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Middlesex Water Company Soil Samples Show No Contamination
Release Date: 07/13/1998
(#98081) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released the results of the soil sampling conducted at the Middlesex Water Company in Edison, New Jersey. The Agency did not find detectable levels of the vast majority of the 200 chemicals that it looked for in the soil samples. For a few substances, such as some metals, EPA found levels that were very low and well below levels of concern. These results, coupled with the fact that the site was not used for any industrial purposes prior to its purchase by the Middlesex Water Company, strongly indicates that it is unlikely that chemical contamination at the site is the cause of any problem.
In late February, workers at the Middlesex Water Company construction site called the federal Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), and reported that they smelled an odor during excavation, and that a few workers were experiencing certain symptoms, including a yellowing of the tongue. OSHA conducted a health and safety inspection and found no chemical source likely to cause the yellow tongue symptom. In June, OSHA requested EPA's assistance in sampling soil and air at the site.
On June 19 and 20, the EPA took soil samples to determine if there is any contamination in the soil that could cause workers at the site to experience discolorations of the tongue, nausea and fatigue. EPA took 22 soil samples and analyzed these samples for a very wide range of chemicals including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), benzene, toluene, xylene and metals. Some of the soil samples were also tested to see if the soil is releasing any chemical vapors into the air.
"The results of the soil sampling are very encouraging," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA regional Administrator. "They indicate that the soil on the site is not contaminated and it is not likely that the symptoms reported by the workers are caused by chemical contamination from the site. However, we want to be certain, so we have asked federal, state and local health officials to review and assess the data."
The EPA did detect low levels of some metals in the soil. Many of these metals are naturally- occurring and are present in all soil. In all cases, metals were found at background levels, which are levels commonly found in uncontaminated areas.
The EPA also found low levels of compounds classified as essential-oils, which are naturally-occurring substances that come from plants. While the EPA does not believe that the presence of these oils is causing the symptoms reported at the Middlesex Water Company construction site, the Agency has asked the health agencies involved in the investigation of this site to make this determination.
In order to confirm that there is no chemical contamination at or around the site, the EPA also took air samples on June 29 at the site to supplement the soil samples. The results of the air sampling are expected by the end of July.
The EPA will schedule a public meeting next week to discuss the soil sampling results and to answer questions from the concerned public. EPA will continue to work cooperatively with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is leading the investigation, the National Institute of Occupational Health, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the Middlesex County Department of Health and the City of Edison to help determine the cause of the reported symptoms.
For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: email@example.com