Bristol, Virginia’s city manager said Saturday that the Environmental Protection Agency found “no immediate risk to human health” in completed air samples it collected in communities around the city landfill — and that he will request an additional $1 million in funding for work on the site.
Eads shared the announcement in a Saturday post to the Bristol City-VA/TN Air Pollution Community Page, a popular community Facebook group about the Twin Cities’ air pollution and odor crisis.
The past seven or eight months have seen a sustained public outcry from residents of both Bristols about foul odors, poor air quality and negative health impacts they report experiencing when the issues are present.
In that time, the city of Bristol, Virginia has begun making repairs to its landfill, which previous air samples have tied to the air quality issues. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) and EPA have both gotten involved in the city’s response to the crisis. In June, they began collaborating to collect air samples in locations around the landfill.
In his Facebook post, Eads said that the two agencies finished the six-week air sampling period on Thursday, July 22.
“Over the course of six weeks between June and July 2021, EPA and VADEQ conducted 24/7 real-time monitoring from six stations at five distinct properties,” the EPA said in a two-page summary, which Eads linked in the post.
“An initial review of the monitoring and sampling data indicates there is no immediate risk to human health,” the summary said.
The summary did not address the question of long-term health impacts.
But the EPA said that it will share more information in “an in-depth review and data summary report,” which it said it expects to complete within 30 days and will post to this web page: http://response.epa.gov/11184BristolAir.
“[The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)] will collaborate with state and local public health authorities in VA and TN on the review of the data,” the summary said. “A public health evaluation of this information is expected to be developed, but EPA does not have a timeline for this report from the public health agencies.”
The summary also didn’t share the exact locations of the air monitoring stations, nor did it spell out which substances were sampled for. But a graphic of air samples from one location in mid-June included measurements of “VOC,” an acronym for volatile organic compounds.
VOCs are a class of chemicals present in many household and office products. According to the EPA, direct exposure to some of them can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, trigger headaches and nausea and, for some of the chemicals, more serious health impacts such as cancer.
Outside, VOCs can also mix with gases in the air to produce ground-level ozone, or smog — a pollutant known to cause health problems.
“Several chemicals were detected at low levels, in some cases routinely,” the EPA said in the summary. “However, the levels were extremely low and/or [occurred over a] short duration of time.”
The agency said that “many substances in the environment can produce odors” and that people can sometimes “smell and react to certain chemicals in the air before they are at harmful levels.”
The staff who collected the samples and ran the monitoring equipment detected “strong odors,” it added.
In the Facebook post, Eads also announced that on Aug. 10, he’ll ask the City Council for approval to spend an additional $1 million on gas wells and “other needed items” related to the landfill.
“Based on my conversations with [the] council, I expect full support from all council members,” Eads said.
EPA/Virginia DEQ air samples in communities around landfill: initial report of findings
Key information (pulled directly from report)
- As of July 22, 2021, EPA, in coordination with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ), completed a six-week period of continuous air monitoring and collection of air samples.
- An initial review of the monitoring and sampling data indicates there is no immediate risk to human health.
- Once a summary report of the data is received and reviewed, EPA will make this information publicly available.
Contacts listed in report:
Myles Bartos, EPA On-Scene Coordinator
For health-related questions:
Lora Werner, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
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