Timeframe on Project: 2011 to Current
Stephanie Buss and Jane Paris currently provide support to DEC with their oversight of the former North Pole Refinery. Stephanie Buss has served as the toxicology and risk assessment expert for the evaluation of sulfolane and other contaminants at this contaminated site in North Pole, Alaska since 2011. Jane Paris served as the Project Manager from 2012 through 2016 under her previous employer, ERM, and continues to manage day-to-day project activities and provide senior hydrogeology support to DEC as a subcontractor to Ahtna. Ms. Paris and Ms. Buss have worked closely together on this project for over 5 years, providing seamless support to the DEC project manager, currently Jim Fish (previously Kim DeRuyter, Tamara Cardona and Ann Farris) on this multifaceted project. Together, Ms. Paris and Ms. Buss integrate a wide range of technical expertise to assist the DEC project manager.
Sulfolane, whose toxicity is somewhat unknown, has been found in over 200 private drinking water wells, as well as the North Pole municipal wells. Petroleum constituents and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have also been detected onsite. In the early days of the project, DEC established a Technical Project Team (TPT) to guide cooperative and effective decision making for addressing the site contamination. Ms. Buss led the toxicological, risk assessment and chemistry evaluations for the TPT, which included participation in many planning and review meetings and coordinating with public health specialists. The external Toxicology Subgroup for the TPT was led by Ms. Buss and also included members from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in development of standard reference doses and toxicology studies to enhance the knowledge of the toxicity of sulfolane. Ms. Buss led the DEC effort in successfully getting a provisional reference dose developed by US EPA for sulfolane, having sulfolane nominated to the NTP, and having the sulfolane reference dose review conducted by a panel of risk assessment and toxicology experts.
Ms. Buss participated in all planning and scoping meetings for the ecoscoping, ecological conceptual site model, and baseline human health risk assessment at the site. Ms. Buss reviewed the ecological conceptual site model, conducted research on threatened, endangered and sensitive species and habitat near the site. Ms. Buss conducted the ecoscoping for the site by completing DEC’s Ecoscoping Forms.
Ms. Buss reviewed multiple work plan drafts and reports for the human health baseline risk assessment which was provided by the potentially responsible parties (PRP) to ensure DEC and US EPA guidance were strictly followed. She worked closely with public health specialists at Alaska DHSS, ATSDR and US EPA to ensure sulfolane toxicity was properly addressed and data gaps in toxicity were clearly identified as part of the risk assessment evaluation. She submitted detailed and general comments on the risk assessment work plan and report that addressed all aspects of site characterization (as it related to risk assessment), hazard identification, exposure assessment, toxicity assessment, risk characterization and uncertainty analysis. This project presented unique challenges as two chemicals of potential concern (COPCs) at the site, sulfolane and PFAS (PFOA and PFOS, specifically), are emerging contaminants and we worked with DEC, DHSS, ATSDR, as well as US EPA and the NTP to ensure the toxicity of each compound was appropriately quantified, and uncertainty appropriately identified. In addition, we worked closely with DHSS and authored and/or reviewed public health consultations and a number of health-related fact sheets regarding the sulfolane contamination.