as illustrated from Adult Male down to Six Year Child, are all below the MRL of 0.002 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) body weight per day. This is the FAMU data from the late 1990’s using standard ATSDR and EPA equations.

The question was asked concerning the findings of persons who eat food grown in the soils of Scarboro. LC Manley provided the data (in Table 22) which the DOE provided him with after three years of sampling from his garden in the Scarboro community. The graph depicted a total uranium dose of 2.97 x 10-5 mg/kg, or about 30 times lower than the Minimum Risk Level.

Paul continued with Table 20, “Radiological Dose from Uranium Following Ingestion of Private Garden Crops from the Scarboro Community.” Using the same data, (leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and turnips), for the years 1998, 1999, and 2000, and a total ingestion of 1.37 x 10-1 millirem (mrem) per year for a 80 kg adult eating 2.27 grams (g) of produce per kg body weight per day, Paul estimated is about 600 times lower than the MRL.

Surface water was discussed next. Paul stated that Task 6 of the ORDR said the major contribution in total dose was the consumption of fish in East Fork Poplar Creek. Ingestion of Poplar Creek water was less than 1%,or about 5% of total dose.

Paul next discussed Table 11, “Soil Pathways Considered by the Task 6 Team.” The consumption of vegetables grown in contaminated soil accounted for the largest percent of pathway total dose, 30% from U-234/U-235 and 43% from U-238.

Bob Craig said those are the pathways you’re considering when you’re doing your analysis. You’re going to focus on the major pathways. He asked if you see nothing there, then you’re not going to continue?” Jack Hanley verified this.

Paul Charp stated he modified the Chem Risk doses a little bit because Chem Risk did their doses for 52 years, and we said we’d do a 70-year dose, so we modified the numbers slightly. In some of the doses from the air, ChemRisk had totals of about 21 mg, from surface water about 25 mg, soil about 35 mg, with a total about 84 mg. Paul Charp said they took the Chem Risk doses, multiplied them by 52, and then divided them by 70.

Jack Hanley summarized. Paul Charp added the MRL is going to be an issue with regard to kidney disease issues. He stated there is discussion regarding what the upper bound of kidney toxicity is. Three g of uranium per g of kidney tissue has been put forth. There is ongoing debate on this issue. However, the kidney concentration is they are only absorbing 10-15% of uranium. Jack Hanley said the MRLs for toxicity, dose-based, is based on dog studies and rabbit studies.

Jack Hanley next reviewed Table 15, “Total Uranium Concentrations in East Fork Poplar Creek and Bear Creek,” data from the 1990’s. Both locations are on-site. Both the Upper East Fork Poplar Creek and Bear Creek are above the MCL of 20 g/L, which the EPA has scheduled to increase to 30 next December. Jack advised the group that there are still some things we’re working on, trying to investigate. We appreciate the comments you gave us tonight. We hope to have a document out in January so that we’ll come back sometime in January and present to this workgroup. We’ll have a written version for you to develop comments to the subcommittee.”

Paul Charp advised that we are trying to find DOE monitoring data to compare to the ChemRisk estimates. If we can, we’ll try to do one of these regression analyses like we did from 1986 onward to see how tight the numbers are. He doesn’t know if the information is available.

LC Manley said that, after the 1990 Clean Air Act, this information became more difficult to obtain. Paul Charp said you can always add to the information he has, if more data become available.

James Lewis commented that we should make sure that people don’t think the information is out there, but being withheld. Paul Charp stated that, when reviewing the Task 6 documents, they made the assumption that the U-234 and U-238 concentrations were identical. Again, this was at Y-12 and their mission was not working with natural uranium. But you’re taking a huge leap of faith to think that the activity of the U-238 and U-234 are the same.

Bob Craig commented that you’re fairly confident that you’re moving along on the uranium health assessment. Where does it sit now on our project plan? Paul Charp said they’re on schedule, possibly a little ahead of schedule, and that, You’ll get all that tomorrow.

