About 400 South and West Jordan residents who live near a highly contaminated dry creek bed expressed fears about potential lead and arsenic poisoning during a public meeting Wednesday night.
"What are my kids supposed to do, not play in the back yard any more?" resident John Chatwin, West Jordan, demanded. "We don't know what's going to happen. That's the frustrating part of this whole thing."The meeting - at Welby Elementary School - was called by state officials to discuss high lead and arsenic levels recently discovered in and near the Bingham Creek channel.
The channel extends through parts of South and West Jordan, from the Oquirrh Mountains to the Jordan River near 7800 South and 1300 West. It is usually dry but floods during storms.
Last week state officials went door-to-door warning residents living along the channel to keep their children out of the creek bed.
The highest level of contamination detected in 18 soil samples was an estimated 30,500 parts per million of lead, far above the EPA's standard of 500 ppm for soils in residential yards. Arsenic levels were beyond federal standards, too.
Chatwin said dust is churned up by horses, and by motorcyclists who drive through the area every weekend - dust that may be contaminated. "I'm concerned for the kids," he said.
"They have told us that there would be no quick solutions to the problem, but I think there should be. If our health is indanger, there should be," South Jordan resident Bill Hightower said.
"If we are tested (for lead or arsenic poisoning), who is going to pay?" asked another resident.
So far, the state does not have funds earmarked for wholesale testing.
David J. Thurman, coordinator of the Bureau of Epidemiology in the Utah State Health Department, advised parents to limit their children's exposure to the contaminated area.
He said children may ingest soils when they play outdoors and put unwashed hands, toys or other object in their mouths. He said children under 5 are especially vulnerable to potential lead and arsenic contamination because their bodies are still developing, their body mass is smaller and play outside frequently.
Thurman said adults also need to limit their exposure since high lead and arsenic levels may produce anemia, high blood pressure, nerve damage and severe neurological problems.
"The City Council is very concerned about this situation," said West Jordan Mayor Ken Miller.
West Jordan Councilman Paul Henderson said he will propose fencing off some of Vista West Park, which is located in the creek channel, to avoid a possible hazard to children.
"We consider a public park an invitation to young people to come and play. There needs to be some short-term involvement in that portion of the area," Henderson said.
"Why did it take you so long to take on the problem?" asked Sherry Hunt. "Why didn't you respond more quickly?"
State officials said health officials took action as quickly as they could after finding out about the contamination.
"These are the highest lead levels we've found in Utah," said Daniel Symonik, a toxicologist with the Utah Health Department Bureau of Solid and Hazardous Waste. "We can't explain it yet. We don't know what has caused it, but they could pose a threat to human health."
Health officials advise residents to take the following precautions against possible lead and aresenic exposure.
- Wash hands throughly before eating or handling food. Wash children's hands periodically during the day. Wash hands after petting a dog or other animal because fur can hold dust.
- Wash all garden-grown fruits or vegetables, and wash children's outdoor toys when they become dirty.
- Residents close to the creek should have garden soils tested for lead and arsenic.
- Avoid letting dust accumulate in the house. When the wind blows, keep windows and doors closed. Change air-conditioner and furnace filters frequently. Vacuum regularly and use a damp cloth to clean surfaces such as tables and desks.More detailed documents related to the site may be reviewed at:
Bureau of Environmental Response and Remediation
Utah Department of Health
288 North 1460 West, fourth floor
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
For more information, contact Renette Anderson at 538-6121 or Bob McLeod, project manager, at 538-6170.