2004.07.13 – STATE TO STUDY HEALTH NEAR FORMER SUPERFUND SITE

STATE TO STUDY HEALTH NEAR FORMER SUPERFUND SITE:
It will look at Quakake, other areas. Some fear results will be diluted.
By Chris Parker
The Morning Call Inc., Copyright 2004
Reprinted With Permission

July 13, 2004

The Pennsylvania Department of Health will study the health of residents who live near a former Kline Township Superfund site. Three people who live near the site say they have been diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disease called polycythemia vera, a disease that typically strikes one in every 200,000 people.

Residents worried about chemicals from the former McAdoo Associates Superfund site or other nearby industries in June asked state Rep. David G. Argall, R-Schuylkill, to push government agencies to examine the cancer rate along Ben Titus Road in the tiny community of Quakake, Rush Township.

The community is about two miles from the 8-acre site where McAdoo Associates operated its metal reclamation and incineration facility from 1975 until a state permit was revoked in 1979.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found the soil there contaminated with heavy metals and low levels of various volatile organic compounds.

The contaminated soil was removed and the site was capped by 1992. The agency reports there was no need for further action. EPA said the geology of the area shunted any leached polluted water west to the Little Schuylkill River.

On June 11, Michelle S. Davis of the Department of Health wrote back to Argall, agreeing to do the health study, but said it would have to encompass more people than the community of Quakake. The study would likely include everyone living in ZIP code 18252, which would also include Tamaqua.

That dismayed Frank Waksmunski, co-founder of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians, an environmental watchdog group enlisted by residents to help find whether pollution is the cause of the rare cancer, which thickens blood, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and a form of leukemia.

Waksmunski contends the study will cover too wide an area to determine whether chemicals leached from industrial sites are compromising the health of Quakake residents.

The large population sample will dilute the results, he said.

Waksmunski will meet with Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection representatives at 1 p.m. July 22 at Argall’s Tamaqua office to tell the agencies what he would like to see studied and why.

Residents are being asked to fill out a health survey, available at the Titus Mini Mart on Route 309 in Rush Township. The surveys must be turned in at the market by next Tuesday.

The survey, compiled by Tamaqua Area High School nurse Cathy Miorelli, includes questions about cancer diagnoses and exposure to hazardous substances such as pesticides, solvents, fuels and radiation.

The surveys will be kept confidential, Miorelli said.

A 1993 study of cancer death rates by the government concluded the Superfund site did not cause a rise in the disease.

Schuylkill County’s cancer death rate for 1999 through 2002 is slightly higher than the state average, said Brian Wright, statistical analyst with the state Department of Health.

Carbon County’s rate was significantly higher for 2000-02, Wright said.

The state rate in 2000-02 was 202.8 per 100,000 people; Schuylkill County’s was 212.1 and Carbon County’s rate was 234.5, according to Wright.

Waksmunski said the DEP tested four wells in the Quakake community – three along Ben Titus Road – but found no contamination of the water.

The agency tested for more than a hundred chemicals, including mercury, aluminum, lead, and arsenic.

”No detections above drinking water maximum contaminant levels were found,” wrote Joseph Iannuzzo, project officer for DEP’s Environmental Cleanup Program.

”Your well-water supply meets the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water standards…” he wrote.

However, DEP did not test for the lowest detectable limit, meaning there could be traces of the chemicals in the water, Waksmunski said.

DEP also inspected a cogeneration plant in McAdoo but found only minor violations, such as improper labeling of drums.

Reporter Ann Wlazelek contributed to this story.

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