Specter ‘pressing’ for health study findings

Saturday, 29 September 2007
Staff Writer

FRACKVILLE — Politics and a rare blood disease made an odd combination when U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter visited Broad Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Friday.

Although the visit was first announced as a campaign rally by the Schuylkill County Republican Committee, a press release earlier Friday from Specter’s office said he would discuss a health study into concerns over a former McAdoo superfund site.

But when addressing a small crowd, including GOP candidates for county commissioners and row officers, Specter didn’t mention an Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry study into the incidence of a rare blood disorder until asked by media.

“They say they’re not prepared to release the findings yet. I’m pressing them on it, to do it and do it right,” Specter said when questioned about the report that was tentatively to be released today in Hazleton.

Earlier this week, state and federal officials pulled the plug on a plan to hold that meeting from 10 a.m. to noon at Best Western Genetti Inn & Suites after state Department of Health officials said they needed more time to review the data.

When asked about whether a new date had been set, Specter offered Oct. 15 for release of the report on incidence of polycythemia vera, a disease causing an increase in the production of red blood cells, in Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties.

But contacted after the event, a state Department of Health official said even that date was not yet definite.

“No date has been set. Certainly that’s one of the dates that’s been tossed around. We definitely want to release it sometime in October,” said Stacy Kriedeman, a spokeswoman for the department.

Concern over polycythemia vera began in June 2004, when a Carbon County environmental group reported that three people and possibly a fourth had contracted the disease locally.

The cases were reported along Ben Titus Road, Rush Township, rekindling concern about the environmental and health impacts of a nearby controversial superfund site.

Though declassified from the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list of the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or hazardous waste sites in 2001, the former McAdoo Associates site, just off Route 309 south of McAdoo, still concerns local residents.

Before its closure by federal officials in 1979 for a variety of environmental issues, the site, a little more than a mile north of Ben Titus Road, operated as an industrial recycler, extracting metals from waste sludge.

However, between 1981 and 1982, federal authorities removed 6,790 drums of hazardous waste from the property and critics and community leaders allege other hazardous wastes were also dumped into underground mine workings beneath the site.

On Friday, Specter also encouraged support for Republican candidates during his appearance, and he praised county GOP commissioners, row officers and other candidates and said voters should not blame them for missteps in either state or national policy.

Specter said voters should not hold local Republican candidates responsible for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the leadership of President Bush. Specter said candidates also shouldn’t be held responsible for a controversial pay raise in Harrisburg adopted by legislators of both parties in 2006 and later repealed after public outcry that occurred while the state Senate and House were dominated by Republicans.

Schuylkill Democratic Party Chairman Edward M. Kleha could not be reached Friday for comment on whether he believed voter anger over state and national issues might swing local elections for the Democrats.