Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Public comment requested on two Public Health Assessments for Torch Lake Superfund Site; public meeting to be May 15 in Lake Linden

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has released two Public Health Assessments for the Torch Lake Superfund site and surrounding areas located in the Upper Peninsula, specifically Houghton and Keweenaw counties, for public comment. The assessments focus on breathing air that has stamp-sand dust in it, potential exposure to the chemicals in the stamp sands at beaches and effects of eating fish from the area.

Map of the Torch Lake Superfund Site exhibited at the June 20, 2012, multi-agency open house sponsored by the Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. The same agencies will sponsor a follow-up open house and public meeting on two public health assessments for the site and surrounding areas TOMORROW, Wednesday, May 15, at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School. Click on photo for larger version. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

MDCH will host a multi-agency open house from 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. -- with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Western Upper Peninsula Health Department -- followed by a public meeting at 7 p.m., on Wednesday, May 15. The meeting will take place at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School, located at 601 Calumet St. in Lake Linden.

This poster with information on the Torch Lake Area of Concern was exhibited at the June 20, 2012, multi-agency open house in Lake Linden. Click on photo for larger version.

The Public Health Assessment about the inhalation of airborne stamp sands in the Torch Lake Superfund site and the surrounding area in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties, evaluated concentrations of metals in airborne stamp sands. MDCH estimated the air concentrations using site-specific data, when available, and relying on regulatory guidance. Exposures that may occur during excavating or riding off-road vehicles at the Gay tailings pile along Lake Superior are not expected to cause harm. MDCH needs more information to determine the public health implications of exposure during street-sweeping activities in Calumet, when stamp sands that were applied to the roads in the winter become airborne. The discussion in this Public Health Assessment can guide other agencies in future evaluations of these and other stamp-sand piles.

During the June 20, 2012, multi-agency open house in Lake Linden, Sharon Baker, right, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Area of Concern coordinator, discusses information about the Torch Lake Superfund site with Sarah Green, Michigan Tech professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry.

The Public Health Assessment about recreational use at beach areas at Lake Linden and along Torch Lake in Houghton County looked at potential chemical exposure from recreationally used areas around Torch Lake, Boston Pond, and Calumet Lake. Even though contaminated soil and sediment have been removed from several areas, additional sampling is needed to determine if the remaining chemicals present may harm people's health. Fish from Torch Lake, Boston Pond, and Calumet Lake are under waterbody-specific and statewide fish-eating guidelines. Visit www.michigan.gov/eatsafefish for more information.

MDCH also invites the public to provide comments on the Public Health Assessments. The assessments are online at www.michigan.gov/mdch-toxics under "Health Assessments and Related Documents." Copies also are available at the Lake Linden-Hubbell Public School Library, and the Portage Lake District Library located at 58 Huron St. in Houghton. Comments must be received by June 24. Responses to all comments will be provided in the final version of the assessments.

The department's Division of Environmental Health conducted the Public Health Assessments under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Information concerning the human health effects of exposure to environmental contaminants can be found on the ATSDR web page at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/index.asp.

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