October 25, 2002
tells Leech Lake residents Superfund site still concern
Minn. (AP) — Federal officials have told residents on the Leech Lake
Reservation that the St. Regis Superfund site has tested positive for
levels of dioxin and may still be a health hazard.
At a daylong
public meeting Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency presented
findings of recent soil, sediment, water and fish tissue tests
conducted at the
site that used to be a St. Regis Paper Co. wood treatment plant.
operated from 1957 until 1985. It was designated a Superfund cleanup
increased levels of dioxins in whitefish,” said Milton Clark, EPA
adviser. “We do have concerns about the levels that we see and we’re
do more evaluation of those fish in the future.”
indicated the Pike Bay and Cass Lake whitefish carry 10 times the
dioxin as the same species in Ball Club Lake, which was unaffected by
recommended that people eat no more than 12 meals per year of whitefish
Pike Bay and Cass Lake. The fish should be skinned and the fat removed
cooking. During cooking, care should be taken to drain the fat away
fish and other foods prepared alongside.
“It makes it
less risky. It doesn’t solve the problem,” Clark said.
officials reassured those who attended the meetings that food like wild
does not take up dioxin through the stems to the grains, and root
like carrots and potatoes are made safe by scraping the outer layer
levels of dioxin in the fish and soil are a concern, officials urged
not to panic. Almost every food is contaminated to some extent, Clark
everyone lives with some level of exposure.
“We want to
make sure people don’t have a sense of emergency,” said Mark Johnson of
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
The EPA said
it used low detection limits and screening levels to ensure that even
amounts of contaminants could be identified. They also used sampling
unavailable in the 1980s when the cleanup was initiated.
applying methods now that are much more sensitive than we had 20 years
Johnson said. The possible effects of dioxin exposure include increased
of developing cancer.
step will be for the EPA to develop a set of recommendations for people
reduce their exposure, such as washing hands after handling soil.
the EPA would work with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to develop such
there can be a process where all these things are balanced out,” Clark