9/19/12 News Release: Candidate Hassig Reports Initial Findings from Investigation of DEC and DOH Inaction on New York Air Brake Complaints

Investigation of New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC) and New York State Department of Health (DOH)
Inaction on North Side Community Complaints Regarding Damages to
Health Attributed to Exposures to Pollutants Present on New York Air
Brake Superfund Site (NYABSS) in City of Watertown, New York

Initial Findings

On 8/29/12, I participated in a conference call with certain employees
of the DEC and DOH:  Peter Ouderkirk, DEC project manager; Thomas
Festa, DEC Central Office, Division of Remediation; Greg Rys, DOH site
manager and Deanna Ripstein, DOH Center for Environmental Health,
Division of Environmental Exposure Assessment.  The purpose of the
conference call was to provide answers to two questions that I had
previously set before the DEC and DOH:  (1) What conclusions had been
reached regarding exposures and health risks at the NYABSS? and (2) To
what extent has the public been informed about these conclusions?

The above named state government employees presented a unified
position that portrayed careful attention to scientific knowledge on
the subjects of environmental exposures and health protection.  These
people so skillfully presented their account of government action at
the site that I was almost led to believe that a reasonably diligent
effort had been made to address matters of public health protection.
However, I thought carefully about what I had heard at a recent
community forum on the subject of the NYABSS and came to the
conclusion that government had not acted in an acceptable manner in
addressing these matters.   It is clear to me that no legitimate
effort has been made to determine whether or not exposures associated
with the contaminated site are causing observed damages to health.

The question of site related exposures and damages to health is
complicated by the fact that no chemical specific outdoor air
monitoring was conducted before and during clean-up of the site.  It
is difficult to fully assess whether site related exposures have
caused disease in the North Side community because of this lack of
data.  However, it is not impossible to sort these matters out.
Biological testing should be conducted to provide data on body burdens
and circulating blood levels of known site contaminants.  This testing
should be conducted free of charge for the North Side Community
residents.

Considering the complexity of this environmental health problem, it is
of great necessity that the residents be provided with state of
knowledge outreach on disease prevention focusing upon pollutant
exposure minimization.  Such outreach constitutes a reasonable and
substantial endeavor to minimize the harm to health that will result
from the exposures that took place over the course of the existence of
the New York Air Brake contamination.  I recommended that DOH conduct
such an outreach to the North Side Community.  Ms. Ripstein stated
that my recommendation had been taken note of.

Remedial Activity Overview

In 1988, data was gathered on water and soil contamination at the New
York Air Brake facility.  Findings prompted a decision to remediate
the facility.  Remediation of the NYABSS included containment of a
large quantity of contaminants on the site.  Remediation ended in
2000.  According to the personnel on the 8/29/12 conference call, it
was not until 2004 that scientists first became aware of the movement
of chemicals in ground water and soil vapor.  In 2007, DEC and DOH
began conducting soil vapor intrusion testing.  Air samples were taken
from below the basement slab, from indoor basement air and from
outdoors.  At one residence slightly elevated levels of TCE were
detected in soil gas below the basement slab.  No TCE was detected in
the basement air at this residence.  DEC’s soil vapor intrusion
analysis was completed in 2010.

No Effort by DOH to Figure Out What Exposures Could be Causing
Diseases and Disorders Reported by North Side Community Residents

After the conference call, I contacted Deanna Ripstein and requested
to know whether a health study had been conducted for the population
residing in the vicinity of the NYABSS.  She stated that she could not
answer this question but she would find out and let me know.  Several
days later, I received an electronic mail message from Ms. Ripstein
stating that no health study had been conducted.  It is clear that the
DOH made no significant effort to determine what exposures to New York
Air Brake contaminants might possibly be causing the diseases and
disorders reported by North Side Community residents.  This is
unacceptable behavior for a government public health entity.  However,
it is a behavior that is widespread and well entrenched in the
government public health entities of the United States.

The DEC and DOH are just now beginning to feel the pressure of
organized protest against their inaction on complaints of damages to
health resultant from exposures to New York Air Brake contaminants.
Hopefully, this will motivate the DOH to conduct a health study.  Such
a scientific endeavor would be a major step toward creating justice.
It will be particularly important for residents to take a strong role
in overseeing the health study.  DOH has conducted health studies at
other contaminated sites and there is reason to suspect that the
intentions of the Department were not honorable.


Donald L. Hassig, Director
Cancer Action NY
Cancer Action News Network
P O Box 340
Colton, NY USA 13625
315.262.2456
www.canceractionny.org

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