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Great Lakes Article:

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.

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