Jul 13, 2010 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Representatives from the EPA and NYSDEC came to the fairgrounds’ Martha Eddy Room Thursday to explain their recent Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) to Camillus residents. It was dubbed a question and answer session and was conducted in the most literal sense of the term — with questions submitted on paper, anonymously, with no chance for following up.
“Is there a reason that this meeting is being so tightly managed and controlled and not democratic?” said Barbara Silverstone of Camillus an hour into the session. Under the meeting’s format, Silverstone was speaking out of turn.
Moderator Joan Kennedy’s response did not answer the question.
“Well right now let me go through this and then we can open it up,” she said.
The Human Health Risk Assessment, authored by Micheal Sivak of the EPA, determined the transport of chemicals from Onondaga Lake to Wastebed 13 in Camillus to present no unacceptable risks. In the current plan, after being dredged from Onondaga Lake, a solution of 10 percent sediment and 90 percent water would be brought to Wastebed 13 via double walled, high-density polyethylene tubes measuring 16 inches in diameter. The water would be filtered out and treated, and the sediment would be stored in geotextile tubes in the sediment consolation area (SCA). The study concluded that the SCA would be closely monitored.
To start his presentation, the EPA’s Michael Sivak, author of the study, said comments posted to syracuse.com and submitted to the EPA about the HHRA indicated misinformation and misunderstandings going around. The purpose of the session was to clear up the confusion.
One source of confusion was the term “acceptable risk.”
“I understand that that’s kind of a weird way to phrase risk, and why is any risk acceptable?” Sivak said. “The national contingency plan presents some of these rules that our program has to follow and one of those is that it defines what acceptable levels of risk are,” he explained.
The EPA is required to find unacceptable levels of risk when determining whether to take remedial action on a toxic waste site. The process for determining risk is complex, but simply put, in order to have a risk there must be a chance for exposure. This requires a complete exposure pathway, which was identified in the study.
The HHRA determined release of sediment at the SCA was unlikely due to its design and engineering, but evaluated exposure potential for hypothetical purposes. The study made assumptions that those off site would be exposed 350 days per year, 24 hours per day for five years, and those on site would be exposed for 45 days, finding both hypothetical situations to pose no adverse health effects.
Many questions suggested tightening safety precautions for the SCA’s containment of chemicals.
“Are there any reasonable measures that should be included in the original construction operation?” Joan Kennedy read from submitted questions.
Bob Nunes of the EPA cited changes already made to the original design, including turning away from a “settling basin” in favor of storing the sediment in geotextile tubes, “an approach that would result in much fewer emissions.”
He said the EPA would work with the town of Camillus and DEC engineers to find ways to further reduce emissions from Wastebed 13.
Follow up questions were granted, but not until about four hours into the Q&A. Outside the doors of the Martha Eddy Room, Rick Hevier, Camillus resident and founder of fearnotfacts.org, agreed that the session was tightly controlled. He felt this was in response to the hectic Wastebed 13 meeting hosted in January.
“This is what happens when people react emotionally and not to the facts,” he said. Before the meeting, Hevier stood with other Camillus residents promoting his stance on the cleanup.
“We don’t want it to come here, but if it does, make it safe,” he said.
Hevier’s son, Rich, pinpointed the campaign’s reason for separating from the Camillus Coalition that has resisted the EPA and DEC’s current plan.
“I think it’s important not to lose sight of the benefit of a clean Onondaga Lake,” he said.