Trouble at River Valley High: Part Three

This morning, 90.3's April Baer spoke to Don Millard, a concerned parent and graduate of River Valley High School. Millard's 24 year old daughter is a graduate of the school as well, and has been diagnosed with breast cancer. He was on hand last night as the Army Corps presented its report:

April Baer- What was the gist of the report?

Don Millard- Basically what happened last night is we got two reports from the Army Corps of Engineers. We got the risk assessment, which was the primary report that we were interested in, because that is the report that they used to take all of the data they've collected so far and try to determine the risk level to anybody that is on the property that's contaminated.

AB- Up until this point the Army Corps has admitted only to the presence of some trichloroethylene, of TCE at the site. That's a chemical that's been linked to several diseases, but was there any mention of other contaminants?

DM- Oh, they talked about metals and some of the VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds] and SVOCs [Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds] that have been found, people that have been on top of the situation locally are aware that here are literally hundreds of contaminants on the site, many of which exceed the government's PRG which is the Primary Remedial Goal, and all of them shouldn't be there.

AB- We should mention that there are a lot of reports going on right now. The Corps itself is scheduled to make some suggestions for cleanup later on in March, and the Health Department and the EPA are also trying to look into what's going on. Did the Corps make any preliminary suggestions yesterday about what could be done about the contamination?

DM- No. They have been quite successfully dodging that bullet ever since the investigation began. Personally, where I see the problem as it is right now, is the risk assessment that we were presented last night, pretty much in a nutshell says that in the Corps' opinion - or in the opinion of it's risk assessor - there is no risk on the campus to anybody, in a situation where the materials are at this point. So according to their protocol and what they have to do , pretty much at this point, with the risk assessor saying there's no risk, they don't really have to do anything. So, really, the ball is back in the court of the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health, to find out what's going to happen with that property. The Corps of Engineers is going to come back next month with the Feasibility Study which will contain their opinions or suggestions as how best to deal with the contamination, and most of that will probably be supported by public pressure more so than what their reports have indicated.

AB- Mr. Millard, were you very satisfied with the Corps's report yesterday?

DM- Not at all. Not at all. Because - you mentioned TCE early on - and TCE of course is the primary contaminant that we're concerned about on the site. In certain portions of the subsurface contaminant we literally still have concentrations as high as ten percent pure TCE in the soil at an eight to ten foot depth, also that means that it's there virtually almost in the state in which it was dumped fifty-sixty years ago. TCE is a suspected leukemogen, it a suspected carcinogen - the bottom line is we know very little about what TCE can or cannot do to the human body, therefore I personally challenge how anyone can associate a risk with the contaminant levels we find of that product on the campus.

Don Millard is a member of the Restoration Advisory Board, a group of concerned parents seeking answers into the high incidence of cancer among students at the River Valley school district in Marion county, Ohio.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responded to Millard's comments, reiterating that Corps research shows contaminants at River Valley numbering only about twenty. The Corps does not dispute the fact that chemicals at the sub-surface level exceed the PRG target levels set by the government, but contends that anyone playing or working at the surface level of River Valley would not face a substantially increased risk of cancer, as long as the surface soil layer is not broken.

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