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Fact Sheet about Spring Valley, Washington, DC

December, 2001

This fact sheet is an overview of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s initial plans for public health evaluation of the Spring Valley community.

Key Points

  • ATSDR was petitioned by a Pennsylvania law firm to conduct public health assessment at the American University Experiment Station/Spring Valley Site. The law firm is representing individuals who lived and/or worked in the Spring Valley community for an extended period of time.
  • ATSDR was requested by the District of Columbia Department of Health to conduct biological testing of area residents and to assist with health education.
  • ATSDR has agreed to prepare a health consultation and to conduct an exposure investigation. Health education and community involvement are planned components of our public health process for this site.
  • The purpose of the health consultation is to review data pertinent to public health issues at the site and identify possible follow-up health actions that may be needed.
  • The purpose of the Exposure Investigation (EI) is to determine if residents who live in the community of Spring Valley near the former American University Experiment Station have elevated exposures to arsenic.

What is ATSDR?

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency based in Atlanta, Georgia. Created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (otherwise known as Superfund legislation), the mission of ATSDR is to serve the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health action, and providing trusted public health information to prevent harmful exposures and disease related to toxic substances. ATSDR works with local, state, and other federal agencies to protect the public’s health. Unlike the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ATSDR does not have the authority to order other agencies or organizations to accept and follow ATSDR recommendations.

Why is ATSDR involved with this site?

ATSDR has provided technical assistance at Spring Valley since the late 1990's. In 2001, our public health assessment process was initiated by a petition request and requests for continuing assistance from the DC Department of Health.

What is an Exposure Investigation?

An exposure investigation is one approach ATSDR uses to develop better characterization of past, current, and possible future human exposures to hazardous substances in the environment.

For the Spring Valley site, ATSDR will conduct biological testing of urine and hair from selected residents who are most at risk for arsenic exposure.

What is a Public Health Consultation?

A Public Health Consultation provides advice on specific public health issues related to real or potential human exposure to hazardous substances. A Public Health Consultation is a way for ATSDR to respond quickly to a need for health information on toxic substances and to make recommendations for actions to protect the public’s health.

How does ATSDR assess exposure?

ATSDR staff members will evaluate available information about hazardous substances, ways people may have been exposed in the past or may be exposed currently, and—if people were exposed—whether the exposure might be associated with health problems.

Our health consultation for Spring Valley is planned for 2002 and will consider the following:

  • the levels (or “concentrations”) of hazardous substances;
  • how people might contact those substances, such as breathing air, ingesting soil, or drinking water containing hazardous substances;
  • information on whether contact with the substances at the levels detected has been associated with health problems.
  • including information (community concerns) provided by community members about their exposure to the site or how the site has affected them.

What happens next?

ATSDR is evaluating the information received from local, state, and other federal agencies, along with the information gathered during the site visit. Based on this information, ATSDR will work with the other agencies involved to determine the best means to gather the information needed to evaluate current exposure.

Once the needed information is collected, ATSDR will evaluate whether the exposure is at levels of health concern. If conclusions warrant, a health consultation may include recommendations for actions to protect public health.

Will the community be given the opportunity to comment on the Health Consultation?

Yes, community members and other interested parties will be given the opportunity to comment on the document. Once the draft document is released, the document will be open for public comment for 30 days.

When will the Health Consultation be released to the public?

The Health Consultation will be released after the results of the exposure investigation and other data have been evaluated. Although it’s too early to predict the public release date, we anticipate it’s completion prior to September 2002.

How can I obtain a copy of the Health Consultation?

ATSDR will send a draft copy of the document to anyone that is interested in reviewing it. In addition, a copy of the document will also be placed for your review in the information repository located at the Palisades Branch of the DC Public Library on 4901 V Street, NW (202-282-3139). Individuals who are interested in receiving the draft document can contact Loretta Bush at 1-888-422-8737 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST., Monday through Friday or email at LSBush@cdc.gov, please reference the Spring Valley site.

For more information who should I contact?

For more information, contact:

  • ATSDR Environmental Health Scientist Laura Frazier in Atlanta at 1-888-422-8737, e-mail: LFrazier@cdc.gov, or
  • ATSDR Community Involvement Specialist Loretta Bush at LSBush@cdc.gov


Visit ATSDR's Internet Homepage www.atsdr.cdc.gov

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