At MN Capitol Meeting, Official Shows Fridley Cancer Rates in Line with Metro
City, state and federal officials pledged to hold a "health fair" to address residents' neighborhood concerns.
About three weeks after environmental crusader Erin Brockovich came to Fridley to discuss the city’s cancer concerns, state Sen. Barb Goodwin convened a meeting at the Minnesota Capitol Thursday to hear from city, state and federal officials about Fridley’s Superfund sites, standards for cleanup and future steps to take.
About 20 officials and legislative staffers joined Goodwin (DFL-50), Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-50A), Fridley Mayor Scott Lund, and a handful of Fridley residents, along with Jason McCarty, founder of the Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group.
Most of the discussion revisited points officials have been making since public uproar about Fridley’s cancer rates began early this year. Among those points:
- The continued compliance of the city water supply with mandated maximum-contamination levels for volatile organic compounds
- The probability that elevated smoking rates are to blame for elevated lung cancer rates
- The extensive systems in place to monitor pollutants
Of particular note was a chart, distributed by John Soler, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health, that plotted the cancer incidence rates of 50 Twin Cities zip codes and municipalities between 2000 and 2009.
The chart showed that Fridley’s combined cancer incidence rate, while 7.6 percent above the state average, was 17th highest of the 50 locations included. The lung and bronchus incidence rate, 30 percent above the state average, was the metro area’s 10th highest rate.
“You can’t say because cancer rates are normal or low that the environment is just fine, just like you can’t say that because cancer rates are high there’s a problem,” Soler said. “That is sobering and to many it may be disappointing.”
EPA Makes Trip from Chicago
Tom Short, an official in the Superfund unit of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), came from Chicago to the meeting.
At the town hall meeting last month, Brockovich investigator Bob Bowcock singled out the EPA for blame about what he said were shortcomings in government response to Fridley's pollution.
Read a new document distributed at the meeting with responses by the EPA and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to 13 criticisms and claims made at the Brockovich meeting.
Short said that the agency has done tests that have shown that there is no vapor intrusion from the toxic groundwater plumes and that the plumes are not headed toward the city of Fridley.
“Fridley has its share of Superfund sites; most of them have a groundwater issue,” Short said. “Sources [of pollution] can be contained rather quickly, but groundwater can take some time—often decades.”
Officials’ ideas for future action seemed to assume that current pollution monitoring and cleanup efforts are mostly sufficient. But there was general consensus that more needs to be done to educate the public on several points, including:
- the history of Fridley’s Superfund sites
- the existing data about toxic spillage in specific parts of the city
- the existing safeguards in place to protect air, soil and water
“Is it possible, without legislation, to put all the information on one website?” Goodwin asked. “Not just here’s-to-this and here’s-to-that links.”
Health Fair Planned
City, state and federal officials are working on organizing a “health fair” tentatively scheduled for late August at which Fridley residents could visit kiosks and ask officials questions specifically about their neighborhood.
Mayor Lund said he worried that concerns over cancer rates and environmental factors would lead Fridley residents to demand costly fixes, out of proportion to the danger faced.
“It’s almost like things didn’t get bad enough or stay bad enough for that next level of insurance, which is carbon filtration,” he said. “It’s an expensive process, expensive to maintain, and all it would be doing at this point is another level of insurance, a comfort level.”
The mayor didn't balk, however, at the idea of asking pollutors, such as FMC Corp., to pay for protection measures.
Here are the people listed on a printed roster of attendees (Patch can't say for sure that every one of these people was actually there):
Senator Barb Goodwin
Rep. Carolyn Laine
Mike Siebernaler, Rep. Ellison's office
Bethany Snyder, Rep. Ellison's office
Greg Bohrer, Sen. Klobuchar's office
Allison Jones, Gov. Dayton's office
Tom Short, EPA-Chicago
Kirk Koudelka, MPCA
Todd Johnson, MDH
Mayor Scott Lund, Fridley
Bill Burns, Fridley City Manager
Jim Kordiak, Anoka County Commissioner
Laurel Hoff, Director, Anoka County Community Health & Environmental Services
Don Ilse, Manager, Anoka County Human Services Division
Spencer Pierce, Manager, Environmental Services, Anoka County Community Health
Jim Bauer, Fridley
Jean Bultman, Fridley
Jenny Peterson, Fridley
Craig Janezich, DFL Minority Research
Carlon Doyle Fonatine, Senate Counsel