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Petitioned Public Health Assessment
Soil Pathway Evaluation,
Isla de Vieques Bombing Range,
Vieques, Puerto Rico

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February 7, 2003
Prepared by:

Federal Facilities Assessment Branch
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

VIII. Public Health Action Plan

The Public Health Action Plan for Vieques contains a description of actions taken and those to be taken by ATSDR, the Navy, EPA, USGS, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (PREQB), and the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDOH). The purpose of the Public Health Action Plan is to ensure that this PHA not only identifies public health hazards, but also provides a plan of action to mitigate and prevent harmful human health effects that may be resulting from exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. The public health actions that are completed or ongoing are as follows:

Actions Completed:
  • Various organizations sampled soil, including USGS and PRDNR, the Naval Surface Weapons Center, contractors for the Navy, and Servicios Científicos y Téchnicos, Inc.
  • In August 1999, ATSDR conducted an initial site visit to Vieques to meet with the petitioner, tour the island and bombing range, and gather environmental data. As a result of this site visit, ATSDR accepted the resident's petition and initiated the public health assessment process.
  • In September 2000, ATSDR met with various agencies, including PRDOH, PREQB, EPA, USGS, and the Navy, to gather data and to discuss the scope and nature of ATSDR investigations. ATSDR also met with the petitioner to tour various sites on Vieques and to update the petitioner on our efforts.
  • In June and October 2000, ATSDR discussed with local health care providers their public health concerns and provided training regarding how to medically assess environmental exposures. During these visits ATSDR met with numerous residents of the island to discuss health concerns.
  • In February 2001, ATSDR released the public comment version of the Public Health Assessment for the Drinking Water Supplies and Groundwater Pathway Evaluation.
  • In March 2001, ATSDR held a public availability session to meet individually with community members regarding the findings of the evaluation of drinking water and groundwater on Vieques.
  • In April 2001, ATSDR toured Vieques both by land and by air with the principal purpose of identifying suitable areas to sample fish and shellfish off the coast of Vieques.
  • In June 2001, the Navy, ATSDR, and contractors for both collected air samples on Vieques to characterize levels of air contamination during air-to-ground bombing exercises. ATSDR's air exposure pathway PHA will document the sampling results.
  • In July 2001, ATSDR, the Ponce School of Medicine, and CDC sponsored an expert review panel to address whether an association existed between place of residence (Vieques or Ponce Playa) and morphological cardiovascular changes among fishermen.
  • In July 2001, EPA's Environmental Response Team--in cooperation with ATSDR--sampled fish and shellfish in the coastal waters off Vieques. A PHA will document the sampling results. ATSDR also met with the petitioner to provide an update on ATSDR efforts.
  • In September 2001, ATSDR conducted additional community involvement activities to inform participants of the scope of ATSDR investigations and seek additional community input. Continuing education and public health training was held for the nurses of Vieques and environmental health instruction was given to area parents and high school students.
  • In October 2001, ATSDR released the Public Health Assessment for the Drinking Water Supplies and Groundwater Pathway Evaluation.
  • In October 2001, ATSDR released a report summarizing the expert panel review addressing whether an association existed between place of residence (Vieques or Ponce Playa) and morphological cardiovascular changes among fishermen.
  • In October 2002, ATSDR released the public comment version of the Public Health Assessment for the Fish and Shellfish Evaluation.
  • In October 2002, ATSDR released the public comment version of the Public Health Assessment for the Air Pathway Evaluation.
Actions Ongoing:
  • ATSDR is continuing to meet with various community members and organizations to receive concerns and exchange information. This effort will continue throughout the public health assessment process.
  • ATSDR will continue to meet with local health care providers to discuss health concerns for the community and to provide educational materials for addressing the community's health needs.
  • PRDOH is working on Vieques and in Puerto Rico generally to gather information regarding the incidence of cancer in Puerto Rico and on Vieques. That information will be added to the current cancer registry information.
  • ATSDR will review cancer registry information and data gathered by PRDOH. The information will be evaluated as it relates to potential pathways of environmental exposure.


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