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Romulus fire: airborne debris not a health hazard for residents; cleanup continues

Release Date: 09/09/2005
Contact Information:

(EPA) Don deBlasio, (312) 886-4360
(EPA) Phillippa Cannon, (312) 353-6218
(ATSDR) Mark Johnson, (312) 886-0840
(MDCH) T.J. Bucholz, (517) 241-2112
(Wayne County HD) Steve Tackitt, (734) 727-7432

For Immediate Release
No. 05-OPA169

CHICAGO (Sept. 9, 2005) — Federal, state and local environmental and public health agencies said today that final data from the Aug. 9 explosion and fire at the EQ Resource Recovery facility in Romulus, Mich., indicates that airborne debris from the incident does not pose a public health hazard. These results confirm the conclusions from preliminary data.

EPA has released final data from the laboratory analysis of wipe samples (from windows and other surfaces) and samples of the soot-like fire debris, some of which remains scattered throughout Romulus neighborhoods. It also has released data and a final report on the monitoring conducted by EPA's ASPECT (Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology) plane, summa canister (air sampling device) data and all of its pollution reports on the incident. The information is available for review at the Romulus Public Library, 11121 Wayne Road. The library is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from Noon to 5 p.m. and closed Friday and Sunday.

Some concerns have been raised by the public about soil samples collected by EPA in areas impacted by the fire. According to federal and local health agencies the levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium found in the samples taken in residential areas impacted by debris from the fire are similar to background, or normal, levels found in soil throughout Michigan. For instance, the expected background for lead in Michigan soil is 21 parts per million (ppm). In the debris from the fire, the highest concentration of lead found in a granule small enough for a child to swallow was 12.2 ppm.

Similarly, the expected background for arsenic in Michigan soil is 5.8 ppm. The highest concentration of arsenic found in a granule small enough for a child to swallow was 2.83 ppm.

The preliminary results have already been evaluated by the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), the Wayne County Health Department and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The final data is consistent with preliminary data and officials believe there is no health risk to people who come into contact with the material.

Air monitoring by EPA at the time of the incident showed no dangerous concentrations of hazardous chemicals. At the time of the incident, nearby residents were temporarily evacuated. Since the incident, EPA has monitored the air on a continuous basis, in the event chemicals are released during cleanup.

EPA's investigation into the fire-damaged EQ property initially focused on more than a dozen above-ground storage tanks where varying amounts of liquid chemicals remain. EPA and the health agencies believe these tanks contained thousands of gallons of flammable liquids, most of which were burned in the fire. Along with the tanks, the site also contains at least 400 drums or charred drum remains. Cleanup and categorization of hazardous materials at the solvent recycling business began Aug. 13 under EPA oversight and will continue through the fall.

Residents with health questions may call the MDCH toxics hot line 800-648-6942. A Web site has been established at Exit EPA disclaimer.Additional final sampling results will be posted on the Web site in the days and weeks to come as they become available.