Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) questions the State’s handling of the TCI fire in Ghent in a must-read post on the Times-Union’s Green Blog. Haight’s challenge includes these statements:
I’m not satisfied with what I’m hearing about the state’s testing. According to the TU article on Saturday, the DEC will test for dioxin this week “even though state health officials do not think the dioxin testing is necessary.” Say what? It is a well known fact that incomplete combustion of PCBs can result in the formation of dioxins and furans. According to a 1997 EPA report: “Products of incomplete combustion of PCBs include polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), both of which may be more toxic than PCBs themselves and have been associated with embryotoxicity, teratogenicity, reproductive effects, and oncogenicity.” (emphasis added)
Much of the affected area is farmland. When persistent organic pollutants like PCBs or dioxin get into the food chain they can bioaccumulate, ending up in vegetables, dairy products and meat. If the fire released dioxin, which is certainly possible, it is absolutely necessary for state officials to test milk and other farm products produced in the region in order to protect public health. Yet from the news reports it appears that as of now the state has no plans to conduct these tests.
So what was I to say to the woman who called me on Friday afternoon who had evacuated her family to a motel in the Adirondacks after learning she was within the 15-mile radius of the fire and had had her windows open all night? She wanted objective information about whether it was safe to return to her home and she didn’t trust the government’s proclamation that DEC sampling showed “no evidence of a public health concern.” Why should she? If state officials aren’t speaking to reporters, it doesn’t engender trust or confidence.
As of 1 pm today, DEC Region 4 has no press releases about the event in the media section of its website.