EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – The Environmental Protection Agency held a meeting in East Palestine on Thursday to release the results of soil testing.
The EPA finished its first phase of soil testing. Mark Durno, EPA response coordinator, went over preliminary reports with residents.
Overall, most of the soil samples taken showed dioxin levels around what Durno calls the “median” or average number. However, he wanted to clarify that the type of sampling they did was not a risk assessment, but instead, it was a comparison study in order to compare possibly contaminated levels to outside areas.
Durno says 4.8 ppt (parts per trillion) is the average standard they use when it comes to dioxin testing. He says anything lower than or around that number would not cause serious concern for exposure.
“You gotta understand what that lowest effect level means. It means that somebody is exposed to that level of contamination, 4.8 ppt, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. That’s not realistic,” he said.
The EPA tested 148 locations. Each location was sampled for both shallow and deep samples.
The results show that dioxins were found in the samples, but Durno says they expected that.
“We know we’re all exposed to it. When we barbeque foods, we’re exposed to it. People that smoke cigarettes are exposed to it. When we sit around a campfire, we’re exposed to it. This is no different, when we’re exposed to these soils, we’re exposed at very low levels,” he said.
The levels of dioxins found in the majority of the samples ranged from 2.6 – 14 ppt. These samples were taken from residential properties and parks.
However, Durno says there were three other samples taken from highways just over the Pennsylvania border that showed higher levels above 100 ppt. Although it’s below the EPA’s removal management level of 480 ppt, Durno said it’s still something they need to look into.
“There could be a phase two sampling plan coming up. I don’t see a way we don’t do another round of sampling because we have a couple hot spots we wanna look at,” he said.
Durno said he could not release the exact location of where these samples were taken from because they are near private properties. He did say, however, that they are not in residential areas.
Early in the meeting, Durno stated that the EPA was not initially concerned that dioxins from the plume would impact the area. But, because the residents were concerned, they decided to test for them. But, some people in the audience questioned that notion, referring to another statement Durno made.
“You’re telling me a campfire would cause dioxins but something of this magnitude wouldn’t?” asked Linda Murphy, an East Palestine resident.
“Our modeling did show that dioxins were created, absolutely. The science suggests that the level of dioxins over the wide area that that smoke plume went would not produce a significant impact to that particular contaminant in those areas. Impacts, yes, but significant impacts, no,” Durno said.
Other attendees brought up questions about vinyl chloride exposure, stating that people have tested positive for traces of vinyl chloride in their urine.
Durno said data showed similar low-level results for the semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC) tested for, which include vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate.
Both Durno and attendees questioned how the SVOC results can show low levels while people are testing positive for traces of it.