Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England
Primary Contaminants at the Site
The following provides general information about the types of primary contaminants found at the Beede Waste Oil Site and the potential risks associated with exposure to these contaminants. Hundreds of contaminants have been found in various media at this Site. The contaminant groups listed in this section are of primary concern due to their relative toxicity and persistence. This information has been provided to help you better understand some of the health hazards related to exposure to Site contaminants. For further information about the levels of contaminants found at the Beede Waste Oil Site and the Site’s risk characterization, refer to the Additional Information section of this page.
Primary Contaminants at the Site
In the fall of 1983, chemical contamination was discovered in a residential well near the site. (Wells supplied by the local groundwater are the sole source of drinking water in Plaistow.) The well was taken out of service and an alternate water supply was provided. The site owner conducted several site investigations which verified the presence of contamination in the surrounding soil and groundwater. The site owner did not respond to subsequent court orders to initiate cleanup activities.
When Beede Waste Oil was closed in 1994, authorities found 100 large above-ground storage tanks containing hazardous and non-hazardous oil product, several large piles of soil containing varying levels of contamination and about 800 drums of oil product, some containing hazardous materials. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were found in the oil product of many tanks and drums, at concentrations generally less than 50 parts per million (ppm) but as high as1,800 ppm.
In 1995, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) performed the first round of comprehensive groundwater testing at the Beede Site. The levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) exceeded the allowable levels in drinking water in on-site monitoring wells and in 2 residential wells off-site. Floating oil was found resting on the groundwater at the Site. The oil has periodically seeped into Kelley Brook, which flows adjacent to the Site. The primary contaminants that have been found in the soil and groundwater include PCBs, VOCs, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) and lead. VOCs in the groundwater continue to migrate off-site, and have impacted 14 adjacent residential wells.
The installation of three residential well treatment systems, covering of the soil piles, removal of tanks and drums, the construction of a fence, and the installation of an oil recovery trench/extraction system have reduced the potential for threats to the public health and environment near the Beede Waste Oil Site. The oil recovery system has greatly reduced a major source of groundwater contamination. The system has been operating since 2000, and has recovered over 90,000 gallons of contaminated oil floating on groundwater beneath the Site.
For more information about the Site and the status of removal actions at the Site, please refer to the History and Response Actions page
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
PCBs are a mixture of chemicals that have a similar structure. PCBs were heavily manufactured and used for a variety of industrial and commercial purposes until Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, which prohibited the manufacture, processing and distribution of PCBs. EPA completed its first assessment of PCB carcinogenicity in 1987, and completed a follow up study in 1996, making PCBs one of the most widely studied environmental contaminants. PCBs are chemically stable, absorb into soil particles readily and are resistant to biodegradation.
EPA has found evidence that PCBs have toxic effects on animals including cancer and effects on the immune system, central nervous and endocrine systems. Humans exposed to PCBs were found to have increases in rare liver cancer and malignant melanoma, and have also experienced such symptoms as nausea, headaches and fatigue. PCBs can accumulate in water, sediments and marine life. PCBs can bind to sediments in water and bioaccumulate in fish and other marine creatures exposed to PCBs, increasing the risk that humans who consume these contaminated creatures are at a higher risk to suffer from the above symptoms.
For more information about PCBs visit Health Effects of PCBs
Lead (Pb) is a naturally occurring element that can be found in low levels in the environment, usually below 50 parts per million (ppm) in soil. Because lead has been used as an additive in gasoline and paint, it is often released into the environment. As a result, lead contamination has become a common problem at many Superfund sites.
Humans and animals can be exposed to lead by the ingestion of lead-contaminated substances such as soil, water or paint chips, and by breathing in dust particles that lead has bound to. Some of the effects of lead poisoning in adults include kidney and nervous system damage, reproductive problems and hearing and vision impairment. Lead poisoning can be more serious in children, especially in children six years of age and younger. Children can suffer from nervous system and brain damage, behavioral problems, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss and other physical and mental problems.
For more information about lead poisoning visit Lead and Human Health.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Organic chemicals are used as ingredients in many common household products and solvents such as paint strippers, kerosene, fuels, automotive products, cleaning products and aerosol sprays. These products can release volatile organic compounds into the air while in use and can remain in the air long after usage is complete. Some products can omit VOCs into the surrounding area during storage.
The level of toxicity of different types of VOCs varies depending on the type of organic chemical used in the product, and the level and duration of exposure. Benzene, a chemical used in fuels, is a known human carcinogen. Some of the effects of VOCs in humans and animals include eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea, loss of coordination, liver and kidney damage and central nervous system damage.
For more information about Benzene, a VOC, visit the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry page on Benzene.
Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
PAHs can naturally occur in the environment from the release of chemical mixtures during the incomplete burning process of wood, gasoline, garbage, coal and other organic substances. However, PAHs can also be derived from the discharge from industrial plants, or released into the soil from hazardous waste material storage containers. PAHs tend to bind strongly to soil particles, do not dissolve readily in water, and contaminate surrounding groundwater. Many Superfund sites are contaminated with PAHs.
Humans and animals can be exposed to PAHs by breathing contaminated air, ingesting water, food, dust or soil particles containing PAHs or through absorption of PAHs through the skin if the body comes in contact with contaminated soil particles. Because PAHs are made up of a mixture of chemicals, some PAHs are more harmful to the body than others. Some PAHs are known to be carcinogenic to animals. Prolonged exposure to PAHs may cause cancer in humans.
For more information on PAHs visit the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry page on Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Petroleum Hydrocarbons (PHCs)
PHCs are a mixture of chemicals composed primarily of petroleum, hydrogen and carbon. PHCs are part of a larger family of several hundred chemicals called total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs). Gasoline, oil and benzene are some common types of PHCs that can contaminate the environment.
PHCs can be released into the air from industrial activities or released into water and soil from container spills and leaks. PHCs are also released into the air at gasoline stations from the gasoline pumps. If PHCs come in direct contact with water, they may float on the surface, forming a film, or can sink to the bottom and either break down or rest in the bottom sediment for a long time. Humans may be exposed to PHCs by drinking water contaminated with the chemicals, living in an area near a spill or leak of petroleum products or by touching PHC contaminated soil. Some types of PHCs can cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys or may be carcinogenic.
For more information on PHCs visit the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry page on Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPHs).