Many Bingham Creek area residents are expressing relief - but still asking questions - after assessing the generally favorable health department evaluations of their children and property.
"We as a family were greatly relieved to receive the results we did," said South Jordan resident Dorothy Mo-len, who, like most others, was informed over the weekend that her two children did not have elevated levels of lead in their bloodstreams.Laughing, she added, "I feel like a lead weight has been lifted off my shoulders."
The results of blood tests that were administered to her son and daughter Oct. 26 revealed blood-lead levels of 5.0 micrograms per deciliter, which is well below the so-called borderline level of 10-15 and only slightly above the average of 4.3 micrograms per deciliter.
Carleen Chatwin and her daughter also had blood-lead levels of 5.0. Chatwin, who is eight months pregnant, was one of the few adults to be tested. The West Jordan mother said, "I was really glad to know that we're OK."
Karen Olson's three sons were OK, too. "But I think it's kind of weird that everybody I've talked to has had the same number," she said, referring to the 5.0 level registered by her boys and most of the other children in her South Jordan neighborhood.
She and others are planning to ask health officials to explain the apparent coincidence and further clarify the results at a town meeting scheduled for Thursday night at the West Jordan Middle School, 7550 S. 1700 West.
"I just want to know how much the test results were affected by the amount of time that went by," Olson said, referring to the three-week interval between the day children were warned to stay away from Bingham Creek and the day the blood samples were taken.
Residents also are seeking more information about the soil samples taken from their yards, about 100 of which abut the contaminated Bingham Creek. On Oct. 4, state environmental health officials disclosed that soil samples taken from the creekbed itself had lead levels as high as 30,500 parts per million, which is 30,000 ppm higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency considers "acceptable."
State and county health officials were planning to release more details about the blood tests as well as an expanded evaluation of the Bingham Creek environmental risks at a press conference later Monday.
An analysis of a soil sample taken from the Molens' yard showed a lead level of 300 ppm. At the Chatwin home, the level was 470 ppm. Another West Jordan resident was told his yard had lead levels as high as 11,000 ppm. Homeowners and city officials in both towns are anxious to learn more about the extent of the contamination and how to abate the hazard.
One thing parents have already learned is that their children should not be allowed to go near the usually dry creekbed that for years has been a favorite playground.
"I'm probably one of the most concerned because my son was exposed to it almost every day for seven years," said Judy George, South Jordan. "One of the areas that tested highest for lead in the soil was near where he played all those years. I have reason to be worried."
Several of her neighbors said they won't allow their children to play outdoors at all until the scope of the health threat is determined. And at least one family decided to sell their home and move away from the area because of the scare.
Bingham Creek wends down from the foothills of the Oquirrh mountains, through a mobile home neighborhood, new subdivisions, a city park and other public areas. Officials have not yet determined the source of the heavy metals in the creek, but suspect old mine tailings.
A Kennecott spokesman said, "Lead is not part of our operation. They (the metals in the creek) have probably been there for 80 years."
Nevertheless, the mining company has offered to assist the state in assessing the hazard. "Basically, we told them to let us know if we can help," the spokesman said, adding, "We're a neighbor in that area and want to do what we can."