Halaco, Oxnard - Public Health Activities
In 2008-09, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) conducted an investigation of the public health implications from contamination at the former Halaco Engineering Company site.
The Halaco Engineering Company was built in 1965 on top of the former Oxnard city landfill in Ventura County, an area that was once a pristine California wetland. Halaco operated a metal reclaiming facility that included smelting scrap metal and some radioactive materials. Operations at Halaco and the disposal of wastes have resulted in contamination of the soil, sediments, surface water, and groundwater. Halaco was named to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s National Priorities List in September 2007. EPA is the lead agency for the cleanup at the site (more information on EPA's remediation activities at Halaco).
Historical picture of Halaco while in operation. Year unknown.
The former Halaco property is located within a mile of Ormond Beach, the Oxnard sewer plant, farm fields, industries, and residential neighborhoods. The landfill is currently abandoned and fenced, but on-site structures are weak and are a concern, especially for trespassers.
In the 1990s, nearby community members complained of an acrid smell coming from the waste pile, air emissions turning into acid clouds and noxious fumes, and skin irritation. Following legal suits, Halaco stopped discharging wastewater into the evaporation pond and waste into the pile, and started monitoring its smoke stacks. Halaco stopped operating in August 2004.
CDPH's involvement at the site
CDPH became involved with the Halaco site when the site was nominated to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s National Priority List In March 2007. Under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDPH conducted an evaluation of the public health impact from the contamination at the site, and presented the findings and recommendations in a report called a public health assessment (PHA). In January 2010, CDPH released the final version of the PHA, which includes an evaluation of all possible routes of exposure (exposure pathways) to the contamination from the site.
Full PHA ~ English only (1/21/2010) [9 MB]
Summary of CDPH's findings
CDPH found that the following exposure pathways pose no public health concern:
- Exposure to the soil in the nearby agricultural fields and neighborhoods.
- Short-term exposure when trespassing on the Halaco site.
- Visiting the Nature Conservancy Land, Ormond Beach, or the wetlands.
- Swimming in the Oxnard Industrial Drain.
CDPH found that the exposure pathways posing a public health concern are those that create a lot of dust, such as:
- Dirt bike riding on the Nature Conservancy Land. Dirt bike riding on the Waste Disposal Area when it was not covered.
- Breathing emissions from the facility when it was in operation.
Each pathway was evaluated on the basis of available information and, for past exposure pathways concerning air releases, there was not sufficient information for a thorough evaluation.
CDPH also reviewed the available health information related to the possible health effects caused by the Halaco contamination. This review includes information on asthma, cancer, birth defects, low birth weight, and preterm births for communities more likely exposed to contaminants from Halaco in the past, and for reference areas less likely exposed to Halaco contaminants in the past.
The conclusions from CDPH's review of available health information are as follows:
- The information does not provide evidence linking exposure to Halaco contaminants with asthma, cancer, birth defects, or low birth weight.
- There is a possible association between exposure to Halaco contaminants and preterm birth. However, this association is not certain.
Recommendations made in the public health assessment
To fully identify the contamination, and to ensure that further exposure does not occur from the smelter, the Waste Management Unit or the Waste Disposal Area, CDPH recommends that the following actions be taken:
- Analyzing for a wider range of contaminants on the smelter site.
- Taking additional surface soil samples in the neighborhood to confirm earlier testing that did not show a long-lasting impact from the Halaco emissions.
- Additional securing of the fencing around the smelter site.
- Posting a warning around the Nature Conservancy Land advising of contamination on the property.
- Ensuring the durability of the netting on the Waste Management Unit.
- CA Counties: Ventura