Meeting addresses environmental concerns

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- After random soil testing in base housing, during the Boyer-Hill Military Housing renovations here, polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs, were discovered in a section of Area F housing, north of 6th Street on the southwest side of base, Feb. 8.

As of Tuesday, the soil outside of three housing units tested positive for PCBs and those residents have been contacted personally by the Environmental Management team here. Only one housing unit tested above the allowable standardized levels of acceptable PCBs. Additional testing is being conducted to determine the level of PCBs and extent of contamination.

"We do not believe there is an immediate health risk to residents," Col. Linda Medler, 75th Air Base Wing vice commander said. "We plan to do additional testing in the next few weeks to learn more."

Hill officials conducted an informational fair Tuesday, for housing residence. More than 40 residents attended, 27 of which, lived in Area F. Concerned residents had the opportunity to meet with environmental and medical experts to learn more about PCBs, how it might affect them and the installation's plans for additional investigating. Representatives from Boyer-Hill, the housing privatization contractor were also on hand to answer residents concerns.

An extensive environmental investigation began Wednesday to determine the extent of the contamination. According to Bob Elliott, chief of environmental restoration, an accelerated sampling plan, testing for PCBs in the northern Area F, will be underway with expected results early March. Typically soil sampling takes about 21-30 days for results but with the accelerated plan, the results will start to flow in next week.

"We wanted more information on PCBs and what it causes," said Staff Sgt. Scott Kio, 649th Combat Logistics Support Squadron, and former military housing resident. "Our child has cancer. It this a potential cause? We don't know. The info fair has been very helpful in telling us what is involved."

During the informational fair, there were several medical experts on-hand available for questioning regarding the medical effects of PCB exposure. "We are here to help others understand exposures and medical effects of those exposures," Lt. Col. Brad Winterton, 75 Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health flight commander said

Symptoms of high concentration PCB exposure are skin rash (clor-acne), and liver symptoms similar to hepatitis such as yellowing of the skin and eyes.

In 1977, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of PCBs due to the harmful effects it could pose. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats and has potentially harmful affects to humans.

According to a PCB fact sheet, people can become exposed to PCBs by eating fish or other seafood caught from polluted water, absorption through the skin during handling of the chemicals, contaminated soil or other contaminated items.

"We are hopeful that within a few weeks we can have some more definitive answers to the questions that we all have, and we pledge to work with residents on this issue," Colonel Medler said. "We plan to hold a second info fair to share the results in about three to four weeks."

For more information on the PCBs investigation please visit www.hillrab.org/pcb/?HouseID+4099 or call Barbara Fisher, chief of environmental public affairs, 775-3652, for reporting public concerns. For medical issues, residents should contact their primary care manager at the Hill Clinic.