DEP says report’s data on Great Lakes pollution outdated
By Robb Frederick
Erie News Times
Published February 23, 2008
The nation’s top public health agency ignored the results of a government study of pollution near the Great Lakes, according to the watchdog group that leaked the report.
But state environmental officials think there might be another reason for the government’s lack of action: Much of the data in the report is bad.
“It’s a classic example of information being used in news stories without anybody following up,” said Freda Tarbell, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “People just take it at face value.”
At first glance, the news is bad: The 400-page study, done by an office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at 108 hazardous waste sites near the Great Lakes, including four near Presque Isle Bay. Some 230,000 people could be getting sick, according to a draft of the report that was leaked by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit watchdog group in Washington, D.C.
The center posted the report on its Web site, www.publicintegrity.org. The pages are stamped with the words “Do Not Copy or Quote.”
The science is damning. The report warns of low birth weights and an increase in breast, colon and lung cancers in Erie County and two dozen other “areas of concern.”
But the data for Erie County is wrong, Tarbell said.
“The information they used was gathered in 1998,” she said. “At the time, that information was valid. But 10 years have gone by. A lot can happen in 10 years. And that’s the situation here.
“The issues that were raised in this report have been resolved,” she said.
-- Robb Frederick