hunt in Shores narrows
find high concentration in drain on Harper
Gene Schabath / The Detroit News
ST. CLAIR SHORES
-- A concentration of PCBs comparable to some of the nation's
Superfund contamination sites, has been found in a St. Clair
Shores drain, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said
A PCB reading of 33,000 parts per million
was found last Friday in the drain at Harper and Bon Brae
and touched off an intensive effort by investigators to
find the source.
"The 33,000 parts per million are a concern
of mine," EPA coordinator Kurt Grunert told about 300 people
at South Lake High School in St. Clair Shores. "Based on
my experience, I would say it was fairly recent. That's
why we are concentrating on Harper and Bon Brae."
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were
used decades ago as coolants and lubricants in the manufacture
of electrical transformers and capacitors.
Scientists have linked PCBs to forms of
cancer, but Macomb County Health Department Director Thomas
Kalkofen said the risk is low unless people swallow them.
Grunert is coordinator of a 60-member
federal, state and local task force trying to track down
the source of the PCB that has been found in the 258-acre
storm drain system as well as in two canals that empty into
Lake St. Clair.
"PCB's of this level are what you find
at the worse Superfund areas," said Linda Schweitzert, professor
of environmental chemistry at Oakland University. "That's
33,000 times above the level that is safe."
Grunert said the public is in no danger
because the PCB is underground in an enclosed drain. The
PCBs will be removed from the drain and canals off Revere
and Lange streets once the investigation is completed. Levels
in excess of 3,000 have also been found in the drains.
Grunert said he may assemble an EPA emergency
response team to ferret out the source of the PCBs.
Federal and state officials disclosed
10 days ago that the PCBs were found in the canals, but
state officials admitted under questioning by the audience
that they knew about the PCBs a month earlier.
Dave Consiglio, who lives on Revere, said
residents along the two canals want officials to conduct
periodic testing of the water to make sure PCBs and other
contaminants are not getting into the waterways.
"It doesn't surprise me they are finding
these high levels," said Consiglio, 45. "This has been an
open drain for 50 or 60 years, and anyone could drop toxic
material in our drains."
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