Public health assessment released on lakefront pollution
Nothing surprising in findings
By Steve Tomasko
Article Courtesy of Ashland Daily Press
December 06th, 2001 10:03:58 AM
Another link in the probable Superfund listing of Ashland's
contaminated lakefront was completed with the release
of a public health assessment. Henry Nehls-Lowe, epidemiologist
with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services
said there are no surprises in the document from what
they've released before. DHFS has been involved with the
site since 1995 and have released periodic fact sheets
and reports on possible effects on human health from the
coal tar contamination. DHFS will release the document
today, in time for a community meeting updating the status
of the Ashland site. Nehls-Lowe said a public health assessment
is a federal requirement when a site is proposed for the
National Priorities List, or Superfund. In Wisconsin,
the job of writing that document falls to Nehls-Lowe's
department. The assessment is a summary of environmental
sampling done at the site from a human health aspect.
Other studies have been done on the pollution's effects
on the environment. The document summarizes potential
impacts on human health from the coal tar contamination.
"The primary concern we have is about people being exposed
directly from the contaminated sediment," Nehls-Lowe said.
The chemicals present in coal tars can cause skin and
eye irritations and possibly make people more susceptible
to sunburn. Regular, direct contact over long time periods
could cause an increased risk of some cancers, Nehls-Lowe
said. Another conclusion in the report is that the contamination
seems to be relatively confined to the small bay between
the marina and Kreher Park. The water at the marina itself
and the swimming beach at the park on the other side are
not contaminated. Neither are the artesian wells, which
are regularly checked for pollutants. Once a cleanup effort
is decided on and begun, "we recommend very vigorous air
monitoring and management," Nehls-Lowe said. That's because
many of the chemicals now trapped in the soil or sediments
in the bay are volatile and could be released during cleanup
causing odor problems. His department continues to work
closely with the Department of Natural Resources, the
lead investigating agency for the site, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the Ashland County Health Department.
Information about the assessment will be available at
today's public information meetings, held at 2:30 p.m.
and 7 p.m. at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church social
hall. Copies of the document are available at the Vaughn
Library in Ashland and the Ashland County Health Department.
It can also be seen on the Internet at: www.dhfs.state.wi.us/dph_beh/Env_Health_Resources/index.htm.