Agenda Item 3, “Develop Recommendation for ORRHES regarding request for cancer data from the TN cancer registry to Dr. Toni Bounds:”

Jack Hanley stated that the group had the discussion at the last meeting, but there are new members here and he would like to recap and get the main points so everyone has an understanding of what ATSDR does and how they do it. Lucy Peipins gave this presentation and it is also on the website, Jack advised. There was discussion at the last meeting and ATSDR has a decision tree they follow to see if they should do a Health Outcome Evaluation. He then re-introduced Figure 8-5, Health Outcome Data Evaluation Decision Tree and how a potential for exposure is determined. The geographic area must be somewhat defined. Jack used lead for an example, and children getting sick. Get an epidemiologist’s opinion. If there is a disproportionate number of, for example, breast cancer, determine if it came from a particular site.

Jack Hanley said in June 2001, Sherry Berger and Lucy Peipins gave “Workshop Objectives” presentation which included three key aspects of epidemiology – groups of people, measurement, and comparison. You need to detect changes in disease occurrences in various groups of people. If you want to show cause and effect, you measure relationships between exposure and disease. It is a long, drawn out process. Epidemiology cannot tell an individual the cause of his or her disease, just as one study cannot prove a particular exposure caused an illness. He further explained that adverse health effects are not uniquely caused by environmental exposures, that habits like cigarette smoking are a major risk factor. One in two men will get cancer in their lifetimes, and one in three women.

Jack Hanley explained ATSDR’s list of Contaminants of Concern (COCs) for Further Evaluation. Bob Craig asked about the relationship between kidney cancer and radiation. Paul Charp responded that the bones get the highest radiation dose but the biggest effect is on the kidneys.

Jack Hanley next reviewed the Exposure Dose and Risk findings from the ORDR Reports with regard to PCBs, and advised the group that the cancers listed here-liver, biliary tract, intestines, and skin-might be ones to look for. He also has a study by the State of Tennessee that looked at mortality from 1980-1992 in all surrounding counties and compared the mortality rate to that for the State.

Bob Craig commented that the group should table the idea of looking at all cancers, but we are committed to recommend to ORRHES a list of cancers related to COCs – thyroid, bone, colon, etc. Instead of looking at all nine counties, look at those exposures and which counties may have been affected. Jack Hanley suggested putting a caveat on this and should not compare it to the reservation, rather incorporate it into the study.

James Lewis suggested the data be managed and realistic. Jerry Periera said a comparison study is the most sophisticated study that can be done, with blood, urine, hair, etc. Then go to another city 80 miles away and compare with them. Then you could ultimately say, ‘this community had a higher elevation than the other one.’ The epidemiology study will not tell you cause and effect, e.g., ‘you have cancer because…’.

Pete Malmquist said that in a study by TVA in 1971, the Kingston steam plant annually produced 12-24 tons of arsenic. So who caused what?

James Lewis commented that lay people want to know if there is an elevated level of cancer in the area. Is there or not? The public is confused.

Bob Craig commented that reports are inconsistent, so who do you believe? He suggested a sub-WG be assigned to look at the main concerns as well as the “outliers.” Jack Hanley suggested getting Dee Williamson, an ATSDR epidemiologist, on the phone. Pete Manley suggested that we should really look for the high incidences of cancer, whether or not they’re affected by the contaminants in this area. Jack Hanley said that you can not relate this information to the reservation.

Sandy Isaacs commented that Jack has laid out the criteria for ATSDR to do a study. We look at areas of concern but, if we were to find elevation in a county that is off-site, we would not go any further. If you found a rare cancer you could not do a study that only looked at Oak Ridge. She said you would need to explain what ATSDR can and cannot do.

A sub-Work Group consisting of Pete Malmquist, Chair, Charles Washington, Tony Malinauskas, George Gartseff, James Lewis, and Tim Joseph was formed to develop a plan for proceeding.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

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