By Shawn A. Hessinger, Tamaqua Bureau Chief, shessinger@republicanherald.com
The REPUBLICAN & Herald, © 2006

September 17, 2006

TAMAQUA — Environmental critics are unconvinced by a federal mailing offering reassurances after a month and a half of high iron and manganese levels in the community’s main water source.

The Sept. 8 mailing states that contaminants from a nearby former Superfund site are contained and could not enter public drinking water like the community’s 2.7 billion-gallon Still Creek Reservoir.

“We would not allow people to drink contaminated water,” said Larry C. Johnson, community involvement coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on Friday.

Johnson’s mailing also insisted that no link has been found between Polycythemia Vera, a rare blood disease reported by an environmental group in 2004 near the reservoir and the former Superfund site, and chemical exposure.

However, one case in Missouri near the former Sugar Creek Petroleum Refinery where officials say a variety of petroleum products were released into soil and water centered on links between Polycythemia Vera and benzene.

“After reading the brochure, we must conclude that the information presented is, at best, incomplete and misleading,” wrote Dante J. Picciano, spokesman for the Army for a Clean Environment, a Tamaqua-based environmental group, on the group’s Web site at www.armyforacleanenvironment.org.

Picciano also disputed the mailer’s conclusions about metal levels found in the reservoir.

Johnson said Friday he would like to sit down with local environmental activists to discuss the issue further.

Joseph Murphy, Hometown, a concerned citizen who has long disputed the EPA’s assessment of the site, welcomed the opportunity Friday.

Murphy said the group wants to discuss documents and geological data showing that toxic dumping in underground mines took place and that material can migrate to both the reservoir and area wells through fractured rock.