By Kate York, firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent air quality report released by the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services says metals in the air near
Marietta could pose a health threat to residents close to
industrial facilities. The study, completed by the Agency
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, recommends that
further, long-term testing be done to determine potential
risks for people who live in the area of Ohio 7 occupied by
Eramet, Eveready Battery, Solvay and Chevron Oil.
More than 500 people live within a one-mile radius of the
facilities, with a residential area north of the plant and
Marietta's location four miles northeast. The predominant wind
direction in the area is northeast, making the city "downwind"
of the companies.
"Available data suggests that metals in the air,
particularly arsenic and manganese, could potentially pose a
threat to residents close to the facilities of concern because
they exceeded health-based screening values," says the report,
prepared primarily by Michelle Colledge, an environmental
health scientist with the agency.
The health-based screening levels are determined by the
agency's evaluation guides and the Environmental Protection
Agency's risk-based human health screening levels.
The air quality report states levels of arsenic and
manganese consistently exceeded recommended levels in 2001 and
2002. Also, chromium was found at more than 30 times the
screening level several times, and cadmium also was found in
excess of the standards.
The testing site is at the Washington County Career Center
on Ohio 676, far enough that the air sampling data may not
even reflect the most highly exposed populations, according to
The agency was petitioned by U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio,
in May 2000 to evaluate the health impact of air pollution in
Washington County after the senator had received complaints
from residents. The report was completed Aug. 15.
The report says residents have reported symptoms including
headaches, burning eyes, nausea, difficulty breathing,
fatigue, muscle aches, tremors, bloody noses, sinus problems
and sore throats, all things potentially caused by metals in
"The air pollution from the plants directly affects the
people who live in Marietta, Harmar Hill and Devola," said Tom
Hockenbrocht, a resident of nearby Cole Coffman Road. "We used
to constantly have bad air nights when they were cranking all
kinds of things out of Eramet at 10 or 11 at night. It would
virtually wake us up in the middle of the night with an
ammoniated smell becoming a taste in our mouths."
Hockenbrocht said the "bad air nights" improved nearly two
years ago after EPA representatives visited Eramet, but they
still occur occasionally.
Rik Melvin, manager of environmental services at Eramet,
has said in the past the company has ongoing efforts to reduce
air emissions and saw total emissions decrease by 51.4 percent
from 1999 to 2001.
Melvin was unavailable for comment Friday on the metals
The Ohio EPA's 15th annual toxic release inventory,
released in May, showed Eramet has gone from being the top
toxic chemical emitter in Ohio in the early 1990s to eighth in
The agency's report says Eramet is the most significant
concern to residents because of the "high volume of metals it
refines annually (and) the facility being old enough to be
exempt from many environmental pollution control regulations."
Hockenbrocht said he wants to see air quality improvements,
but he thinks for some residents, the damage has already been
His wife, Su, has been battling pancreatic cancer since
2001 and Hockenbrocht said he believes air pollution played a
"There was no cancer in her family whatsoever, and she was
48 years old," said Hockenbrocht. "The doctors all say it was
probably related to the environment, but science has never
been able to come up with a direct proof. But if you go up and
down the neighborhood, you will find an unbelievable amount of
The report did not address any issues related to citizens
getting cancer from the metals in the air.
The Ohio EPA has found that those in Washington County
already face a higher cancer risk than other areas.
"Changes have to be made, and we have to clean this area
up," said Hockenbrocht. "Who in their right mind would want to
bring their family here, knowing what we know?"
Who lives near plants
Total population: 539.
Total housing units:
Children 6 or younger:
Adults 65 or older:
Source: 2000 U.S. Census
Other air quality concerns
The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Committee
found in 2002 Marietta has a high concentration of PCBs
(polychlorinated biphenyls) in the air. Production of PCBs was
stopped in the U.S. in 1977 because low levels were known to
cause health problems.
Washington County is
one of 33 counties that failed to attain federal ozone
standards, according to the Ohio EPA's July report. Ozone,
produced when there is a chemical reaction between air
pollution and sunlight, damages cells lining the lungs,
causing swelling and inflammation.
According to the Ohio
EPA's Toxic Release Inventory released in May, Washington
County is No. 2 in the state for release of toxic chemicals.
For more information:
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry report is
available at local libraries in Ohio and West Virginia.