Preliminary Off-Site Air Monitoring Results
Update Nov. 13, 2020
In Oct. 2020, U. S. Steel completed the cleanup of coal tar ponds at the Geneva Steel site in Vineyard. Coal tar deposited at the site was a by-product of the coking operations used in steel manufacturing at the plant. The Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC) is overseeing remediation work at the site.
For more than a year, U.S. Steel contractors worked to remove the coal tar pond at the site. Waste from the ponds was relocated to a Corrective Action Management Unit (CAMU). The CAMU served as a repository for a portion of the materials that required remediation. The site received design approval, permit and oversight from DEQ, and DEQ has verified that the site currently employs the appropriate measures to protect human health and the environment. DEQ will continue to monitor the CAMU using groundwater wells to ensure that water quality in the area is protected.
Update May 7, 2020
The attached table provides the latest results from the off-site air sampling locations used to monitor the cleanup at the former Geneva Steel site. The data were collected from Dec. 9, 2019 through April 10, 2020.
Update April 6, 2020
The attached table provides the latest results from the off-site air sampling locations used to monitor the cleanup at the former Geneva Steel site. The data were collected from Dec. 9, 2019 through March 19, 2020.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control continues to work with U.S. Steel to protect human health against any possible risks form the cleanup.
Update February 28, 2020
The attached table (407 KB) provides results from four off-site air sampling locations used to monitor residential areas near the cleanup at the former Geneva Steel site in Utah County. The data were collected from Dec. 9, 2019 through Feb. 14, 2020.
DEQ will continue to work with U.S. Steel and its consultants to make health and safety the priority for nearby residents. This data will continue to be evaluated and updated periodically throughout the duration of the project.
Off-site air monitoring started on Dec. 9, 2019. Operations at the coal tar pond are the primary source of emissions at the site. There are other sources, both on-site and off-site, however. Data in this table reflect measurements during days when operations occurred and days when operations were suspended.
Air monitors were placed at the following locations:
- Off-site northeast (OS-NE) located at Creekside Park, 100 South 600 West, Lindon, UT
- Off-site east (OS-E) located at Bonneville Park, 1450 North 800 West, Orem, UT
- Off-site south (OS-S) located at Penny Springs Park, 540 North Main Street, Vineyard, UT
- Off-site southeast (OS-SE) located at Geneva Park, 260 North 700 West, Orem, UT
These air monitoring locations were chosen based on residential odor complaints received by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC) and the known prevailing wind directions for the area.
When analyzing the data provided by the independent laboratory, DEQ’s environmental toxicologist looked at whether concentration levels of benzene and naphthalene exceeded acceptable levels for long-term and short-term exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines long-term exposure effects by using the risk-based concentration level (RBCL). Short-term exposure effects are determined by using the acute exposure guidelines (AEGLs).
The RBCL is a health protective value which is considered by DEQ and EPA to be protective of all humans, including sensitive populations (children, pregnant and nursing women and older adults) for the duration of the Geneva cleanup project.
The AEGLs are an estimated concentration at which most people, including sensitive individuals, will begin to experience health effects if they are exposed to a hazardous chemical for a short-term of time. The AEGLs are developed for five exposure periods: 10, 30, 60, minutes, and 4 and 8 hours.
When assessing risk, measured daily values that exceed the RBCL are not considered significant unless they are indicative of a long-term trend. During the period monitored, some measured daily sampling values exceeded the RBCL values. These exceedances are generally not considered significant since a running average is used as the exposure concentration for comparison to the RBCL values.
In cases of daily exceedances, DEQ’s environmental toxicologist uses EPA’s AEGLs to assess short-term health effects. The AEGL exposure level for benzene over an 8-hour period is 9 parts per million (ppm) or 28.7 milligrams per meter cubed (mg/m3). This value is much greater than any of the daily exceeded values measured for benzene. What this means, is that in situations where the daily measured values exceed the RBCLs values, health effects will not become a problem unless the levels reach 9 ppm (28.7 mg/m3) for at least 8 hours (Note that for shorter exposure durations, the AEGL values increase and are even greater, i.e. AEGL at 10 minutes is greater than the AEGL at 8 hours).
Although measured running averages from the air sampling data do not exceed the RBCL, and daily exceedances are well below accepted AEGL levels, some sensitive residents might experience short-term effects from the emissions. DEQ is concerned about reported health effects and is working with U.S. Steel to implement effective mitigation measures during the cleanup. One should consult with a medical care provider if one is experiencing nausea or headaches for a prolonged period of time.
The air monitors are not designed to differentiate between different sources of naphthalene and benzene in the air.
Exposure to naphthalene and benzene can occur with many products and daily activities. Some sources include automobile exhaust, oil refineries, forest fires, cigarette smoke, fuel tanks, wood burning, moth repellent, fumigants, gas stations, asphalt, and manufacturing facilities (Chunrong and Batterman, July 2010). In the US, monitoring studies of naphthalene outdoor ambient air levels were reported in the range of 0.0004 – 0.17 mg/m3) with a median concentration of 0.00094 mg/m3 for urban/suburban air samples collected in 11 US cities (ATSDR, 2005).
Research shows that a person is exposed to a benzene concentrations between 0.0001 and 0.002 ppm (0.00032 and 0.0064 mg/m3), in rural areas and between 0.006 and 0.02 ppm (0.019 and 0.064 mg/m3) in major US cities, (Keenan, 2013, p.1007).
