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NYS DEC, DOH, Erie County, City of Lackawanna announce analysis of samples collected after steel plant fire

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Mon, Jan 9th 2017 08:25 pm

Surface sampling results consistent with areas not impacted by fire

New York state agencies join Erie County & City of Lackawanna at public availability session to share data and interpret results for local residents

Submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The New York State departments of Environmental Conservation and Health, the Erie County Health Department, and the City of Lackawanna on Monday announced a review of surface wipe samples taken after the Nov. 9 fire at the former Bethlehem Steel Plant returned results consistent with areas not impacted by the fire.

The sampling results were released at a public availability session in Lackawanna. Representatives from DOH's Center for Environmental Health, DEC's Division of Air Resources Bureau of Air Quality Surveillance, Erie County Health Department, Lackawanna Fire Department, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted the meeting to help interpret the results for residents and meet one-on-one with attendees to answer questions.   ‎

On Dec. 7, staff from DOH, DEC and Test America, DEC's contract laboratory, collected surface wipe samples to better understand the nature of the smoke plume and to characterize any deposited soot residue associated with the fire. Seven sampling locations were identified in areas likely to have been affected by smoke or soot from the fire, because of their proximity to the fire site, and two samples were collected from nearby public areas not known to be affected to establish background levels. The samples were analyzed for two groups of chemicals: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals.

The analysis did not detect PAHs in any of the wipe samples, indicating no measurable difference in PAH contamination on surfaces between the sites affected by smoke and soot, and the background sites. Areas impacted by the smoke and soot would be expected to have higher PAH and metal content than areas not impacted by smoke and soot. Some of the metals were found in almost all wipe samples, and their levels in the seven fire impacted locations were similar to the levels measured at the two background locations.

"DEC's analysis of surface samples should come as welcome news for residents of Lackawanna concerned about potential air pollution caused by this massive fire," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "New York state experts trained to respond to situations like this organized quickly to monitor the area for threats to public health and the environment and keeping local residents informed. The state will continue to work with our federal and local partners to ensure the air in Lackawanna is safe to breathe."

"The Department of Health worked with our partners in state government to conduct additional sampling and analysis of the potential effects of the smoke plume and help alleviate any concerns in the community," said New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker.  "DOH remains committed to providing support to our local partners to safeguard public health."   

Representatives from the Erie County Medical Center Occupational Health Clinic and insurance enrollers will be available to answer questions.

For complete sampling results, visit the Erie County website at http://www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=bethlehem-steel-fire.

Impacted residents who wish to have their properties cleaned professionally are encouraged to contact Great Lakes Industrial Development to report a property cleanup claim by calling 716-207-8685.

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