My Questions to the EPA

The EPA recently explained to the community of Northport, WA, based on the EPA’s analysis of existing data they have decided not to conduct additional air monitoring in our area.

After analyzing the existing data, the EPA concluded;

  • For arsenic, the air concentration is 0.0042 ug/m3.  Although this level is higher than safety standards they felt that it would only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 100,000.  So, the community should be “safe”.
  • For cadmium, the air concentration is .00136 ug/m3. Although this level is also higher than safety standards they felt that it would only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 1 million people. So, once again, we are “safe”.

The existing data the EPA analyzed is the following:

  • All 4 Air Monitoring Studies conducted by Ecology in Northport between 1992 – 1998.
    • All four concluded that our levels of arsenic (.02ug/m3) were 100 times the safety standard and our levels of cadmium (.04) were 18 times higher than safety standards.
  • Air Data measured at a monitoring station Teck Smelter operated near Northport from 1999 – 2009.

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In 2017 The Department of Ecology conducted a preliminary review and evaluation of past air quality monitoring data from our area and consideration of potential present-day health risks. (So basically, they analyzed the same data the EPA claims to have reviewed). When Ecology realized a very important gap of data to accurately evaluate our situation they conducted an air modeling algorithm to get a more specific idea of the actual concentrations of the toxins in our air.

After analyzing the existing date Ecology concluded;

  • Some quality assurance and uncertainty issues arose in Teck’s air monitoring and reporting. Some anomalies were noted when comparing variations in PM emissions that do not correspond to variations in As, Cd, Pb, and Zn emissions. Meaning the accuracy of the emissions being reported and recorded should be called into question.
  • Another issue was the quantitation limit for sampling Arsenic was measured in a bucket of 0.01 ug/m3 to 0.39 ug/m3. Meaning any levels that fell into this category were reported as a .01 ug/m3 in concentration.  When in reality over 40% of those samples were actually closer to 0.39 ug/m3 . That means 40% of the samples had concentrations recorded as .01 when in reality those samples could have been as high as 0.39.  That would mean the actual concentration of arsenic in our air (on average) would be 0.152 ug/m3.
    • Per the EPA guidelines; if the toxin exceeds the Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL) it is evaluated as a risk, and additional analysis is needed, especially if the toxin falls within the Risk-Based Concentration (RBC) levels.  The ASIL for arsenic emissions is .0023ug/m3, and the RBC is .0023 ug/m3.
    • The EPA is claiming the concentration of arsenic in Northport is .0042 ug/m3. Under the EPA’s ASIL and RBC levels they would be required to gather “additional analysis” (AIR MONITORING) on the situation.  Worse yet, based on Ecology’s assessment of the data the EPA reviewed the concentration of arsenic in Northport is much more likely to be close to 0.152 ug/m3.  This is a very dangerous level to be chronically exposed to.  I think the results of our health studies (see below) are proof enough of that.
  • Due to the lack of monitors in the areas upriver from Northport to the border, and therefore the lack of data, Ecology applied a smoothing algorithm to mean concentration estimates as functions of time and downriver distance to estimate average As, Cd, and Pb concentrations.
  • The results of this algorithm concluded that between 2009 – 2014 the average level of arsenic in our air was .02 ug/m3. This is similar to the results of the other air monitoring studies done in our area in the past, and not by Teck. .02 ug/m3 is 100 times the recommended safety level.

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Results from the 2012 Northport Community Health Survey

  • 18 people, in a population of 315, had been diagnosed with cancer.  (This seems to blow EPA’s theory of the toxins we are exposed to will only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 100,000.)
  • 17 residents had been diagnosed with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. 17 residents out of a community of 315.  Nationwide approximately 7 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed with UC or Crohn’s annually.
  • 23 residents had been diagnosed with either a brain aneurism or tumors.
  • 13 residents had been diagnosed with either Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.

Since the 2012 Community Health Survey the health issues have not stopped

  • 8 more residents were diagnosed with cancer
  • 4 more residents have been diagnosed with UC or Crohn’s
  • 3 more residents have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and 1 more resident has been diagnosed with Multiple Scoliosis
In a community with a population of approximately 315 people.

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EPA also informed us after their analysis of existing data that the air data is sufficient to conduct the human health risk assessment for our area.  They stated, The EPA believes that our evaluation of the potential risk to people from outdoor air, using existing air data, is technically sound.”

My Questions to the EPA:

  • Even if our air concentration for arsenic is 0.0042 ug/m3, as Teck stated, that still exceeds the ASIL and should be evaluated as a risk, and additional analysis (AIR MONITORING) is needed, especially if the toxin falls within the Risk-Based Concentration (RBC) levels.
  • Based on Ecology’s findings, what if our air concentration for arsenic is .02ug/m3, or even 0.152 ug/m3, if Ecology’s concern of quantitation limitation on Teck’s sampling is correct?  Our arsenic and cadmium concentrations are already over the safety standards. Scientific data shows that it is very likely those concentrations are significantly higher than the EPA believes.
  • Why did you not evaluate the findings and concerns Ecology advised you of?
  • How did the EPA and The Department of Ecology reach such different conclusions based on the same information?
  • Why are so many residents in our community continuing to get sick if what the EPA is saying is true?
  • How do you plan on conducting a Human Health Risk Assessment based on this lacking, and possibly incorrect data?

The EPA had a choice.  You could have listened to the over 100 Northport residents who signed a petition asking for your help, you could have taken the recommendations of The Department of Ecology and The Tri-County Health Department to conduct a long term, multiple location air monitoring program in our area.  Instead you used limited, inaccurate, outdated data from Teck’s air monitor to conclude no additional air monitoring is needed. This means the HHRA the EPA conducts will be dangerously  inaccurate before it is even began. Do us a favor and don’t waste your time.  The HHRA will ensure we are safe, just as you are telling us we are safe now. I hope you have reason to come visit us five or ten years from now.  You can look around this very room, full of some of the same people that are here today, and explain to them why you left us in danger.  Why you not only told us we were safe, but refused us any sort of assistance to ensure we are safe….again.  The EPA stood where you are now in 1992, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2015, 2017 and now 2018.  Would you like to know how many people have either gotten sick or died from similar health issues in those 26 years?

2 responses to this post.

  1. […] Jamie Paparich is one of the key organizers behind the Northport Project. In an April article run by the Chewelah Independent, Paparich told the publication, “Residents believe that the air is the culprit behind the many health clusters in our small community. Studies have been conducted showing chronic exposure to elevated ambient arsenic and cadmium causes damage to the immune system and gastrointestinal tract. All of our health issues are auto immune related, and the biggest health cluster of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is linked directly to the gastrointestinal tract. A study Harvard conducted of our community showed cases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s to be diagnosed 11.5 to 18 times higher in Northport than anywhere else in the County. Residents continue to be diagnosed. I know of two residents who have been already diagnosed this year.” […]

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  2. Posted by Cath on May 4, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Multiple Scoliosis is not a disease – check the Mayo Clinic. You might try Multiple Sclerosis. It’s well known that NE WA has a much higher incidence of Multiple Sclerosis.

    Liked by 1 person

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