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ATSDR MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT
Federal Agency to Release Public Health Assessment for the
W.R. Grace & Company Site in Acton, Massachusetts
For Immediate Release: August 26, 2008
ATLANTA—The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is seeking public comments on the health assessment of the W.R. Grace and Company site located in Acton, Massachusetts. The public health assessment (PHA) found that there is no apparent public health hazard in the drinking water in the municipal wells located near the former site of the W.R. Grace & Company.
After reviewing the limited historical data, ATSDR concluded that people who were supplied water by Assabet wells from 1970-1978 may have been exposed to groundwater containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Although past exposure to the VOC trichloroethylene (TCE) between 1970 and 1978 may have slightly exceeded the current health guideline, adverse health effects are not likely. In addition, the reviewed information does not show any cluster of cancer types that might be associated with the contaminants at the W.R. Grace site. However, ATSDR did find that arsenic levels in the sediment and surface water at the site may pose a health hazard to those trespassing on the site.
ATSDR reached the following conclusions about the Assabet wells and the groundwater at the W.R. Grace site in Acton, Massachusetts:
- Past exposure to TCE from 1970-1978 may have slightly exceeded the current health guideline; however, because very conservative assumptions were used and the actual duration of exposure was limited, adverse health effects from TCE exposure are unlikely.
- Since air strippers have been installed at the Assabet Wells, current and future exposure to VOCs in the municipal drinking water supply pose no apparent public health hazard.
- Exposure to groundwater from private wells for non-drinking uses and exposure to surface water and fish consumption from Sinking Pond are not considered public health hazards.
- The evaporation of VOCs from groundwater into buildings poses no apparent public health hazard.
- Trespassers exposed to the highest levels of arsenic in sediment may have a slightly elevated risk for adverse health effects. However, people are not likely trespassing on the site or accessing the areas with elevated levels of arsenic as often as estimated by ATSDR. There is a moderate elevated excess lifetime theoretical cancer risk for adults, if they routinely trespass on the site and come into contact with contaminated sediment.
- Consistent monitoring of the Assabet, Scribner, Lawsbrook and Christofferson wells by the Acton Water District to ensure that air strippers are adequately removing VOC contamination and that the municipal drinking water supply meets all requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Addressing areas of the site (Sinking Pond, North Lagoon Wetland) that have elevated levels of arsenic and manganese in soil and sediment in a manner that would be protective of public health consistent with clean-up plan in the 2005 Record of Decision for the site.
- Periodic monitoring of the five identified active private irrigation wells in the area of the W.R. Grace site that are used for non-drinking water purposes to determine whether the levels of contaminants are of public health significance.
- Prohibiting the installation of new private wells in the vicinity of the groundwater plume near the W.R. Grace site, using institutional controls, local town ordinances and/or deed restrictions that are currently under consideration.
Residents of Acton, MA are encouraged to read the public health assessment and make comments during the month-long public comment period. A copy of the health assessment will be available on Wednesday, August 27 for review at the following libraries:
Acton Memorial Library
486 Main Street
West Acton Citizen’s Library
21 Windsor Avenue
Sargent Memorial Library
427 Massachusetts Avenue
ATSDR will accept comments on the public health assessment through September 30, 2008. Comments on the health assessment must be made in writing. All comments received during the public comment period will be logged into the ATSDR administrative record for the health assessment and will appear in the final health assessment. Comments received (without the names of individuals who submitted them) and ATSDR’s responses to these comments will appear in an appendix to the final public health assessment. Names of those who submit comments, however, will be subject to release in answer to requests made under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Mail comments to:
Attn: W.R. Grace Site in Acton, MA
1600 Clifton Road, NE MS F-09
Atlanta, GA 30333
For more information about the public health assessment call Robert Knowles (770-488-3659), Loretta Asbury (770-488-0718) or William Sweet (617-918-1490).
ATSDR, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.
Members of the news media can request an interview by calling the NCEH/ATSDR Office of Communication at 770-488-0700.
Updated August 26, 2008
For more information, contact ATSDR at:
770-488-0700 or e-mail (news media)
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