Public Comment Requested on Two Public Health Assessments for the Torch Lake Superfund Site

April 25, 2013

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 stampsand dust in it, and potential exposure to the chemicals in the stampsands at beaches and by eating fish from the area.

The Public Health Assessment about the inhalation of airborne stampsands in the Torch Lake Superfund site and the surrounding area in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties,evaluated concentrations of metals in airborne stampsands. 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 stampsands 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 stampsand piles.

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

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 athttp://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/index.asp

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