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  • State agencies dispute River Valley findings

    Saturday, September 30, 2000

    Frank Hinchey
    Dispatch Staff Reporter

    MARION, Ohio -- The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency yesterday took issue with an environmental toxicologist's findings concerning health risks at River Valley Schools in northeast Marion County.

    Members of the Restoration Advisory Board, made up of Marion government officials and citizens, received a report from Bruce Molholt on Wednesday. Molholt, a former federal Superfund toxicologist, was hired during the summer by a consultant to the board.

    Molholt said students who attend River Valley Schools and teachers and staff members on the 78-acre campus should be relocated because of health risks.

    Testing procedures have failed to detect high levels of vinyl-chloride vapors that could pose a threat, according to his report. Vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen, is a byproduct of TCE, or chemical trichloroethylene.

    In his report, Molholt said an estimated 3,600 gallons of TCE, which was used to clean metal parts, are still present on part of the 20-acre River Valley campus.

    "This presence of TCE and its breakdown chemicals present a significant environmental impact that must be addressed during the remedial effort,'' he said.

    Officials from the EPA and the health department said yesterday that advisory-board consultants do not understand site conditions or ongoing health-monitoring programs.

    "Even a preliminary review of the report shows that their science is wrong, they are inconsistent throughout, and their conclusion is wrong,'' Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones said yesterday of Molholt's conclusions.

    The health department and EPA also said Moholt inappropriately mixed cancer data with environmental data.

    During an advisory-board meeting Thursday night, at least one member questioned some of Molholt's methodology.

    But David Bradford, co-chairman of the advisory board, said the board has to take Molholt's conclusions seriously.

    "We are not dismissing the report or the concerns he is raising,'' Bradford said.

    "We need to understand why the consultants have come to a different conclusions from the other scientists involved in the process.''

    The River Valley high school and middle school sit on the former Marion Engineering Depot, where the Army repaired heavy engineering equipment and where chemical waste was dumped for a number of years.

    Although a state study determined that the rate of leukemia is high among River Valley graduates, school officials have been told the campus is safe.

    However, in November, voters will decide a bond issue that would allow the district to build two school buildings and relocate the students.


    Copyright 2000, The Columbus Dispatch