News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
February 28, 2000
For Further Information Contact:
DHSS -- Rita Manno
(609)984-7160
ATSDR -- Mike Groutt
(404)639-0501
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Health Assessment on Ciba-Geigy Site
Released for Public Comment

TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) today released for public comment a health assessment of the Ciba-Geigy Corporation Superfund site in Dover Township. Written comments may be submitted through April 28.

The Ciba-Geigy site was a public health hazard in the past, in part because a potentially large number of people were exposed to site-related contaminants in their drinking water in the mid-1960s, the assessment found. The assessment supports the decision by state and federal officials to consider past community exposures to site contaminants in the epidemiologic study of childhood cancer which is now under way.

However, the Ciba-Geigy site is considered to pose no apparent public health hazard at present because of a number of actions that have been taken to protect the community. Contaminated wells that served the public water supply have been closed and affected private wells that had been used for irrigation have been sealed. The Ciba-Geigy plant phased out manufacturing in the early 1990s and ceased operations by 1996.

Contaminated groundwater around the site is being pumped out, treated and returned to the aquifer. Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is developing plans for site clean-up. The health assessment supports continued remediation efforts in order to prevent future exposure to contaminants on the site and in groundwater.

This is the third in a series of health assessments prepared as part of a joint federal and state cancer investigation in Dover Township that began in March 1996. Assessments of the Reich Farm Superfund site and the Dover Township Municipal Landfill were released in 1999.

Health assessments are not designed to determine the cause of disease in a community. Rather, the reports document what is known about site contamination, human exposure to those contaminants, and the implications for public health. Assessments help determine if follow-up activities are needed and what actions, such as community education or epidemiologic studies, should be taken.

In this case, an epidemiologic study of childhood cancer is well under way. It will assess whether any of a wide range of potential cancer risk factors is associated with an increased risk of leukemia, or brain and nervous system cancers in Dover Township children. It includes an analysis of interviews with parents of 199 children, including 40 diagnosed with cancer, and exposure assessments based, in part, on complex computer models of the community water supply and air pollution patterns. Between 1979 and 1995, 90 children in the township were diagnosed with cancer where statistically only 67 cases were expected.

An update on the study was released late last year. ATSDR is now completing computer models of the water system to estimate residents' past exposure to water from contaminated source wells. Final study analysis will begin when that data is available.

In addition to the epidemiologic study and the three health assessments, the multi-million dollar cancer investigation has also produced an analysis of childhood cancer using updated Cancer Registry data and a report on the community water supply.

The health assessment being released today traces the history of the Ciba-Geigy site back to 1952, when the Toms River Chemical Company began the production of dyes, resins and other chemicals. It details the disposal of wastes on-site and discharge of treated wastewater into the Toms River and later through a 10-mile-long pipeline into the Atlantic Ocean.

In the mid-1960s, the Holly Street well field, which was a major source for the community water supply, was found to be contaminated. Those wells were later taken out of service and sealed. The wells currently supplying the water system are not affected by site contaminants. In the mid-1980s, a number of private wells used for irrigation near the Ciba-Geigy site were taken out of service and sealed after they were found to be contaminated.

Copies of the health assessment and accompanying citizen guide are available starting February 29 at the Ocean County Health Department and the Dover Township Library. Copies are also available by calling the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services at (609) 633-2043 or the department's Toms River field office at (732) 505-4188. The documents are also available on the department's web site, www.state.nj.us/health.

Written comments must be postmarked by April 28, 2000 and addressed to: New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Consumer and Environmental Health Services, Health Assessment Project, P.O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360.

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