FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 31, 2006
BURLINGTON – Vermont state agencies will be keeping a close watch out for environmental and health effects on our side of Lake Champlain should International Paper’s tire burn go forward at its plant in Ticonderoga.
While the State of Vermont is doing everything legally possible to block plans to burn tires for fuel without state-of-the-art pollution control devices in place, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Department of Health are prepared to monitor the burn as closely as possible.
“We do not expect that Vermonters will need to take any special precautions, but we will be working closely with area hospitals, health care providers and the Department of Environmental Conservation and if we have any indication that there is a problem, we will alert the public,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN.
The Department of Environmental Conservation will monitor the burn and the air quality at two stations in Vermont using sophisticated measuring equipment. Monitoring will take place 24 hours a day during each day of the burn for particulates, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides, zinc and 13 other potentially toxic metals.
“Studies have shown a tire burn such as this could increase levels of particulate matter, including zinc oxide and other possibly harmful substances coming out of the stack,” said Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg.
The Department of Environmental Conservation will also have an observer on site at the plant to make daily reports of operations during the burn.
“Because it is not possible to accurately predict whether there will be an increase in air pollution that could cause illness, as a precaution the Health Department has set up a medical surveillance program to monitor for health effects in case the burn goes forward,” said Moffat.
The Vermont Department of Health has begun a six-week medical surveillance program in partnership with Fletcher Allen Health Care, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Porter Medical Center and outpatient clinics in Addison County to monitor for health effects. Medical surveillance began October 23 (two weeks prior to the scheduled tire burn) and will continue during the two weeks of the burn, and for two weeks following the burn.
This medical surveillance program will use an existing syndromic surveillance system currently in place at Rutland Regional Medical Center and Fletcher Allen Health Care. This system – referred to as Vermont’s Early Aberration Reporting System (VT EARS) – tracks syndromes among patients presenting to emergency departments as well as among those with unplanned inpatient admissions. In addition, a new surveillance system modeled after VT EARS has been established at Porter Medical Center as well as in several outpatient clinics in Addison County.
Data from medical surveillance and environmental surveillance will take several weeks to analyze, but if there is a change in air quality or more people are having illness that can be linked to air pollution, this will provide compelling data to stop future tire burning.
The Vermont Department of Health always anyone who has health concerns to consult with their health care provider. Additional information about health and environmental monitoring if the burn goes forward will be available on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website: anr.state.vt.us/dec and at the Department of Health’s website: healthvermont.gov.
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