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  • EPA steps up search for lead in Marion soils

  • Testing in the Sugar Street area found the metal in amounts exceeding health standards.

    Friday, October 08, 1999

    By Randall Edwards
    Dispatch Environmental Reporter

    Ruth Horn's children are grown and gone from their home on Sugar Street in Marion, Ohio. Her grandchildren visit often, however, so she's not taking any chances.

    Horn took her grandchildren, ages 4 and 6, to the Marion City Health Department last week for a free blood screening to find out whether any of the lead that permeates the soil of Sugar Street homes has found its way into her grandchildren.

    "I took them in because they visit almost every day,'' Horn said. "Sure I'm worried.''

    The results are not yet available, but health officials say early reports indicate that all the children who participated in the blood screening have safe lead levels.

    The investigation continues into problems with lead and arsenic in the soil of homes along Sugar Street and the surrounding neighborhood. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency plans a thorough sampling in the area beginning Oct. 18.

    Details of the investigation work plan were unveiled Wednesday.

    A railroad spur once ran through the neighborhood where Sugar Street is located, and waste slag was dumped there from Marion Power Shovel, at one time the area's largest employer.

    Sampling conducted earlier this year revealed lead levels as high as 771 parts per million in the soil. Federal standards set a health standard at 400 parts per million; the naturally occurring rate of lead in the area is about 17 parts per million.

    Lead, if ingested in high quantities, can cause illness, brain damage and developmental disabilities.

    Arsenic was found at levels as high as 38.8 parts per million. EPA officials described that as moderately above the levels normally found in the soils in this area.

    Arsenic is a poison at high levels. At lower levels over a long period of time it can cause cancer and other illnesses.

    "There is no reason to say that the area is unsafe,'' Jeff Steers of the Ohio EPA said yesterday. "This is not posing any imminent threat to public health based on our limited samples. But (the sampling) tells us that we need to go out and get more.''

    The EPA will send its new mobile laboratory to the neighborhood, agency spokeswoman Carol Hester said. The sampling will be done not only along Sugar Street, but also along the half-mile route of the abandoned railroad spur.


    Copyright © 1999, The Columbus Dispatch