Oregon Health Authority will use soil data in public health assessment of long-term risks
Portland, OR—Results of soil sampling completed in the area around the Precision Castparts Corp. (PCC) Harney Drive facility in southeast Portland have been received and reviewed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
Results indicate that residents living near the facility are at low risk of short-term health problems from exposure to heavy metals in soils in the area. State health experts will include soil, air and water data as part of a study of long-term health effects.
DEQ's analyses showed that samples of soil from around PCC were generally at or below naturally occurring or “background” levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, nickel, lead, and titanium. Soil samples were also tested for several other metals, including hexavalent chromium and cobalt.
“Our preliminary screening of the soil data indicates that there is no immediate or urgent health risk posed to community members who come into contact with these soils,” said David Farrer, public health toxicologist in the OHA Public Health Division's Environmental Public Health Section.
“Gardening in the vicinity of PCC, including growing and consuming your own produce in nearby soil, can be done with no significant risk to health,” Farrer said. “Because Portland is an urban environment and all urban soils have heavy metals to some degree, we recommend that people follow at least three guidelines that are already standard practice for most gardeners: add organic matter to the soil (compost), wash hands after working in the soil, and thoroughly wash all produce before consuming it.”
More information about healthy gardening practices is available at http://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironment...
OHA seeks community input on long-term health assessment
OHA is preparing to do a public health assessment that will consider this soil data along with air, groundwater, Johnson Creek surface water, and sediment data to more precisely estimate any long term risks to the neighboring community. OHA is forming a community advisory committee to help inform this process and ensure that assumptions used in the public health assessment are reflective of actual conditions in the communities neighboring PCC.
Soil tests show low levels of metals
Soil sampling was performed during July 2016. Using an innovative sampling technique, called “incremental sampling,” DEQ was able to sample over an extensive area, including 16 open spaces, and several pinpoint samples along Johnson Creek (see attached map). This allowed for sampling of soils in all areas around the facility showing elevated moss results from the USFS study.
“Historic emissions from the PCC facility have not created harmful impacts to soils around the facility, although we do see some traces of off-site deposition,” said Keith Johnson, manager for the DEQ's Northwest Region Cleanup Program.
DEQ collected soil samples from 16 different open areas in all directions around PCC. DEQ calculated area average concentrations for each contaminant over each of these individual areas. Eight additional individual samples were taken from soils near Johnson Creek and a nearby community garden. All samples were taken at the surface or slightly under the sod and were tested for arsenic, cadmium, total chromium, titanium, hexavalent chromium, lead, cobalt and other heavy metals.
While none of the concentrations of nickel detected pose a risk to people, some detections were elevated over background levels directly to the north and south, very close in to the facility. Nickel also was elevated over background in the “pinpoint” samples adjacent to Johnson Creek to the south, and in the areas within the facility boundaries. The other 15 areas tested showed no impacts.
Arsenic was at or below background levels in all samples, with the exception of two pinpoint samples not thought to be related to PCC.
Chromium and hexavalent chromium
Chromium was found elevated over background on the PCC facility and next to the facility on the Springwater trail. None of these results were over any health-based screening levels. No hexavalent chromium was detected in any samples analyzed. Therefore, all chromium detected was in the form of trivalent chromium.
Some locations (those on the PCC property and close in on the Springwater trail) showed modest levels of cobalt above background, but concentrations do not pose a risk to workers on site and are not expected to be a risk for trail users.
All samples were well within predicted background concentrations. Some slight elevations were noted close to Johnson Creek, however none of the results exceeded any health-based screening levels.
Precision Cast Parts Area-Wide Soil Sampling Report with all soil sampling results is available at the DEQ Precision Castparts webpage, http://www.deq.state.or.us/nwr/pcc.htm
Next steps: continued air monitoring, facility cleanup work and the community hazard assessment
Air monitoring around the PCC facility continues, with updates being posted online every week. Readings for heavy metals at the SE 45th and Harney monitoring station show concentrations to be below any levels indicating short-term health concerns, and within typical urban background values. Cleanup work also continues, including investigations of groundwater contamination and new controls for discharges to Johnson Creek.
For more information, visit www.SaferAirPortland.Oregon.gov.
For information about the ongoing cleanup at the PCC facility, visit DEQ's cleanup database at http://www.deq.state.or.us/Webdocs/Forms/Output/FP...
Jennifer Flynt, DEQ, 503-730-5924, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Modie, OHA, 971-246-9139, PHD.Communications@state.or.us