Advocates frustrated with study results

CASE and other advocates approached the state government in early 2009 about conducting a study.

DOH officials at the hearing said completing the public health assessment, which mostly consists of analyzing already existing data, is the common procedure. If the assessment finds there is a potential danger to the community then further studies, including field testing, would be warranted, said Jan Storm, of the DOH's Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment.

"First, we have to figure out what we know about what's released from the plant," Storm said. "Then, we know specifically what questions to ask."

A few community members demanded to know why the report didn't include the work of Ward Stone, a recently retired DEC wildlife pathologist who had been using funds raised by CASE to conduct studies on heavy metal contamination in the area.

Diane Mathis, a DOH spokesperson, said the agency did receive Stone's research from the DEC and considered it for the report, but added it was lacking in certain data.

"What we received is data from samples, we need additional information such as where the samples were collected and how the samples were obtained," Mathis said. "We requested that information from Ward Stone about six months ago. To date, we have not received it."

DOH representatives stressed the agency is looking for comment from the public to make the second phase of the study more useful. Mathis said the public's frustration is understandable.

"It's not unusual to see the frustration expressed, because people want some sort of confirmation of their assumptions...or they want to know immediately that they don't need to worry," she said. "We understand that frustration, and we're working as quickly as we can in regard to the Lafarge plant."

But for those who have been petitioning the agency and waiting for months, the answers seem clear.

"You don't need a whole lot of data and sampling and analysis to see the cement dust on cars," Falzon said. "People in the community know it's there and they want to know what's in it and what it's doing to them."

The public comment period on the study is open until Feb 15. The entire 137-page report and summary pages can be downloaded at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/investigations/lafarge/, where there are also instructions on delivering written comments by mail, fax or e-mail.""

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