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State Discusses Results of Cypress Creek Public Health Consultation

Monday, August 07, 2006 | 08:00pm

Memphis, August 8, 2006

Today, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Memphis and Shelby County Health Department (MSCHD) partnered for a public meeting to brief citizens on the public health consultation that examined potential hazards from pesticides to Cypress Creek residents and to give up-to-date information about the level of pesticides found along Sub-Area III. Sub-Area III is the predominantly residential area adjacent to or near the concrete Cypress Creek channel from 200 feet west of Jackson Avenue to Evergreen Street.

“This meeting allowed residents of the Cypress Creek area the opportunity to receive firsthand information about the results of the health consultation and to learn more about the potential risks associated with exposure to these pesticides,” said Bonnie Bashor, Director of the Environmental Epidemiology Program with TDH’s Communicable & Environmental Disease Services Section. “We understand fully these residents’ concern, and we hope we were able to provide them helpful and relevant information to enable them to positively impact their family’s health and wellness.”

TDH reviewed soil sample results from 129 residential properties next to or near the creek in Sub-Area III. The Department concluded that while pesticides in most yards are not a health hazard, pesticides in some yards may have been a health hazard in the past and may be a hazard now. The Department identified several pesticides to investigate further, namely aldrin, dieldrin, endrin and endrin-like chemicals. TDH also recommended that clean-up of properties with hazardous levels of pesticides take place as quickly as possible.

“Now begins the work to clean up the contaminated area eliminate exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals,” said Mike Apple, TDEC Solid Waste Director. “We’ll continue to work with the state and local Departments of Health to ensure the affected homes in area receive the necessary clean-up.”

Following the presentations by TDH and TDEC, state subject matter experts responded to questions from area residents and discussed their concerns. State officials indicated that additional evaluation will be needed to determine the health implications to current and former residents of the area.

“Our local Health Department is pleased that the state was able to address some of the environmental health concerns of members of this community,” said Yvonne S. Madlock Director of Memphis and Shelby County Health Department. “Everyone understands that this has been a long process, but the end results signify the continuing need to address environmental issues in our community head-on.”

In March 2005, the MSCHD and TDEC requested that TDH examine possible exposure to pesticides and identify any health risk to people living next to or near Cypress Creek. Pesticides, such as dieldrin, were the focus of the state Department of Health’s environmental health consultation, which has been reviewed and certified by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A health consultation is a report that answers an environmental public health question related to harmful chemicals.

Cypress Creek begins near the center of Memphis and runs north and northwest for eight miles before it empties into the Wolf River. Before 1963, industries, including Velsicol Chemical Corporation, discharged wastewater into the creek. In the 1960s, a concrete liner was installed and the creek channel was straightened. During the construction of the liner, the sediment in the bottom of the creek was removed and placed along the banks and used to fill in low spots near the creek. Some of the areas where sediment was placed are in the backyards of homes. Since the creek received industrial wastewater, some of the sediment that was used as fill was also contaminated.

In addition to representatives of TDH, TDEC and MSCHD, Velsicol Chemical Corporation officials were also in attendance at the public meeting and information session on Cypress Creek. Later this week, on August 10, Velsicol will hold its required public hearing to provide citizens the opportunity to offer comment regarding the company’s permit modification request. The company has requested the modification to establish requirements for clean-up of environmental contamination at residential properties along Cypress Creek that have been identified by the state as needing such action. The hearing will be held on Thursday, August 10, at 6 p.m. at the Hollywood Community Center at 1560 N. Hollywood Street, in Memphis.

For more information about the health consultation, contact the Tennessee Department of Health’s Environmental Epidemiology Program at 1-800-404-3006.

For more details on Velsicol’s upcoming permit modification public hearing, or to submit written public comments on the permit modification request, please contact Angela Ivory at the Department of Environment and Conservation at (615) 532-9267 or mail comments to Department of Environment and Conservation, Attn: Angela Ivory, L&C Tower, 401Church Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37423.

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