ATSDR Releases Public Health Assessment For The Pownal Tannery Site

Tuesday, January 30, 2001
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Atlanta -- The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced today the availability of the final version of its public health assessment for the Pownal Tannery site in Pownal, Vermont.

ATSDR reviewed available data for the site and found that people trespassing on the site may have been exposed to a number of contaminants which are present in the soil. However, ATSDR believes that it is unlikely that any adverse non-cancer health effects would have occurred during those past exposures at the site, and that there is no significant increased risk of developing cancer related to those exposures.

Based on what is currently known about the site, ATSDR recommends that people avoid exposure to contaminants at the site. ATSDR also recommends that permanent measures be taken to restrict access to the site, and that additional sampling be done to provide a more accurate picture of what chemical compounds are present both on and off the site.

In a previous version of the health assessment, ATSDR classified the site as a public health hazard based on the physical hazard of the dammed area adjacent to the former main tannery building. The Environmental Protection Agency alleviated that danger by erecting guardrails along the river after demolition of the building was complete. ATSDR has changed the site category to an indeterminate public health hazard, because available data do not indicate that humans are being or have been exposed to levels of contamination that would be expected to cause adverse health effects, but data is not available for all environmental media, specifically fish sampling.

Public health assessments report information about hazardous substances in the environment and evaluate whether exposure to those substances in the past, present or future could harm people in the area. They also identify other activities that might be needed to better understand the health effects associated with the site. Public health assessments also make recommendations to other government agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and state and local health and environmental departments, concerning actions to protect public health.

In preparing public health assessments, ATSDR health assessors rely on various sources of information. These sources may include: environmental data, health data and reports of community concerns. Environmental data detail the chemicals at a site and indicate their potential pathways to reach humans. Health data can include reports of injury, disease, or death in the community, as well as information on the known health effects of chemicals at the site. Reports of community concerns document the public's descriptions of how the site affects their health and quality of life.

The final version of the health assessment will be available for public review on or about January 30, 2001, at the following repository:

Solomon Wright Public Library
Pownal, Vermont 05261

Comments received during the public comment period have been logged and are now part of the administrative record for the health assessment. Comments (without indication of who made them) and responses have been included in an appendix to the final document.

Community members seeking information on the procedures or the content of this public health assessment, or who would like to obtain a copy, should contact ATSDR Health Assessor Robert Knowles, toll free, at 1-888-42-ATSDR (1-888-422-8737). ATSDR Regional Representative Susanne Simon also may be called for information at (617) 918-1492 in Boston.


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Page last reviewed: January 30, 2001