Most recently, it announced that a further removal of soil would take place in Tolbert Park where long-ago drainage from the now-closed medium- transformer plant on Redmond Circle apparently deposited poly-chlorinated biphenyls. Fortunately, the contamination was not near the playground area, which should ease some concerns.
Nor were the levels found particu- larly high, though one went to 65 parts per million, nor widespread as reportable levels were discovered in only 8 of 144 samples.
The state’s level for mandatory reporting is 1.55 ppm and the federal Environmental Protection Agency has tagged anything at 10 ppm or above as posing an immediate public health risk.
The state also reported that of test results on 26 residences, only seven registered levels above 1 ppm and that GE is cleaning up, or will clean up, all those properties. In those cases, the likely cause was the fact that, many years ago, GE sold waste oil containing PCBs to employees who used it for various purposes, including termite control.
IN ADDITION, because there are strong, but disputed, suggestions that PCBs can cause ailments in humans the state has offered to do blood tests on persons living in homes with reportable contamination levels. Some 17 persons have, thus far, agreed to such testing.
The soil and blood testing is an open process. Anyone with reason to suspect possible PCBs on their property can call the state’s Environ-mental Protection Division at (888) 869-1191 for further information and assistance.
While all this can be considered progress, even though only one aspect of the community debate surrounding the issue, it does reflect a slow pace of finding answers. Since PCB use at the plant ended in 1977, some information is anecdotal, many persons might be living in homes that they don’t know were once occupied by a GE employee, and so forth.
While soil testing is not inexpensive, the EPD and GE might well consider doing some purely random checking. The drainage and creek flow patterns from the GE property are well documented. The company must certainly have old employee employment records showing where workers at the plant, prior to 1977, resided.
IF SOME SUCH random checks turned up nothing, that would be reassuring to the public mind. If they turn up something, at least more than a case or two out of, say, 200 such checks, then that might be an indication that it would be wise to consider a more systematic, almost grid by grid, investigation of the community for hidden PCB deposits.
The willingness of GE and the state agencies “to do what’s right” in ridding Greater Rome of this concern is praiseworthy. That is not the problem at this moment. Rather, the problem remains one of whether testing is needed and where such places might be.
In a sense, PCBs are environmental terrorists. They must be uncovered and rooted out before they can strike