Public Health Assessment Released by ATSDR

September 2005


A Public Health Assessment, dated September 30, 2005, was released by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The Assessment was prepared pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). ATSDR collected relevant health data, environmental data, and community health concerns from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state and local health and environmental agencies, the community, and potentially responsible parties. According to the ATSDR, it was their best effort, based on currently available information, to fulfill the statutory criteria set out in CERCLA within a limited time frame. The Assessment was provided to the EPA and state for their information and review.

A Public Health Assessment is the principal means by which ATSDR addresses public health issues. The Assessment discusses available information about site-related hazardous substances and evaluates whether exposure to them - in the past, present, or future - might cause adverse health effects in members of the community.

Public Health Assessment Conclusions

The Public Health Assessment was conducted to determine whether releases of hazardous substances from BNL could have affected the health of people in nearby communities. The issues and concerns evaluated included: contact with the soil in the communities near BNL; drinking water from residential wells; breathing dust or particles emitted from BNL reactors; playing in the Peconic River; and eating fish from the Peconic River or meat from deer hunted in areas near BNL.

The main findings from the Assessment were that, "Past releases from BNL to the environment contaminated the air, soil, groundwater, sediments, and biota. However, storage and disposal practices today are more advanced and better regulated than were those conducted during the earlier years of operation. Air emissions are currently regulated through emission permits and are in compliance with the applicable permits. The sediments and soils that were contaminated from past BNL releases have been removed or are currently being removed. Further, the exposure dose that individuals would have experienced prior to this removal were not at levels at which adverse effects have been observed. Currently, residents who live near BNL are not exposed to harmful levels of Laboratory-related contamination in air, drinking water, river water, fish and game, or soils."

Community Input

While BNL felt the Assessment confirmed the results of the Environmental Restoration Division's investigations, the Lab's Community Advisory Council (CAC) took issue with the quality of the document. During the public comment period held from October 10 through November 15, 2005, the CAC reviewed the Assessment and formulated comments on it. They found that the "ATSDR Health Assessment did not help community stakeholders evaluate or understand public health impacts from BNL's past activities and that the conclusions of the report were not adequately supported in the document..." The CAC further expressed that they felt the report was not useful or acceptable as it was written and considered its recommendations "overly simplistic." They asked that it be revised and offered many suggestions for improving it.

Documents / Links

The Assessment is available on the ATSDR website.