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ATSDR Press Room

ATSDR Report Finds 'No Apparent Public Health Hazard' at Bear Creek Chemical Area Site

Butler County, Butler, Pennsylvania

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) today released for public review and comment its public health assessment (PHA) of the Bear Creek site in Butler and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania, which indicates that the site currently poses no apparent public health hazard.

ATSDR applies the term "no apparent public health hazard" to sites where human exposure to contamination might be occurring, might have occurred in the past, or might occur in the future, but the exposure is not expected to cause any adverse health effects.

ATSDR concluded that past exposure to contaminants in drinking water posed an indeterminate health hazard. "Indeterminate health hazard" applies to the drinking water at the Bear Creek site because the information that shows the quantity and amount of time the drinking water has been contaminated is limited. In addition, there is limited health information about long term ingestion of the contaminants found at this site.

Beginning in mid-2001, residents with contaminated water supplies received bottled water for drinking. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), the lead agency involved with environmental sampling and investigation at the site, is continuing to provide bottled water to more than 900 affected households and businesses. Based on available information, ATSDR concludes that current exposures from showering and bathing are not likely to result in adverse health effects therefore residents can still continue to use groundwater for these and other household uses. However, people should continue to use bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes.

The public health assessment, an evaluation that determines if people are being exposed to hazardous substances and, if so, whether that exposure is harmful and should be stopped or reduced, will be available for public review and comment through September 30, 2004, at:

Butler Area Public Library
218 North McKean Street
Butler, PA 16001

Johan A. Beck Jr. Library,
Butler Community College
Butler, PA 16003

The Bear Creek Chemical Area comprises 26 known or suspected industrial waste disposal areas. From as early as the 1930s until the 1970s, waste was hauled from three nearby industrial facilities to several private properties for disposal. In many cases, the waste was disposed of on land that had been mined for coal. The disposal areas include a landfill, waste lagoons and drum sites.

Groundwater near The Bear Creek site has been affected by several chemicals, including resorcinol - a substance used in tire manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. Also found in the area's groundwater include by-products of mineral oil manufacturing including several sulfonic acids and calcium petronates.

Community members seeking information about the procedures or the content of the public health assessment may contact ATSDR health communication specialist Debra Joseph toll-free at 1-888-422-8737. ATSDR regional representative Sven Rodenbeck also may be contacted at 404-498-0439. Callers should refer to the Bear Creek site in Pennsylvania.

ATSDR, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

Established by Congress in 1980 under the Superfund law, ATSDR conducts public health assessments at each of the sites on the EPA National Priorities List, as well as other sites when petitioned. Headquartered in Atlanta, ATSDR is staffed by more than 400 health professionals including epidemiologists, physicians, toxicologists, engineers and public health educators.

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Related PHA & HC For this Press Release

Bear Creek Chemical Area
-Public Health Assessment
Document Date: 8/1/2005 - PHA  [PDF - 583 KB]

Bear Creek Chemical Area
-Figure B-1
Document Date: 8/1/2005 - PHA  [PDF - 780 KB]

Bear Creek Chemical Area
-Figure B-2
Document Date: 8/1/2005 - PHA  [PDF - 1000 KB]

Bear Creek Chemical Area
-Figure B-3
Document Date: 8/1/2005 - PHA  [PDF - 312 KB]

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