This data will continue to be evaluated and updated periodically throughout the duration of the project. For specific questions regarding the data, please contact Eric Baiden, Environmental Toxicologist, at (801) 536-0216.
Keenan J.J., S.S. Gaffney. S.A. Gross, C.J. Ronk, D.J. Paustenbach, D.D. Galbraith and B.D. Kerger. 2013. An Evidence Based Analysis of Epidemiologic associations Between Lymphatic and Hematopoietic Cancers and Occupational Exposure to Gasoline. Human and Experimental Toxicology 32:1007-1027.
Chunrong Jia and Stuart Batterman, July 2010. A Critical Review of Naphthalene Sources and Exposures Relevant to Indoor and Outdoor Air. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 2903-2939.
ATSDR. Toxicological Profile for Naphthalene, 1-methylnaphthalene, and 2-methylnaphthalene; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Atlanta, GA, USA, 2005; pp. 1-291.
Update February 4, 2020
Contractors plan to resume remediation on the coal tar ponds later this week, but on a modified work schedule to avoid far-reaching odors. Air monitoring will continue. Also contractors have modified remediation methods to mitigate the odors during the process.
Update December 20, 2019
WMRC asked U.S. Steel to temporarily terminate cleanup operations on the coal tar ponds ahead of a scheduled break for the holidays to address odor complaints from residents in the neighboring communities.
During this hiatus from work, regulators from DEQ, along with U.S. Steel, will review operations at the site and revise work processes to better mitigate odors.
On November 8, 2019, the Utah County Health Department (UCHD) reported that an odor coming from the former Geneva Steel Mill over the previous few weeks had been causing nausea in residents near the facility. At the time of the report, U. S. Steel was cleaning up coal tar ponds. Coal tar is a by-product of the coking operations that were used to make steel when the plant was operational. U. S. Steel was not the original nor the most recent owner of the facility, though it maintains responsibility for some of the remediation of the site.
DEQ’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC) oversees the remediation work by U. S. Steel at the site. The company shut down remediation efforts the week of November 11, 2019, in response to resident concerns about odors. Operations were restarted on November 20, 2019.
The odor has been identified as naphthalene, a hydrocarbon that even at low concentrations can emit a mothball-like smell. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure level (PEL) for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is 10 parts per million (ppm). Air-monitoring badges worn by workers at the coal tar pond indicate that emissions at the cleanup site do not exceed these PEL limits. In addition, the information DEQ has received thus far indicates that the concentrations of the hydrocarbon emissions are below health concerns.
Initial data from air sampling for benzene and naphthalene along the perimeter of the cleanup site indicate that emissions do not exceed exposure limits. Additional sample data have been sent to the labs for expedited review and analysis. A final determination will be made upon completion of this analysis. At the present time, this is believed to be a nuisance odor issue.
December 4, 2019
U. S. Steel, Geneva, their environmental consultant, AECOM, and contractor, Entact, met with WMRC to present air-sampling data. U. S. Steel is operating in compliance with its corrective action plan but will submit a revised proposal to mitigate the odors.
It appears that there may be multiple sources of odors in the area, so residents are encouraged to contact their local government with information about the odor, location, time of day, and direction of the wind to help officials pinpoint sources.
November 27, 2019
WMRC, along with representatives of UCHD and the city manager of Vineyard, met with representatives of U. S. Steel, Geneva, their environmental consultant, AECOM, and contractor, Entact, to discuss an action plan for recording the timing and occurrence of odors.
DEQ approved an air-sampling plan that began on November 16, 2019. Summa canisters were placed around the perimeter of the facility based on the predominant wind directions and in relation to the location of the likely source, the coal tar pond. Samples were collected in 8-hour intervals. The air sampling continued through November 27, 2019.
U. S. Steel re-started cleanup operations on November 20, 2019. The company implemented more odor-control measures for its operations. For example, U.S Steel has doubled the number of water and deodorizer misters around the coal tar pond. Additionally, they are spraying a foam product directly on the stabilized tar material to reduce odors before it gets transported to the engineered landfill on site.
November 19, 2019
The cleanup contractor stopped all work on the coal tar pond at the Geneva Steel site on November 12, 2019. Surfactant foam was used to seal the pond to prevent additional emissions of naphthalene. The contractor has gathered continuous monitoring of its workers at the site. To this point, emissions from the ponds have not exceeded the OSHA safety standards for workers at the site.
Air monitors were deployed around the coal tar pond to establish a baseline at the site. The air monitors serve two purposes:
- To determine what, if any, emissions of toxic chemicals are occurring at the site
- To confirm the extent of naphthalene emissions from the coal tar ponds.
WMRC has fielded calls from the public regarding a mothball odor, and DEQ has worked with city officials in Lindon and Orem to collect information from the public.
December 11, 2019
U.S. Steel has expanded its air monitoring to include neighborhoods where many of the odor complaints have been originating from in order to provide better data on the health impact. The three locations are identified as Penny Springs Park in Vineyard, Creekside Park in Lindon and Bonneville Park in Orem.
After a hiatus, contractors began operations again on December 10 and will continue operating daily through December 22, 2019. There will be no operations occurring during the Christmas break, from December 23, 2019 through January 2, 2020. Start-up of operations will occur again on January 3, 2020.
DEQ continues to work with U.S. Steel to lessen the odor impacts. Other options are being considered.