Health study set on land proposed for amphitheater
By L.A. TARONE
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is about to begin a health study on the abandoned minelands inside city limits that are set to house a proposed amphitheater.
In a letter dated Oct. 31, William Cibulas of the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Health Assessment and Consultation wrote that ATSDR will begin “a search for relevant information” concerning any potential health dangers from materials deposited in the former landfill.
Cibulas’ letter was in response to one received by former city Council President Bill Lockwood, now the president of Save Us From Future Environmental Risks, aka SUFFER.
Lockwood’s letter was dated Sept. 11. In it, he asked the agency to get involved because he said some of its recommendations, issued in a 16-page “health consultation” report that was released in 2001, “have, to our knowledge, never been implemented by the parties concerned.”
Much of SUFFER’s concern centers around the discovery of about 170 electrical capacitors on the site. Lockwood’s letter to ATSDR notes they had “the brand name ‘Elemex’ on the surface of said property…” adding it is “listed as a brand name PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) on the EPA website.”
Lockwood notes the capacitors were “leaking an oily substance,” adding that while they’ve since been removed, “a very strong odor lingers” and it “can be experienced several hundred feet from where these leaking capacitors were discovered.”
He adds that several wells, both commercial and residential, were found on the west side of Route 309 near one entrance to the property, adding that those who use them “have no access to public water.”
Lockwood notes the city has, since the 2001 study was issued, decided to use river dredge as fill material, and that construction debris and the like would be used to create a base for access roads during the initial phase of on-site work. He quoted the original report as saying there needed to be a “thorough testing and investigation of the soil,” adding, “This has not been properly done and the land is about to be developed.”
And he added that report recommended the site be “completely characterized before any development activities are initiated,” adding those recommendations “have not been completed.”
Finally, Lockwood’s letter states that part of the 2001 report “insured that ATSDR and (the Pennsylvania Department of Health) would review any additional data…” and noted the “potential for lateral vapor migration via the deeper coal mines.”
In his response, Cibulas wrote that ATSDR’s staff “will begin a search for relevant information regarding the potential for human exposure to contaminants released into the air, surface water and ground water from the facility.”
“We will search for information available from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania health and environmental agencies and local agencies,” Cibulas wrote. “ATSDR plans to ask (the state Department of Health) to help us respond to the concerns you have identified.”
“When our information review is complete, ATSDR will determine whether it can conduct public health activities in response to your concerns,” Cibulas added. “We will consider the potential threats to public health and the community’s health concerns about the site.”
However, when the study will begin and what it will include isn’t yet clear.