Fact Sheet - Hickory Woods


May 2004

The NYS DOH and ATSDR announce the release of two health consultations*:

  1. Final Health Consultation, NYS DOH and ATSDR Response to Comments on: Health Consultation Evaluation of Environmental Data Collected in 2000, Abby Street/Hickory Woods Subdivision .
  2. Public Comment Draft Health Consultation: Thyroid Condition Follow-up Report, Hickory Woods Subdivision.

* A health consultation is a review of available environmental and/or health information prepared in response to a specific health or exposure issue.
  1. Final Health Consultation, NYS DOH and ATSDR Response to Comments

    The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR, a federal health agency), released the Health Consultation: Evaluation of Environmental Data Collected in 2000, Abby Street/Hickory Woods Subdivision, dated April 30, 2001. It evaluated the public health implications of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) environmental sampling results.

    In 2002, the City of Buffalo contracted with a firm to conduct a peer review of the 2001 Health Consultation. The peer review panel consisted of three independent scientists, with expertise in risk assessment, exposure assessment and toxicology. The charge to the peer reviewers was to evaluate whether the approaches used, assumptions made, public health conclusions drawn, and actions recommended are clear, scientifically defensible, and protective of human health. To facilitate that review, the NYS DOH provided the peer reviewers with additional information clarifying exposure assumptions used in the 2001 Health Consultation. The panel met to discuss the 2001 Health Consultation and the public was invited to attend and provide comments to the panel during the meeting. The peer reviewers responded to or addressed many of the public comments at the peer review public meeting.

    The panel's findings were summarized in the "Summary Report of the Meeting to Peer Review the NYS DOH Health Consultation for the Abby Street Residential Neighborhood". The peer review panel concluded that the overall approaches used, assumptions made, conclusions drawn, and public health actions recommended were scientifically sound and appropriately protective given the available data. Many of the peer review comments related to clarity, including process, format, presentation, definition, but did not affect the conclusions of the 2001 Health Consultation.

    We also received another set of written comments on the 2001 Health Consultation. They were from faculty at the University of Buffalo's Environment and Society Institute (ESI).

    This final health consultation is NYS DOH and ATSDR's response to comments on the 2001 Health Consultation. In writing this health consultation, we focused on the major recommendations in the Peer Review Summary Report and the summary of the comments submitted by ESI. However, we also considered the documents in their entirety as well.


    Residential yards: NYS DOH and ATSDR worked with EPA to conduct additional sampling at two of the "hot spots" (locations of contaminants elevated above typical background concentrations) identified in the 2001 Health Consultation to delineate the extent of contamination. These two "hot spots" were excavated by EPA and excavated soils were disposed off-site. One additional "hot spot", in deeper soil and less likely to be contacted by residents, was not resampled because the homeowner did not permit EPA to access their yard.

    EPA also sampled twenty residential yards adjacent to Boone Park to investigate whether arsenic contaminated surface soils on this city park were also on adjacent properties. The results from 17 yards indicated an average arsenic level consistent with the range of average arsenic levels typically found in New York State soils. The results from the other three yards were only slightly higher, and we determined that exposure and risk for cancer health effects at the levels found is similar to that of typical soils in New York State. NYS DOH and ATSDR advised EPA that no further sampling was necessary in residential areas around the park.

    Boone Park: The City of Buffalo's Department of Public Works, in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, will be proposing a clean up plan for Boone Park to restore the park for recreational use. The work will be done under New York State's 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act "Brownfields" program. The City's consultant collected additional soil samples to determine the depth of arsenic contamination in the park. These sample results will be used to supplement samples collected by the EPA and the City in 2000/2001. Once the sampling results are compiled, preliminary plans will be prepared and presented for public review this summer.


    The NYS DOH and ATSDR concluded that the actions recommended in the 2001 Health Consultation, including those already taken and those planned for Boone Park, were appropriate.

    The NYS DOH and ATSDR evaluated the general format of health consultations and public health assessments that the agencies write and agreed with many of the comments about format and clarity. We have been working to improve the format and data presentations to make them more readable and informative to the public.


    If you have questions about this fact sheet or other matters relating to Hickory Woods, you may contact NYS DOH staff:
    Mark VanValkenburg at 518-402-7850,
    Cameron O'Connor of the NYS DOH Western Regional Office at 716-847-4385, or
    Arthur Block of the ATSDR Region 2 office at 212-637-4307.
    To request a copy of this final Health Consultation, call 518-402-7860.
  2. Public Comment Draft Health Consultation: Thyroid Condition Follow-up Report, Hickory Woods Subdivision

    The NYS DOH and ATSDR conducted a survey to collect information from the residents about potential exposures. The exposure survey also provided the residents with an opportunity to report problems that might suggest unusual patterns of illness in the neighborhood, if such patterns existed. The survey results suggested that there might be more thyroid conditions in the neighborhood than among the general population. The results of that survey were included in an appendix of the 2001 Health Consultation, which also recommended that we gather additional information about the reported thyroid problems.

    To investigate the thyroid conditions, NYS DOH staff contacted eight households (a total of 10 people from these households had reported thyroid problems) to obtain additional information about individual medical histories. We reviewed all available information for eight people who participated (or for whom a family member participated), and we did not identify any unusual factors in common among these individuals. The review showed a variety of predisposing conditions for almost all of the participants.


    The NYS DOH and ATSDR concluded that, based on the variety of predisposing conditions for most participants, further investigation, seeking alternative explanations for these thyroid diagnoses, is not warranted.


    If you have questions about the exposure survey follow-up, contact: Elizabeth Lewis-Michl at 518-402-7950.
    To request a copy of this draft health consultation, call Nick Teresi at 518-402-7950.

    The Thyroid Condition Health Consultation is available for public review and comment. Citizens' questions and comments are an important part of the review process and we encourage you to read a copy of this health consultation carefully.

    Please send us your comments by June 30, 2004 so that they can be considered as the health consultation is finalized. If you wish to comment, please send them to: the New York State Department of Health, Outreach and Education Unit, 547 River Street, Flanigan Square, Room 316, Troy, New York 12180. Comments can also be sent via e-mail at: ceheduc@health.state.ny.us