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 , 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, .

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

New Chart
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 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.”

Public Education
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
Connie Bernardy
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
Jason McCarty
Jim Bauer, Fridley
Jean Bultman, Fridley
Jenny Peterson, Fridley
Craig Janezich, DFL Minority Research
Carlon Doyle Fonatine, Senate Counsel

Trish Alfaro July 25, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I guess my question is, what percentage rate does the EPA think is appropriate? We all support efforts to find a cure for cancer... but shouldn't we also be supporting efforts to PREVENT cancer in the first place, and stop being complacent with the cancer producing toxins in our environment just because someone else's rate is higher.
jeff loven July 29, 2012 at 06:35 AM
It may not be the water at all but soil vapor intrusion. If residents suspect an exposure in their home--you can cut to the chase and have testing done and if you find an exposure the MPCA-according to Sandeep Burman, as he told me 3 days ago on the phone-will pay to fix your problem and/or relocate your family.
jeff loven July 29, 2012 at 06:35 AM
I would guess you would get reimbursed for any testing done -which is not cheap. This would in fact open the door for litigation for instance if your home had TCE intrusion and persons in your home contracted non-Hodgkins Lymphoma or a child in your home was born with single-sided hearing as is the case in my home. Both non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and birth defects involving hearing and visual have been linked to TCE exposure. I'm having my home tested and if there is an exposure-everyone will hear about it.
jeff loven July 29, 2012 at 06:35 AM
I do not believe the experts regarding they know exactly where the plumes are. City Of St Louis Park has informed me proximity to the polluter can be just as important as being over a plume. You do not have to be over a plume to have vapor intrusion according to the person who called my home from the City Of St Louis Park. This person also claims that it does not matter if you are east of most of the superfund sites--that the gasses don't have to follow the ground water towards the river. I thought this was interesting to hear from an actual person who found TCE vapor intrusion in homes and helped to make things right. Lets hope the folks that work-essentually for us--do the right thing. FWIW i have spent days working to find a way to resolve this. The city of Fridley, EPA and MPCA have failed miserably in winning me over. Yes-these folks work for us and yes, they should win me over. Instead they had nothing to share as to what I should except they are having this town hall meeting or whatever. As of now there is no protocol set up for what a guy like me should do for my family and to honest it really pisses me off. Should I wait until 8/22 to see if there suddenly is a "program" in place while my 14 month baby girl sleeps downstairs?
jeff loven July 29, 2012 at 07:12 AM
I should mention that we live at 1311 Creek Park Lane. The neighbor on one side of us is a cancer survivor. The guy next to him died of lung cancer. I told this to the gal directly across from us and she has shared with me that she had part of her colon removed/colon cancer last year. The person on the other side of us says she is sick also--quit her job as a nurse and is relocating because of the contamination. I have found out recently also that the man who built our home-a family guy with 2 kids died in our home of prostate cancer...the MDH was kind enough to speak with me at great length informing these could all just be coincidence and that I should not move forward with testing my home for ground vapor intrusion. That-the ground intrusion is highly unlikely and that I'd be wasting my money. Am I crazy in thinking that there should be a protocol in place whereby testing is provided in certain instances?


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