Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
McFarland Study Area
EPA #: CA0001118603
Congressional District: 17
Other Names: McFarland
On this page
Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Non-NPL
The community of McFarland is located in Kern County, 22 miles north of Bakersfield in California's Central Valley. From 1984 through 1991, KCEHSD and CDHS conducted a series of studies in response to the discovery of a childhood cancer cluster. During these studies, which included environmental sampling and epidemiological and health investigations, USEPA Region 9 provided technical assistance to CDHS. The studies concluded that there were no unusual levels of contaminants in McFarland. The cause of the chilhood cancers was undetermined. After the conclusion of the state's investigation, seven new cases of chilhood cancer were reported by CDHS in 1996.
In 1995, a group of McFarland residents petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 (EPA) for assistance in evaluating the community’s environment. Concerns were raised about cases of childhood cancer, exposure to pesticides and hazardous wastes, potentially contaminated drinking water, and other health problems. In an investigation that spanned from 1997 to 2002, EPA collected soil, drinking water, outdoor air, and indoor dust samples. EPA presented the results of the investigation to the community, as they became available, between 1998 and 2004.
Contaminants and Risks
EPA Region 9 conducted an assessment of the environmental conditions in McFarland. Contributions from individual sources were not measured.
Who is Involved
There are no potentially responsible parties for this Site. This is not a National Priorities List (NPL) Site.
Assessment of current environmental conditions (drinking water, soil and outdoor air)
In 1996, EPA began investigating environmental conditions in the City and conducted periodic meetings with the community through 2004 in order to communicate findings and address community concerns. During the investigation, EPA used existing information from the City such as historical records and existing environmental data to help supplement the new tests and determine potential risks to the community.
Using these sources of information, EPA used the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) to evaluate McFarland. The US EPA HRS assesses the potential of sites to pose a threat to human health or the environment and determines site eligibility for placement on the National Priorities List or NPL (commonly called the Superfund List). The NPL identifies sites at which the EPA may conduct long-term cleanup actions. McFarland was not identified as eligible to be placed on the NPL.
• EPA collected 462 samples at 30 locations including schools, parks, residences and commercial/industrial areas and tested for more than 200 chemicals.
• The following chemicals were detected at elevated levels in very localized areas: arsenic, cadmium, lead and benzo(a)pyrene at a former service station; benzo(a)pyrene at a school and one home; dieldrin (a pesticide) at two commercial properties and a park; and dioxins/furans at a school athletic field. Based on risk evaluations for each location, EPA concluded that none of these chemicals posed a potential risk to public health under current uses of the sites.
• EPA sampled at 33 locations including all drinking water wells, faucets at schools and other public buildings, and several homes. EPA tested for more than 300 chemicals (regulated and unregulated).
• Most of the chemicals tested by EPA were not detected in any of the samples collected from McFarland’s drinking water. Many of the chemicals that were found occur naturally in groundwater (e.g., minerals and metals such as arsenic, iron, and magnesium) or result from disinfection of the water supply and were, therefore, expected to be present. All of these chemicals found in the drinking water were detected below or are treated to meet applicable drinking water standards or the health-based criteria. As has been known for years, nitrate levels in two of McFarland’s drinking water wells require treatment to meet their drinking water standard.
• At Browning Road and McFarland Middle Schools, EPA collected 15 indoor dust samples and tested for a subset of chemicals analyzed in outdoor air samples. Out of 102 chemicals, 32 chemicals were detected; all levels were within the protective health range.
• At McFarland Middle and the Browning Road Schools, EPA performed meteorological and particulate matter (PM) monitoring, collected more than 900 samples over the course of four sampling events throughout almost a year, and tested for more than 145 chemicals.
• The most significant finding was that particulate matter in air (particles of 10 to 2.5 microns in size, or about 1/8th the width of human hair) was above health standards. Exposure to elevated ozone and particle pollution can aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection. Both local and state agencies have programs in place to improve air quality throughout the area.
• Almost half of the chemicals tested in the outdoor air were not detected in any of the samples collected at either of the schools. Those that were detected one or more times were at levels within U.S. EPA’s protective health range.
Cleanup Results to Date
EPA found that McFarland’s environment appeared to be generally similar to other towns in the San Joaquin Valley. The most significant finding was that air quality levels in McFarland were above health standards for particulate pollution. The text box on this page has recommendations to help you protect yourself and improve air quality. In addition, for the years of 1988 to 2001, the Cancer Registry of Central California concluded that childhood cancer rates in McFarland were similar to other communities in California.
EPA summarized the findings of all the phases of this environmental investigation in the report entitled, US EPA Environmental Investigations in McFarland, California: A Summary Report. EPA also completed the report entitled Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PA/SI) Report, McFarland Study Area. The purpose of the PA/SI was to review existing information on the McFarland area and its environment to determine the threat(s), if any, to public health, welfare, or the environment and if more investigations under environmental laws were needed. The PA/SI included a review of information available from federal, state, and local agencies, and can be found as SDMS (Superfund Documents Management System) Document ID 2208079 in the Superfund Records Center specified in the Public Information Repositories section below .
Potentially Responsible Parties
Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) refers to companies that are potentially responsible for generating, transporting, or disposing of the hazardous waste found at the site.
There are no potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for this investigation.
Documents and Reports
Public Meetings / Open Houses
1) August 29, 1996
2) February 11, 1997
3) January 13, 1998
4) November 10, 1998
5) January 26, 1999
6) June 13, 2000
7) August 16, 2000
8) March 29, 2001
9) November 8, 2004
10) November 8, 2006
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
Kern County Public Library
500 Kern Avenue
McFarland, CA 93250
Beale Memorial Library
Local History Room
701 Truxten Avenue
Bakersfield, CA 93301
EPA Site Manager
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Community Involvement Coordinator
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Public Information Center
After Hours (Emergency Response)