Samples of wind-blown dust collected in a residential area near Midvale's Sharon Steel site contain elevated levels of lead, state officials say.
Burnell Cordner, director of the Utah Bureau of Air Quality, said Friday the high lead levels were recorded on three days in December when a strong wind was blowing dust from the 260 acres of mine tailings.Cordner said the lead levels are high enough to justify additional testing, but there's not enough information to know whether the lead presents a health problem.
Prolonged exposure to elevated lead levels has been linked to learning disabilities and other medical problems in children. No studies have been conducted on children living near the Sharon Steel site.
Cordner said the lead levels may prompt the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to accelerate its plans to cover the tailings with a synthetic liner or crusting agent to prevent the material from blowing into surrounding neighborhoods. This would be a temporary measure until a plan is developed for cleaning up the site.
Eric W. Johnson, Utah liaison officer for the EPA, confirmed that information on the dust samples has been referred to the agency's Emergency Response Branch. The data is being reviewed to determine if an immediate action is warranted, he said.