Chesterton Tribune


EPA to look into Town of Pines radiation concerns

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TOWN OF PINES, Ind. (AP) - Federal environmental officials will investigate concerns about radiation levels in a northwestern Indiana community after residents and activists raised concern.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified local officials late last month that the EPA would study the levels in The Pines early this year, The Times reported.

Matthew Ohl, the EPA’s project remedial manager, said NIPSCO, Brown, Inc., Ddalt Cop. and Bulk Transport Corp. proposed sampling in “certain residential yards in the Town of Pines.”

The study was requested by a local environmental panel, which heard a presentation in November by Paul Kysel and Larry Jensen of PINES, or People in Need of Environmental Safety.

Jensen, a former EPA employee, conducted his own study of radiation levels and concluded that levels in the town are elevated.

The PINES group believes coal ash, which was used as fill in roads, could be the cause of elevated radiation levels. The Pines is home to a landfill operated by Brown Inc. and holds about 1 million tons of fly ash created by NIPSCO’s burning of coal in its power plants.

The facility was cited in 2000 by the EPA for contaminating drinking water and was deemed a Superfund site.

Ohl’s letter said samples from residential yards are expected to be collected early this year after the potentially responsible parties get permission from property owners and evaluate background samples.

“The sampling activities should help resolve many of the concerns expressed by some residents,” Ohl wrote.

Kysel questioned whether the approach is sound.

He said Jensen’s study found most areas in town do not have elevated radiation levels but those that do are significantly elevated. The EPA disputed that claim at the November meeting of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s environmental committee.

“On the surface, wow, that’s great, but it doesn’t quite get there,” Kysel said of the EPA’s plan to conduct a study. “If you just walk into a sampling of residential properties, the chances of them getting a sample, finding it hot and doing further study are not probable.”

Kysel said the PINES group wants the Town Council to ask the EPA to use the same methodology that his organization used in its study.

An EPA official in November said the methodology used by Jensen’s study doesn’t conform to current EPA standards.

NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said the utility is evaluating background samples taken over the last two months.

“If the results suggest additional sampling is required, we’ll let everyone know,” Meyer said.

Jensen has said he isn’t aware of any radiation-related health problems suffered by the town’s 780 residents but worries about problems down the road.



Posted 1/7/2013